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New Law Degree for Science and Technology Professionals

Leaders with technical expertise will be able to innovate better with legal know-how

CHICAGO --- Northwestern University School of Law is offering a new Master of Science in Law (MSL), starting in fall 2014, designed specifically for professionals with backgrounds in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and medicine.

STEM professionals are central drivers of today’s global economy, and the new one-year master’s program will support innovation and entrepreneurship by offering these professionals a fundamental understanding of how law and business intersect with technology.   

Often using team-based projects, the master’s program will contextualize the complex web of intellectual property, regulatory, business contracting and licensing issues that scientists, engineers, medical practitioners and other STEM professionals around the world face. They will learn within the context of bringing the next new product to market, creating a startup, running a lab or developing a company’s innovation and patent strategy. 

The degree is not meant to turn professionals with STEM backgrounds into lawyers. Rather, graduates of the MSL program will be better prepared to do what they do best and focus on the business of innovation and entrepreneurship. The difference is that they will do so with a solid understanding of how law and regulation affects opportunities, constraints and perspectives on business goals and strategies, both locally and globally.  

The MSL classes are entirely new and are specifically designed for STEM professionals. Classes will be taught by renowned Northwestern Law residential faculty and also industry experts from law, business and government, using a creative mix of teaching techniques.

“Technical people increasingly have seats at the business table, and more and more of them are being called upon to lead -- to sit at the head of the table,” said Emerson Tiller, senior associate dean of academic initiatives at Northwestern’s law school. “The MSL program will give these individuals the skill sets to communicate, direct and lead more effectively across the combined business, legal and regulatory specialties involved in technology-based initiatives.”

The entrepreneurship lab -- a hallmark of the program -- will expose students to all stages of the innovation process. They will come up with an idea for a business, design a prototype or model of their idea, draft a business plan, address issues of entity selection and intellectual property protection and launch a new business. The entrepreneurship lab will draw upon the law school’s participation in the University’s highly successful NUvention program, which brings together students from all over campus to engage in the entrepreneurship process and to learn from industry leaders and others about the process of design and innovation.

Students will have great flexibility in mapping a course of study in the MSL program, which can be completed in two semesters or part-time in up to eight semesters. They may mix and match from all areas of the curriculum or focus on one of the program’s three concentrations: patent/intellectual property, business law and entrepreneurship or regulatory analysis and strategy.

“In an increasingly interconnected world, where law and regulation is profoundly important, top law schools cannot think of legal training as solely for lawyers,” said Northwestern University School of Law Dean Daniel Rodriguez. “This program illustrates the law school’s ambitious effort to address a growing industry need to build meaningful, practical bridges across the fields of law, business and technology.”