MS in Legal Studies

Key Program Features

The Master of Science (MS) in Legal Studies is designed for graduate students and professionals whose area of research or employment would benefit from further study of the legal system. Ideal candidates include, but are not limited to, graduate students in other disciplines (such as political science, economics, international relations, engineering, philosophy, business or medicine) or professionals from different fields (such as journalism, business, science or technology), who will benefit from studying law, but who do not wish to become attorneys.

  • Candidates work closely with the Assistant Director to design an individual, flexible program that is to their greatest interest and benefit.
  • Candidates may select available courses from a variety of subject areas within the law school curriculum and are taught by our distinguished full-time and adjunct faculty.


Admission to the MS in Legal Studies program is competitive. Admitted candidates have excellent academic credentials and/or significant professional experience. Admissions criteria include the following:

  • Applicants must possess an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year college or university in the United States or its equivalent from a foreign institution
  • Applicants must establish by their academic record that they possess the qualities which indicate the ability to successfully complete graduate law school work
  • Most successful candidates also possess a graduate degree or a minimum of 3 years professional experience

For detailed application requirements, please view the application checklist.

Program Timeline

  • Students may begin the program in the Fall, Spring, or Summer term (Summer option is only for part-time applicants)
  • Candidates may complete the degree requirements in as little as 1 year, or up to 4 years (pending visa restrictions)
  • Full-time (9 or more credits) and part-time (8 or fewer credits) options are available (pending visa restrictions)
  • Day and evening courses are available

Degree Requirements

  • Degree candidates must successfully complete 26 credit hours of appropriate coursework.
  • Required courses: At least two electives from the first-year JD curriculum, which includes Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law I and II, ContractsCriminal LawProperty and Torts. A candidate may not enroll in Constitutional Law II unless they have completed Constitutional Law I. The Legal Writing and Research course offered to first-year JD candidates is not available to MS in Legal Studies candidates.
  • The remaining courses may be chosen from a range of courses that span the law school curriculum, including courses in areas such as business and corporate law, criminal law, environmental law, family and education law, international and comparative law, intellectual property and technology law, jurisprudence and legal theory, and public law and policy.
  • MS candidates participate in regular law school classes and take the same exams as JD candidates. However, MS students will be graded on an honors/pass/low pass/fail basis unless they are granted permission when admitted to be graded on the same scale as JD students.
  • Students who wish to apply credits earned in this program toward other degree programs they are pursuing (e.g., another Masters or PhD) should determine whether those other programs require that law school credits be graded for transfer.
  • Full details of the degree requirements may be found in the School of Law Academic Rules in the Student Handbook.

Academic Concentrations

The School of Law is pleased to offer specialized Concentration areas within the MS in Legal Studies. After enrolling in the program, candidates have the option of pursuing a Concentration in one of the following areas:

These concentrations highlight curricular strengths, offering a selection of courses taught by leading scholars and expert practitioners. Students can work with the Assistant Director to help shape their education or enhance their career prospects by meeting the specific requirements for earning a Certificate of Concentration and corresponding transcript notation. Please be aware that the election or pursuit of a Concentration area does not afford registration priority. While pursuing one of the Concentrations listed above is an available option, MS in Legal Studies candidates are not required to pursue a Concentration.

Additional Information

  • The MS in Legal Studies degree is not intended for candidates with prior law school education.
  • Credit will not be given for any courses completed by a candidate during a previously attended JD program. In addition, required MS in Legal Studies coursework will not be waived due to completion of substantially similar courses taken as part of another degree program.
  • Many schools, including the University of San Diego School of Law, prohibit MS in Legal Studies degree candidates or graduates from transferring their units into an accredited JD degree program. Check with individual JD institutions for their specific rules and regulations regarding transfer credit.

Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid

Please visit our Financial Aid website for tuition, fee and financial aid information.

Merit Scholarships

  • The University of San Diego School of Law awards Merit Scholarships to admitted, full-time MS in Legal Studies students based on the merits of the applicant's scholastic and professional experience, as demonstrated by the contents of the applicant's admissions file
  • Merit Scholarship awards are available to full-time U.S. and international applicants
  • Full-time applicants accepted to an MS program at the School of Law are automatically considered for this partial tuition scholarship award at the time of admission
  • Merit Scholarship awards are not renewable, and upon enrollment are applied against the applicant’s tuition costs
  • No additional application is necessary to be considered for this scholarship


Graduate and International Programs
Warren Hall, Room 207
Phone: (619) 260-7584
Fax: (619) 260-4515


M-F: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.


LLM and MSLS Programs Admissions
Warren Hall, Room 203
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
Phone: (619) 260-4596


We are currently accepting applications for the Spring 2018 semester. APPLY NOW for priority admission and scholarship consideration.  The application deadline is November 1, 2017.