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USC Gould School of Law Offers Non-Attorneys an Online Legal Education

(Chris Shinn)
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As a career human resources executive, Sonia Miranda, 43, felt like she needed a legal education--but not quite a law degree.

As USC's director of human resources for Auxiliary Services, she's what you might consider "law adjacent," collaborating with leaders within the university in regard to human capital, especially in labor relations and employment issues.

Miranda said she first became interested in law in 2004, when she worked at Marriott and was participating in union negotiations as a translator. "I quickly realized that without having some knowledge and background in law, I had a significant disadvantage in really in many aspects of my life, not just my professional career."

Miranda started looking at various programs that could help. She found the USC Gould School of Law's online Master of Studies in Law (MSL) program. The program is designed for professionals in a range of industries who are not attorneys, but who want to expand their expertise with essential legal skills and education.

She began the MSL program in January of 2019 and recently emerged with her degree, which focused on human resources law. "It's really designed for people who are working full time and have busy schedules," she says. But one big surprise for her was how approachable and supportive her professors were--especially because most of the work happened online, not in a classroom. "[Many faculty are] working professionals and they are practitioners. ... I felt like they were extremely knowledgeable. They were always willing to help and answer questions."

About the MSL Program

"Virtually every role in the economy encounters law, whether you deal with contracts, staff hiring, mediation, finance, compliance, or regulation," says Dean Andrew Guzman. "At the USC Gould School of Law, we believe it is important for all of these professionals to have a core understanding of the law and how the legal system functions. We are able to achieve this goal through our master's programs, such as the MSL."

Though top-rated USC Gould was the first law school in Southern California, established in 1900, the MSL program has been around for only five years. It draws students from around the world, and offers accredited certificates for a variety of professions, including entertainment, health care, human resources, business, and finance. Students can also opt for a Privacy Law and Cybersecurity certificate as part of the program. No LSAT or GRE test is required for the MSL. No prior law degree is required; only a bachelor's degree in any field. Generous scholarships are available and considered for all MSL applicants.

"With the convenience of pursuing the MSL degree fully online, and the option to study part-time, the MSL program offers a flexible format for working professionals to balance their schedules and goals," says Deborah Call, associate dean and chief programs officer.

"This program has really helped me to broaden my knowledge in employment and regulatory compliance and gain a better understanding of the legal system as it relates to employment. I've been able to incorporate some of my learning already in compliance and in some of the analysis and metrics that we do," Miranda says. "It is so beneficial and valuable for non-lawyers, especially in corporate America."

For more information on the Master of Studies in Law, visit gould.law/msl.