- Funding the MSL
- Is Northwestern's MSL Program Right for Me?
- MSL Career & Professional Development
- MSL Schedule
- Student Life
It seems like the MSL curriculum is very rich; is the program super demanding?
Yes! The MSL Program is an intense whirlwind of activity and learning, not a simple walk in the park. The full-time program is only nine months; students make the most of their time here.
Can I be exempted from a class if I have already taken a similar class?
MSL students are required to take all seven of the required courses, even if they have previously taken a similar course in another program and even if they have substantial work experience in a related field.
Will the MSL Program prepare me for the patent bar?
What students learn in the MSL Program will certainly be helpful for the patent bar, but the MSL provides a multi-faceted curriculum and is not a patent bar review course.
Will I be taking regular JD classes in the MSL Program?
No, MSL students take classes that are specifically designed for the program. These classes are meant to provide focused training that will be of practical use to engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals.
Is there an online option for the MSL?
No. While some of the classes will be taught in a "blended learning" format, with a substantial online component, there is not yet an all-online option. This is definitely something we are considering for the future.
How many courses must I complete in order to earn the MSL degree?
Since most of the MSL classes are 1 or 1.5 credits, and a student must complete 28 credits to earn the MSL, most students take between 17 and 22 total courses in the program. The exact number of courses a student completes depends on the specific courses and the number of credits associated with each course.
Who teaches MSL classes?
MSL classes are taught by a combination of Northwestern Law's residential faculty members and highly qualified adjunct instructors. Many of the adjunct instructors are practitioners in the fields of law, business, and government. Take a look at our faculty bios (PDF).
How are MSL classes graded?
Generally, the seven-week courses are graded using a traditional letter system with no curve (A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, D, F). Power Week courses are generally graded on a credit/no credit basis.
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What kind of students are you looking for in the MSL Program?
A variety of students are appropriate for the MSL. One group is recent graduates in the STEM and medical disciplines who seek to enhance their professional marketability by gaining an additional degree from a premier university, a degree that instills a flexible, strategic skill set and a background in the legal and business concepts that relate to their technical fields. The MSL is also appropriate for early-career professionals in the medical, scientific, engineering, and technology fields who wish to expand their professional options by gaining a practical understanding of the intellectual property, regulatory, and contracting and licensing environments. Mid-career professionals with STEM backgrounds are also appropriate for the MSL, especially employees in medical, engineering, and science companies who would like to participate in and lead cross-functional teams within their organizations or those who are interested in positions of increasing responsibility. STEM-trained individuals who wish to work in a startup environment or who wish to found their own companies will benefit from the MSL's focus on the practical skills and the legal and regulatory knowledge required to bring a product to market. Finally, professionals who work in STEM environments and are interested in developing hands-on, practical skills to utilize in their STEM-related professions are also appropriate for the MSL.
Can I get into the MSL Program if I do not have a STEM background?
The program is designed for students with STEM backgrounds. This includes individuals who have formal degrees in STEM fields as well as professionals who have experience working in STEM environments.
I do not have any background in law. Am I at a disadvantage with respect to earning admission to the MSL Program?
A law background is not required for admission to the MSL Program, and students without a law background will not be at a disadvantage – most MSL students enter the program without any background in law. The required classes that students take early on in the program provide a strong foundation in law.
Will I be at a disadvantage if I do not submit test scores or additional recommendations?
No, students who do not submit any of the optional items are not at a disadvantage in the admissions process.
Is there an interview option as part of the application process?
We rely almost entirely on the written application for the information necessary to make admissions decisions. We sometimes conduct brief interviews to evaluate the language skills of students who have requested a TOEFL/IELTS waiver. In certain other situations, we may contact an applicant for an interview.
Can my recommender submit his/her letter of recommendation before I have completed my entire application?
Yes, a recommender can submit his/her letter of recommendation at any time so long as the applicant has started an online application. The recommender will receive an email with instructions to electronically submit his/her letter and can upload the letter at any time.
How are admissions decisions communicated to applicants?
Applicants receive an email through the online portal that communicates their admissions decision.
If I am accepted into the MSL Program, how much time will I have to decide whether to enroll or not?
Usually, deposits are required within 3 to 4 weeks of the admissions decision.
When does the visa process begin for international students?
The visa process begins once an admitted student has sent in his/her deposit. The Admissions Office handles this process. International students must apply by the second deadline – April 15 – to ensure that the visa process can be completed before classes begin in the fall.
Is it possible my employer might pay for me to get the MSL degree?
