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Why More Professionals Are Turning To A Master Of Studies In Law

USC Gould School of Law Building framed by green leafy trees, a bicycle rides on the path in front of the building.
USC Gould School of Law
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You’d think a television journalist in a major market would feel like he was at the top of his game, but Nick Ciletti, an anchor at KNXV in Phoenix, wanted a deeper understanding about the topics he covered.

“There is so much intersection between the law and journalism — I would wager to say that you could easily find elements of the law in almost every single story we put on air,” he said. He enrolled in the online Master of Studies in Law (MSL) at USC Gould School of Law in 2019 and finished in 2022.

The MSL program, which offers part-time options, provides legal education for any profession from the law school at USC. There is no GRE or LSAT requirement, and no prior law experience required. Courses are 100% online and combine self-paced and real-time components. Students can complete the course in as few as 16 months.

For some, obtaining the MSL could make the difference in their career advancement.

Opening New Opportunities

“So many of our students touch the law daily across a variety of professions and roles,” said Anitha Cadambi, associate director of graduate curriculum and instruction and adjunct assistant professor of law. “They want to know how to read legal documents, critically analyze legal issues, and be well-versed in the ins and outs of sophisticated legal topics. Our classes provide opportunities to test these skills through real-world simulations and practice opportunities.”

Graduates find that the MSL enhances their careers — and sometimes, it can send them off into a completely different path.

Gabe Hagen worked as a compliance manager for a financial institution and intended to take the MSL to bolster his on-the-job knowledge. Then something surprising happened once he completed the program. “I decided to leave the financial industry to start a coffee shop, Brick Road Coffee. The degree from USC empowered me with the knowledge necessary to confidently become an entrepreneur. Whether it was the asset purchase, commercial lease, hiring, or establishing the legal business entity, the MSL program prepared me for it,” he said.

Hagen said he hopes his new endeavor will contribute to society in a positive way.

“I plan to grow Brick Road Coffee to lead by example and put people above profits,” Hagen said. “It is my hope that Brick Road Coffee will someday be a large company that not only builds and strengthens the community but also is a model for business leaders on how you can run a successful, profitable company and pay a living wage by not allowing a wage gap between the entry-level positions and the C-Suite to develop.”

Other alumni of the Online MSL come from various industries, including health care, real estate, and entertainment. They can also tap the Trojan family network with connections to more than 14,000 USC Gould alumni worldwide.

Even If You’re Busy

The program is designed for working professionals who have an already demanding schedule. Admission decisions come within two to four weeks of application completion, and there are three starting seasons from which to choose: spring, summer or fall.

Flexibility was a prime selling point for busy commercial real estate executive Jonathan Larsen, who worked full time as he obtained his degree. He’s also thrilled with the social and professional benefits he reaped from the program.

“I am on several nonprofit boards and am required to interface with legal professionals on a daily basis. The MSL degree has given me the tools I need to conduct contract negotiations with confidence,” he said.

At no extra cost, students can also add specializations to their programs in:

  • Business Law
  • Entertainment Law and Industry
  • Financial Compliance
  • Health Care Compliance
  • Human Resources Law
  • Compliance
  • Privacy Law
  • Cybersecurity
  • Social Work Administration
  • Law, Social Justice and Diversity

Hagen, the coffee shop owner, said that the program was demanding and required commitment, but the reward was worth more than the effort.

“I entered and completed the MSL program intending to remain in the financial compliance field. Yet, the education I received, whether I knew it at the time or not, thoroughly prepared me for starting a small business. That is the best way to demonstrate the versatility and extraordinary value of this program,” he said.

The Master of Studies in Law (MSL) at USC Gould is offered as a full-time in-person program or part-time online program.

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