The University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law now offers a new graduate degree.
The Master of Studies in Law (“M.S.L.”) will provide legal training for non-lawyers who wish to develop legal expertise in a specific area of the law that will aid them in their current jobs or facilitate career advancement.
“For many professionals, a juris doctor, which is required to practice law, is more legal education than they need, but right now it’s their only option for legal training that can complement their primary career education. The M.S.L. provides a non-J.D. legal education to those who frequently come across legal issues in their jobs but do not wish to practice law,” explained Lindsey Gustafson, associate dean for academic affairs at Bowen.
M.S.L. students may take a general curriculum or adopt a concentration, including such areas as business law, civics, criminal law, human resources law, or public service/public interest law. Students will complete 30 credit hours and will be able to complete their degrees either on a part-time or full-time basis. This includes taking courses in the evening to accommodate work schedules.
“We’re pleased to be able to offer a graduate degree to those who recognize the value of a legal education but do not wish to practice law,” said Eruore Oboh, assistant dean of admissions and enrollment data at Bowen. “This program advances Bowen’s commitment to diversifying access to a legal education so that more Arkansans can further their professional development.”
The curriculum consists of a required introductory course on legal institutions and methods, two required core curriculum courses based on the student’s area of interest, and a capstone research project. For the remaining credit hours, students will choose from a variety of elective courses relevant to their concentration, if any.
With the exception of the introductory course, M.S.L. students will attend classes with J.D. students.
“Having mid-career professionals in law school classes brings a real-world perspective into the classroom,” said Theresa M. Beiner, dean of the law school. “I’m looking forward to seeing how that enriches class discussions.”
The law school hopes to create additional concurrent degree programs for M.S.L. students with other local universities with complementary graduate degrees. Bowen currently participates in six concurrent programs: a J.D./Master of Public Health and a J.D./Pharm.D. with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; a J.D./MBA, J.D./Master of Public Administration, and a J.D./Master of Social Work with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; and the nation’s only J.D./Master of Public Service with the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
“This program will meet local employment needs,” Beiner said. “Whether it’s a businessperson who wants to improve their chances for advancement, a human resources professional who wants to know more about employment law, or a medical professional who wants to broaden their knowledge, these courses will be beneficial. Many other fields of professional education offer multiple types of degrees, and medical schools offer a wide array of degrees in addition to the M.D. This has been missing from legal education in Arkansas.”
The first class will enter the program in fall 2022. The initial goal for the degree is to enroll 8 to 10 students.