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MSL vs JD

MSL vs JD: A New Pathway in Legal Education

For many aspiring professionals intrigued by the complexities of law and policy, the conventional path has always pointed towards the Juris Doctorate (JD). However, an alternative path has emerged that offers an equally compelling blend of knowledge, rigor, and practical applicability — the Master of Science in Law (MSL). 

With tailored concentrations in niche areas like Water and Environmental Law, and Government Law and Policy, McGeorge School of Law is paving the way for individuals to immerse themselves in specialized and career-building legal knowledge, even as non-lawyers. So, why consider an MSL degree over a JD? In a Prelaw magazine article about this very topic, Clemence Kucera, Assistant Dean of online programs at McGeorge School of Law, had this to say, “While students walk away with legal knowledge, they don’t have to take the 88 units the law school requires or prepare for the bar.”

Key Benefits for Non-Lawyers

One of the key benefits of the MSL degree is its accessibility to non-lawyers. This program is ideal for professionals who need to understand and navigate the legal landscape in their work, but do not intend to practice law. From engineers to environmentalists, business leaders to policymakers, an MSL allows individuals across various fields to enhance their understanding of law and policy, thereby enriching their career trajectories and decision-making capabilities. MSL graduate, Amanda Richie, explains, “For me getting an MSL was the best of both worlds. It was a shorter version of law school that provided me with the classes I needed.”

Specialized Legal Expertise

The online MSL degree at McGeorge School of Law offers concentrations that provide graduates with a unique advantage over competitors in the job market. For instance, in the Water and Environmental Law track, students delve into the intricacies of environmental regulations, policies, and legal frameworks related to natural resources. Meanwhile, the Government Law and Policy track equips students with comprehensive insights into public policy-making and legal issues tied to governance. This depth of understanding, specific to their field, equips MSL graduates with knowledge beyond what many JD holders may have in these specialized areas.

 

MSL vs JD

Career Advancement

The MSL degree can be a catalyst for career progression. While not a law degree in the traditional sense, the MSL can open doors to roles that require a robust understanding of legal systems and processes, such as policy analysts, regulatory affairs managers, and more. For professionals already working in these fields, the MSL can enhance their credentials and position them for higher-level roles or pay grades.

Time and Financial Considerations

Earning a JD typically takes three years of full-time study and often involves a significant financial commitment. On the other hand, the MSL program at McGeorge is part-time and online, allowing you the flexibility to work around a full-time job and family commitments. This reduced timeframe and, often, a lower cost, makes the MSL a more feasible option for many working professionals looking to gain legal knowledge without committing to a full law degree. Students consistently highlight this flexibility as one of the top reasons to choose McGeorge

The Value of an MSL from McGeorge School of Law

The MSL program at McGeorge School of Law provides an alternative pathway to deepening legal proficiency without the time and financial commitment of a JD. The specialized concentrations offer non-lawyers and working professionals the opportunity to enhance their career prospects and industry expertise. While the MSL doesn’t replace the JD for those intending to practice law, it certainly offers a wealth of benefits for individuals aiming to advance in other areas of work. So, if you’ve been contemplating how to sharpen your legal skills and career prospects without becoming a practicing lawyer, the MSL could be the perfect fit for you.

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Thomas Cinti

Faculty Spotlight with Thomas Cinti

Thomas Cinti wasn’t always interested in law or teaching it, for that matter. In fact, he started in the sciences, but eventually loved the subject so much that he even decided to teach it to others. Now, he has useful insights and advice for students going through their own law education journey, especially online learners in McGeorge’s LLM or MSL degree programs.

Getting Talked Into Law 

Thomas attended Harvard in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Environmental Science. Meanwhile, his childhood friend, Michael Colatrella, convinced Thomas to join him in looking at law schools. “He essentially talked me into it, and dragged me around to a couple of law schools. We filled out the applications together, and that was my somewhat ignominious introduction to the study of law.” Oh, and if the name sounds familiar to you, you’re absolutely right; that would be the same Michael Colatrella who is currently serving as Co-Director of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learnings and a professor of law right here at McGeorge. 

But before he was fully sold on the idea, Thomas returned to Harvard fully expecting to stay and earn a doctorate degree. But when faced with conflicts and obstacles within his doctoral committee, he took it as a sign to choose law school. It was a reluctant journey, “But I will say this, because of my background in environmental science, what I was really interested in doing was environmental law. And that’s what I spent my entire career doing.” Now, he naturally has no regrets.

Becoming a Professor

While working his day job, Thomas noticed that a small college in Philadelphia called Holy Family University was looking to hire an adjunct professor of environmental science. “That’s perfect for me,” he thought. “I have my master’s in environmental science, I like doing it, and I don’t get as much of an opportunity as a lawyer other than augmenting what I do in the legal profession. So I thought it’d be fun to go ahead and teach.” 

