U College of Law to Offer New Master of Legal Studies Degree


Adam Fondren

Quinney Law School on the University of Utah Campus, Salt Lake City, UT on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 (Photo by Adam Fondren | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cara MacDonald

A wide variety of careers require a knowledge of the law other than practicing lawyers. The University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law is creating a new program to begin in Fall semester of 2018 called a Masters of Legal Studies, which will help contribute to fulfilling that need. 

The program is designed for a diverse audience, all of which are professionals in fields other than law who might find some legal training specialized to their area of focus beneficial. The degree will teach understanding of regulations, laws and practices, which can be applied to a multitude of fields. People working for environmental companies or in labor, business administration, immigration, etc. could all benefit greatly.

The MLS program is expected to include the following course offerings:

  • Conflict and Legal Crisis Management
  • Contracts in the Modern Economy
  • Procuring and Managing Legal Services
  • Lawsuits and Litigation

Students can also take elective classes which may be of interest or importance for their specialization, including health, environmental, water, or employment law.

Only three semesters long, the MLS provides a lot of legal training and information for students who don’t have the intention of becoming an attorney. The courses are designed for active working professionals and is offered in the form of intensive courses every other Friday and Saturday.  It will take approximately one calendar year to complete.

Much like an MBA, the MLS will serve as a way for working professionals to advance their careers through expanding their knowledge, and in a very work-friendly format which allows students to obtain the degree and still work full time. Only 30 credit hours, the program is doable even for the busiest student.

“A Master of Legal Studies program will expand the educational reach of the University of Utah and the S.J. Quinney College of Law to serve a wider range of people who will benefit from some sophisticated training in the legal system and enhance our service to the professional community,” Bob Adler, dean of the S.J. Quinney College of Law, said in a recent press release.

In general, a Master of Legal Studies has been called into question for emboldening the degree-holders too much in regards to their expertise on law. Michael O’Brien, a University of Utah alumni and practicing attorney in Salt Lake City said, “While the degree is informational and certainly provides a good working knowledge of law, MLS degree-holders may have an inflated perception of their own expertise. It’s important to distinguish that they have a working knowledge of law, but are not lawyers.”

 A recent press release said, “While the degree does not allow graduates to obtain a law license or practice law, it will equip them with skills critical in almost every industry and important to advancing their careers, including how to interface with legal and regulatory systems and how and when to optimize use of professional legal counsel.”

As long as the distinction between an MLS holder and an attorney is kept in mind, problems can easily be avoided and the expertise offered by the degree will simply help further careers and general law knowledge.

To see the full list of class offerings and obtain more information about the program, see the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s webpage.

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