How to Major in Law
For those who love to argue, conduct research, solve problems, and to see tangible outcomes in their work, majoring in law can be a great path. Majoring in law can provide a pathway to work as a paralegal, lawyer, law clerk, legislator, or judge.
Majoring in law immerses you in the laws, law enforcement groups, courts, and corrections programs that shape the American justice system. Whether you agree with how they work, or find fault with them, our society is governed by laws. We require highly-trained professionals who can interpret and work within the law to make sure it serves us and doesn’t work against us. Moreover, if you have political aspirations, studying law is a great place to start. Be aware that you will need to have earned an advanced degree and pass the bar exam in your state in order to become a practicing lawyer or serve as a judge.
If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Law.
Or read on to find out what you can expect as a Law Major.
5 Reasons to Major in Law
1.Law majors are in demand.
Industries may come and go, but the law is always present, and with it comes a constant demand for qualified legal professionals. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll always be able to find work in legal professions.
2.Law majors learn valuable skills.
Students who major in law learn how to navigate the law and legal system. They understand the likely impact of changes in policy. They know how to advocate for themselves as well as friends and family in the face of intimidating and confusing legal scenarios. And they know how to analyze and develop arguments. Majoring in the law prepares students with the advanced knowledge and skills they need to live and succeed in a society governed by law.
3.Law majors are well paid.
The stereotypes are true: lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals are well paid. If you’re looking for a job that comes with a six-figure salary (or higher), law might be the field for you.
4.Law majors can enact positive change.
The law can be used to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, the law can also be abused and used to cause harm. Law majors can affect how the law is interpreted and applied, and even have laws changed, abolished, or created, in order to ensure that they serve the greater good.
5.Law majors are influential.
Whether in private practice, academia, public defense, legislation, politics, or working in the courts, law majors are all over, influencing law, policy, and outcomes. Today, top influencers in law are bringing positive change to federal law, global surveillance, human rights and much more.
Find out who the Most Influential People are in Law today!
What Kinds of Law Degrees Are There?
Law degrees are available at all levels of completion, and the degree that is right for you depends on your personal and professional goals. Notably, the law degree path is different from most other fields. Instead of a master’s degree, the standard graduate-level degree for law is a Juris Doctor, which is required for employment as a lawyer or higher. However, you don’t (strictly speaking) have to study law as an undergraduate to get there; in fact, among Law School students degrees in English, philosophy, history, or political science are also quite common.
- Certificate in Paralegal Studies: A certificate in paralegal studies provides you with a quick, practical application that meets the requirements to pass the Certified Paralegal Exam and gain entry-level paralegal employment. These programs typically require one or two semesters of study and 12-18 credits for completion. They include courses in topics such as paralegal fundamentals, law and ethics, legal research and writing, and law office practice.
- Associate in Legal Studies/Paralegal Studies (AA or AS): Sometimes offered as an associate in legal studies, and sometimes as a degree in paralegal studies, an associate in law requires two years and 60 credits for completion. Students emerge prepared for entry-level roles as paralegals or legal assistants, as well as with the foundational knowledge required to begin working toward a bachelor’s degree. Courses in these programs cover topics including legal practice, law and ethics, the courts, and corrections.
- Bachelor of Law or Legal Studies (BS or BA): A bachelor of law or legal studies typically takes four years to complete and requires 120 credits. Students develop foundational and advanced knowledge of law and legal practice, and complete courses in topics such as civil litigation, court procedures, law and ethics, criminal law, constitutional law, and the courts. Students also typically have to complete an internship and a research project. Degree holders emerge prepared for jobs such as arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators. Earning a bachelor of law also qualifies you to take the LSAT and pursue a master’s degree or JD. (Note: with the exception of the U.S., most countries consider an undergraduate degree in law a “Bachelor of Laws,” or LLB.)
- Juris Doctor (JD): A juris doctor is a professional doctorate, and the basic degree requirement for employment as a lawyer. A JD typically takes three years to complete and requires 90 credits. Students complete advanced coursework in topics such as criminal law, torts, constitutional law, property law, business law, courtroom procedures, and state and federal courts. Students also typically specialize in specific areas of legal practice, and must complete a legal internship. Additionally, after earning their JD, graduates must pass the bar exam in the state(s) where they plan to practice.
- Master of Laws (LLM): A master of laws is another professional degree, and can only be earned after students have earned a JD and passed the bar exam. An LLM is a postgraduate professional law degree, which is above and beyond a JD, providing highly advanced and specialized study in the nuances of the law and legal practice. This degree typically takes two years to complete and requires 24-30 credits. Some schools offer LLMs as part of a dual degree program with a JD. Students complete courses in wide ranging topics (relevant to their professional interests) such as entertainment and sports law, human rights, dispute resolution, elder law, and forensic justice. These programs are research-oriented and require a thesis project for completion.
- Doctor of Juridical Science (DJS): A doctor of juridical science, sometimes abbreviated as DSJ or SJD, is an academic law degree. The DJS is considered a terminal degree in the field. This doctoral degree typically requires three to five years to complete, with a demanding load of advanced coursework, dissertation research and defense, instruction, and comprehensive exams. This degree is most appropriate for individuals who intend to become legal scholars or judges.
*Note: Many, but not all, degree programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts, and Master of Science degrees. In most cases, the primary difference is the diversity of course offerings. “Science” degree courses will focus almost entirely on the Major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience. An “Arts” degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives. The type of degree you choose will depend both on your school’s offerings and your career/educational goals. Moreover, there are sometimes numerous variations in the way that colleges name and categorize majors. The degree types identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.
What Are Some Popular Law Concentrations?
Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a complete listing of college degree programs and concentrations (Classification for Instructional Programs), as sourced from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to IPEDS, the following are among the most popular law concentrations:
- Health Law
- Environmental Law
- Insurance Law
- Transportation Law
- Criminal Law
- Real Estate and Land Development Law
- Corporate and Financial Law
What Courses Will I Take as a Law Major?
Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a law major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as civil litigation and criminal law. However, you will also have the freedom to select an array of courses corresponding to the role or area of legal practice you plan to pursue.
Common law courses include:
- Legal Research
- Legal Writing
- Civil Litigation
- Legal Ethics
- Administrative Law and Policy
- Constitutional Law
- Criminal Law
- Family Law
What Can I Do With a Major in Law?
To fully function, the legal system needs people employed at all levels, doing everything from interpreting, arguing and changing the law to handing down sentences, filing claims, managing offices, and keeping records. Whether you have aspirations for the highest courts, or just want an interesting job, there’s an opening for you. Your law major can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including these top jobs:
- Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
- Court Reporters
- Judges and Hearing Officers
- Paralegals and Legal Assistants
- Postsecondary Teachers
- Judicial Law Clerks
Curious how far you could go with a Major in Law? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!***
Now that you know how to major in law, check out The Most Influential Schools in Law and get started on your path to a law degree.