MSL Degree

Why Pursue an Online MSL Degree at McGeorge?

MSL Degree

When applying to schools for your Master of Science in Law (MSL) degree, there are many factors to consider. The first is the specialty you want to pursue. If your interest is in government law, public policy, or water or environmental regulations, McGeorge is the place for you.

McGeorge School of Law has consistently been an internationally recognized leader in legal education since its establishment in 1924. The university is located in Sacramento, California, but the school’s online MSL program allows its tradition of excellence to be accessible to everyone—from recent graduates to working professionals. There are many reasons why pursuing an online MSL degree at McGeorge is an excellent choice. Here are our top six reasons:

Gain Expertise in a Particular Area of Law

Master of Science in Law programs allows you to gain knowledge and specialize in a certain area of law without going to law school. An MSL degree differs from a Master of Laws program (LL.M.). Unlike an LL.M., you do not need to possess a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or any other prior law degree to enroll in this program. Obtaining your MSL degree gives you legal experience for a non-lawyer career

McGeorge’s MSL students build marketable expertise for effective use as a non-lawyer. Expert faculty are chosen for their outstanding teaching and their depth of knowledge in government law, public policy, water resources, or environmental law offering insight and guidance. Courses emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. 

Increase Career Options

Breaking into certain areas of law can be challenging. Some organizations require experience working in the field. Others want to see that you specialized in that area. If you are not a licensed attorney, many careers in law still require you to have your J.D. However, “many” is not “all” and the need for legal skills in non-lawyer jobs continues to grow. By obtaining your MSL degree, you showcase a deeper knowledge of the field. And, as a result, you can increase your career options.

The school’s network is another consideration for your career. McGeorge has 45 full-time and 50 part-time professors who are nationally and internationally renowned in their fields. There are professors who have held major positions in government, leading law firms, and all segments of the industry, and who impart real-world knowledge to our students. McGeorge also boasts an impressive alumni network that can help current students and recent graduates further their careers. 

Obtain a Promotion

The beauty of an MSL degree at McGeorge is that you can obtain the degree with flexibility. Our fully online MSL degree programs let you take your courses from home, school, or wherever else works for you. Plus, you can enroll in the program as a part-time student, allowing maximum flexibility for working professionals getting their degree. 

As a working professional enhancing their knowledge-base, completing an MSL degree puts you in a strong position to obtain a promotion. The added qualifications can help you grow professionally, immediately, and indefinitely.

Change Fields or Start a Career

Changing your career can feel a lot like a leap of faith, but there are many professionals who accomplish a change or start their career anew. While it might seem intimidating, it can lead to personal and professional happiness. Whether you are coming from a similar career or doing something completely different, getting a degree in the field helps. The program and degree give you a starting point in learning a new field. You also gain experience to put on your resume. An MSL at McGeorge can prepare you for a career change by providing you with knowledge and skills.  You will also gain the confidence to enter and succeed in your new role.

Increase Job Security

Your MSL degree can benefit your career path in different ways, including by increasing your overall job security. Completing McGeorge’s online MSL degree can help you better understand aspects of your job. It can also help you advance your role or shift into something new. Either way, you will see increased job security. Your options are not only opened but solidified. You become more indispensable with the knowledge that the MSL degree program teaches you.

Gain access to Ph.D. and Post-doctoral research programs

You may be in a position where you hope to pursue a Ph.D. in a field related to the MSL program specializations. While a Master’s degree is not required to complete your Ph.D., it can definitely help. Having your MSL can strengthen your application and open up opportunities for Ph.D. and post-doctoral research programs. 


Pursuing your MSL degree at McGeorge has many benefits. Our program is innovative with an interactive curriculum. Reaping the program’s benefits, however, does not restrict you to a campus classroom at McGeorge.  Your degree can be completed with flexibility thanks to the program’s online options. Advancing your professional growth becomes easier with an M.S.L. degree from McGeorge School of Law. Contact our admissions office to find out more.

Why Pursue an Online MSL Degree at McGeorge? Read More »

McGeorge Student Interviews

McGeorge’s Online MSL is Helping Legal Professionals From Diverse Backgrounds

McGeorge Student InterviewsThe McGeorge Master of Science in Law online programs prepare professionals in various fields and positions to work in law or in roles that intersect with legal issues. The MSL provides students with the legal knowledge and skills required to enhance their current jobs without the need to practice law.

McGeorge offers two online Master of Science in Law degrees – Water and Environment Law and Government Law and Policy. These programs are meant for recent graduates and working professionals and are on a part-time schedule with asynchronous courses. The MSL programs are designed to be interactive so that you can engage on a weekly basis with faculty and your classmates. The flexible curriculum allows you to study on the schedule that works best for you.

Students who enroll in these degree programs are from diverse backgrounds and work in varied professions. McGeorge recently spoke with several students who started the MSL program a few weeks prior. The interview sessions provided considerable insight into why they chose the program and how they plan to leverage the degree in their careers.


Bret Gladfelty

Bret GladfeltyBret Gladfelty is enrolled in the MSL in Government Law and Policy. After receiving his BA in Finances from Santa Clara University, Bret worked for a nonprofit where he became interested in an advocacy role. He is currently working as a contract lobbyist with the Apex Group. His job regularly interacts with the California code and many facets of the law. He feels that the MSL degree would help him better understand the law. Bret’s primary motivation for applying to the MSL is to be a better advocate and lobbyist.

Another key reason Bret chose McGeorge was the convenience of the online courses. He often travels for work not only as a lobbyist, but also as the commercial pilot for the firm, and an in-person program would have been challenging to manage with his schedule. “Having that flexibility is key in order for me to take the course. Otherwise, I would definitely miss some classes.” He was also influenced by colleagues who had completed the MSL program and advised him that it was beneficial for their careers as lobbyists. Bret’s father also attended McGeorge and received a JD in the 1980s.