Yes, employer reimbursement for tuition is a possibility – applicants should check with their individual employers. Of the companies that do assist with tuition payments, some have an annual limit on the amount of tuition reimbursement an employee can receive. (Note: Full-time Northwestern employees may qualify for tuition assistance.)
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Is financial aid available?
Yes. There are two categories of financial aid: the MSL Scholarship Program and federal and private loans. The MSL Scholarship Program awards partial-tuition scholarships on a competitive basis to admitted full-time students; both merit and need are taken into account in deciding the awards. In addition, there is a special scholarship program for PhDs and postdocs who are not receiving employer funding; both full-time and part-time students who are PhDs or postdocs are eligible to apply. Students will be informed of the financial aid application process within a week of admission to the program. For more information, visit MSL’s financial aid page.
Are MSL scholarships need-based or merit-based?
MSL scholarships are awarded on a combined basis of merit and need.
When will I find out if I have been awarded an MSL scholarship?
Roughly two weeks before the deposit deadline, the Admissions Office will inform students of their MSL Scholarship Program award status.
Are international students eligible for the MSL Scholarship Program?
Yes, international students are eligible to apply for MSL scholarships on the same basis as domestic students.
What is the typical MSL scholarship award amount?
Scholarships generally range from $1,000 to $15,000, with the average award in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. The program does not award full- or half-tuition scholarships at this time.
Is it possible for my employer to cover all or part of the MSL tuition?
Several MSL students have used an employer-provided tuition benefit to cover all or part of their MSL tuition – applicants should check with their individual employers. Of the companies that do assist with tuition payments, some have a limit on the amount of tuition that can be covered in any given year.
I’m a Northwestern employee. Can I use the University’s tuition benefit for the MSL?
Benefits-eligible Northwestern employees may be able to use the Employee Reduced Tuition Benefit. Several MSL students have used this benefit to cover part of the MSL tuition.
Am I eligible for an MSL scholarship if I am using an employer-provided tuition benefit?
Generally, applicants are not eligible for an MSL scholarship if they are using an employer-provided tuition benefit, though occasionally an exception can be made in special circumstances.
Does the MSL Program offer any work-study or teaching assistant positions for their students?
The MSL Program does not offer any work-study or teaching assistant jobs for students. Students are encouraged to contact the Northwestern Career Advancement office for more information about campus employment opportunities.
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Do other law schools have this degree?
Some other law schools have one-year master’s programs in law, but Northwestern's program is unique in that it is only open to students with STEM backgrounds and its classes are specially designed for this population of students.
If I am interested in law, shouldn't I just get a JD?
The JD is the appropriate degree for scientists and engineers who know they want to be lawyers and/or practice law. But the MSL is ideal for technically-trained individuals who are interested in law, or those who want to understand and interact with law more effectively, but do not necessarily want to study law for three years or become a practicing lawyer. MSL students often want to leverage their technical knowledge by working in an “intersectional” – rather than purely legal – position. That said, some of our MSL students find that they enjoy law study and then go on to apply for a JD program.
If I am interested in the business side of things, shouldn't I just get an MBA?
An MBA is great for a student who wishes to have an established business credential. But for students looking for an interdisciplinary approach, or those wanting to develop a nuanced understanding of legal and business matters in relation to STEM fields, the MSL is a great option. Some of our MSL students come into the program with an MBA, and there are some who apply for an MBA after finishing the MSL Program.
What are some of the skills I will get from MSL study that I would not get from other graduate study?
The MSL instills very practical legal and business skills. MSL students improve their writing and presentation skills; they learn how to draft and interpret patents; and they are exposed to contracts, licensing deals, IP portfolios, regulatory submissions, and many other real-world documents and processes. They learn about business formation and structure, as well as business strategy and planning. This particular combination of legal and business skills is not available in any other program.
I already have a job as an engineer, technology professional, or scientist; why should I get an MSL?
The MSL expands students' understanding and horizons, and, in so doing, opens the door to better performance and/or career advancement opportunities. Scientists and engineers who want to branch out beyond bench and research jobs will be better positioned to do so with an MSL degree. Also, individuals who aspire to work in more cross-functional positions should consider the MSL Program.
Will this program qualify me for law school?
The MSL will not qualify graduates for a JD program, though it may enhance an application for a JD program.
Will classes count toward a JD if I decide to attend a JD program later on?
MSL classes will not count for JD credit or substitute for classes in a JD program; most law schools will not grant credit for any academic work a student does prior to entering the JD program.
