Master of Studies in Law Frequently Asked Questions
The following comprehensive FAQ can answer questions Master of Studies in Law degree candidates may have regarding the expectations, benefits, requirements and costs of the program. Questions not answered by this FAQ can be directed to the Master of Studies in Law program administrator at email@example.com or (412) 648-7120.
- Are MSL courses regular law school courses?
- Will the MSL train me to be a lawyer?
- Is this an online degree program?
- Do MSL courses count toward the JD degree if I decide I want to pursue that degree?
- Will the Master of Studies in Law degree help me get into a JD program?
- Who will benefit from the Master of Studies in Law degree?
- If I already have a JD degree, can I get an MSL?
- If I have completed part of a JD program and wish to switch to the MSL program, may I do so?
- What are some examples of people who might want to use the MSL degree to reorient their careers?
- May I combine graduate or professional studies with the Master of Studies in Law?
- I am uncertain about my career goals. Is there any value in my enrolling in the MSL Program?
- Is this a generalist program in the study of law, or may I concentrate in an area of law that interests me?
- Are there any required courses in the MSL program?
- How many other courses do I need to take?
- Will courses from other schools and/or previous degrees be considered for credit toward the 30 credits required for the MSL Program?
- May I take courses outside of the law school?
- Will I get any advice and guidance in the courses I should take?
- What are the Areas of Specialization?
- Do I have to go to school full time, or may I obtain the MSL degree part time?
- When are courses given?
- What courses will I take in my first semester?
- How much work will there be for students in the MSL Program?
- What is the grading system for students in the MSL program?
- What is the tuition for the MSL Program?
- Is there financial aid for MSL students?
- What are the requirements for admission to the MSL program?
- Are international students eligible for admission to the MSL program?
- How do I apply for the MSL program?
- What is the application deadline?
- When do classes begin and end?
- What are MSL graduates doing with their education?
With one exception, all the courses in the MSL Program are the same courses you would take if you were studying to become a lawyer in the JD Program. The exception is Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning, a course designed especially for MSL students. View course descriptions for Fall Term 2017 courses and for Spring Term 2018 courses. Some specialized JD courses (such as clinics) are ordinarily not open to MSL students. MSL students, with the permission of the MSL Program Director, may take up to 6 credits of coursework in other graduate and professional schools of the university.
No. If you want to become a lawyer, the MSL Program is not for you. You should apply to our JD Program instead. The MSL provides new skills and knowledge to enhance your existing ones rather than to prepare you for a new career. It will not permit you to take the bar examination and so it is not intended for people who want to practice law. If that is your interest, you should apply to our JD Program.
No, the MSL program is an offline, classroom-based degree program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Students attend classes at the Barco Law Building in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. If your specialization advisor approves, you may take graduate level courses at other graduate schools at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, or Duquesne University.
American Bar Association regulations do not permit credits acquired in the MSL degree to be credited toward the JD degree.
No. The MSL is not intended to prepare students for the JD degree. However, students who successfully complete courses in the MSL program will have a better understanding of law than people who have not. If they eventually do enroll in a JD program, the MSL experience might prove beneficial.
A variety of different kinds of people should find it beneficial.
- The MSL is for people who work with lawyers. Many corporate managers, auditors, CPAs, government employees, and others regularly work with lawyers or work with the law. They may be involved in real estate transactions, labor negotiations, financing arrangements, and similar dealings requiring frequent contact with lawyers. If you are in this group, you may have a very good understanding of a corner of the law related to your work but would like to place it in a larger and more systematic context. The studies involved in obtaining the MSL can do this for you.
- The MSL is for people who work with law. Many other people have little contact with lawyers, but a lot with the law. Government employees in fields ranging from child welfare to environmental regulation to health care management face a host of laws and legal constraints. If you are in this group, pursuing the MSL will help you obtain an understanding of sometimes mysterious rules and help to place them in a larger and more systematic context.
- The MSL is for people who want to reorient their careers. Today, anyone who wants to learn about law, even if they don't want to practice law, must attend law school for three years or be satisfied with on-the-job acquisition of knowledge of their area of law. The MSL provides an alternative means of acquiring knowledge about law in a more efficient manner than the JD and a more comprehensive manner than on-the-job training.
