Legal Studies

Degree Offered

  • Master of Legal Studies

Nature of the Program

West Virginia University’s Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program is part of the Department of Public Administration. The MLS is a degree program designed to build greater public understanding of the law and the United States legal system, to provide graduates with the ability to apply knowledge and skills gained to performing their jobs more effectively and to provide private and public organizations the benefit of enhanced experience. It is designed for professionals practicing in human relations, criminal and juvenile justice, the court system, journalism, social work, regulatory agencies, county and municipal government, military, business and other professionals who work with, though not necessarily in, the legal system.  It is neither a “pre-law” program nor a paralegal program. It does not prepare graduates to practice law.

The MLS is a 30 credit hour program offered entirely online.  Courses are offered each term, including summers. Students following the prescribed course of study should be able to finish the degree in 18 months.  

The MLS degree offers Areas of Emphasis in:

  • Healthcare
  • Homeland Security
  • Justice Systems

Prospective and current students should frequently check the program’s website at for up-to-date program information, forms, and other guidelines.


In order to be considered for admission to the MLS program, one must have completed a baccalaureate degree in any major with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. In addition, it is recommended that a prospective student have some work experience in an area broadly related to the field of legal studies. Applicants who do not possess a GPA of at least 3.0 may apply to the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences for admission as a non-degree student in order to register for certain classes and to document academic ability. Acceptance as a non-degree student does not guarantee acceptance into the legal studies program.

Steps to apply for the MLS program:

  • Application for admission and transcripts: (Apply here:
  • Two Letters of Recommendation: References should be requested through the online Graduate Application portal. Reference writers should be persons who are able to write directly to the applicant's ability to think critically; analyze situations, information, or data; to write clearly; and to apply one's self in an academic program of study. At least one letter should be from an academic reference, if possible.
  • Current resume or curriculum vitae
  • One to two page personal statement on the subject of why and how the Master of Legal Studies Program will further your career or special interests.
  • Results from a standardized graduate-level test (i.e. GRE, GMAT, or LSAT) or a petition of wavier for the standardized test requirements.

The requirement that applicants submit GRE, GMAT or LSAT scores can be waived under the following circumstances.  

  • Evidence of graduate level competence: Applicants who already hold a graduate degree or have successfully completed at least 18 semester hours in another accredited graduate program may request a waiver of the graduate exam score requirement. Please state your request for a graduate level competence waiver in your personal statement.

    Significant experience related to legal studies: Applicants with at least five years of broadly related experience after completing their undergraduate degree may request a waiver of the graduate exam score requirement. If you are active military or a veteran, please include military experience.  The personal statement should include a description of your professional experience and how it relates to legal studies and your career goals. 

All application materials should be submitted no later than November 15 of each year for admission in the Spring semester, April 15 for admission in the Summer semester and by May 15 for admission in the Fall semester. Applicants are encouraged to submit materials early. Early applications that are complete will be reviewed by the Admissions Committee on a rolling basis. Otherwise, the Admissions Committee will render decisions by November 30 for Spring admission, April 30 for Summer admission and by May 30 for Fall admission.  **Applications for admission may be considered after these deadlines on a space-available basis. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Additional information and forms may be found on the program’s website at or by calling the program at (304) 293-7977.

Degree Requirements

  • Credit Hours: Students are required to complete a minimum of 30 credit hours in graduate coursework.
  • Grade Point Average: Students must earn a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 in coursework applied to the graduate program. Students must also earn a minimum grade of C in all required MLS courses.  Students must earn a B or better in non-LEGS courses that contribute to the MLS degree program of study.
  • Area of Emphasis: The MLS program offers three areas of emphasis 1) Healthcare, 2) Justice Systems, and 3) Homeland Security.  Students may either complete an Area of Emphasis or 9 credits of electives.
  • Graduation Requirement: Students must complete the curricular program of study and earn a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better.
  • Benchmarks: Students are expected consult with their faculty advisor at least once a semester with to review their progress in the program of study.  More information is provided in the MLS Student Handbook. 
  • Degree Completion:  Full-time students usually complete the MLS degree in fours semester.

