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Master of Legal Studies Director Christopher Serkin explains the value of the degree.

A Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree is a postgraduate program designed for individuals who seek a comprehensive understanding of the legal system and its implications within their chosen field, without necessarily pursuing a career as a practicing attorney. It offers a broad and deliberately generalist approach to legal studies, equipping graduates with the legal knowledge and critical thinking skills to effectively address legal challenges in their chosen professions.

Christopher Serkin, director of the Vanderbilt Master of Legal Studies, offers a few reasons why an MLS is worth pursuing:

A stronger understanding of the legal system can translate to a stronger performance at work

Whether it’s a realtor trying to understand the summaries of judicial opinions they receive at work or an HR associate crafting policies that need to comply with employment regulations, many professionals find themselves interacting with the legal world on a daily basis.

“We’re seeing people who say ‘hey, I feel at a disadvantage because I don’t understand as much about the legal system as I would like to in my job,” Serkin says. He notes that many of his students remark on how helpful the coursework will be for their current occupations.

The MLS is a transformative experience

“I learned more in my first year of law school than I learned in any year of education I received, save maybe kindergarten,” Serkin says. “It is so transformative in how you think about the world.”

He notes the similarity in impact with the Master of Legal Studies program, where students learn how pervasive the law is. “It shapes how you encounter everything in your everyday life, from the products you interact with to your routine interactions with people, even outside of formal business relationships.”

Serkin believes the Master of Legal Studies “democratizes” legal education, with a format that’s more accessible than a full J.D. program but still provides the kind of intellectual transformation he experienced in law school.

“You will encounter all aspects of your job differently,” he says.

It can lead to promotions and salary increases

Many organizations offer pay raises for earning a master’s degree, but Serkin believes an MLS degree gives students a leg up in the workplace that can lead to job advancement because of the skills acquired.

“We’re teaching a general introduction to the legal system to help teach the skill of thinking like a lawyer, which at the end of the day is the most valuable skill I think the J.D. provides,” he says.

If graduates are working in an organization where there’s room for growth, “I think the MLS gives them a significant leg up,” he says.

Vanderbilt’s MLS provides you with the knowledge and skills to recognize legal issues and to students more sophisticated consumers of legal advice. MLS students develop the vocabulary to improve communication with lawyers and the analytical tools to understand legal complexity. Students learn about contracts, employment law, regulations, property rights, torts, and the structure of the legal system, among other core topics. To learn more, visit our website.

About Vanderbilt Law School

Vanderbilt Law School has prepared students for exceptional careers throughout the United States and around the world for 145 years.

Located on the Vanderbilt University campus in Nashville, Tennessee, the law school combines the advantages of a stimulating university community, a top-tier research faculty, award-winning teachers, and a vibrant student body.

Known for its rigorous academics in a collegial, supportive atmosphere, Vanderbilt Law School attracts students and faculty seeking a first-rate education within a nurturing community.

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