The Master’s Degree

The Master of Arts program in Legal Studies is designed to present the master’s candidate with an interdisciplinary course of study in public law emphasizing law as a social phenomenon as well as a technical body of rules. It is a rigorous course of study, designed to develop the candidate’s critical understanding of the legal system and its role in society and public policy. It emphasizes analytical and conceptual thinking, legal and scholarly research and writing, substantive areas of the law, ethical and public interest concerns, public policy advocacy skills, and the role of law in society.

The objectives and outcomes for the M.A. graduate are to:

1. Outline the functional structure and operation of the American legal system

2. Conduct and critique legal research and empirical research

3. Use legal theories to explain real-world phenomenon.

4. Effectively advocate legal arguments both orally and through the written word.

5. Use social theories to explain legal phenomenon and behavior.


Applicants should consult with the Department Chair, and/or the Legal Studies Online Coordinator for preliminary advising. Students admitted to the program will be assigned a faculty advisor who will be identified in the acceptance letter. If the advisor is not available for any reason, the student may contact the Department Chair.

Grading Policy

Students must maintain a B (3.0) or higher average within the program and must earn a B (3.0) or better in all LES core courses (grades of B- or lower are not accepted). In LES elective courses, students may have a maximum of four hours in which they earn less than a B but at least a C (grades of C- or lower are not accepted). In non-LES elective courses, students may have an additional four hours in which they earn less than a B but at least a C (grades of C- or lower are not accepted), as long as an overall B (3.0) average is maintained. Clinical education courses, tutorials, and thesis courses are graded on a credit/no credit (CR/NC) basis.  Campus policy on Master’s Degree grades can be found in Grades Acceptable Toward Master’s Degrees.

Degree Requirements

Pre-registration advising is important because many legal studies courses must be taken sequentially and not every course is offered every semester. Course requirements and sequences are available on the LES website.

Required preliminary courses 1
LES 401 Legal Research And Citation 4
Core Courses
LES 501 Introduction to Graduate Legal Studies 4
LES 512 Theories of Justice 4
LES 587 Public Advocacy 4
LES 513 Seminar in Politics and Law 4
LES 504 Graduate Seminar 4
or LES 590 Thesis
Elective courses (with approval of advisor) 2 16
Total Hours 40

Clinical Education

The clinical education experience provides students with skills necessary to be successful in a legal environment. Master’s candidates may earn up to four hours of clinical education credits, which will be applied toward LES elective credit.

Government agencies, the Illinois Supreme Court, and other organizations sponsor interns, both paid and unpaid. Placement options include courts, administrative agencies, state and federal attorneys’ offices, legal aid offices, private law firms, and other public interest groups. Students enrolled in the UIS Graduate Public Service Internship Program (GPSI) may count the GPSI Seminar course towards their non-LES electives. Similarly, students enrolled in the Illinois Legislative Staff Internship Program (ILSIP) may count the ILSIP: Academic Seminar towards their non-LES electives.


Students must fulfill all 36 hours of required courses and, if necessary, the four hours of preliminary courses. If it is impossible for a student to take a required course, or if a student has already taken one of the core courses or its equivalent as an undergraduate at another institution and wants to waive the requirement, the student must still complete the credit hours in some other course, with the exception of waivers for required preliminary courses.

Master’s Closure

Completion of LES 504 or a master’s thesis is required of all master’s degree candidates as a closure exercise. Students selecting the thesis option may enroll in up to eight hours of the master’s thesis course (LES 590). They may accrue that total in increments.

Campus policy requires that students be enrolled in at least one semester hour of master’s closure credit for each regular semester (fall/spring) after they have begun their master’s closure exercise until that exercise is completed. For LES students choosing the thesis option, this requirement means that if the thesis is not completed during the initial four hours of enrollment in LES 590, students must register for LES 590 for one credit hour in each subsequent regular semester (fall/spring) until eight hours are accumulated or the thesis is completed. If the thesis is still not completed by the time eight hours of continuous enrollment in LES 590 have been accumulated, students must register for LES 598 (zero credit hours, one billable hour) each regular semester (fall/spring) until the thesis is completed. Likewise, if students choosing to take the graduate seminar fail to complete the required course work/project during the initial four hours, they must enroll in LES 597 (zero credit hours, one billable hour) each regular semester (fall/spring) until the course work/project is complete. Department policy allows students until the end of the first week of classes in the subsequent semester to complete closure requirements before they are required to re-enroll in the closure course.