Looking into his future, Bret sees the MSL as beneficial in reassuring prospective clients of his legal knowledge and abilities while interacting with the California Legislature. “I believe just having that extra degree displays that you have the dedication to learn more about the law.”


Heidi Mekkelson

Legal Professionals - Heidi MekkelsonHeidi Mekkelson is an environmental consultant and managing director at ICF in San Francisco. She has 19 years of experience in California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. Heidi is enrolled in the MSL in Water and Environmental Law program.

Heidi manages the preparation of environmental impact analyses pursuant to CEQA, which requires any public agency with discretionary authority to approve a project to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the project prior to approval. CEQA documents are often the subject of litigation, so lawyers thoroughly review the documents she prepares. She needs to be able to think like a lawyer and anticipate what they will want to see in her documents. “The MSL program teaches us how to interpret case law and statute, and how to apply legal analysis to our work, which are skills that are critical to my job.”

When she found McGeorge, she had been looking for a program that would expand her understanding of the law. Heidi chose the MSL at McGeorge for several reasons. “I loved the additional focus on water law. The subject of water resources has always been a favorite topic of mine. That extra layer was appealing.”

As a working professional with a full-time job and children, Heidi appreciates the program’s online format. “The asynchronous program is really the only option for me.” Although she is happy in her current position, Heidi is open to the possibilities the MSL degree will give her. “Whether it’s taking me to “next level” consultant status, improving the quality of the documents I prepare, or helping me pivot to a new career path, I know this program will do something great for my career.”


Jamaal Valentine

Legal Professionals - Jamaal ValentineJamaal Valentine holds a BA in Business Management and a Master of Business Administration, both degrees from the University of Phoenix. He served in the Air Force and is currently the Chief of the Contracting Office for the Department of Defense. In this role, Jamaal is responsible for buying goods and services that the government needs to operate using taxpayer dollars.

He feels that his MBA doesn’t help him in the Chief of the Contracting position because government contracting is unique. It doesn’t follow standard business practices. The MBA could not help him understand government operations. Although he receives regular training in his position, it hasn’t been particularly challenging.

Jamaal regularly works with judge advocate generals, which are basically government attorneys. There is a constant intersection with the law in his job. He feels that the Contract Law and Introduction to Legal Analysis courses are more structured than his on-the-job training. He joined the program because he is a life-long learner and to be a positive influence on his children.

“Now that I’m working with the California National Guard in a federal capacity, my hope is to be a better contracting officer and a better steward of the taxpayer dollars. Formal legal training will make it a reality.”


Nancy Beecher

Nancy BeecherNancy Beecher joined McGeorge’s MSL in Water and Environmental Law program. She has a Ph.D. from Indiana University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is a Senior Environmental Biologist at Southern Nevada Water Authority, where she helps ensure water for over two million residents and forty million annual visitors. Her main focus is providing scientific and writing expertise for water rights processes and environmental compliance efforts to support large water development projects. A major part of this work is blending biological, hydrologic, geospatial, and legal information to inform smart land and water resource management. She’s worked in the water profession for 15 years and wanted to grow professionally.

Water development projects have to meet many environmental legal requirements, so Nancy’s work regularly intersects with the law. But as a scientist, she felt limited by her lack of understanding of the law. She enrolled in the MSL program because she wanted to expand her knowledge from a legal perspective. She wants to understand the legal landscape, the current law, and cases popping up around the country regarding water and the environment.

“As a scientist, I want to be able to integrate that into my science and analysis.” Nancy appreciates McGeorge’s focus on water law as well as environmental law. “A water law class available to a nonlawyer is great because it’s so hard to find.”  

Nancy spent hours online searching for the right program to teach her about the law pertaining to the environment and water. She also needed it to be flexible enough to keep up with her demanding job. And with a family in tow, she did not have the option of moving to get that education. “McGeorge was unique because they really focus the program on professionals. People who are applying the law on a regular basis, but who also have jobs and families.”

She was happy to find that the program has both introductory and advanced law courses. As someone with no formal legal education, she is grateful for the introductory courses. She is also very excited to delve into the advanced classes that pertain to her field. “You get the complete package of the education you want.” 

The caliber of her cohort has been a pleasant surprise. She enjoys the different fields of interest and professions that her classmates have. The online aspect makes it easier for them all to fit school into their professional lives. And she’s excited by how passionate they are about why they’re in the program.

Nancy’s biggest reservation was wondering how much she would get from an online program. She was pleased to find there would be a few live sessions to give her a chance to connect with her professors and classmates. And the professors are very accommodating to the students. They have “Zoom office hours” and make themselves very available at the student’s preference. She also enjoys the convenience of the recorded classes.

Nancy saw benefits from the MSL program early on as she was able to apply what she learned in her very first class to her job the next day. Finally, Nancy added, “It’s worth the money and time – if you apply yourself. If your intention is to get the most out of the program, it’s worth it.”


Celine Takatsuno

Celine Takatsuno is the founder of Gracepoint Inc., where she provides global advisory and strategy consulting services to emerging technology companies and social impact startups.

Professionally, Celine is a generalist. She knew she didn’t want to be a litigator, but she was fascinated by the practice of law. Her work often crosses into legal areas in industries from advertising and media to caregiving and healthcare. She collaborates with lawyers in many aspects, including contracts and policy interpretation. Her current focus is on the dynamics of personal data privacy.-. “Technology and business are moving faster than legislation and policy,” she says, “I’d like to help bridge that.” 