Curriculum Requirements

Minimum GPA of 3.0 is required.
Required Courses
LEGS 610Law and the Legal System3
LEGS 620Researching the Law3
Select two of the following:6
Administrative Legal Process
Judicial Legal Process
The Legislative Process
LEGS 660Dispute Resolution3
LEGS 700Research Capstone3
LEGS 760Administrative Ethics3
Elective Courses
Select three of the following:9
Advanced Topics
Family Law
Media and the Law
Employment Law
Commerce Law
Criminal Law and Procedure
Punishment and Corrections
Homeland Security
Immigration and Border Security
Military Justice
Healthcare Law
Long Term Care Regulation
Constitutional Law
Total Hours30

Healthcare Area of Emphasis

Required Course
LEGS 770Healthcare Law3
Select two of the following:6
Family Law
Media and the Law
Employment Law
Long Term Care Regulation
Constitutional Law
Total Hours9

Homeland Security Area of Emphasis

Required Course
LEGS 752Homeland Security3
Select two of the following:6
Media and the Law
Employment Law
Criminal Law and Procedure
Punishment and Corrections
Immigration and Border Security
Military Justice
Constitutional Law
Total Hours9

Justice System Area of Emphasis

Required Course
LEGS 750Criminal Law and Procedure3
Select two of the following:6
Media and the Law
Employment Law
Punishment and Corrections
Homeland Security
Immigration and Border Security
Military Justice
Constitutional Law
Total Hours9

Major Learning Outcomes

Master of legal studies

Students will be:

  • prepared to articulate and differentiate between the law, the courts, other legal institutions and legal actors and to define their impact on society;
  • identify sources of law;
  • develop research plans and conduct legal research;
  • prepare for and assist with civil and criminal litigation;
  • understand policymaking and rulemaking, develop and implement strategies and plans to affect policy making and rulemaking.


LEGS 610. Law and the Legal System. 3 Hours.

Introduction to the law and its functions, the structure of the U.S. legal system, and the actors in the legal system.

LEGS 620. Researching the Law. 3 Hours.

Provides experience in locating and interpreting primary and secondary legal authority; federal and state constitutions; agency rules and regulations.

LEGS 630. Law and Society. 3 Hours.

Explores the relationship between legal rules and social norms; the law's role in defining deviance and establishing social control; issues of equality; where people go to resolve disputes.

LEGS 640. Administrative Legal Process. 3 Hours.

Explores the role of administrative agencies in making law.

LEGS 645. Judicial Legal Process. 3 Hours.

Introduction to the structure of the U.S. judicial system. Focuses on how beliefs and social conditions influenced the development of the United States Constitution, the institution of judicial review, and judicial participation in governing.

LEGS 650. The Legislative Process. 3 Hours.

Examines how legislation develops and implications of recent legislative reform enactments and proposals.

LEGS 660. Dispute Resolution. 3 Hours.

Theoretical and practical examination of dispute resolution processes and assessment of the appropriateness of dispute resolution for particular legal disputes.

LEGS 691A-Z. Advanced Topics. 1-6 Hours.

PR: Consent. Investigation of advanced topics not covered in regularly scheduled courses.

LEGS 692. Directed Study. 1-6 Hours.

Directed study, reading, and/or research.

LEGS 695. Independent Study. 1-6 Hours.

Faculty supervised study of topics not available through regular course offerings.

LEGS 697. Research. 1-15 Hours.

PR: Consent. Research activities leading to thesis, problem report, research paper or equivalent scholarly project, or a dissertation. (Grading may be S/U.).

LEGS 699. Graduate Colloquium. 1-6 Hours.

PR: Consent. For graduate students not seeking coursework credit but who wish to meet residency requirements, use of the University's facilities, and participate in its academic and cultural programs. Note: Graduate students who are not actively involved in coursework or research are entitled, through enrollment in their department's 699/799 Graduate Colloquium to consult with graduate faculty, participate in both formal and informal academic activities sponsored by their program, and retain all of the rights and privileges of duly enrolled students. Grading is P/F; colloquium credit may not be counted against credit requirements for masters programs. Registration for one credit of 699/799 graduate colloquium satisfies the University requirement of registration in the semester in which graduation occurs.