- The MSL is for faculty members on sabbatical. The MSL program offers scholars on sabbatical the chance to broaden their knowledge base by exploring the ways in which law is relevant to their academic field.
The MSL degree is an ideal means for individuals with a JD who wish to take additional courses in a specialized area of the law to do so, and applications to the MSL program from holders of a JD degree are welcome.
Students who have begun, but do not wish to complete a JD (or equivalent) Program at the University of Pittsburgh or another law school may apply for admission to the MSL Program. If the student is accepted, up to 6 JD credits may be counted toward the MSL degree at the University of Pittsburgh at the discretion of the program director.
Librarians and information specialists may wish to develop a specialty in legal aspects of their field. Nurse-administrators in a health care system with responsibilities for risk management might obtain the MSL degree with a specialization in health law. A professor of economics specializing in the economics of antitrust could obtain the MSL with a specialization in antitrust or commercial law. Administrators of an agency providing geriatric services might obtain the MSL with a specialization in elder law.
Yes. Graduate and professional students in many fields (medicine, nursing, and other health professions, social work, economics and other social sciences, business, information science, and engineering are some examples) may enhance their primary program with the study of law in general, and the particular area of law that complements their field. You might want to add intellectual property law to studies in information science. Add health law to studies in medicine, nursing and other health professions. Add child welfare law or health law to social work. Add jurisprudence to philosophy. Or add corporate law to business administration. These are just a few of the many examples of how graduate and professional students can broaden their horizons through the MSL degree.
Students enrolled in any American or foreign university, if they are able to take a leave of absence from their studies, may enroll in the MSL program, or they may pursue the degree on the completion of their graduate or professional studies. There is no joint degree program between the MSL and other graduate or professional programs at the University of Pittsburgh.
The MSL is for the intellectually curious, for people who want to learn about law. You may simply want to learn about law for the sake of learning. The MSL provides an excellent opportunity if that is your interest. The Program Director counsels students on career opportunities. However, the services of the Law School's Office of Professional & Career Development are not available to MSL students.
Is this a generalist program in the study of law, or may I concentrate in an area of law that interests me?
The MSL tailors your education to your needs and interests. There are a large number of Areas of Specialization from which to choose, or you may design your own specialization. Each specialization has a Faculty Advisor to work with you in selecting the courses best suited to your needs.
Yes. All MSL students take two required courses -- Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning (a course designed specifically for the MSL program), and one first-semester course, usually Torts. These two courses help place your field of specialization in a broader legal context and help you to understand how lawyers and judges think about and use law.
Required Introductory Courses
- Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning (3 credits) This course will begin to help MSL students to "think like lawyers." Students will gain experience in reading and analyzing cases and statutes in order to begin to understand how to use the law to predict answers to legal questions. The course will also include a sampling of legal readings and guest lectures in the various areas of substantive law. Grading will be based on short papers and presentations and on one longer paper and a corresponding class presentation.
- Torts (4 credits) This course explores the methods and policies for allocating losses from harm to one's person, property, relations, and economic and other interests. The course covers the substantive principles of tort claims and their defenses. The course examines the three main theories of tort liability: intent, negligence, and strict liability and analyzes the theoretical and practical aspects of tort liability.
Course Descriptions For Elective First-Year Courses
- Civil Procedure (3 credits) This course examines the process of resolving disputes through litigation. Topics include: pleading and other procedures required to initiate a lawsuit; the size of litigation; disposition of actions without plenary trial; the role of the jury; the effect of previous litigation on a new lawsuit; and alternatives to litigation as a means of resolving disputes.
- Constitutional Law (4 credits) An introduction to American constitutional law, particularly argument to and from judges. Topics covered include the role of the judiciary in reviewing acts of the political branches of government; the relations among the three branches of the federal government; the relations of the states to the federal government; the judicial interpretation of the 14th amendment's principles of due process and equal protection of law; and the right to freedom of speech.
- Contracts (4 credits) What promises are legally enforceable? Why does the law enforce these promises? What does it mean to enforce a promise? This course explores those questions, using the basic concepts, principles, and doctrines of contract law, sometimes called "the law of broken promises."