He had done some teaching while at Harvard, and surprised himself with how much he enjoyed it. He got the job, and for the first year, strictly taught environmental science. He avoided teaching law, instead trying to relegate it to his day job, but eventually the university talked him into it. So unfolded (his again rather ignominious) journey to teaching law, including courses on HR law, business law, and particularly, negotiations. Around a decade later, McGeorge reached out. “I really enjoy it. It makes you yourself continue to learn, which is one of the most fascinating things about the role of teaching.”

A Wide Lens and Accessible Approach

Environmental law is a multidisciplinary field with a lot of crossover between water rights and protection as well as dealing with the government, because “It’s hard to do one without the other. And that’s, I think, both inherent and the thing I enjoy about the practice. It really does require you to be multidisciplinary.” Some legal professionals choose a very narrow focus, but Thomas likes the diversity of a water law issue one day and a zoning problem the next. “I think that’s what makes it exciting and keeps it fresh, and it keeps you on your toes, because you have to keep abreast of all these different areas of law.”

Though a little reluctant when he first started online instruction many years ago, Thomas has since become much more open and excited about the potential possibilities, “and a lot of it has to do with the technological advances that occurred because of COVID. It really forced us to get good at this stuff. I think it’s closer to being seamless.” He identifies the asynchronous course structure, which “really makes it accessible to students who, because of their jobs or family, wouldn’t otherwise be able to partake in the course. And I think that’s a huge plus.” There are certain benefits to be gained from in-person learning, he acknowledges, but genuinely believes that the benefits outweigh it.

Online Learning Success

For the benefits to sink in, however, students can aim to meet some key success factors. “You have to be able to work independently and motivate yourself,” he warns. But don’t be alarmed if you have thrived in conventional classrooms and need some extra reinforcement. “I meet with students all the time. We have phone calls and Zoom sessions, but it’s a little different than being in the classroom and being able to grab the professor after class to ask a question. So If you are a self-motivated person, and you’ve got a busy life, I think this is a great format in order to take your classes.”

Another thing to keep in mind is the social element of traditional versus online classes. Thomas recognizes that some hallmark student experiences, like meeting up with each other after class or forming spontaneous study groups, can be lacking. But if the social aspect of school is important to you, you can still reach out to your classmates and form relationships. When you do, you’ll likely find recent graduates from college looking to jumpstart vibrant futures, established professionals moving towards a career change, and government workers expanding into new and more advanced levels. “It’s very diverse,” he concludes. 

Overall, Thomas is satisfied and proud of both the work he does and the students he teaches. His final piece of advice could double as pure encouragement; “If there’s anyone who ever had any hesitation about taking courses in the online format, I would recommend you give it a try. I think it’s an entirely new environment that you can teach in now. And I think students seem to enjoy it.”

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Part-Time Master Degree

A Part-Time Master’s Degree for Working Professionals

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” That investment, however, can be tough. 

After high school, completing any degree can strain both your time and resources. While many students aim to obtain their advanced degrees as full-time students, this isn’t always the case. Those earning advanced degrees may have already started their career. They might be looking to advance professionally or even start anew, but being a full-time student would prove difficult. Leaving your job could not only hurt you financially, but could hurt any forward momentum you built at work.

Master’s degrees can also help you grow in your career, giving you educational expertise that makes you a more competitive employee. So what is the solution for the working professional who still wants to further their education? Becoming a part-time student.

University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law’s part-time MSL programs were designed to be completed alongside your current career goals. You get the best of both worlds.

Part-Time Master Degree

The Importance of a Master’s Degree

Many careers don’t require a master’s degree, but having one gives you an upper hand in the workforce. According to the United States Census Bureau in 2022, the highest level of education of the population age 25 and older in the United States ranged from:

  • 9% had less than a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • 28% had completed high school.
  • 15% had completed some college, but not a degree.
  • 10% had an associate degree.
  • 23% had a bachelor’s degree.
  • 14% had completed advanced education such as a master’s degree, professional degree, or doctorate.

Being a part of that 14% makes you a more desirable job candidate in any competitive pool.

Where an MSL Can Take You

A Master of Science in Law (MSL) degree is unique; it is a master’s degree that gives students a legal perspective critical to their career fields. Students with an MSL do not graduate as attorneys, but work in areas dealing with law such as lobbying, policy, and politics. An MSL degree teaches you skills in legal reasoning and analysis, and makes it easier to deal with everyday law-related issues.Knowledge of the legal system is a powerful tool. 

