Necessity sparks interest in law master’s

Interest is growing for master’s degrees in law, in part because more professionals who might not even be attorneys must deal with regulation and other legal matters in their jobs.

The general term “legal master’s degree” can refer to various degrees offered by law schools, said Matthew Parker, associate dean for graduate programs and executive director of legal education programs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The realm of master’s programs include degrees for people who might work in other professions but see a benefit from legal training, said Parker, who also is chairman of the Association of American Law Schools section on post-graduate legal education.

Complication in professional fields and a high level of regulation lead to a need for some basic grounding in the law so people can perform their jobs better and be better consumers of legal services, he said.

Engineers might require a background in intellectual property law, for example — even if it’s just having a sense of knowing when to consult a lawyer, Parker said. And a doctor might need a firm grounding in malpractice and employment law for a position at a medical center, he said.

“These people will never practice law, but increasingly you see, with technology and the way so many disciplines are becoming overlapping, a recognition that this type of training is useful to people,” Parker said.

The additional legal expertise can help a person stand out and compete in the job market, he said.

These types of programs are in addition to what is available for people who already have law degrees.

Students can pursue the LL.M., or master of laws, after earning a basic law degree such as the J.D. in the United States, he said.

Students who have earned basic law degrees elsewhere in the world might come to a U.S. law school and get an LL.M., Parker said.

The international students who earn such an LL.M. can return home with knowledge of law that is helpful in their careers or it can allow them to sit for bar exams instead of getting the American J.D. degree, he said.

Brent Burkey

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