- Criminal Law (3 credits) Traditional and contemporary doctrines of substantive criminal law are analyzed, with focus on such issues as: theories of punishment, the formal elements of criminal culpability, the theory and degrees of homicide, criminal causation, inchoate crimes, accessory and vicarious liability, conspiracy, and defenses of excuse and justification.
- Criminal Procedure (3 credits) The subject matter is Supreme Court decisional law and policy issues relating to the application and scope of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Topics typically covered include: incorporation theory, right to counsel and related entitlements, the exclusionary rule, pretrial identification procedures, search and seizure law, and interrogation law. Students should gain both knowledge relating to constitutional law, which governs the permissible perimeters of police conduct and defendants rights, and an informal sense of how the criminal justice system actually operates.
- Legislation and Regulation (3 credits) This course has three main goals: first, to offer students an overall sense of how the legislative, administrative, and judicial arms of government interrelate in governing our society under a constitutional system of checks and balances; second, to familiarize them with the process of law-making and law-application as it is conducted in legislative bodies and in administrative agencies; and, third, to introduce them to the process of statutory interpretation both in theory and practice.
- Property (4 credits) This course analyzes the legal ordering of relations among individuals concerning things of value. The course content varies from professor to professor, but all examine the concepts that illuminate what law means by the terms "property" or "ownership." Throughout the course, students will be asked to contemplate the nature of property; what rights follow from the identification of property interests; and how these interests are allocated, protected, and transmitted.
You will take a half dozen or more other courses. Altogether, you will need 30 credits to complete the MSL degree, all of which must be taken in the School of Law. Most courses are three credits, but some are two and some are four.
You will take at least 12 credits in your area of specialization. The remaining eight credits may be taken in any elective approved by your specialization advisor.
Will courses from other schools and/or previous degrees be considered for credit toward the 30 credits required for the MSL Program?
No. Credits from prior study will not be accepted toward the completion of the MSL degree.
Yes. Your specialization advisor will work with you to determine the appropriateness of taking graduate level courses offered elsewhere in the University of Pittsburgh that count toward your MSL degree. Students may take up to 6 credits of graduate level courses outside of the Law School with prior approval from the Program Director. These courses may be at other graduate or professional schools at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University.
Yes. There is a faculty advisor for each MSL specialization. Your advisor will work with you to create an individualized curriculum tailored to your needs and interests.
There are a large number of Areas of Specialization from which to choose. They are listed below. Click on any of them to see the various courses in these specializations. Not all courses are offered every year, so that in addition to these listed courses, other courses will be offered in future years, which will be relevant to you if you are in the part-time program stretching over more than one year. However, this also means that some of the courses that are listed now might not be given in the future. This listing of courses and requirements is tentative and subject to change. Remember that in addition to the courses in the specializations, you are permitted to take electives outside your specialization as well. The Areas of Specialization include:
- Biomedical & Health Services Research
- Business Law
- Commercial Law
- Corporate Law
- Criminal Justice
- Disability Law
- Elder and Estate Planning Law
- Employment and Labor Law
- Energy Law
- Environmental Law
- Family Law
- Health Law
- Intellectual Property and Technology Law
- International Business Law
- International Law
- Real Estate Law
- Sports and Entertainment Law
- Tax Law
You may pursue the MSL degree either on a full-time or part-time basis. The degree may be completed in one academic year (late August to mid-May) if pursued full-time. If you wish to take a part-time course of study, you will have up to four years to complete the degree. Students in the part-time program are required to take two courses in their first semester -- Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning and one first year course.
You will take regular law school courses in the MSL program, which are only given during the day and not in the evening or on weekends. Some highly specialized courses are given in the late afternoon. Also, for those interested in part-time study, the required courses, which must be taken first, are given at a number of different times during the day and different days of the week. There is no summer session at the Law School.
All MSL students take Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning (3 credits), a course designed especially for MSL students, and open only to MSL students. This course is designed as a partial substitute for the courses JD students take in their first semester of law school.