Flexibility for Working Professionals

Pausing employment for a degree is often impossible. Many people incur debt through their bachelor’s degree, and being a full-time master’s student would only increase that number. Student loan debt in the United States totals $1.757 trillion. Working while getting your master’s can help you pay your tuition costs and prevent spending years without a salary. 

Being in school while working can also help your career networking furthers your professional goals. A University of the Pacific degree comes with a large and respected alumni community of graduate and JD students, offering significant opportunities to students who seek to expand their professional networks. You can also apply the skills you learned in class to your professional life. If you were not dealing with contracts before, for example, our course in Contracts/Analytical Skills can get you up to speed. As you learn, you can apply those skills in real-time and increase your value to your employer. 

Why Choose University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

A part-time program’s flexibility for working professionals only increases when it goes online? McGeorge School of Law has flexible online MSL degrees in Government Law and Policy, and Water and Environmental Law that are fully online. As a bonus, classes are asynchronous, allowing students to pick a schedule that works for them. Whether you work business hours or perhaps have a schedule involving nights
and weekends, your educational journey won’t suffer.  

Our students graduate with the ability to:

  • Review and understand agreements such as contracts 
  • Review and draft proposed local, state, and federal laws and regulations 
  • Understand and comply with regulatory requirements for specific industries
  • Work with attorneys and compliance officers 

We help you design an innovative and interactive curriculum that meets your goals. The need for legal skills in non-lawyer jobs continues to grow. You’ll graduate from our program with a competitive edge that helps you gain jobs and an enhanced resume. 

Ready to advance your professional and personal goals? Contact our admissions office today at graduatelaw@pacific.edu to find out and get started.

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Public Policy Careers

Top Public Policy Careers after Earning an MSL

A public policy career is a career where you can create space for impact. Whether it is working within public interest law or for the federal government, influencing policy in political science, or lobbying for change, public policy careers have the capability to enact lasting change.

The career paths for someone interested in public policy have a wide range and therefore can serve a variety of interests. One common denominator, regardless of which path you choose, is that you want to be more marketable for job opportunities.

An MSL can help you achieve that goal Earning your Master of Science in Law (MSL) will not only increase your depth of knowledge but enhance career advancement. If you’re looking to work in public policy and further your education, look no further than McGeorge School of Law. Our MSL in Law, Government, and Public Policy is designed for local, state, and federal agency employees, and for lobbyists, legislative staff, and others who seek to enhance their skills in lawmaking, regulation, election law, and lobbying but who do not require a traditional law degree for success.

Public Policy Careers

Why Earn An MSL?

At any given time, millions of Americans are looking for jobs, but in the United States, only about 14.3% of adults in the U.S. have advanced degrees. Having an MSL gives you an extra advantage when it comes to securing the job you want. Not only would an MSL give you a higher degree of knowledge, but having a concentration in Government Law & Policy could give you a leg up on your competition for these public policy careers.

McGeorge gives our students practical training in the areas of law and policy theory, how to understand the nuances of legal protocol, and learn how lawyers think. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to network with faculty and experts as well as with other students and alumni. By the end, you’ll increase your credibility with a publishable piece of research that, coupled with a research-focused MSL, can be a gateway to Ph.D. work if you so desire.

Through our MSL coursework, you’ll be better equipped to:

  • Review and understand agreements such as contracts;
  • Review and draft proposed local, state, and federal laws and regulations;
  • Understand and comply with regulatory requirements for specific industries; and
  • Work with attorneys and compliance officers.

These skills can make the job search easier.

Career Options After Earning Your Degree

Are you wondering where you could go after earning your public policy degree? Our public policy program graduates have advanced to: 

  • Analyst
  • Regulatory compliance officer and due diligence
  • Human resources representative
  • Contracts and grants officer
  • Management consultant
  • Government officials and public agency staff
  • Courtroom clerk
  • Healthcare practitioner
  • Legislative aide
  • Lobbyist and government affairs
  • Political scientists
  • Program manager
  • Water resources or environmental engineer
  • Journalist or policy reporter
  • Land use planner
  • Environmental or public agency consultant
  • Policy advocate

There is no shortage of options when it comes to your career after obtaining a master’s in government law and policy.

Why McGeorge?

In addition to the highlights and benefits mentioned above, our program has one more important component that distinguishes us: flexibility. Our MSL program is completely online. Students have a part-time schedule and our classes are asynchronous so you can study on a schedule that works for you. Life obligations don’t need to be cast aside as you further your education. And if you have a career already that you are looking to enhance, you don’t need to pause while you obtain your degree. An online MSL is ideal when it comes to pursuing your professional and personal goals.

