For many students and professionals interested in working in the government, a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree is a useful credential to have in order to advance in their education and career — and it only takes 12 months to earn the degree. A one-year MLS program mirrors the first year of law school, and is intended to help non-lawyers gain a greater understanding of fundamental legal concepts. This expertise helps professionals in a number of fields within the government, such as criminal justice, health care and human resources.
Below are a few examples of governmental career paths in which a Master of Legal Studies would be particularly helpful.
“Protective services” is a catchall term that covers agencies — such as the Federal Protective Service — and offices that seek to safeguard the well-being of vulnerable populations, such as children or the mentally handicapped. A social worker and protective service officer program manager are common examples of available roles in the protective services field. These employees are constantly working in areas where social work and law intersect, such as criminal justice and child welfare. Since there are many laws and regulations social workers and other protective service employees must abide by, an MLS would offer such employees the proper legal foundation to successfully serve high-needs areas and people.
While many judges rely on clerks with law degrees to help with case law research and opinion drafting, other functions are handed to court administrators. Court administrator tasks include managing the court’s calendar of hearings, responding to official correspondence and, in general, serving as a liaison between the court and parties in a trial. An MLS can help court administrators better understand the function of the judicial system, such as the process of complaint resolution, and the powers of the court, such as how a court oversees disputes and what a court can order to resolve them.
An example of a position in this sector is a court administrator role at the federal Executive Office for Immigration Review. Among the required duties are management of docketing and calendaring, review of case management reports and even handling the procurement of office equipment!
Federal Regulatory Agencies
Federal regulatory agencies oversee a number of areas, including the environment and the media, and make detailed laws to govern activities in each area. Example agencies include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which oversees air travel, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which safeguards natural resources, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which manages broadcast media like television and radio. Positions within these agencies can vary widely, from clerical work to central advising on the formation of regulations. Professionals who have an MLS in this field will more clearly understand the policies of their chosen office and the regulations in general, which will allow them to successfully perform their responsibilities. An example of a position in this field is a consumer safety officer role with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in which the officer must investigate complaints of injury or illness and initiate judicial actions against alleged violators. An MLS degree would help an officer at the FDA complete job tasks that intersect with the law — such as advising other officials on compliance and enforcement policies.
The criminal justice field is focused on crime investigations and violators of the law. Positions in the field are available at a number of different organizations and include law enforcement, corrections, probation offices and more. An MLS degree can help criminal justice professionals deepen their understanding of the law. Police officers in particular can become more capable professionals with an MLS degree because it will help them to better prepare and transfer cases to the district attorney.
An example of a criminal justice job is a criminal investigations special agent with the U.S. Army. These investigators are responsible for investigating criminal complaints in connection with army affairs or personnel, analyzing criminal intelligence and maintaining criminal records. An MLS will allow special agents to have a keener understanding of the criminal code and how to prepare cases for prosecution.
Many governmental positions involve heavy overlap with the law, so a Master of Legal Studies degree is a highly useful degree to have. It will allow professionals to expand their legal knowledge and skills and advance in a governmental career, which ultimately creates more effective public servants.