College of Law to launch Master of Legal Studies program

Professionals who want to enhance their knowledge of the law, but don’t necessarily want to become lawyers, can benefit from a new program that will be offered by the College of Law.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission last week approved a proposal to create a 30-credit-hour Master of Legal Studies degree after the proposal gained support from the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees in February. 

The degree option will be offered beginning in the Summer 2021 semester and is an alternative to the typical three-year J.D. targeted toward those who need to be conversant in the law but do not wish to practice law. The College of Law will also offer a 15-credit graduate certificate in legal studies as an alternative for non-lawyers who do not wish to pursue the full 30-credit degree.  

“We are incredibly excited to be able to offer this degree option to the community,” College of Law Dean Melanie Wilson said. “Our Master of Legal Studies program will offer students an opportunity to gain meaningful knowledge of the law that they can apply to their careers that regularly intersect with the law – without committing to a full J.D. degree.”  

Master of Legal Studies and graduate certificate programs are most often pursued by individuals already in the workforce. Business professionals, compliance officers, cybersecurity experts, higher education administrators, human resources administrators, law enforcement officers and paralegals are among those who might regularly communicate with lawyers or need to navigate legal regulations, but never represent a client. 

These are the ideal candidates for the programs, said College of Law Professor Alex Long, who worked on behalf of the college to gain program approval.

“The knowledge and skills students will acquire in these programs can help them improve their ability to analyze and solve problems in their work settings and serve as a helpful credential in their career advancement,” Long said.

The College of Law will also work to develop more distance learning options to make the program more accessible for working professionals.

The University of Tennessee College of Law is the only law school in the state that offers the degree.