So, what are you waiting for? Contact McGeorge’s Office of Admissions today to get started.

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Lobbying and Advocacy

Lobbying and Advocacy in the Political Arena with Chris Micheli

Lobbying and Advocacy - McGeorge School of Law

The term “Lobbying” may bring up all sorts of reactions, from positive to negative. Underneath any preconceptions, however, lobbying is a deeply important part of the democratic process that allows for a diverse range of voices and perspectives to be heard by elected officials. 

 

McGeorge School of Law presented a webinar analyzing a career in lobbying and advocacy. Clémence Kucera, Assistant Dean for the Graduate, Online, and International Programs, guided the event and was joined by guest speaker Chris Micheli. 

 

Chris is an adjunct professor in McGeorge School of Law’s JD and online MSL programs. He teaches the Legislatures and Lawmaking, and Lobbying and Politics courses. Chris is uniquely qualified thanks to his real-world experience as a lobbyist for over 25 years. He became the founding partner of Aprea & Micheli, Inc., a governmental relations and advocacy firm in Sacramento, California.

A Constitutional Right

The United States Constitution guarantees the right to petition the government, or what we now know as lobbying. This right allows individuals and organizations to express their views on issues and policies that affect them directly or indirectly. Lobbyists work at all three levels of government: for example, California includes 58 counties, 482 cities, and several thousand special districts, all of which involve lobbyists. 

Chris breaks down the role of a lobbyist in simple terms. “We spend a lot of time explaining how proposed legislation or regulations might impact a client either positively or negatively, and then the rest of the time again we spend advocating, arguing, or advocating for or against a particular proposal, bill, or regulation.” They bring expertise and knowledge on specific policy issues that can help lawmakers make more informed decisions. “I like to sometimes say that we’re all lobbyists, debating where you’re going to go to dinner or what you want for your birthday party. We all do it to some extent,” he points out. 

Ethical Foundations

There are legal and ethical requirements that lobbyists must adhere to in order to ensure transparency and fairness in the lobbying process. For example, California lobbyists must register, and disclose projects and spending. “That’s all a matter of public record. You can go to the Secretary of State website today and look up a lobbyist or their employer, so there’s a great deal of transparency.”

Lobbyists must also be truthful in their communications and avoid engaging in any activities that could be considered bribery or influence peddling. For example, lobbyists in California cannot provide a gift in excess of ten dollars. These requirements help to ensure that lobbying is conducted in a manner that benefits both the government and the public as a whole. 

Advocacy and Making Your Voice Heard

Advocacy is a key part of lobbying. Advocacy involves arguing for or against a particular proposal, bill, or regulation; educating lawmakers about how proposed legislation or regulations might impact their clients; and presenting alternative solutions or compromises to lawmakers.

Lobbying is key in the political arena for many reasons. “It’s important for people who are regulated by the government to have a voice in that regulation,” Chris reminds us. Also, since lobbyists utilize taxpayers’ dollars, it’s part of the democratic process for the recipients of those funds to then educate and advocate with the legislature. “As I said from the outset, the right to petition our government is a fundamental First Amendment right under our Federal Constitution.” Let’s make the most of it, and do so wisely. 

Becoming a Lobbyist

Though the process of becoming a lobbyist varies from state to state, in California, anyone can register and get started and form their own services company — but being successful at it is another story. “Having the expertise and the knowledge makes a big difference.” 

The majority of lobbyists have some background in the field. McGeorge’s program fills the gap, especially when incorporating a concentration like Government Law and Policy. (something Chris is well aware of as an adjunct faculty member.) “A number of my colleagues and staff in the lobbying sector have been pursuing their MSL,” Chris reports. “We’re trying to provide practical skills for the MSL graduate so that you really come out of the program, especially if you pursue one of these concentrations, with some practical knowledge and the ability to begin operating in those particular areas of subject matter expertise.” 

A Key to Your Future. A Key to Democracy. 

If you’re inspired by now, you can pursue a future in lobbying at McGeorge, and do it all online. The Master of Science in Law (MSL) program grants a law degree to individuals who do not intend to practice law — but who do, in fact, benefit enormously from gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to understand the law and its implications on public policy. This innovative MSL program is also designed for working professionals and offers five concentrations. It is taught in an asynchronous manner, meaning students can complete coursework on their own schedule.

Apply today!

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Masters in Environmental Law

Change Your Career, Change the World. Earn a Masters in Environmental Law

Environmental activist and novelist Wendell Berry once said, “The Earth is all we have in common.” Yet, we’re living in a time of serious environmental concerns. According to NOAA‘s 2021 Annual Climate Report, the combined land and ocean temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.14 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1880. Even worse, the average rate of increase since 1981 has been more than twice as fast: 0.32 °F per decade. Many of the impacts of global warming are now simply “irreversible” according to the UN’s latest assessment.