Celine chose the MSL program at McGeorge for several reasons. She was searching for grad school programs in law or policy. And McGeorge stood out from other programs. She liked the school’s location in Sacramento and near the Capitol. She was also impressed with the program being based in a law school compared to other programs that were not. Celine said, “It has a lot of focus on critical analysis, legal reasoning, and there’s a lot of rigor coming from a law school. Those are probably the top reasons I chose it.”

Because she spends a great deal of time traveling, Celine wanted a hybrid or an online program. She likes the convenience of the recorded classes. “It’s so easy to take school on the road. That is super helpful.” In addition, she prefers to learn in a more self-directed environment.

An unexpected advantage to the program is the diversity of the students. Celine expected everyone to be early in their careers, with similar academic backgrounds. But instead, she found a diverse group. “I love the fact that we have these really, really accomplished professionals. The caliber of students is very motivating.”  

Deborah Keen

Legal Professionals - Deborah Keen Deborah Keen has been a high school government and legal studies teacher for many years. She has a BA from the University of North Texas in political science and always considered law school. Apart from her teaching position, Deborah is also a contract curriculum writer for agencies such as the Texas State Bar and the Center for American and International Law. In 2020, she was awarded Teacher of The Year by The American Lawyers Alliance for her efforts to promote quality civics education. She is currently enrolled in the MSL for Government Law and Policy program.

Deborah has a family and a career, but she wants to continue her education. She looked for programs that allowed her to study the law without having to become a lawyer. She does not wish to represent clients. Instead, her plans for the MSL degree are to advocate for public education and work alongside nonprofits. She likes the flexibility of the online program because it allows her to continue her work in education.

McGeorge’s online program is an excellent fit to help Deborah increase her knowledge. She felt other programs lacked the public policy focus she was looking for, whereas each class in McGeorge’s course list looked interesting and relevant to her career. “The courses, cost, the length of the program; I was impressed with what they offered, and I liked the government law and policy focus.”


Varied Backgrounds and Professions Have a Few Things in Common

Although the students are in varied professions and are at different levels of their careers, they have one common trait. They are incredibly pleased with the convenience of the online MSL program as it provides a way to continue their education while maintaining their current jobs.

Each student enrolled in either MSL program has different plans for their future. However, they are confident that McGeorge was the right choice. And they are excited about their courses and the positive impact the degree will have on their future careers.

Students build marketable expertise with the guidance of expert faculty chosen for outstanding teaching as well as the depth of knowledge in government law, water resources, or environmental law. Courses emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. The programs are convenient and are specifically designed for recent graduates and working professionals who need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations, and who want to further their education and advance their career.

Start building your career today with McGeorge School of Law Online. For more information, contact us at or 916.739.7019.

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California Water Law

Does California Water Law Need To Change To Address Climate Change?

Why California Water Law Is So Important

California’s arid climate contributes to its unique water conditions. Current laws provide a useful framework for managing water, but improvements are imperative if California is to provide safe drinking water, adapt to climate change, and protect its ecosystems. McGeorge’s professor of Water Resources Law, Jennifer Harder, described proposed reforms to California water law in a recent webinar. Professor Harder outlined changes recommended by a group of water law experts, which are intended to benefit all people and entities that rely on California’s water supply. Additionally, this blog discusses some positive news: the approved Senate Bill 389, which Professor Harder advocated and championed.
California Water Law

Nature of Drought in California

California experiences a special kind of scarcity, having water in the wrong places at the wrong time. Wet winters and springs and dry summers and falls are typical for the western region of the U.S., including California. In California, more rain and snow fall in the northern part of the states and the eastern mountains, and less in central and southern California. Professor Harder explains that these particular kinds of scarcity are why California is said to be in a perpetual drought. However, when California is not in a drought phase, it is often flooding; a symptom of California’s climate of extremes.
The New York Times recently reported that many states, including California, are in a so-called “megadrought.” These states are experiencing some of the driest conditions in a 20 – 30 year period that we’ve seen in centuries. And 30 – 50% of those conditions directly result from climate change.
California’s unique water conditions create several challenges for the state’s water laws. Professor Harder notes, “There are some elements to our water law that are very capable, very flexible, and allow California to address drought. There are other elements that need to be changed.”
The constitutional standard for water in California states that water must be put to reasonable, beneficial use to the fullest extent possible. Moreover, the property rights in water have both public and private elements. Specifically, the laws enacted by the state legislature say that water belongs to the people of the state, but the state may allocate the private rights to water to individuals.
In proposed changes to water laws, both the public interest and private rights in water will need to be accommodated. Climate change will also have to be taken into consideration, or both public and private interests will be significantly affected, resulting in serious water shortages.

A Triumph in Water Law Reforms

In 1978, then-California Governor Pat Brown presented the Governor’s Commission Report, which made important recommendations to reform California water rights law. The 1978 Governor’s Commission Report inspired a recent reform proposal, authored by a group of water law and policy experts, including Professor Harder. The final report of these experts, “Updating California Water Law to Address Drought and Climate Change,” was issued on February 3rd, 2022. The report proposed reforms in the following three key policy areas: 

  • Implementing the human right to water
  • Adjusting the tools available to the State Water Resources Control Board
  • Address the extinction crisis in California native fisheries

Specific recommendations relate to ensuring that those who are dependent on groundwater for drinking water are not impacted by agricultural groundwater pumping; providing the state with the tools needed to ensure that water rights are lawfully exercised; providing for “real-time” data regarding use of water statewide; and ensuring that dams are operated to protect water quality for fish. The group did not suggest that their recommended reforms would provide all necessary fixes to state law; the group advocates for and supports others that seek to reform California’s water laws recommendations. 

The report was  incorporated into legislation and considered for regulatory implementation as Senate Bill 389, which was signed by Governor Newsom on October 8, 2023. If you would like too learn more about the details of the proposed recommendations, please watch the webinar.

