MSL FAQs


Academics

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, instead you will be taking classes that are specifically designed for MSL students. These classes are meant to provide focused training that will be of practical use to engineers, scientists, and medical, 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 a student complete in order to earn the MSL degree?
Since most of the MSL classes are 1.5 or 1 credits, and a student must complete 28 credits to earn the MSL, most students take approximately 17-22 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 School's residential faculty members and highly-qualified adjunct instructors. Many of the adjunct instructors are practitioners in fields like law, business, and government. View our faculty bios.

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). Compressed courses are generally graded on a Credit or No Credit basis.

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Admissions

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 the start-up environment or who wish to start 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. We may develop more MSL programs in the future, including for non-STEM trained individuals—stay tuned.

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?
No, we rely on the written application for the information necessary to make admissions decisions. The only exception is that we sometimes conduct brief interviews to evaluate the language skills of students who have requested a TOEFL/IELTS waiver.

Can my recommender submit his/her letter of recommendation before I have completed my entire application?
Yes, your recommender can submit his/her letter of recommendation at any time so long as you have started an online application. Your 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 3-4 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 – check with your individual employer. 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 Northwestern's MSL Program Right For Me?

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 and apply for a JD degree.

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 legal-business perspective, 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, 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, or scientist, or technology professional; why should I get an MSL?
The MSL expands your understanding and your horizons, and, in so doing, opens the door to better performance and/or career advancement opportunities. Scientists and engineers who want to branch outside of bench and research jobs will be better positioned to do so with an MSL. Also, individuals who aspire to work in more cross-functional positions should consider an MSL.

Will this program qualify me for law school?
The MSL will not qualify you for a JD program, though it may enhance your 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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MSL Careers and Professional Development

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 also jobs that are at the intersection of science/engineering, law, and business, which is a growing intersection. MSL graduates are better equipped for a variety of positions, including as entrepreneurs or in start-up enterprises, employees working on intrapreneurship initiatives within companies, patent agents, technical specialists, scientific advisors, consultants, regulatory analysts and specialists, intellectual property and patent portfolio managers, IP monetization specialists, inventors, expert witnesses, compliance officers, government regulators, technology transfer officers, business managers, jobs in business development, patent coordinators, litigation advisors, chief scientific officers, medical science liaisons, and many others.

Are there internship opportunities in the MSL Program?
Yes, MSL students are able to complete internships while in the program. For example, some of our students have interned with Northwestern University’s technology transfer office (INVO) and we have established internships with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and the Office of Sponsored Research at Northwestern, among others. 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 MSL 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 participated in events like Biotech Day on the Northwestern campus, the HealthTECH Summit, events at 1871 and MATTER – the homes to many of Chicago’s most promising tech and biotech startups, Techstars Demo Day, Women in Bio events, law firm activities, and many other opportunities for networking and career development. Our goal is to empower MSL 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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MSL Schedule

When is the MSL program's orientation?
The MSL program has an orientation program during the week just prior to the start of classes.

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 Schedule.

How often do classes meet?
Some classes meet once per week and some classes meet twice per week.

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 compressed classes, which last 1-3 days and are offered in the week following each regular MSL 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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Student Life

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 and there are tons of opportunities for interaction between students in different programs. MSL students have student representatives on the Student Bar Association, the Entrepreneurship Law Center Student Group, the Women’s Law 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 as well. The MSL sponsors a Speakers Series with some talks that are co-sponsored by other student groups. 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?
Northwestern's Law School is located in the heart of downtown Chicago and there are many places for students to live, though there is no on-campus housing. More information on housing.

Can I start my health insurance plan early (before September 1)?
Yes, you may begin your health insurance early by filling out the Early Arrival Form. Please contact Susan Dennehy to get the form. If you have specific questions about the insurance plan, please contact Wendy Weaver.

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