It’s hard not to feel powerless in our present  situation, but there is still hope. This is where environmental law comes in. Environmental law encompasses the aspect of the law that protects the land, air, sea, and all of the living things inhabiting it. Any person can make a significant impact, especially if you are an integral part of long-term policy or litigation. 

If you’re passionate about our planet and considering environmental law, earning your LLM or MSL gives you a specialization going into your career. McGeorge School of Law has both LLM and MSL options for our water and environmental law program, and either option will help you develop a depth of knowledge in environmental, water resources, regulatory compliance, or public agency law.

Masters in Environmental Law

What You Can Do With a Degree

You may be wondering where your career can go after earning your MSL or LLM in water law. For those with an LLM, practicing law and working for an environmental law firm is an obvious choice after finishing your legal degree, but you can practice law or otherwise further your personal mission in other ways. With either an LLM or MSL degree, you can become a legislative advocate, an elected official, a federal or state agency employee, or work with an environmental nonprofit. In fact, many of those who earn this type of degree find work with government agencies, particularly when utilizing the student, alumni, and professional connections that McGeorge has to offer. Each path allows you to influence and advocate for laws and policies that help preserve our environment and sustain Earth’s resources for present and future generations.

One person can make a difference. Use your degree and passion to make a start, and to reach out to others to combine talents to create change — change that is good for your future as an individual, society as a whole, and the Earth on which we depend.

What McGeorge Has to Offer

McGeorge School of Law is a fantastic option for obtaining your MSL or LLM in environmental law. The law school is located in Sacramento, the capital of California. As a result, McGeorge has deep and longstanding relationships with those working in the California State Capitol. McGeorge’s location has influenced and shaped our focus on public policy, law, and advocacy. Our faculty members and program team are distinguished in their fields, working on the cutting edge of change. McGeorge students are also able to learn from panels of experts who are focused on new frontiers in water and environmental law. McGeorge offers these and other opportunities to enhance our students’ coursework.

One more important note: our environmental law program is available online. Students complete the degree by participating in asynchronous courses either part-time or full-time. This format grants seasoned attorneys, recent law school graduates, or foreign-educated legal professionals the opportunity to develop a depth of knowledge in a specialized area of environmental, water resources, regulatory compliance, or public agency law. Whether you are working, have other life obligations to honor while you further your education and your career, or are able to jump in as a full-time student, McGeorge has options. Additionally, our students can take practical government law and policy courses to understand the intersection between natural resources and government. McGeorge’s ties to policy work in the state’s capital also provides a potential career advantage for our graduates.

The renowned author Leo Tolstoy once said, “One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between man and nature shall not be broken.” In working toward environmental protection, you work to strengthen that link. You work to leave the world a better place than you found it.

Does this sentiment resound with your passion and purpose? Contact our admissions office today to begin your journey.

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Career Outcomes after Earning an MSL

Top Career Outcomes after Earning an MSL Degree in Government Law & Policy

McGeorge School of Law hosted a webinar titled, “Top Career Outcomes after Earning an MSL Degree in Government Law & Policy,” in which they explained not just what to expect during your time as a student, but after graduation from McGeorge School of Law’s online MSL degree program. Clémence Kucera, Assistant Dean for the Graduate, Online, and International Programs, welcomed guest speaker Sarah Kerber to participate in the discussion,

Sarah is an alumna who graduated in 2018. She chose the Government Law and Policy concentration and now serves as the Senior Manager of Strategic Projects and Performance at Sacramento Regional Transit. She talked about her current role, her experience as a McGeorge online student, and how the degree helped launch her career.

The Foundation of a Successful Career

Sarah works in strategic projects that are closely related to a lot of the policy and large-scale initiatives of the agency. She manages the strategic plan, helps write policy documents, and moves procedures forward. In her management position, she works closely with the Executive Office and the agency’s Governmental Relations Office.

As for projects, she is currently busy developing a Training and Workforce Development Department. On top of that, she leads much of the diversity, equity and inclusion initiative. Basically, she admits to doing a little of everything. “It’s been very exciting, and I really think that the training that I got from McGeorge comes through in every aspect of the work that I do. I really enjoyed going through the MSL program, and found that the courses I was able to take are still very relevant and meaningful to the work that I’m doing even now.

Forward Momentum

Prior to enrollment, Sarah was working at the Governmental Relations Office as an assistant at the California School Employees Association. Five years passed, and try as she might, she was struggling with career advancement. She then had a rather serendipitous run-in with a professor who suggested that she look into the MSL program at McGeorge. Needless to say, she applied and was accepted.