Professor Jennifer Harder was integral in helping to write the bill, testified on the bill, and otherwise engaged with the legislative process. SB 389 provides clear authority for the state of California’s water agency to investigate the validity of all surface water rights and to bring enforcement actions where warranted. Prior to this bill, the Board did not have clear authority over certain common law rights to water called “pre-1914” and “riparian” rights. This bill is a real-world step in the right direction, and McGeorge School of Law is proud of contributing to a better climate future.

McGeorge would also like to note that SB 389 was the brainchild of former Deputy AG Cliff Lee, who passed away in 2022, and with whom Professor Harder worked closely to develop and support the bill. The reform effort was initiated by Jonas Minton of the Planning & Conservation League, who also passed in 2022.  SB 389 is a testament to their memories. 

The MSL Program’s Unique Environmental Courses

If you are inspired and interested in becoming part of the change, your next step is right here. The MSL degree is a part-time, fully online, 26-unit degree program with asynchronous lectures. Students interact with their professors and classmates weekly through discussion boards throughout the program and have opportunities to work on projects with classmates and meet with professors virtually in flexible office hours. Typically, the coursework is spread over two years. However, arrangements for a more flexible schedule can be made with the Assistant Dean for Graduate and Online Programs.

McGeorge’s Master of Science in Law online program has two concentrations – Government Law and Policy and Water and Environmental Law. These two concentrations are closely connected and complement each other. The MSL program is for those who want to have practical knowledge of law and policy but do not want to be lawyers.

The Water and Environmental Law program offers unique courses that focus on the legal aspects of environmental issues. For example, water and environmental law is heavily connected to the work of public agencies at the local, state and federal levels; McGeorge’s curriculum includes courses such as The Executive Branch and the Administrative State, and Leadership in Organizations, which provide students with practical skills needed to work with agencies. Some of these skills include lessons in how to write, interpret, and comment on policies and regulations, expert insights into agency process, and practical strategies for working with agencies. 

Other courses:

  • Water Resources Law, taught by Professor Harder, gives students a practical understanding of water use and the social policies that govern water management.
  • Environmental Law is a survey course that covers the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and laws in other areas such as, for example, hazardous waste and climate change.
  • Water and Environmental Justice focuses on water rights in disadvantaged communities, federal and tribal rights, the human right to water, and the public trust doctrine. The course looks at water allocation through a critical race lens and investigates the legal and institutional frameworks for water supply as well as the deeply related issue of land use, with a particular focus on drinking water.

McGeorge also offers the LLM in Water & Environmental Law. The LLM program is for attorneys, recent law school graduates, or foreign-educated legal professionals to develop depth of knowledge in a specialized area of environmental, water resources, regulatory compliance, and public agency law.

Students build marketable expertise with the guidance of expert faculty chosen for outstanding teaching as well as the depth of knowledge in government law, water resources, or environmental law. Courses emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. The programs are convenient and are specifically designed for working professionals or students who need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations, and who want to further their education and advance their career.

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How to Become a Lobbyist

How to Become a Lobbyist in California

How to Become a Lobbyist

If government and law is your passion, there are many areas you can work. Lobbying is one of them. If you have ever wondered how to become a lobbyist, you have come to the right place. 

What is a lobbyist?

Lobbyists are professional advocates that work to influence political decisions on behalf of individuals and organizations. This advocacy could lead to the proposal of new legislation or the amendment of existing laws and regulations.

There are four types of lobbyist jobs out there:

  1. Contract
  2. In-house / GR
  3. Association
  4. Government

For each, there are different kinds of employers. The job description and position may also vary. Let’s go into more detail for each category.

Contract lobbyists get contracted by lobbyist employers to work on their behalf. They get employed by a lobbying firm. They get contracted out by unions, companies, and more. In order to become a contract lobbyist, you must register with the Secretary of State. Plus, you’ll need to take a lobbyist ethics course. 

In-house lobbyists are full-time employees of a business. They do local, state, and/or federal lobbying on behalf of their employer. As with contract lobbyists, they must register with the Secretary of State and take the ethics course.

Association lobbyists are full-time employees of a trade association. A trade association is an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry. Other names for trade associations include:

  • Industry trade groups 
  • Business associations 
  • Sector associations, and 
  • Industry bodies 

Association lobbyists must also register with the State and take the ethics course.

Government lobbyists are full-time employees of a state agency, department, board, or commission. They engage in lobbying on behalf of a government administration. These lobbyists appear before the Legislature to advocate on behalf of the administration. These are the only lobbyists that do not have to register with the State. This is because they are state employees. 

How do you become a lobbyist?

In order to become a lobbyist, there are a few steps you should follow. First, earning a degree that will help you in the field is essential. After your bachelor’s degree, earning a Master of Science in Law (MSL) is the perfect next step. Getting your degree in law or government can help your career.

Further, working in a related field and networking is crucial. You can learn about local issues and form relationships. Networking can help you find a job lobbying. Finally, you will likely need to register with the Secretary of State. Lobbyists who incur $2,500 in lobbying activity in a quarterly filing period must file. You also must take the lobbyist ethics course.  

How can an MSL help?

McGeorge School of Law has a Government Law and Policy MSL that can help further your career as a lobbyist. As a student, you can enhance your skills in: 

  • Lawmaking
  • Regulation
  • Election law, and 
  • Lobbying. 

Plus, you won’t have to get a traditional law degree. 

The faculty at McGeorge get hired for their outstanding teaching. In addition, they are experts with in-depth knowledge of government law. Courses emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. 