LEGS 700. Research Capstone. 3 Hours.

Research activities leading to a scholarly project applying and extending knowledge gained across the master of legal studies program coursework.

LEGS 710. Family Law. 3 Hours.

Examines the distribution of power and responsibility among parent, child, and the state related to a variety of family issues and social service workers' reporting obligations.

LEGS 720. Media and the Law. 3 Hours.

Survey of mass media and the law, implications of existing law, and proposed changes.

LEGS 730. Employment Law. 3 Hours.

Explores law related to workers compensation, disability insurance, affirmative action/equal opportunity policies, workplace, workplace discrimination and related federal and state statutes.

LEGS 740. Commerce Law. 3 Hours.

Survey of the legal principles relating to the organization, operation, and management of business organizations and principles relating to commercial transactions.

LEGS 750. Criminal Law and Procedure. 3 Hours.

Covers investigative stages of search and seizure, interrogation, and identification. Familiarizes students with prosecutorial stages and evidentiary issues.

LEGS 751. Punishment and Corrections. 3 Hours.

Introduction to certain bodies of law in the areas of punishment and corrections, including statutory codes, common law doctrines, and executive agency rules. Focuses on the application of rules that govern those who enforce our system of punishment.

LEGS 752. Homeland Security. 3 Hours.

Introduction to current public management policies and issues relevant to security of the United States. Provides both traditional students and current practitioners with a broad, up-to-date, multidisciplinary overview of homeland security as a contemporary subject of intense interest and inquiry, and as an emerging academic discipline.

LEGS 753. Immigration and Border Security. 3 Hours.

This course provides knowledge of the history of immigration to the United States, the current state of affairs and the legal implications of the legal system.

LEGS 754. Military Justice. 3 Hours.

Survey and analysis of U.S. Military Justice practice as experienced by Judge Advocates and civilian practitioners. Emphasizes unique issues that arise in the military context.

LEGS 760. Administrative Ethics. 3 Hours.

Analysis of ethical issues in the law and the administrative decision making process.

LEGS 770. Healthcare Law. 3 Hours.

Examines law and health care regulations related to provision of healthcare and issues related to liability.

LEGS 771. Long Term Care Regulation. 3 Hours.

This course focuses on skilled car services and long term care delivered in sub-acute facilities, otherwise traditionally called 'nursing homes.' The course introduces students to the administration, organization, management and operations as well as compliance with federal or state directives regarding provision of long term care services in a sub-acute facility.

LEGS 780. Constitutional Law. 3 Hours.

Examines the concept of constitutionalism, the relationships between the branches of government and between national and state governments, and the role of the Constitution in protecting individual liberties.



  • Maja Husar Holmes - Ph.D. (Syracuse University)

Graduate Program Coordinator

  • Cheryl Dennis - JD (West Virginia University)


  • Carla J. See - M.A., M.S. (West Virginia University)

Professor emeritus

  • Nancy L. Adams - Ph.D. (Fielding Institute)


  • John C. Kilwein - Ph.D. (Ohio State University)
  • Leslie Tower - Ph.D. (Barry University)

Associate professor

  • Karen Kunz - D.P.A. (University of Illinois, Springfield)

Teaching Assistant Professor

  • Cheryl Dennis - JD (West Virginia University)


  • M. Raymond Alvarez - D.H.A (Central Michigan University)
  • Irving Condon - JD (University of South Carolina School of Law)
  • Michelle Mensore Condon - JD (Washington & Lee University)
  • Cara Davis - JD (Duquesne University School of Law)
  • Julie Hawkinberry - JD (West Virginia University)
  • Ulysses N. Jaen - JD (West Virginia University)
  • Patricia A. Keller - JD (West Virginia University)
  • Gregory Noone - JD, Ph.D. (Suffolk University Law School, West Virginia University)
  • Ted Nordstrom - JD (West Virginia University)
  • Thomas O. Patrick - JD (West Virginia University)
  • Lucinda Potter - M.A. (West Virginia University)
  • Roger A. Wolfe - JD (West Virginia University)