Sarah worked full-time while studying, which was naturally an intense period of growth. But it paid off. “I took my courses, and immediately upon getting out just I was able to start interviewing places. I was getting my foot in the door for those higher level positions.” She targeted her education towards a particular role. She acknowledges that McGeorge, “prepared me really well to get into the Department of Finance, then to move beyond it to the next level.”

Remarkable Growth

Perhaps most encouragingly of all, Sarah’s experience is not singular. One of her best friends in the program focused on labor and employment law to great success: she works for the UC Davis Medical Center and, Sarah reports, just got promoted – again. “Everything that we learned at McGeorge, she was able to instantly start applying to her career. She’s been able to grow in really remarkable ways.” Sarah has another friend who is a policy consultant for the state senate, and uses her degree to work on legislation that she feels interested and invested in.

Sarah says it’s been a gift that just keeps on giving. “And those are just my MSL friends, right? One of the great things about McGeorge is that you get a very close-knit community of graduates in both the JD program and the MSL program, and they’re everywhere.” Networking consequently comes easily. “It’s a wonderful community if you plan on working in or around Sacramento in government, public policy, and state agencies. I cannot recommend the program highly enough.” It’s not just Sacramento where you’ll find fellow alumni in action, too. McGeorge’s vibrant community extends to all 50 states. 

Connections for Life

The program’s design, focusing on practical skills, certainly helped contribute to a student’s post-grad career success. At one point, Sarah was volunteering at a local nonprofit and actively involved in real-time cases. Then, a professor brought up her very nonprofit experience in class.  “It’s interesting to see how, even down to my volunteer work, everything that I learned in the program continues to come up as useful and meaningful right now.”

She advises future students to never take resources for granted, and continue to make the most of this incredible community. “Take advantage of any connections that you make through the program and really get that advice. McGeorge’s resources absolutely helped in making decisions about where I wanted to end up professionally.

Interested in applying to McGeorge School of Law’s Online MSL program? Apply now!

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Clemence Kucera

Faculty Spotlight with Clemence Kucera

Clémence Kucera is the Assistant Dean for the Graduate, Online, and International Programs at McGeorge School of Law. She had a remarkable trajectory, dedicated passion, and distinct goals, all of which she describes in our latest McGeorge Faculty Spotlight blog.

Clémence Kucera grew up partially in Egypt and actually attended law school in Paris, France, where she found her passion for international development. She moved to California to be with her husband, where she received her LLM from none other than McGeorge School of Law. She was quickly hired at McGeorge to support the Global Center for Business & Development through securing grants. 

Developing a Passion

A dedication to international development led her to work on a multi-year program with law schools in China, training professionals in legal education. “International development work has always been my passion. I’ve always had that desire to work with other countries and other cultures,” she says. 

On a personal level, however, traveling to China every month became complicated when she and her husband began growing their family. So when the former director of the LLM programs retired, Clémence accepted her new position. From there, she played a significant role in the creation of the MSL program, which has received acclaim for its innovative curriculum and approach. And she still loves her work. “It fits with my passion to educate people in the law so they have the resources to navigate the complex world we live in.”

Clémence’s broad perspective and extensive background in international development has helped her create a program that bridges the gap between traditional law school education and the real-world experience that law students need to succeed in the global market.

Helping Students Achieve Their Goals

Clémence’s role as the assistant for graduate online and international programs involves assisting students through various steps such as recruitment and admission. “Our department is like a small school within the big school that aims to be a one-stop-shop for students.” Recognizing that the graduate school experience can be overwhelming, she often focuses her energy on individualized attention to each student. 

“The most exciting part is working with the students after they are admitted and helping them with their course selections. We talk a lot about which courses make the most sense for them in achieving their current goals.” She’s also there if they need her when those goals and priorities shift. “It’s super exciting to see our students going through the program.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Clémence is committed to constantly advancing and improving the program. Her work with the alumni office provides the perfect opportunity. “The other part that I love is meeting with our MSL graduates to ask if there is anything else that they think we should teach, and what they think people with this degree should know.  Their professions change with the law.” She likes to hear feedback from students and make a plan of action to address their notes. The positive feedback she often hears serves a purpose, too. Nothing beats a student saying, “This is the class that made it for me. This is the class where I learned the skills that led me to the job that I have right now.” She personalizes and customizes each students’ trajectory to the best of her ability. “I want them to feel heard.” 

The McGeorge Edge

Since McGeorge is the only ABA-accredited law school in Sacramento, there is naturally a tight-knit community. Anyone with a legal background in the city is likely to be a McGeorge graduate – especially those employed in government, environmental law, and water law. “Because we have a smaller program, we get to know all of them, stay in touch, and celebrate their success stories.” 