McGeorge’s prime location is another advantage. The school’s proximity to the California State Capitol allows students unique connections. Their program is online as well. They are convenient and specifically designed for:

  • Working professionals
  • Students who need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations, 
  • Those who want to further their education and advance their career.

The program allows for flexibility and opportunity. 


If you’re wondering how to become a lobbyist, look no further. McGeorge’s MSL program in Government and Law is a strategic step. Take advantage of the location, the resources, and the opportunity. Contact the admissions office today to get started.

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Online LLM Degree

What Can You Do With An Online LLM Degree?

Online LLM DegreeA Master of Laws LLM, or LLM degree, allows you to specialize in a certain field of law after obtaining your Juris Doctor. Our online LLM degree builds on your JD training to help expand your depth of knowledge, develop new skills, and advance your career.

LLM programs were created for lawyers to deepen their knowledge and study a specialized area of law. If you received your initial law degree from a country outside of the United States or Canada, getting your LLM also lets you gain international qualifications. 

McGeorge School of Law offers online graduate programs, including an online LLM program. Being able to get your LLM degree online lets you structure your education around your life, while also providing an opportunity for substantial engagement with faculty and classmates.

What fields can you study as an LLM student at McGeorge?

There are many possible areas of focus for LLM degrees. McGeorge School of Law offers an online LLM program in Water and Environmental Law. Students can specialize in various areas of environmental, water resources, regulatory compliance, or public agency law. 

The LLM program in Water and Environmental Law at McGeorge provides students with the opportunity to learn from a distinguished faculty and program team as well as from panels of experts who are focused on water and environmental law.  Students experience a robust program of education that provides practical as well as theoretical training, learn from acclaimed professionals in the field, and enjoy regular opportunities to interact with expert faculty, classmates, and colleagues.

Why the LLM Online Program?

The online master of laws at McGeorge provides the opportunity for a fully online course of study. You can obtain your LLM before or after you take the California bar exam. Students are able to study on a schedule that works for them on a weekly basis. Whether you are a working professional or whether you have other commitments that preclude in-person attendance, the online program provides the opportunity to integrate coursework into your life in a manageable way. 

The online courses are asynchronous. This means that students are not required to be in the same place, at the same time. The courses are taught in modules with weekly deadlines, allowing more flexibility than a traditional synchronous course that requires students to tune in at the same time every week. At the same time, each course provides optional opportunities for students to meet with their professors in real-time, either in-office hours or, in some courses, some optional live virtual class meetings.

The online nature of the LLM program offers quality comparable to an in-person program of study. Students in the online program are full McGeorge students, with access to the same resources such as career services and library resources. Also, students are able to interact regularly with faculty, classmates, and McGeorge staff.

Students are invited to participate in virtual events and interact with virtual guest speakers. Students have the opportunity to research in their field and to seek publication, with the guidance of expert faculty. Whether you are new to water and environmental law or working in the field already, our online LLM degree lets you develop new areas of expertise and new practical skills that will support your personal and professional goals. 

Why McGeorge School of Law?

The McGeorge School of Law offers multiple distinct benefits to its students. McGeorge School of Law’s government law program is ranked No. 3 in the nation by preLaw Magazine, rising eight spots from last year’s No. 11 ranking. This government law expertise supports McGeorge’s water and environmental law curriculum, as water and environmental law is deeply connected to public agency law. McGeorge’s faculty are leaders in water and environmental law, an area in which the school has a significant alumni network and a rich diversity of connections to the Capitol as well as local, state, and federal agencies. 

McGeorge was recognized for being a leader in legal education by the National Jurist, with the LLM in Water and Environmental Law, making the Honor Roll for 2021-2022. McGeorge’s degrees in water and environmental law give students a real-world education with the hands-on experience to help them contribute to policies that facilitate both thriving ecosystems and a safe, reliable water supply for every person.

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MSL Online

The Benefits of Earning Your MSL Online

MSL OnlineA pre-pandemic survey conducted by Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research in 2018 found that 86% of 1,500 online graduate students believed the value of their online degree equaled or exceeded what they paid for it. That number would be substantially higher today as many educational institutions made online degree programs available to their students due to Covid-19. Not counting the safety benefits of online learning during a pandemic, there are many benefits to earning a master of legal studies (MSL) online.

The McGeorge School of Law offers fully online Master of Science in Law (MSL) programs in Government Law and Policy and Water and Environmental Law. The courses in the programs emphasize real-world knowledge and practical skills with the convenience of at-home study.

The benefits of pursuing a graduate degree online extend beyond convenience. However, it is a large part of why students prefer online degree programs.

Greater Flexibility With an MSL Online

The online MSL degree allows working professionals to continue working while they study. The ability to log on to coursework from anywhere means that students can learn on their schedule. There’s no need to take extended time off from work until you graduate. Whether you prefer to study at your local coffee shop or need to travel for work, you can still access your coursework with a reliable internet connection and a mobile device.

The online program gives you the mobility to be able to study anywhere at any time. McGeorge’s online graduate degrees are on a flexible part-time schedule and can be designed around your individual professional goals.

An Online MSL is Cost-Effective

The online master of legal studies is more cost-effective in that you will not be responsible for certain fees that on-campus students accrue. Apart from the fees, the academic year total for the MSL online program ($17,052) is slightly less than the on-campus total ($20,782). Because you are learning at your own pace, you can adjust the number of units you take each semester to fit your budget. Also, you will not have to commute or pay for parking.

The MSL Online Offers Asynchronous Coursework

The Government Law and Policy and Water and Environmental Law online courses are primarily asynchronous. This means that you can access the coursework when it’s convenient for you. There are typically weekly deadlines for assigned activities, and some assignments may have mid-week deadlines.

