Master of Legal Studies

Master of Legal Studies and Graduate Certificate in Legal Studies

Be a part of the inaugural class. 

For professionals who need to understand the law, but don't want to practice it.

Our program will benefit individuals whose careers intersect with the law but who do not need to earn a law degree. The program equips professionals with knowledge of the law and problem-solving skills that will enable them to more effectively deal with legal matters in their jobs.

Master's Degree Track

Are you a professional who needs to navigate legal issues in the workplace?

Earn your Master’s Degree in this 30-credit, in-person or hybrid program.

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Graduate Certificate

Need to boost your career with an overview of workplace legal fundamentals or a focus in a particular industry?

Earn a graduate certificate in this 15-credit, in-person or hybrid program.

FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers

Both programs are intended for working professionals and graduate/Ph.D. students whose fields intersect with the law and who would benefit from legal studies but do not wish to pursue the J.D.  Examples include human resource professionals, paralegals, compliance officers, higher education administrators, cybersecurity experts, forensic social workers, police officers and business professionals.

The MLS program consists of 30 credits. The Graduate Certificate consists of 15 credits. As a general matter, the Graduate Certificate is designed for individuals who would benefit from legal studies but do not feel they need the depth of study provided by the MLS.

Students pursuing the MLS must complete the following courses:

  • The Structure and Operation of the American Legal System (3 credit hours)
  • Introduction to Legal Reasoning and Communication (3 credit hours)
  • At least two courses from the required first-year JD curriculum (excluding Lawyering & Professionalism and Transactional Lawyering Lab) (minimum of 5 credit hours)
  • Written Project in Lieu of Thesis (Directed Research Paper, Independent Study, or a class that satisfies the expository writing requirement) (minimum 1 credit hour)
  • First-year or upper-level electives (satisfying the remaining credit-hours needed to complete the 30-credit degree).

 

Students pursuing the Graduate Certificate must complete the following courses:

  • Structure and Operation of the American Legal System (2-3 credit hours)
  • Introduction to Legal Reasoning and Communication (2-3 credit hours)
  • First-year or upper-level electives (satisfying the remaining credit-hours needed to complete the 15-credit certificate).

 

Students enrolled in either program are not permitted to enroll in any clinic, externship, field placement, or Semester in Residence.  Enrollment in other upper-level electives is subject to the approval of the relevant faculty member, who may also require completion of prerequisites that JD students would have completed prior to taking the class. 

 

For a full listing of courses offered at the College of Law, see the UTK Graduate Catalog.

Yes. Students can draw upon the expertise of an advisor to help them design a flexible course of study that best fits their career goals by choosing from the College of Law’s wide range of course offerings. 

Yes, assuming you meet the admissions standards established by the Graduate Council. The certificate is available to individuals who are 1) pursuing other academic programs at the master’s or doctoral levels, or 2) post-baccalaureate and enrolled solely in a graduate certificate program. 

  • In most cases, yes. There are two introductory courses – The Structure and Operation of the American Legal System and Introduction to Legal Reasoning and Communication – that are designed specifically for students who not pursuing the JD.  Over time, the program may offer a limited number of online courses designed specifically for students who are not pursuing the JD. But for the most part, the courses in the MLS and Graduate Certificate in Legal Studies programs are the same courses students take as part of the JD curriculum.

No. Nearly all of the courses the College of Law offers are live, classroom-based experiences.  The two required introductory courses – The Structure and Operation of the American Legal System and Introduction to Legal Reasoning and Communication – are both online courses. In addition, there are other courses that are offered online. But the program is best described as an in-person or hybrid program.

No. If you want to become a lawyer, the MLS Program is not for you. It will not permit you to take the bar examination and so it is not intended for people who want to practice law. If that is your interest, you should apply to our JD Program.

No. American Bar Association regulations do not permit credits acquired in the MLS degree to be credited toward the JD degree.

Students enrolled in the JD program may, subject to approval and other applicable procedures, transfer from the JD program to the MLS program. No more than 15 JD credits may transfer toward the MLS degree.

Students enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Legal Studies program may, subject to approval and other applicable procedures, transfer to the MLS program and may transfer up to 9 credit hours from the Graduate Certificate program toward the MLS degree.

No. Credits from prior study will not be accepted toward the completion of the MLS degree or the Graduate Certificate.

You may pursue the MLS degree and the Graduate Certificate on a full-time or part-time basis. The degree may be completed in one academic year (beginning in the summer) if pursued full-time. If you wish to take a part-time course of study, you will have up to four years to complete the degree.

Most of the courses students will take are JD courses. These courses typically meet for 75 minutes twice a week or 50 minutes three times a week. The rule of thumb is that students are expected to spend at least two hours of preparation for each hour of class. Regular attendance is required.

A cumulative grade point average of 3.0 is required on all graduate course work taken at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to remain in good standing and to receive any graduate degree or certificate from the university. Graduate Certificate students will be graded separately from JD students on a scale that correlates with the University’s grading policies for graduate students. The grades of any Graduate Certificate student in particular class will not be taken into account for purposes of determining any applicable required course mean or median.

Tuition and fees change annually. Students will pay the graduate student tuition fee.

The MLS Program does not offer financial aid in the form of grants to students. However, the College of Law will assist you in processing loans. Many employers provide tuition assistance to employees. If you are working, you should inquire with your employer.

The general requirements for admission to the Graduate School at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville include the following:

  • Applicants must have obtained a bachelor’s degree from a college or university accredited by the appropriate regional accrediting agency. A non-U.S. degree must be equivalent to a bachelor’s degree from the United States and must be accredited by its regional or national accreditation agency.
  • United States degree holders must have earned a minimum of 2.7 out of a possible 4.0 GPA or a minimum of 3.0 during the senior year of undergraduate study. If you have completed previous graduate coursework, you must have earned a minimum of 3.0 out of a possible 4.0 GPA.
  • Applicants with non-U.S. degrees must have earned a minimum of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or other equivalent to a ‘B’ average. If you have completed previous graduate coursework, you must have earned a minimum of 3.3 out of a possible 4.0 GPA or other equivalent to a ‘B+’ average.

Additionally, interest students must include the following in their applications:

  • A personal statement of 3–4 pages summarizing the applicant’s qualifications for and interest in the program, along with career objective
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • A resume or curriculum vitae
  • Students for whom English is not their first language must submit a score of at least 570 (paper-based exam) or 88 (internet-based exam) points on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam, or a score of at least 7.5 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or other comparable evidence of English proficiency in order to be considered for admission to the LLM program. Scores must be reported directly to the University of Tennessee College of Law.

 

Applications will also be reviewed by the College of Law Admissions Committee. The Admissions Committee will take a holistic approach to applications, keeping in mind that many applicants will be working professionals who completed their original studies years earlier. Students who have completed a graduate entrance exam, such as the GRE, within the past three years will be required to submit their scores, although completion of such an exam is not a requirement. At the discretion of the Admissions Committee, some applicants may be asked to participate an interview.

In keeping with the practices of other schools, applicants will be required to submit:

  1.  The applicant’s academic record (including undergraduate or graduate transcripts);
  2. a CV or resume;
  3. a personal statement explaining the applicant’s interest in the program, how the applicant believes participation in the program will advance his or her professional goals, and what benefits the applicant believes he or she can bring to the program; and
  4.  three references.

Yes, provided they meet the admissions requirements described above.

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