Her passion for international development has led to a pursuit of strong interpersonal and community connections, which has helped her create programs that bridge the gap between traditional law school education and the real-world experience that law students need to succeed in the global market. “There are a lot of things that you can do with an MSL degree. So if you’re wondering, ‘Is this the right degree? Why should I do that?’ then listen to our webinars, read our blogs, and meet with us when you can.” 

Clémence can even put you in touch with McGeorge alumni, because she knows the importance of making those connections as soon as possible. “They know what McGeorge has to offer, they practice in the field, and they have all the connections you need to start your network. You don’t have to wait until you’re graduating from the MSL to start your networking – you can start as you’re applying!” Her goal is always to best serve and prepare her students. “If you’re trying to enter a specific field, make sure you stand out from others. I think the MSL can give you that edge, and we can guide you.”

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Policy Advocate

Advance Your Policy Advocate Career

Policy Advocate

The umbrella of public policy and advocacy encompasses many different career paths, which is good news if you’re interested in pursuing one of them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for public policy workers is expected to grow by 13% by 2024. While an advanced degree is not mandatory for a career in this field, 48% of people obtain one. An advanced degree in Public Policy and Advocacy, such as a Master of Studies in Law (MSL), gives you deeper knowledge and expertise, making you more marketable in terms of employment. 

McGeorge School of Law offers an MSL in Government Law and Policy. Our courses empower our students with the knowledge, professional skills, and broadened perspective required to succeed in a rapidly changing legal environment.

What Is Public Policy Advocacy?

Public policy advocacy encompasses a wide range of career possibilities and job duties. Essentially, advocates influence decision-makers – those making the laws and policies of our nations. Public policy advocacy can include:

  • Lobbying
  • Public education
  • Capacity building
  • Leadership development
  • Litigation 

Policy advocates become experts on specific issues and create a dialogue between stakeholders and government decision-makers. This involves creating proposals and then recommendations to alter existing policies, or creating new ones. Public policy advocates should be trusted advisors and respected professionals in their dealings, regardless of industry. Effective advocacy involves knowing where and when to exert your influence.

Why We Advocate

Public policy advocates are important because they strive to achieve the greatest good for the communities they serve. Law and policymakers cannot know everything, so advocates provide additional knowledge to lawmakers. Experts in their field can advise lawmakers on nuances they may not have been aware of. Advocacy ensures that the community:

  • Has their rights protected and promoted
  • Has their voice heard on issues that are important and affect their lives
  • Has their views, wishes, and concerns considered when decisions are made and laws created that can affect their daily lives

Advocates are a crucial part of the democratic system, promoting an informed, healthy, and strong democratic society. They raise awareness for issues that otherwise would not have gained traction. Public policy advocates are an important bridge between policymakers and their constituents. 

How McGeorge’s MSL Program Can Advance Your Public Advocacy Career

McGeorge’s MSL program in Government Law and Policy was built on our nationally-ranked program in public law at McGeorge’s renowned Capital Center for Law & Policy. Here, you learn from professors and practitioners who are experts in law, legislative processes, regulation, and policymaking. 

With so many paths for a public policy advocate, you might think that a law degree is the only advanced degree option. Our program is designed for local, state, and federal agency employees, as well as lobbyists, legislative staff, and others who seek to enhance their skills in lawmaking, regulation, election law, and lobbying but who do not require a traditional law degree to succeed. With our courses, you gain real-world knowledge and develop practical skills. Our faculty are chosen for their outstanding teaching methods as well as their surpassing knowledge in government law and policy, enabling you to build marketable expertise under their guidance.

Our entire program takes place online, a structure that serves our students. Courses are asynchronous, meaning that students do not need to be online at any specific time. Students can schedule their coursework around other commitments. Whether you are employed or have other personal obligations, you can obtain your MSL without missing a beat. We help you personalize a coursework plan that meets your goals while being effective and engaging. 

If you strive to make an impact in the world through public policy and advocacy, contact McGeorge School of Law today to get started. 

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Online MSL Student

Hear from Current Online MSL Student, Savanna Sanders

In our most recent webinar, we had the pleasure of talking with a current online MSL student,  Savanna Sanders. She kindly joined us for a fun and informal conversation that nonetheless provided some great insights into the day-to-day life as a McGeorge online MSL student of Water and Environmental Law. Savanna now serves as a water resource planner with experience in state-wide water planning, water resource management, CEQA and NEPA compliance, regulatory compliance, and environmental fieldwork at Zanjero Inc., where she’s busy advising, managing, and solving the resource management issues faced by clients. 