The courses are presented as modules through an intuitive and easy-to-use website. They include pre-recorded video lectures, associated readings, and interactive discussion boards. The weekly modules and discussion boards encourage regular interaction between faculty and other students. You’ll advance through the coursework alongside your classmates, and you’ll be able to engage with them about the material. Weekly participation is required. However, you’ll be able to manage participation around your schedule.

McGeorge’s Online Advanced Degree Programs Improve Discipline

While the asynchronous courses allow you to work at a convenient time, some students find that managing time is a challenge, and let the work pile up. You will have to hold yourself accountable and develop practical time management skills. Many professionals working in industries dealing with government law and policy or water and environmental law already know how to manage their time; others will benefit professionally if they improve these skills. Being disciplined about completing coursework will give you the chance to sharpen your skills and carry them over into your career.

Boost Your Career Status With an Online MSL

The online MSL is an advanced degree that will show you have specialized knowledge in either government law or water and environmental law. Earning this degree can help you move up in your current career or pivot into a new role. It shows your employer your commitment and dedication to understanding how the law intersects with your field. It also gives you a competitive edge when applying to new positions.

Many of McGeorge’s MSL online graduates’ career paths advanced after completing the program. Tara Beltran, a 2018 MSL graduate, was managing a habitat program at a California public agency when she started the MSL program. Tara explains how the MSL helped to expand her professional role after graduation. “McGeorge’s program is absolutely relevant to my work, and it definitely gave me what I needed.” “It pushed me professionally from having just a job to building a career.”

After graduating, “I changed positions, and my responsibilities and salary increased. I took a greater leadership role.” Tara now works for a habitat mitigation company that consults with federal and state agencies, and her current project involves environmental restoration in the California Delta. 

Convenience That Allows You To Do More

Both of the concentrations in McGeorge’s MSL online degree program are in high-demand fields. The knowledge and skills learned in the Water and Environmental Law program could be applied in any position in the field of environmental regulation and protection. Also, McGeorge is one of the few schools that offer online graduate training and specialized programs in water resources law. 

The Government Law and Policy program is for anyone looking to advance their skillsets in lawmaking, election law, regulation, and lobbying. Students benefit from McGeorge’s relationships in California’s legislature and with the myriad government agencies located in Sacramento. As a result of these relationships and the deep expertise of its faculty, McGeorge has been nationally ranked for its government law programs.

The two-degree programs would expand your legal knowledge and skills and open the potential for employment within two legal fields and numerous business sectors.

The course curriculum can be designed to meet your professional goals. The convenience of taking the courses you need will give you the advantage of specialized learning. Amanda Richie, a 2018 MSL graduate, chose McGeorge School of Law and the MSL degree for the flexibility and benefits it offered her. “I was able to tailor my class schedule to courses that most interested me and that would be most relevant to my future career,” Amanda said. “The program gave me the credentials and the skills I needed for my career goals.” 

The online MSL degrees in Government Law and Policy and Water and Environmental Law are programs for working professionals who would like to enhance their career with an advanced legal degree but who do not want to practice law.

The online graduate courses are flexible, practical, and engaging. They’re built using proven instructional design practices that make it easy for you to learn. The classes are led by our distinguished faculty who have a depth of knowledge in government law and policy and water and environmental law, as well as outstanding teaching abilities.

The MSL online programs are convenient and are specifically designed for working professionals or students who want to build marketable expertise, but need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations, and who want to further their education and advance their career.

For more information, contact us at or 916.739.7019.

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MSL Student

Learn from a Current MSL Student

MSL Student - Lazaro CardenasLazaro Cardenas (MSL ‘22) is the Chief for the newly created Health in All Policies/Racial and Health Equity Section in the Office of Health Equity at the California Department of Public Health. He chose McGeorge’s Master of Science in Law (MSL) program to get legal training that will advance his career in equity and public health without a JD degree.  

Lazaro spoke with us in a webinar about his decision. Before enrolling in the McGeorge program, Lazaro worked as a fellow and legislative aide for the California State Assembly and then as an environmental justice and tribal affairs specialist for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. Lazaro recently served as a racial equity specialist in the California Department of Public Health where he was recently promoted to build and run a new section to advance health and racial equity in California State government. 

It had been six years since he earned his undergraduate degree, and he took stock of his experience and skillset. Lazaro said he considered pursuing a Master of Public Policy or Master of Public Administration degree, “but those options didn’t make sense for me.” 

Instead, Lazaro concluded the best strategy was to pursue a Master of Science and Law with a focus on government and health law. “With my work at state agencies, and especially my work on equity, having a legal framework and legal skills was what was missing,” he said. “I needed those skills to grow in my career.”

Flexibility, Reputation, and Professional Network

As an MSL student, you can choose to attend the McGeorge MSL program in person, online, or a combination of the two. Because Lazaro planned to continue working full time while pursuing his graduate degree, selecting a flexible program was a high priority. Lazaro attends a mix of online and on-campus courses, which provides the flexible school schedule he needs. Additionally, Lazaro told us, the program offers him the flexibility of taking coursework in health law plus other sectors of the law. 

Lazaro compared the experience of taking both in-person and online courses, saying the combination works well for him. “The asynchronous online courses gave me the flexibility I needed to continue my career path,” he said. “The course design and course portal make it clear what is required each week, making it easy to stay on track and be accountable.”

Working in the Sacramento area, Lazaro knew of McGeorge’s solid reputation and the school’s extensive network of professionals in the Sacramento area and beyond. The opportunity to tap into this network was a compelling reason that factored into his decision to pursue the MSL program. 

“For all these reasons,” he told us, “McGeorge made the most sense for me.” 

Lazaro said he is halfway through the program and already feels more equipped to engage with issues of compliance and change within organizations, especially within a legal framework. His health law coursework has direct and practical application to the real-world issues he sees in his work. “I feel very confident,” he said, “about how this program will drive my career forward.”

