Masters in Legal Studies or Paralegal Certificate?

Discussion in 'Business and MBA degrees' started by jorona, May 19, 2015.

Loading...
  1. jorona

    jorona New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    What are some practical reasons why someone would choose to purse a Masters in Legal Studies over a post-baccalaureate or undergrad certificate in paralegal/legal studies? It seems that there are many options to pursue a MA online, but I'm not sure if it's worth the time and cost in terms of ROI if my goal is to find decent paying work as a paralegal. If anyone can offer insight into why a MA may be a better choice I would appreciate it. TIA!
     
  2. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Active Member

    Messages:
    2,738
    Likes Received:
    4
    Occupation:
    HR Business Partner
    Location:
    Syracuse, NY
    When I worked as a recruiter I found that, generally speaking, small and midsize firms often preferred as little paralegal training as possible while still having some (so, a certificate, a correspondence course etc.). Their reasoning to me was that they didn't want someone coming in with habits to be broken. They wanted, essentially, a secretary who knew some legal terms and had a basic familiarity with the legal process. Naturally, there were other firms that wanted people with years of general experience or, from time to time, experience in an incredibly specialized area.

    That said, while I did see some preferences, they never really addressed the level of desired paralegal education. Some firms specified they wanted someone with a bachelors (in anything). For very high level positions they often wanted someone who either washed out of law school or graduated but wasn't looking for a position as a lawyer (i.e. can't pass the bar).

    That said, I was a technical recruiter and these requests were sporadic. I can't imagine that every firm was using a recruiter (especially one at a non-legal specialty recruiting firm). So maybe my experience was atypical. But I really can't imagine justifying the expense of a Master of Legal Studies if your goal is to be a paralegal. In my working life, I only ever saw one person with that degree and she wasn't a paralegal. She was a contracts specialist in our purchasing department. I think, for her, the degree was something she earned to further her career in a very specific field. When you have a decade of experience as a contracts specialist AND a Masters in Legal Studies, you do sort of convey the message that you might know something about contracts.

    Sure enough, she left because she was poached by a government contractor who needed a contract expert.

    So I don't want you to think I'm anti-MA in Legal Studies (or similar). I'm really not. I just think that it probably has a higher ROI for non-lawyers who work in areas outside of the legal world (but where legal training would be desirable). To me, it is like the Master of Taxation. If you are an in-house accountant specializing in corporate tax it might help push your career along. If you only work part-time at HR Block then it might just be throwing money away.
     
  3. workingmom

    workingmom New Member

    Messages:
    129
    Likes Received:
    0
    Assuming you already have a BA or BS degree, then I'd look at post-BA certificate programs. Here's an article that points out things to keep in mind about paralegal education and your specific circumstances, like the geographic area you'd like to work in: The Value of a Paralegal Degree: Experts Weigh In | Above the Law

    I know someone who had a master's degree in political science and then went to a certificate program. I started out in this field many years ago with an AS degree, but later earned an AA and BA and plan to start a master's soon. I am an adjunct paralegal instructor now in an AS program. I feel, for the most part, people that already have a BA, are better equipped to undertake paralegal education due to the level of critical thinking and communication skills required to do well in the field.

    I see a MA in Legal Studies as limiting and costly. It's not really required to be a paralegal. If you want to be paralegal, some sort of paralegal specific education makes the most sense. With the MA you're still not a JD. With the MA, if you wanted to teach you'd be limited to legal issues, and there are plenty of JDs, MBAs, and others qualified in different aspects of the law you'd be competing with. My advice would be to get the cert, find a position, see if it's a good field of law for you, and then decide on ways you can branch out and whether further education will help you get there.
     
  4. Pugbelly2

    Pugbelly2 Member

    Messages:
    486
    Likes Received:
    0
    Occupation:
    Executive Vice President (FT), Executive Coach (PT
    Location:
    Maryland
    In terms of ROI, there may not be a good reason. Some people may want a greater depth of knowledge than a certification would offer, others may want a grad degree to "check the box" on employment applications. I've never really understood the purpose of a Legal Studies graduate degree unless it's more about personal or professional interest. I've looked at graduate programs in legal studies before, but they weren't general or broad based in nature. For example, Nova SE offers a grad degree in Employment Law. Widener School of Law (now Delaware Law I believe) offers the Master of Jurisprudence in Corporate and Business Law. I believe Loyola of Chicago also offers a MJ in Business/Corporate Law. These make far more sense to me because they provide a deep understanding of a specific area of law that one might need to better perform in a career. I deal with attorneys on a daily basis, so a MJ in Corporate or Business Law would be very useful. My HR Director would likely benefit from a MA in Employment Law and if she wasn't already very established and tenured in the position, it would also fetch her additional pay.
     
  5. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    Messages:
    13,430
    Likes Received:
    2
    Occupation:
    perpetual grad student; sometime ranch hand; somet
    Location:
    Ottawa County, Ohio
    I remember seeing something about some paralegal programs online when IU was doing all my DL from the Cotton State TO dl FROM THE eQUALITY sTATE AND I believe that it was from the great state of AZ AND IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN CALLED THE NATIONAL PARALEGAKL INSTITUTE.
     
  6. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    Messages:
    13,430
    Likes Received:
    2
    Occupation:
    perpetual grad student; sometime ranch hand; somet
    Location:
    Ottawa County, Ohio
    i have a step-son from my old common law marriage who, last known, was going to Kaplan first for the Bachelor of Arts in Paralegal Studies and then the Concord Law School of Kaplan University Juris Doctorate. I once considered the Concord JD. They had their own little
    (emphasis on the little ... ) law school admission test (not the big LSAT Law Schjooll Admissions Test ... ... someone from online-college.info who must have beenm unable to reasd chided ,me over this) and i scored a 93% on this.So maybe i'm a gud candid8 4 law school after all.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 23, 2015

Share This Page