Savanna chose to study at McGeorge School of Law because she knew that she wanted to specifically focus on water law and water resources. Though interested in law, she didn’t need to commit to a full JD degree to advance in her career. After identifying her goals, she discovered that this part-time online MSL program catered to working professionals and helped them manage work, life, and school. It was a perfect fit. Also, as a Sacramento resident, it was extremely important that she attended a localized school so she could build a professional network within the community. 

Online MSL Student Applies Knowledge in Real Time

Savanna only recently landed her role at a small water resources consulting firm here in Sacramento, Ca. Her new employers and mentors, meanwhile, have over 30 years of experience as lawyers, engineers, and planners, making the workplace a fantastic melting pot of legal, financial, technical, and engineering projects. The variety is exciting and comes with a steep learning curve, so she wanted to understand it deeper; McGeorge’s all-encompassing MSL in Water and Environmental Law was the ideal complement. 

Savanna says her schooling directly aligns with her day-to-day work, “so it’s almost funny because what I end up reading or listening to in my lectures is typically what my projects end up needing. I’m really learning and applying my knowledge in real-time.”

Due to the intensity of her job, she was advised to take 1 class per semester, which turned out to be a wise decision – at her previous job, which was less demanding, she was taking 2 per semester. “I’m really grateful that the MSL program has that flexibility to change with you as time goes on,” she says. McGeorge certainly takes flexibility seriously, from professors planning due dates that take students’ professional responsibilities into consideration, to the asynchronous course structure.

Becoming Part of the Change

Savanna is primarily interested in becoming a water resource specialist because she wants to deeply understand how water systems, management, and law work, especially in her home state of California. Living in this trend center for other Western states, she has witnessed first-hand how much work needs to be done (for example, the grueling droughts that have plagued the landscape). She hopes that, as she continues to improve her knowledge of this area, she can be part of the change.

“I feel this importance to be in my home state, and to do what I can to learn how we can help save such a vital resource. Water is life, and we should all develop a deeper respect and appreciation for it. The more that I get to know myself and to ask myself questions about what I want to do in my life and what I value, it becomes more and more clear to me that I need to focus on water and advocate for the environment,” she said.

She’s already looking for ways to impact the planet’s future in a positive way, something we’re so proud to hear about from our students. “Every day I learn something new. I like to think of it as another piece of the puzzle, and I’m putting it all together, and the MSL program was the starting piece. Every day at work I see how problems are solved, so I develop deeper perspectives. I look forward to building my career and ultimately focusing my life’s work in this area,” she said.

She currently works under a watermaster who is in charge of a basin down in Southern California. She is also currently in a Water Law class with a research project assignment. When she put these puzzle pieces together and chose that particular basin for her project, well, she basically got to be paid to do her homework! “It has allowed me to just gain so much more knowledge on what my work is going to be in my career. It’s been a really fun couple of months for me when my job relates to my schooling.” The rest of her coursework includes discussion posts designed to engage students in the Socratic Method, readings, quizzes, and the occasional paper. “I really enjoy this learning style.”

Manageable and So Fulfilling

Now, she feels that she can offer some of those deeper perspectives to other current or prospective students. “First, I would like to say that it’s okay and normal to feel nervous. This is a big life step, but it’s totally manageable and it’s so fulfilling,” she said. She advises accomplishing something related to school 6 days per week but taking one day off to decompress. “Especially if you’re working full time and taking two classes per semester, it will be necessary to build a strong weekly schedule and to break up tasks into small daily goals,” Sanders said.

Another tip? Reach out to your classmates. Savanna posted on the discussion board to say that she’d be studying at the library weekly, and invited any other local students to join her. “It can be hard to build connections when you’re in an online program, but it’s much more enjoyable when you can meet other students. And so I personally made some really, truly amazing friends in this program,” she said. Go to school functions, get on the email list, attend talks, communicate via discussion board posts, and use office hours to connect with professors. Basically, find your opportunities when and wherever you can!

“Honestly, I would say it has made my career. I knew it was going to elevate me to the next level, and I got my dream job as a current student. So don’t be afraid to try something that seems out of reach. Your education is something that can never be taken from you, and if you are passionate and want to go further in your understanding of law, environment, water, and government, you have nothing to lose by completing this program. It’s a stepping stone for career growth and employers want you because you have this degree.” She makes a good point. When you stop to think about it, “technically, you’re teaching yourself on the side, so your employers don’t have to. It’s a benefit for them that you’re providing yourself with an education.” We’re just happy to have an enthusiastic, hardworking, and passionate student like Savanna grace the McGeorge legacy.

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