To hear more of our conversation with Lazaro and more details about the MSL program, listen to the webinar.

McGeorge’s Online MSL & LLM Programs 

McGeorge offers both in-person and online programs. The two fully online part-time Master of Science in Law programs are:

  • The MSL in Government Law & 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.
  • The MSL in Water & Environmental Law provides value to land-use planners, engineers, environmental consultants, and others who seek expertise in this continually-evolving field but who do not require a JD degree.

Additionally, a fully online part-time LLM in Water & Environmental Law program is for attorneys, recent law school graduates, or foreign-educated legal professionals to develop depth of knowledge in a specialized area of environmental, water resources, regulatory compliance, and public agency law.

Students build marketable expertise with the guidance of expert faculty chosen for outstanding teaching as well as the depth of knowledge in government law, water resources, or environmental law. Courses emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. The programs are convenient and are specifically designed for working professionals or students who need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations, and who want to further their education and advance their career.

Start building your career today with McGeorge School of Law Online. For more information, contact us at or 916.739.7019.

Learn from a Current MSL Student Read More »

Professor Jennifer Harder

Why McGeorge Has One of the Best Environmental Law School Programs

The McGeorge School of Law, the best environmental law school program in California, provides opportunities for students to take on leadership roles in a challenging global economy. Climate change, plastic pollution, and poor environmental governance are challenging the state of our environment. McGeorge’s MSL in Water and Environmental Law gives students a real-world education with the hands-on experience to help them contribute to policies that positively impact the environment. 

McGeorge is the best environmental law school for several reasons.

Our Faculty – Leading Environmental Law Experts

The environmental law faculty are experts in water and environmental law, and they impart real-world knowledge and practical skills in their outstanding teaching. The professors have years of hands-on experience in the areas they teach. Here are a few examples of the caliber of professor you’ll learn from at McGeorge.

Best Environmental Law SchoolProfessor Rachel Salcido is both the founder and Co-Director of the law school’s Water and Environmental Law Concentration, where she helps students garner interest in environmental law and connects students with careers in the field. She believes there are myriad opportunities today for students interested in engaging in environmental law — including work on climate change, water, and environmental justice. She co-authored the textbook Global Issues in Environmental Law with Professor Stephen McCaffrey, which examines international and transnational pollution control, remediation, and species protection issues. 


Best Environmental Law SchoolAnother professor with extensive experience in water law is Professor Stephen McCaffrey. A Distinguished Professor of Law, he is one of the world’s foremost authorities on international water law and teaches International Water Resources Law. In 2018, Professor McCaffrey received the Distinguished Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy. He won the award for his lifetime of service in developing international environmental law and for his work on the International Law Commission. He was named the Stockholm Water Laureate in 2017. 



Professor Jennifer HarderProfessor Jennifer Harder teaches Water Resources Law and Environmental Practice and is Co-Director of McGeorge’s Water & Environmental Law concentration. Before joining McGeorge, Professor Harder represented clients at the State Water Resources Control Board and represented local governments and private entities on water, environmental, and public agency issues for ten years. She uses this background to help develop the online graduate programming as McGeorge’s Faculty Director for Online Learning. Professor Harder received the Hether C. McFarlane Teaching Innovation Award in 2018.


Professor Kim Delfino teaches Environmental Law in McGeorge’s Water & Environmental Law program. She is the founder and president of Earth Advocacy, a firm that provides policy and advocacy guidance to nonprofits and foundations. Prior to her work with Earth Advocacy, Professor Delfino was the California program director for Defenders of Wildlife and a member of the California Water Commission. Her policy expertise lies in state and federal endangered species, land use planning, water, and other natural resource laws.


Professor Nicole Kuenzi teaches the administrative law course in McGeorge’s graduate Water & Environmental Law Program and is an expert on agency practice and on California water law. She is a hearing officer in California’s Administrative Hearings Office. The office is housed within the California State Water Resources Control Board, which is the agency charged with safeguarding the state’s water resources for all Californians. 

At McGeorge, students gain a practical understanding of water allocation and its use in contemporary society and critically examine the social policies that govern water management. The online MSL for Water and Environmental Law program is one of the few that emphasizes water resources law.

McGeorge’s Online MSL Program

The Master of Science in Law for Water and Environmental Law is a specialized online master’s degree program accessible to working professionals. The program is part-time, fully online, with asynchronous coursework so students can study on their schedule. They gain practical skills based on a real-world curriculum. Even though the program is online, students can engage with faculty and peers using tools and technology that support an interconnected online environment.

With the MSL in Water and Environmental Law, you’ll have an advantage over the competition with specialized knowledge that will enhance your potential for career advancement. You will benefit from the network of faculty, experts, alumni, and other water and environmental law students. In addition, you could write a publishable research paper that would increase your credibility when combined with the MSL and could be a gateway to Ph.D. work.

The law is at the center of the majority of water and environmental issues. So, any environmental career would be enhanced with the MSL degree. The degree would enable you to understand and engage with the law and policy aspects of your field. 

Our MSL coursework will allow you to understand the local, state, and federal statutes and regulations, including the process of drafting, judicial review, and implementation. The curriculum focuses equally on practical skills as well as legal theory. For example, you’ll learn about state and federal frameworks for water rights, pollution control, species protection, climate change, and environmental justice.  You will also learn how to identify specific water rights, develop specific proposals for ensuring equity in natural resources distribution, comment on regulations, respond to comments, and compiling administrative records. You will have the opportunity to learn how environmental legal professionals communicate and negotiate, and develop leadership skills that will help you achieve your goals and make a difference. 

