Law school has a reputation as one of the toughest educational programs in our country. But how much do you really know about law school? How long does it take, and what degree do lawyers have when they come out the other side?

The term “law school” can be a little generic and misleading when it comes to discussing legal education. Read on to learn more about different legal degrees and how long each program takes.

Juris Doctor

When most of us think of law school, the degree we think of is a Juris Doctor. In the United States, a lawyer must have at least a Juris Doctor if they want to practice law. 

A Juris Doctor is a graduate degree, meaning you must complete a bachelor’s degree first. Undergraduate degrees typically take four years. Often, prospective lawyers earn a degree in political science, pre-law, or even English to give them a good background for their legal studies.

Once you begin your Juris Doctor program, you can expect to finish in about three years for a total of seven years of schooling.

Master of Laws

The Master of Laws degree is a postgraduate program that some lawyers can choose to enroll in. This is a way of extending their expertise and perhaps opening some new opportunities for them later. It can also allow them to specialize in a specific area of law that they want to focus their practice on.

Lawyers hoping to earn a Master of Laws must get their Juris Doctor from an American Bar Association-approved institution. 

After they’ve earned that degree, they can continue into the Master of Laws program, which usually takes another year to complete. This takes the total time in school to eight years.

Master’s Degree in Law

Confusingly, you can also choose to pursue a master’s degree in law, which is not the same thing as a Master of Laws degree. 

This path can be a good choice for people who want a legal education, but don’t want to practice law. Budding politicians often choose this route since it exposes them to the rules of law, but doesn’t require them to go through the strain of law school.

Like a Juris Doctor, a master’s degree in law is a graduate degree, so you must get a bachelor’s degree before starting this program. However, most people can complete a master’s degree in law in two years. This allows them to start their career six years after high school, rather than seven or eight years later.

Legal certificates are short-term programs that give students experience in specific areas of law. They do not license that person to practice law and don’t go into nearly the same depth that Juris Doctor programs do. But these programs are good options for students who want to become paralegals or court reporters or otherwise work in the court system as something other than an attorney.

Most legal certificate programs require students to have a bachelor’s degree before applying. After the four years of your bachelor’s degree, you can earn a legal certificate in as little as three months. 

You can also earn multiple legal certificates if you want to specialize in multiple areas of the law.

Hire A Lawyer with the Expertise You Need

The term “law school” isn’t as all-encompassing as many of us think. While that phrase often refers to a Juris Doctor program, lawyers can also choose to pursue a Master of Laws degree. People who want to work in the legal field, but don’t want to be attorneys can opt for master’s degrees in law or legal certificates.

When you hire a lawyer, you want to make sure that they have the highest quality education possible. Our lawyers earned their Juris Doctors from prestigious institutions and have continued to expand their legal education. Schedule a free consultation with us today to discuss the details of your case.

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