In addition, you will take at least one regular first-semester JD course. Most students take Torts (4 credits), unless there is a particularly compelling reason to take a different course such as Contracts (4 credits), or Criminal Law (3 credits). Courses meet 2, 3, or even 4 times a week for 50 to 150 minutes. Part-time students need to have flexibility in their work schedule to attend classes and to successfully complete the MSL Program.
If you are a part-time student, these are the only two courses you must take in your first semester, although you may take others. If you are a full-time student, you must take at least 14 credits in your first semester which includes these two required courses and two or three elective courses (either other first year course or advanced courses).
All courses in the MSL program require students to engage in rigorous class preparation and study. Classes meet for 50 minutes per credit each week, so that a 3-credit course usually meets for three 50-minute periods (although a course might meet for a single three-hour period) . The rule of thumb is that students are expected to spend about three hours of preparation for each hour of class. Professors expect that all students will present themselves and their work in a professional manner, regardless of JD or MSL status. MSL students will reap the rewards of their efforts through their mastery of complex legal materials and in their new-found ability to comfortably discuss the law with their professors, JD students, and other colleagues. Attendance is required at a minimum of 80% of class meetings.
An Honors/Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading system is used. To obtain the MSL degree, students must attain a grade of Satisfactory or better in at least 30 credits of coursework. In courses taken in other graduate or professional schools of the university, MSL students must attain a grade of B or above in order to receive credit for the course.
MASTER OF STUDIES IN LAW
Tuition, Fees, and Estimated Expenses
Academic Year 2017-2018
|Full Time||Part Time*|
|Security / Transportation Fee||$180||$180||$90||$90|
|Law Exam Fee||$20||$20||$20||$20|
|Other expenses (estimated)|
|Total U of Pittsburgh Tuition & Fees||$35, 774||$44,362|
|Estimated 9-Month Living Expense||$17,600||$17,600|
|Total Estimated Cost||$53,374||$61,962|
* Students taking between 1 and 8 credits pay part-time rates. Students taking 9 or more credits per semester are charged at the full-time rate.
The MSL Program does not offer financial aid in the form of grants to students. We understand that it can be difficult to find the funds to cover your tuition and other expenses. Pitt Law will, however, assist you in processing loans.
Many employers provide tuition assistance to employees. If you are working, you should inquire with your employer. Many of our students have sought scholarships and funding from outside entities, often focusing on particular scholarships that match their individual profiles. To get you started with this process, we provide here a partial list of outside resources to assist in the financial aid search:
- 100 Great Scholarships for Master’s Degree Programs
Applicants must submit:
- Official transcripts of all college, graduate, and professional studies, whether a degree was obtained or not
- At least two letters of recommendation
- An essay on how you expect to use the knowledge acquired in pursuing the MSL degree
Decisions about admission will be made on the basis of the above information and the applicant's entire academic and employment record. A personal interview may also be required.
International students are welcome and encouraged to apply. They must have completed the equivalent of a US bachelor of arts or sciences degree, and they must submit a TOEFL score or other satisfactory evidence of English proficiency. The minimum acceptable TOEFL scores are 600 paper, 250 computer, 110 internet. IELTS scores are also accepted in lieu of TOEFL. International students are encouraged to apply as early as possible because of greater amount of time needed to process the application, obtain visas, and obtain housing.
To apply for the Master of Studies in Law program, click on the Application Tab and download the PDF forms necessary to apply. Please note, you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to load these materials.
There is no formal deadline. We encourage applicants to submit applications in the winter or spring prior to the fall semester in which they seek to begin the program.
The MSL Program begins in late August and ends in late April or early May. The exact dates vary from year to year.
Of the slightly more than a dozen graduates of the MSL Program, roughly half have used their education to enhance their existing careers, and the other half to pursue new careers. In the former category are a health system tax specialist, a manager in an interstate trucking company, a university police officer, a pediatrician in private practice, a nurse practitioner, and a director of a nonprofit agency.
Some of the new careers that MSL graduates have stepped into are as a foreign filing administrator with a law firm specializing in patent and trademark law, a consulting firm specializing in political campaigns, a research assistant in a bioterrorism project, an employee of a firm searching for lost children, and the owner of a retail business.
In addition, some MSL graduates have opted for further education. One is obtaining a doctoral degree in public affairs and two others have applied to and have been accepted in JD programs.