Water and Environmental Law Fundamentals

The Water and Environmental Law concentration provides critical knowledge and skills in today’s complex regulatory environment. The master course of study facilitates interdisciplinary excellence within government, non-profit, and private enterprise.

The topics covered in the coursework for the online MSL are some of the most critical environmental issues the world is facing. For example, some of the legal principles covered in Water Resources Law include surface and groundwater rights, drought management, federal-state relationships, reasonable use and waste, the public trust doctrine, instream flows, tribal rights, federal reserved rights, and water storage projects. Students learn to identify specific water rights and assess water supply sustainability in a community of their choice. 

In the Environmental Law course, particular attention is given to common law doctrines and public rights and remedies, as well as federal and state control programs for air pollution, water pollution, solid waste management, and climate change. There’s a focus on fish and wildlife resources and planning within federal, state, and local agencies. Students receive training in core areas of environmental law, and explore real-world opportunities for engaging on these issues. 

Online MSL in Water and Environmental Law For a Changing Legal Environment

Specific topics in the Water and Environmental Justice course include the human right to water, local, state, and federal governance of drinking water, water finance and affordability, private pollution and energy production, rural communities of color and infrastructure, agricultural pollution, and grassroots advocacy. Students have the opportunity to evaluate specific drinking water systems and recommend real-world solutions. 

These are just a few of the compelling course offerings available to McGeorge MSL students. Our distinguished faculty and academic team design the courses for the online MSL in Water and Environmental Law to ensure that students are prepared for the rapidly changing legal environment. Our courses focus on developing the knowledge and professional skills needed in today’s water and environmental law field.

McGeorge’s faculty and staff are invested in student success and create a supportive and empathetic environment. But they don’t just teach – they challenge their students with new ideas and push them academically.

Tara Beltran (MSL ’18) was considering pursuing a master’s degree while managing a habitat program at a California public agency. Many of the MBA programs that she found lacked the foundational work in water and environmental law that she knew she needed for advancement. Tara determined that McGeorge was the best environmental law school and the Master of Science in Law was the best program to advance her career. “McGeorge’s program is absolutely relevant to my work,” Tara said, “and it definitely gave me what I needed.” “It pushed me professionally from having just a job to building a career.”

Tara praises her courses and the faculty at McGeorge, noting that “the professors are engaging and are experts in the field.”

In-Depth Research Courses Are Stepping Stones for Your Career

Another reason that McGeorge is the best environmental law school is the extensive knowledge that students gain in the MSL in water and environmental law program. The research courses allow students to deeply explore a specific topic, learning the nuances of theory and practice, setting them apart as experts and preparing them to tackle complex issues in the real world.

  • Directed Research in Water and Environmental Law: In this course, students engage in a comprehensive individual research project under the supervision of a full-time faculty member. The work product may take the form of a scholarly paper, empirical study, analysis of topical readings, or another creative format that demonstrates in-depth legal research and original analysis.


  • Master’s Thesis in Water and Environmental Law:  In the Master Thesis course, students write a thesis under the guidance of a full-time faculty member acting as supervisor. The thesis should present an original idea, demonstrate mastery of research skills appropriate to the field, and be analytical and/or critical instead of merely descriptive. The final product should exemplify high-quality academic writing consistent with the professional goals of the student.


Positions With Growth Potential

The online MSL program prepares students for a range of jobs in the water and environmental law field where legal knowledge is an advantage, but a law degree is not required. Just a few examples of the wide range of careers that are enhanced by these studies include:

  • Land Use Planners
  • Engineers
  • Environmental Consultants
  • Public Information Officers
  • Lobbyists
  • Public Agency and Legislative Staff
  • Policy Advisor
  • Environmental Policy Specialist
  • Environmental Advocates 

 Advantages to Learning Water and Environmental Law at McGeorge 

The Master of Science of Law for Water and Environmental Law offers an online course of study, which provides convenience for students. The program integrates state-of-the-art teaching and learning principles in online education, and our graduates testify to the value of the online courses. Online students have access to many academic resources and services at McGeorge such as, for example, library privileges and career counseling. In addition, all online students are welcome to participate in McGeorge water and environmental law activities, whether virtual or on-campus. 

McGeorge MSL students have opportunities to:

  • Attend job fairs, fields trips, lectures, and events in the McGeorge Water Law and Environmental Law Societies
  • Participate in premier water and environmental law graduate externships 
  • Obtain scholarships to help offset program costs and reduce loans  
  • Publish and network in McGeorge’s California Water Law Journal
  • Attend the California Water Law Symposium and other professional events
  • Attend online courses that provide practical, interdisciplinary learning and schedule flexibility
  • Participate in faculty-supervised independent and group research projects 

McGeorge also hosts monthly webinars with experts in law, water and environmental policy, faculty, and legal professionals. We encourage students to join and participate in the Q&A after the webinar.

Recognition in Legal Education

llm in Water & Environmental LawMcGeorge gains recognition for being a leader in legal education by the National Jurist, with the LLM in Water and Environmental Law making the Honor Roll for 2021-2022. The National Jurist is one of the leading news sources in the field of legal education. The magazine is published four times a year and lists the best national law schools based on diversity, value, practical training, and other factors.

The McGeorge School of Law provides the professional expertise necessary to acquire advanced knowledge of the U.S. legal system. If you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree but prefer not to become an attorney and practice law, an MSL from McGeorge provides you with the master’s-level depth of knowledge about law and policy that will help you accomplish your goals.

Students build marketable expertise with the guidance of expert faculty chosen for outstanding teaching as well as depth of knowledge in government law, water resources, or environmental law. Courses emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. The programs are convenient and are specifically designed for working professionals or students who need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations, and who want to further their education and advance their career. For more information, contact us at or 916.739.7019.

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