How to Choose a Law Degree Concentration or Specialization

It’s no secret that the field of law offers a plethora of opportunities and specializations for professionals to explore. From corporate law to intellectual property, there are a variety of concentrations that cater to different interests and professional backgrounds.

Pursuing a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) is a great way to delve deeper into the field and determine which concentration aligns best with your career goals.

By completing relevant coursework and gaining hands-on experience, you can gain a better understanding of the legal areas that appeal to you the most.

Additionally, specializing in a specific area of law can provide you with a competitive edge and expand your knowledge and skills, ultimately preparing you for your desired role or industry.

To help you navigate this decision, we’ve compiled a guide that answers common questions and offers valuable tips as you explore the various law degree specializations or concentrations available.

How to Choose a Law Degree Concentration or Specialization

Consider Different Areas of Law Based on Your Interest

Focusing on your interests can be a great starting point when deciding which area of law you want to specialize in. For instance, if you are passionate about handling tax matters and regulations, then pursuing a master’s degree in tax law could be a good option for you.

Similarly, if you are intrigued by the workings of local, state, and federal laws and theories of crime and punishment, then criminal law might be the right fit for you.

On the other hand, if you possess good communication skills and are adept at resolving disputes, then you may want to consider dispute resolution as an area of law practice.

It is important to bear in mind that each area of legal practice requires a specific skill set, regardless of your interests and motivations.

Research Requirements of the Concentration

It’s important to note that certain legal degree programs may require you to meet specific prerequisites before enrolling. Conducting thorough research into the requirements of your desired program can help you make a well-informed decision. These prerequisites may include test scores, relevant coursework, or work experience.

By determining these factors beforehand, you will have a better understanding of what to expect from the program and will be able to assess your readiness for the concentration and the program overall.

Consider Industry Growth Projections

It can be helpful to research law concentrations when considering a career path, as it can help you identify jobs that are in high demand and set you up for success. For instance, tax law is a popular career option due to its strong earning potential and growth opportunities as long as taxes exist.

According to job outlook data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), legal occupations are projected to grow by 6% from 2022 to 2032. Many large corporations are expanding their in-house legal teams to save money, and having specialized financial knowledge can be an asset for job candidates, according to the BLS.

If you specialize in tax law or a related legal concentration, you may work in roles such as an accountant, financial specialist, or financial manager. These occupations are expected to see above-average job growth from 2022 to 2032, according to the BLS.

By researching each law concentration, you can gain a better understanding of the unique benefits, job prospects, and where you may stand in a few years.

Research Career Paths and Work Settings

Legal career paths and work settings can vary greatly depending on your area of concentration or specialization. If you have a specific career or employer in mind, it’s important to choose a concentration that aligns with your goals.

For instance, if you’re interested in becoming a compliance officer, you’ll need a different educational path than if you want to become a tax lawyer. Pursuing a concentration in corporate compliance or healthcare compliance in a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program could be a good choice for a compliance officer.

Additionally, earning certain compliance certificates could potentially help you advance in your career. On the other hand, if you aspire to become a lawyer specializing in taxation, obtaining a Master of Laws (LLM) in tax could be beneficial, but it won’t qualify you to sit for the bar exam.

Keep in mind that in most states, lawyers must successfully complete a Juris Doctor (JD) program accredited by the American Bar Association and pass the bar exam to practice law. Earning an LLM in taxation could be a logical next step for a JD holder.

Common work settings for legal professionals include law firms, government agencies, private sector businesses, educational institutions, and nonprofits. A compliance officer may work for a healthcare organization, while a lawyer may work in a law firm or legal office. Consider which work setting would be the best fit for you.

Reach Out to Your Network for Advice

If you have questions about choosing a law degree, consider reaching out to people in your network who may have answers. These could include academic advisors, graduates with legal experience, or even friends and family members. 

Your school advisor can help you make a plan for your desired concentration. Even if you’re unsure which legal degree is best for you, they can help you evaluate the pros and cons of each offering you’re considering, or assess how prepared you are for graduate study. 

Graduates in the field have first-hand experience with the academic journey. They can provide invaluable insight into what to expect in terms of coursework and other aspects of pursuing a law degree.

Compare the Strength of Law School with Your Preferred Concentration

While researching your concentration, it’s important to consider the strengths of the law school you plan to attend or are already attending. Certain law schools may have strong programs in specific concentrations which can enhance your resume and make you more credible to employers in the specialized field.

If you are already attending a school that you like, you should research the law concentrations it is well known for, as well as any available graduate employment data.

What is a law degree concentration or specialization?

A concentration or specialization in law refers to a specific area of study within the field of law. This allows students to gain in-depth knowledge and expertise in a particular legal specialty, which can then be applied to their future careers.

Regardless of whether you are pursuing a master’s degree in legal studies or any other law program, you will have the opportunity to explore various areas of law and choose a concentration that aligns with your career aspirations.

Which semester do you need to choose a concentration?

The requirements for declaring a concentration in law school may differ depending on the institution. Some schools allow students to choose a concentration track at the end of their second term.

This gives them ample time to assess their interests and skills and choose the concentration that aligns with their career goals. It is advisable to begin researching concentration options early to be fully prepared when it’s time to declare.

What are the benefits of choosing a concentration?

Pursuing a legal concentration can provide you with specialized legal knowledge, skills, and tools, making you an expert in your chosen field and giving you a clear idea of what to expect in the industry.

What if the universities you like don’t offer the concentrations you want?

Law school students should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of sticking with their preferred school choices or exploring other options. It is important to reflect on your personal needs and circumstances, including your academic and professional strengths and weaknesses, your willingness to relocate for school, and your ability to apply your strengths to the available concentrations at your chosen school. By weighing these factors, you can make a well-informed decision about which law school to attend.

Is it possible to work in an area of law besides my specialty?

Yes, it is possible to work in an area of law besides your specialty. Some A legal profession such as that of a compliance officer requires a combination of excellent communication skills, problem-solving abilities and legal knowledge. The skills and knowledge you acquire during your degree program can be applied in many different legal fields, which can provide you with various legal specialties and career opportunities to choose from.

Is a general track less advantageous than a degree with a concentration?

It’s not necessary to choose a specific law degree concentration, as the knowledge you gain can be applied to a variety of roles in the legal industry. If you’re enrolled in a general track program, you can still determine which concentration aligns best with your career goals. It’s important to remember that your goals may differ from your peers, so you should base your decision on what drives you and what you hope to achieve.

Do JD, LLM and MLS degrees offer the same concentrations?

Although MLS, JD, and LLM degrees may offer similar specializations in law, each program has different requirements and scopes. For instance, an MLS degree would enable you to explore various concentrations and roles that need general legal knowledge, such as becoming a paralegal or arbitrator. In contrast, JD programs cover broad theories and concepts within the U.S. legal system, while LLM degrees are intended for lawyers looking to expand their expertise in specific fields of law. To find out more about the differences between MLS vs. LLM vs. JD, you can read about them in detail.