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What will the MSL do for a graduate's career/professional prospects?
The skills and knowledge taught in the MSL Program give graduates an advantage when seeking technical jobs and jobs that are at the intersection of science/engineering, law, and business – a rapidly growing junction. MSL graduates are better equipped for a variety of positions, including as entrepreneurs or in startup enterprises, employees working on intrapreneurship initiatives within companies, patent agents, technical specialists, scientific advisors, consultants, regulatory analysts and specialists, IP and patent portfolio managers, IP monetization specialists, inventors, expert witnesses, compliance officers, government regulators, technology transfer officers, business managers, business developers, patent coordinators, litigation advisors, chief scientific officers, medical science liaisons, and so on.
Are there internship opportunities in the MSL Program?
Yes, MSL students are able to complete internships while in the program. Some of our students have interned at Ohmx Corporation, Orbitz, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and in the technology transfer offices of Northwestern University and University of Illinois at Chicago. The program staff continues to focus attention in this area and will be expanding internship opportunities in a variety of settings, including industry and firm placements. MSL students are eligible to apply for various competitive internships in the Chicagoland area, including internships at other universities and opportunities with the City of Chicago. In addition, MSL students are welcome to arrange internships outside of those developed by the program, as long as those internships meet the requirements established by the program. Students can complete internships during the spring term of the program or during the summer term after two semesters in the program.
What kinds of career services does the MSL Program provide for its students?
The MSL Program provides an array of career services for its students. For example, there are hands-on, interactive workshops focused on crafting effective resumes and cover letters. We also have professional development sessions designed to foster networking and interviewing skills. We have a dedicated MSL career advisor who meets regularly with students in both group and one-on-one settings to provide career support.
Outside of these specific services offered by the program, MSL students are encouraged to become involved with a wide variety of external events and activities that provide professional development and career opportunities. MSL students have attended BioTech Day; Chicago Ideas Week; HealthTECH Summit; Techstars Demo Day; Techweek Chicago; and numerous events at local incubators, including 1871 (tech), Catalyze (manufacturing), and MATTER (biotech). Other opportunities for networking and career development, beyond those listed here, abound in Chicago. Our goal is to empower MSL students and graduates to seek out interesting and worthwhile positions that will use the skills and knowledge gained in the MSL Program.
MSL students also have access to some of Northwestern University’s career resources, including University-sponsored career fairs and employer information sessions.
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When is the MSL Program's orientation?
The MSL Program has an orientation program during the week just prior to the start of classes. It is mandatory for all full-time and part-time students alike.
When do classes begin?
Classes begin in the fall. The exact date that the fall academic term begins varies from year to year. View the MSL Academic Calendar.
How often do classes meet?
Some classes meet once per week and some classes meet twice per week. Power Week classes follow a different, more compressed format. Read more about MSL's unique schedule.
When do part-time students attend class?
Most part-time students attend class in the late afternoon or evening. However, there are also opportunities for part-time students to attend classes during the day if their schedules permit. Part-time students also can enroll in Power Week classes, which last 1 to 3 days and are offered in the week following each regular seven-week session.
Are MSL courses offered during the summer?
We generally offer one or two classes in the summer session; these are for part-time students who are continuing in the program.
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How are MSL students involved with other students in the Law School community?
Even though they do not take their classes with JD and LLM students, MSL students are very involved in life of the Law School. There are tons of opportunities for interaction between students in different programs. MSL students have student representatives in the Student Bar Association, the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center Student Group, the Women’s Leadership Coalition, the Intellectual Property Law Society, and other student organizations. MSL students participate in all kinds of conferences, events, and activities in the Law School and on the Northwestern campus. The MSL co-sponsors a Speaker Series with the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center, hosts its own Speaker Series, and partners with other student groups to bring guests to campus. MSL students are involved with the Health Law Society, the High Tech Law Society, the Advanced Degree Consulting Alliance, the transactional moot court competition, the Law School Global Village, the Public Interest Auction, and many other events and activities that involve the entire student body of the Law School.
Where do MSL students live? Is there any on-campus housing at Northwestern?
While there is no on-campus housing for law students, Northwestern Law is located in the heart of downtown Chicago – housing options are plentiful and public transportation is convenient. More information on housing.
Can I start my health insurance plan early (before September 1)?
Yes, MSL students may begin their health insurance early by filling out the Early Arrival Form. Please contact Wendy Weaver, Northwestern University's insurance representative, to get the form or to ask any questions.
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