A legal studies major allows students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with all facets of the law, including legal methodologies, institutions, processes, and best practices. Often, those with an interest in and passion for the legal system choose to pursue a law degree and continue to work as attorneys. However, this is not the only career that requires an in-depth knowledge of the law. There are in fact, a wide array of vocations that demand legal knowledge. As such, a separate type of degree exists for these aspiring professionals: legal studies.
Knowledge of the law, as well as a formal degree in legal studies, is a valuable asset to several professions and industries. According to the University of Illinois, Springfield, those with legal studies degrees can obtain jobs as consultants, court administrators, historians, FBI agents, investigators, data analysts, law enforcement officers, reporters, researchers, and teachers. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as legal knowledge can be useful to all kinds of companies and organizations.
This article highlights ten reputable professors leading online classes in the field of legal studies. These professors are well-known authors, members of professional organizations, and supporting members of the community who are committed to delivering high-quality education. They were selected based on the following criteria:
Marisol Abuin is the online chair of the legal studies program and the system chair for the school of professional studies at Berkeley College. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Leadership Award from the New York City Paralegal Association, and she maintains an active membership with the New York State Bar Association and the American Association for Paralegal Education. In October 2016, she also received recognition from the New York City Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) for her dedication to her students and passion for excellence in teaching and learning. Abuin obtained her bachelor's and law degrees from Fordham University.
Jeffrey Baker is the director of clinical education and an associate clinical professor of law at Pepperdine University. He also works in the Community Justice Clinic, where he provides pro bono legal services alongside law students for local nonprofits and international nongovernmental organizations dedicated to justice, human rights, and community empowerment among vulnerable and marginalized populations. He also serves as the editor of the Clinical Law Prof Blog and is actively involved with the Clinical Legal Education Association and the Section on Clinical Legal Education of the Association of American Law Schools. He is an active member of the Mississippi, Alabama, and California state bars, and he speaks and writes regularly on clinical education, professional formation, public interest lawyering, and social justice. Baker obtained his law degree from Vanderbilt University.
In addition to serving as the acting vice dean of the Business and Professional Programs at the University of Maryland Global Campus, Patrick Bradley is also a professor and the chair of the criminal justice program. He is currently a member of the Maryland Bar Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police and previously served as the president of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training. He was also director of the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions for ten years, where he was responsible for the certification of 32,000 Maryland public safety officers in state and local police and correctional agencies. Bradley earned his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law. Additionally, he earned a master's and a graduate certificate in higher education from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor's degree in law enforcement and corrections from Pennsylvania State University.
Michael Butera is an associate professor at Bellevue University, where he teaches criminal justice, investigations, and legal studies at the undergraduate level, and justice administration and crime management to graduate students. He has more than 25 years of experience in law enforcement and education, as well as more than two decades of experience in curriculum development. He is also affiliated with a range of professional organizations, including the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute, and the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS International), among many others. He has received the Kotouc Family Professorship Award for Excellence and Innovation in Course Development and the Excellence in Public Service Award from the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Butera graduated from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and from the University of Nebraska, Omaha with a master's in criminal justice and public administration.
Before his role as a professor and the chair of the justice studies department at Southern New Hampshire University, Patrick D. Cullen worked in the private and public sectors across juvenile law, insurance subrogation, mental health law, and representation of professional boxers. At the university, he sits on various committees, such as the University Curriculum Committee, the School of Arts & Science Curriculum Committee, the School of Arts & Sciences Strategic Planning Committee, and the Faculty Senate. He has also received recognition for his work throughout his career and was awarded Faculty Development Travel Grants in 2011 and 2012, and a Charles Koch Foundation Grant in 2017 for research in the field of overcriminalization. Cullen received his bachelor's degree from Cornell University and his Juris Doctor from Boston College.
Wesley H. Garrett is an associate professor and director of legal studies at MUW's college of business and professional studies. She obtained her law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law and previously worked as an associate attorney for the Tuscaloosa-based law firm Crownover, Standridge & Spence, where her practice concentrated on business organizations; debtor and creditor bankruptcy and collection; and domestic, administrative and municipal law areas. Professor Garrett currently maintains a full-time practice in both Mississippi and Alabama state and federal courts and is an active member of the Mississippi Paralegal Association, the Golden Triangle Young Lawyers Association, Mississippi Bar’s Women’s Section, and Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Program.
At Webster University, Robin Jefferson Higgins serves as an assistant professor and chair of the department of legal studies. Before this role, she worked with the law firm Lashly & Baer, P.C., where her practice focused on school law, workers’ compensation, administrative law, and employment law. She has also led courses at an array of other educational institutions, including the St. Louis Community College, the St. Louis University School of Law, and the University of Missouri, among many others. Since 2007, she has also acted as the director of the legal studies programs at Webster approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Her research interests are in comparative Latin American law, American Indian law,, school law and student rights, and gender law and policy. Higgins completed her undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Missouri and her law degree at Saint Louis University.
Dr. Gwen Jordan is an associate professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she also serves as the chair of the department of legal studies. Before joining the faculty in 2010, she was a visiting assistant professor at Northern Illinois University for three years, as well as the legal history fellow at the Institute for Legal Studies at the University of Wisconsin. Currently, Dr. Jordan retains a part-time staff appointment with the Illinois Innocence Project (IIP). She also he won a National Award Certificate of Commendation as curator of the exhibition “Bar None: 125 Years of Women Lawyers in Illinois” and was previously co-chair and on the advisory board of the Chicago Bar Association Alliance for Women. She has led multiple massive open online courses, including a course titled “The Emancipation Proclamation: What Came Before, How It Worked, And What Followed” available on CourseSites. Dr. Jordan received her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Chicago, which is where she also completed her master's degree. She obtained her law degree from the University of Denver College of Law.
Peter A. Joy is the Henry Hitchcock Professor of Law at the Washington University School of Law, where students have the opportunity to complete an online master’s degree in legal studies. He previously served as vice dean of the school and was the inaugural director of the law school’s trial and advocacy programs. He is currently a member of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar’s Accreditation Committee, and an executive committee member of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Professional Responsibility Section, which he chaired in 2011. Joy has written widely on legal ethics, clinical legal education lawyer and judicial professionalism, and access to criminal justice issues. He has also appeared in multiple news outlets, including the Associated Press, the New York Times, and the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. Joy obtained his bachelor's degree from Youngstown State University and his law degree from Case Western Reserve University.
Keith Swisher is a professor of legal ethics at the University of Arizona and the director of the undergraduate law major and legal studies master programs. He is an ethics expert and has led courses at three law schools in Arizona. He serves as an ethics counsel and expert witness for lawyers, law firms, and judges, and he also represents indigent defendants in the Ninth Circuit. Swisher's work has appeared in many respected publications, and he is the founder of some of the first blogs on judicial ethics and lawyer disqualification. He currently serves as a member of the State Bar's Ethics Committee, Fee Arbitration Committee, and the O'Connor Advisory Committee of the Quality Judges Initiative. Swisher is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where he obtained his Latin Legum Magister (LLM), an internationally-recognized advanced law certification. He obtained his law and bachelor's degrees from Arizona State University.