Are Master of Legal Studies worth it?

Will a Masters of law degree make me more valuable to my employer?

It’s designed to do exactly that. The benefits of an MSL degree become clear to the employee and employer almost immediately. At the University of Pacific, Clark Kelso, associate dean of strategic initiatives, has already seen a number of students who work as lobbyists or legal assistants get promoted to a higher position. 

“You are able to substantially improve your ability to perform in you current position long before you get your degree,” Kelso said. “After the first semester people working in the Capitol have told us that immediately they felt greater confidence.”

Those working in jobs that have substantial legal context are most likely to benefit from such a program. The Affordable Care Act and HIPAA have created a greater need for regulatory and compliance work in the health care field — leading to an increased demand for MSL programs in the subject. 


What other benefits will legal training offer my company?

You would be able to help your employer understand its legal situation. 

“Once counsel is obtained, I think someone with a MLS degree will better understand the legal position they face and possible outcomes to it,” said BarbaraKaye Miller, assistant dean of admissions at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. “After all, a MLS degree will help someone to think in an analytical way, to assess possible outcomes and come up with possible solutions.” 


If an employee has an MSL degree, can it help the company save time or money? If so, how?

That’s very possible, according to the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, which has a robust MSL program. Employees with an MSL degree can help to spot problematic legal issues and either avoid them or sound an alert to involve legal counsel in order to avoid longer range legal costs. Kelso says it also gives employees a wider range of skills, which employers love.

“To be blunt, it’s not the degree that does it,” Kelso said. “Their skillset improves so quickly and so clearly, that their employers say ‘hey, I can do more with you now.’”


Would it lessen the need for legal counsel to be present at meetings if an employee who has an MSL is present? 

In many cases, it probably would lessen the need for legal counsel to be present in meetings if an employee with an MSL is present, according to the University of Pittsburgh. Non-lawyers — especially in human resources, have long performed many jobs requiring some knowledge of a particular area of law. Someone with additional knowledge of the law might more readily identify situations in which a lawyer’s involvement is or is not needed.

“In HR, both in the private and public sectors, everybody agrees that if you don’t have a good understanding of the law, you’re going to fail in that business. Certainly there are areas where law seems to dominate and having a background in legal resources helps anybody who is moving up in health care or human resources,” Kelso said. “An MSL program can give you skills in labor law, employment law and civil rights. It makes you a better HR professional.”