Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Business Law
Explore a Master’s Degree in Business Law
The study of business law is where legal topics such as contracts and intellectual property collide with business subjects like bankruptcy and banking. In today’s global economy, this discipline often has an international focus that is especially relevant to foreign-trained lawyers with interest in financial and commercial law in a transnational context, though business law may also pertain to different state business and legal practices.
At the graduate school level, there are many entry-points into business law. A joint JD/MBA program, for instance, will attract students looking to earn both a law degree and a business degree. A Master of Laws (LL.M) with a focus in business law, on the other hand, usually is geared towards students who already have their JD and are practicing attorneys who want to expand their business knowledge. There are also master’s degrees that do not require a JD, but may be geared towards students with a business background looking to gain more legal knowledge.
Program length will greatly depend on the type of degree earned. A Master of Laws, for instance, is commonly one to two years, while a joint JD/MBA may take four years. Program length will also depend on whether the student is attending full-time or part-time, his or her previous experience and education, and the school.
Students studying business law can expect to gain a foundation in both legal and business principles. This includes everything from legal research and writing, contracts, and intellectual property, to business ethics, finance, trade regulation, banking, and bankruptcy. Some programs may also have an international angle, given the world-wide scope of banking and trade today, and prepare students for legal and business work in a transnational setting. Others may be tailored to practice in a specific state, teaching the principles of American law with a focus on business law and that state’s practice. Here’s a look at some of the classes you may come across:
- Corporations and LLCs. This course provides an overview of the statutory and common law governing corporations and limited liability companies and related securities laws. Depending on the program, this course may focus on the formation and operation of these entities and the legal duties of their owners under state-specific law.
- Torts and Insurance Law. This course may focus on the practical application of tort and insurance law to issues in the business environment, including negligence, intentional torts, strict liability, and products liability. It also may be specific to a state’s practice.
- International Investment Law and Arbitration. This course provides a foundation of international investment law and international investment treaty arbitration. Topics covered include the arbitration process, including jurisdictional issues, the structure of arbitration proceedings, the role of arbitrators and counsel, the relationship between contract and treaty claims, provisional measures, and enforcement of awards.
Students can expect courses that require research papers and/or final examinations. Outside of classes, internships may be required or strongly recommended. By the end of the program, students often must conduct a master’s research project or thesis, where they have the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge gained from the program to a relevant topic of their choosing.
Building a Career
Upon completion of a business law degree, students will have acquired extensive knowledge of legal frameworks, laws, and practices as applied to the business environment. They will be able to conduct legal research, analyze laws, and apply them to specific legal issues. In a general sense, they also will have developed their skills in analytical thinking, negotiation, decision making, economics, and ethics. Career options will vary by the program, especially depending on whether a student graduated from a JD program, a post-JD program such as a Master of Laws, or a Master of Business Law that does not require or lead to a JD. Generally, however, students may go on to practice law or become a consultant to governments, international organizations, or NGOs. A Master of Laws in business law is also desirable to lawyers working for a law firm’s foreign office, as it familiarizes foreign lawyers them with how U.S. firms operate.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of lawyers in general is expected to grow by 10% from 2010 to 2020, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand is expected to continue as individuals, businesses, and government agencies will need legal services. According to the BLS, the median annual wage of lawyers was $112,760 in May 2010. Keep in mind though that the exact salary for graduates of master’s degree programs in business law will vary by location, experience, level of education, and the economy. Lawyers must be licensed in the state in which they practice.