Cleveland-Marshall First School to Offer Risk-Free J.D. with ‘Convertible’ Degree Option

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Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University is removing some of the personal and financial risk that goes along with committing to a three-year law degree.

Beginning this spring, if a J.D. student decides not to continue law school after completing the first year of studies, the student may apply the credits earned toward a Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.) degree. The M.L.S. degree generally may be completed by taking one additional course.

Cleveland-Marshall was one of the first law schools in the country to offer a graduate level degree aimed at people who want to apply advanced legal knowledge to their own professions but don't want to be admitted to the bar. While the M.L.S. degree was created for those working in other careers who routinely interact with lawyers or deal with regulations, contracts, or compliance issues, it will provide a master’s degree option for those successfully completing a full year of the J.D. curriculum.

“There are many good reasons why a law student may decide not to continue to pursue a J.D.,” said Craig M. Boise, dean of Cleveland-Marshall. “They might have financial concerns, family or personal issues, or they may realize that though they still have an interest in law, a career in traditional legal practice is not right for them.  For these students, the first year of law school might have seemed like a waste, and a hard-to-explain item on their resumes. Now they can leave with a master’s degree that we believe will be attractive to employers.”

Judging by the 2013 – 2014 academic year—the first year Cleveland-Marshall offered the M.L.S.—workers and employers see the value that an employee with a cohesive body of legal knowledge can bring to an organization. In its first year, the M.L.S. program enrolled students representing industries as diverse as healthcare, compliance, and law enforcement. The current students are all seeking a degree that will help them rise to leadership positions by being able to protect ideas and organizational assets, assess appropriate responses to rules and regulations, and understand legal terminology and statutory language.

 M.L.S. students begin with an Introduction to American Law foundational class, and must take two first-year law courses. After that, they are permitted to enroll in any first year or upper level course at Cleveland-Marshall—and a limited number of courses elsewhere in the University—to complete their 30-credit-hour degree.  

“Cleveland-Marshall has historically been an institution that operates with a keen understanding of current guiding social and economic forces that affect our students and their opportunities,” said Boise,  “and as such, we evolve. This new opportunity removes at least some of the financial and personal risk inherent in a large educational undertaking, and comes at a time when people appreciate more guarantees. It represents yet another positive innovation for our law school.

“We are committed to helping students find the best way to employ the legal knowledge and skills that we can provide to accomplish their individual career goals.”

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