Determining how long law school will be for you depends on what types of law degrees you’re interested in and what you are hoping to gain from your education. Are you hoping to pursue a career as a lawyer? Or are you already a lawyer and want to specialize in a particular practice of law?
It’s important to know that not all law degrees are for attorneys and those hoping to become one. In many fields, having an understanding of the law and how it works can be a huge benefit for professionals. For those in HR, in the energy sector, and in fields concerned with environmental issues, a law degree can offer the tools and knowledge base to navigate their industry smarter.
Learn more about the different types of law degree and how long law school is for each.
Juris Doctor or JD
This is the law degree most are familiar with. It’s the first degree when you’re ready to become a lawyer and go on to take the bar exam. Most states require those sitting for the exam to have a JD. In this degree program, you will learn about core analytical and legal writing skills needed to pursue a career as an attorney.
Typically a JD takes three years to complete.
In JD programs, you will be able to learn more about traditional fields of law, including commercial, family, real estate, taxation, and wills and trusts. However, they can also feature more unique practices such as civil law, international and comparative law, maritime law, environmental law, and sports law.
Many programs also require that students complete a certain number of pro bono hours to earn their JD. Tulane Law School was the first in the country to make it a requirement of graduation.
Master of Jurisprudence or MJ
A Master of Jurisprudence is for those who have no interest in becoming a lawyer but who are looking to gain a formal training in the law. You will attend law school and learn from experienced legal experts and connect with lawyers. Most MJ programs will allow you to focus on a specific type of law, giving you a better understanding of that industry’s regulations. In an MJ program, students can specialize in areas such as energy law, environmental law or labor and employment law.
An MJ typically takes as few as two years online and part time.
A Master of Jurisprudence can be an alternative graduate degree for those who need to more confidently manage their day-to-day work . For example, to be successful in human resources, a professional needs to fully understand regulations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Fair Labor Act.
An MJ degree can also help those whose careers regularly run up against restrictions or who need to better navigate local, state, federal and even international regulations. When it comes to a practice such as environmental law, multiple industries can be impacted by these regulations, including the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act, or the Ocean Dumping Act.
For those who know they do not want to pursue a JD and are also unsure of earning an MJ, certificates and certifications offered through law schools are an alternative that allows them to learn from practicing lawyers and legal scholars, but still offers even more flexibility.
Master of Laws or LLM
An LLM is the degree someone earns after completing their JD. This type of program is a great option for lawyers who want to specialize in a certain type of law. This can include energy and the environment, international and comparative law, as well as American law.
An LLM program typically takes about one year to complete as a full-time student and two years on a part-time basis.
Many LLM programs focus on American and international law. They are a critical pathway for international lawyers to learn more about practicing in the U.S. and its legal system. They are also key for American lawyers who want to become more familiar with legal systems outside the U.S.
Choose the right program for your future.
When people think of a law degree, they tend to assume a JD program. However, having a strong understanding of the law is critical for many careers, even if you are not an attorney. While some components of law might be covered in undergraduate courses or in many business graduate programs, often you do not learn directly from lawyers or those highly knowledgeable about real-world situations.
At Tulane Law School, our online students can learn directly from lawyers practicing in the field and scholars who are reshaping today’s laws. With the added benefit of an online program, they can also take advantage of the flexibility that allows them to take classes while continuing their current full-time roles.