The MSL curriculum is innovative, relevant, and completely distinctive – there's nothing like it out there. The curriculum was developed with substantive input from leaders in the legal, business, regulatory, policy, and entrepreneurship communities, and it thus has a very practical and real-world focus. All MSL classes were developed specifically for this program and for this particular population of students. That means that the classes focus on what STEM professionals need to know to develop their skills and to have productive careers at the intersection of law, business, technology, and science. MSL classes are taught by a combination of Northwestern Law residential faculty members and highly qualified adjunct instructors. View our faculty bios (PDF).

The MSL curriculum includes a set of required, foundational classes and a rich collection of electives. Electives fall into three subject areas: intellectual property and patent design; business law and entrepreneurship; and regulatory analysis and strategy. View our course descriptions (PDF).

Required Courses

Required courses are designed to provide students with a foundational understanding of the legal system, the basic structure of business, and the regulatory process. These courses impart a theoretical framework on which students can build with the elective part of the curriculum. In addition to completing the following courses, students must also fulfill a writing requirement by choosing one course from a short list of writing-intensive courses. 

Required Courses

Business Formation & Structure
Business Torts
Contract Law & Design
Intellectual Property Fundamentals
Legal & Regulatory Process
Research in Law, Business & Technology
A designated course with a writing component, such as Public Persuasion

Elective Courses

Students in the MSL Program have the option of focusing on one area or mixing and matching classes from all of the areas. Most students – even those with a strong interest in one of the curricular areas – end up taking a variety of classes from all across the curriculum.

All three subject areas of the curriculum include a variety of skills-development courses designed to strengthen communication, problem-solving, quantitative, and dispute resolution abilities.

IP and Patent Design

Classes in this area educate students about intellectual property and patents. Students learn about patenting inventions, managing a patent portfolio, assessing patent eligibility, patent preparation and prosecution, intellectual property litigation, serving as an expert witness on patent/IP subjects, and global intellectual property issues. In addition, the technical and conceptual design of patents and patent portfolios as strategic business and legal choices is addressed through courses that cover such subjects as intellectual property transactions, licensing agreements, patent valuation, and intellectual property management and strategy.

Representative Elective Courses in the IP and Patent Area

Patent Law
Patent Preparation & Prosecution Workshop I & II
IP Investments & Capital Markets: A Global Perspective
IP Strategy & Management
IP Valuation
International & Comparative IP
Introduction to IP Licensing
Patent Life Cycle Management at the Intersection of Regulatory & Patent Law

Business Law and Entrepreneurship

Classes in this area teach students about the legal aspects of business transactions and business formation and expose them to various subjects they will encounter in the business world, such as mergers and acquisitions, employment law, business strategy, commercial finance, venture capital, and antitrust. Courses also focus on business and entrepreneurship skills, including negotiations, communications, decision-making, leadership, and quantitative skills. Various aspects of the commercialization process – the issues and opportunities involved in bringing an idea from conception to market – are also addressed.

Representative Elective Courses in the Business Law and Entrepreneurship Area 

Business Combinations
Business Strategy & Frameworks
Business Taxation
Cases in New Venture Strategies
Dealing with Debt: Law & Strategy When Businesses Fail
Employment Law
Entrepreneurial Finance & Venture Capital
Entrepreneurship Lab: Parts I & II
Entrepreneurship Law
Entrepreneurship Team Project: Silicon Valley
Getting to Market: Tackling Legal Issues in Complex Corporate Environments
Innovation Lab
Introduction to Accounting & Financial Statements
Litigation Operations & eDiscovery
Value-based Decision-making: Gaining Competitive Advantage

MSL student

Nicholas Koch
MSL '17

"The most valuable class for me has been the Business Strategy and Frameworks class.

It teaches a way of thinking about strategy that I can apply to many areas in business and in life."

Regulatory Analysis and Strategy

Classes in this area examine the process and structure of regulation, both in the U.S. and globally. Students learn to think strategically about regulatory processes and compliance and how to navigate the regulatory environment. Classes focus on a variety of specific regulatory topics: data security, food, environment, health, privacy, telecommunications, and universities. Classes also cover the process and substance of standard-setting – a form of private regulation.

Representative Elective Courses in the Regulatory Area

Corporate Criminal Law
Data Privacy Management
Data Privacy & Security: Law & Regulation
Food Policy & Regulation
Forensic Science
Global Business Regulation & Risk Assessment
Health Care Law & Regulation: Federal & State
Health Data: Classification & Compliance
Integration of Science & Clinical Care
Legal & Policy Challenges in Emerging Technologies
Legal & Regulatory Issues in Emerging Industries
Regulation of Drugs, Medical Devices & Biologics
Regulation: Energy & Environment
Regulation: Tech & Telecom
Regulatory Compliance: Product Approval & Life Cycle Issues
Regulatory Strategy & Communication
Open Data: Implications for Government, Law, and Society
Technology Standards: Strategic & Antitrust Considerations

Skills-Building Courses

MSL students have the opportunity to develop their communication, problem-solving, quantitative, and dispute resolution abilities in an array of skills development courses spread out across all areas of the curriculum. 

Representative Elective Courses in the Skills-Building Area

Communicating Scientific Information: Technical Professionals & Expert Witnesses
Design Thinking
Leadership Communication
International Team Project 
Negotiation Skills & Strategies
Persuasive Communication
Public Persuasion
Quantitative Reasoning in the Law
Transactional Skills: Basic Training
Visual Communication

Other Curricular Offerings 

MSL students can also participate in independent study projects, internships, and courses in other departments of the University, including the Kellogg School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. The NUvention entrepreneurship courses are also a popular choice.


MSL classes are very hands-on; all are taught with the goal of imparting practical skills and knowledge through active learning and teaching. In addition to covering important substantive areas, the classes are designed to develop students' critical thinking, their communication skills, and their decision-making and problem-solving skills. Assignments often have a practical focus, and individual and group projects are common. Many of the assessments used in the program require students to engage with real-world or simulated real-world situations; traditional issue-spotting and essay exams are less common. The MSL philosophy is that students learn more substance when that substance is situated in a real-world context.

For example, in the Entrepreneurship Lab, students work in teams to invent a real product that meets an unmet need in the biotech area. (The particular area may change each year.) Students then use the product they've developed to learn about the steps involved in commercializing their idea, focusing on intellectual property protection, prototyping, forming and naming a company, developing a regulatory strategy, business planning, market exploration, raising funding, investor pitching, and so on. In the Patent Preparation & Prosecution Workshop class, students conduct invention disclosure sessions with University scientists and engineers and then use the information to create a patent application for the invention. In the Entrepreneurial Finance & Venture Capital class, students prepare an executive summary and pitch it to a VC firm. And in various other classes, substantive concepts are explored in the context of current and real-world events such as the Yahoo hacking situation, the U.S. response to the spread of Zika, the Dow-DuPont merger, and the 2015 Paris climate accord.

MSL student

Alexandra Moxley
MSL '17

"The MSL faculty is phenomenal.

The professors have a vast array of real-world knowledge that they bring to the classroom to really enhance the learning process. The faculty members are willing to explore students’ areas of interests and facilitate intriguing and vibrant class discussions on a daily basis. I have found that each professor is successfully able to teach us the most important concepts about a topic in a short amount of time. Not only is this admirable, but it also leaves students with the ability to apply these concepts to the real world right away. The faculty encourage and challenge us in ways that push us to reach our full potential. The faculty are one of the biggest reasons that the MSL Program is as amazing as it is."