NGO Career Outcomes

NGO Career Outcomes: How an Online MSL Degree Can Jumpstart Your Water and Environmental Law Career

If you are passionate about water law and environmental law, this is a great time to pursue a career; personally, professionally, and globally. Clémence Kucera, Assistant Dean for the Graduate, Online, and International Programs, and guest speaker Kim Defino discussed the pathway from environmental enthusiast to successful advocate. 

Kim is an adjunct professor and alumna of McGeorge School of Law. She is also the founder and president of Earth Advocacy, a consulting company that provides policy and advocacy guidance to nonprofits and foundations with the goal of protecting and restoring our lands, water and wildlife for future generations.

NGO Career Outcomes

Passion and Advocacy

Kim earned her B.S. in political science and public service with an environmental policy emphasis from UC Davis and her law degree from, of course, McGeorge. For 3 years, she worked for a small public interest law firm performing environmental litigation representing nonprofit organizations. But a pivot was on her horizon “I realized that while I loved the issues that I was working on, I really enjoyed developing the policy rather than litigating. So I actually changed my focus.”

Fostering positive systemic change from the inside out, Kim was the State Director for Defenders of Wildlife for almost 20 years before she founded her own firm, Earth Advocacy. She has a broad range of experience under her belt and an even broader skill set: working in strategy, communications, and organization; with clients like Defenders of Wildlife, the National Audubon Society, land trusts, and foundations; at the federal and state levels. 

Potential Positions in the Field

The water and environmental law field — unfortunately, due in part to climate change and all of the impacts that we’re experiencing — is growing. “I think you’re going to see, more and more, a need. And there are a lot of things that people can do with a legal or policy background in the private setting,” she encourages. If you want to work in a nonprofit setting, alternatively, “Having a policy background is essential to make progress on the big issues we’re tackling. There’s a wide range of issues that are out there that people can work on and roles they can play.” 

Within this range, you can find your own niche. “You could spend your entire life just trying to understand water law and policy. What are the rules of the game, and what are the policies that the rules are trying to promote? That’s very important to understand.” As an example, if you want to protect an endangered species, you could really benefit from learning the basics of land use planning. The options are limitless. 

The Keys to Success

There are certain skills needed to be successful in these positions. First, to state the obvious, you need to know the existing laws and regulations. But to state the less obvious, you also have to know the legislative process and the real-time steps it takes to move a project along. Kim imparts as much of this knowledge as possible in her McGeorge online courses. 

“We do a survey of some of the biggest environmental laws out there, and we look at it from the perspective of, ‘Why do we have this? Why was this law written? How has this law been interpreted? How has this law evolved over time? And where are we now with the law?’” They take a critical look at climate change, the Clean Water Act, the integration between federal and state laws, and more, through nuanced analysis and practical assignments.

An Informed Approach to Teaching

The multifaceted perspective Kim hopes to teach her students was honed over time. She admits that, earlier in her experience and education, she only gradually uncovered the nuances. “I think I would have liked to have had a deeper understanding of the various layers,” she acknowledges. “I wish that when I was younger I had a better perspective. But I think the problem is, perspective only happens with age.” 

This year, she created a project in which students wrote comment letters on proposed regulations stating whether or not they supported them and why. Essentially, she had them participate in the rule-making process. Another had students unite as teams and tackle climate change, everything from the implications of using nuclear power to integrating the opinions of stakeholders. Innovation and creativity are always at the core of McGeorge courses, even when they are online. 

Expanding Perspectives

Kim encourages a thriving conversation throughout her class. In discussion threads, students and teacher have a back-and-forth around complex topics, which she thoroughly enjoys. “People have different perspectives and different ways of looking at things. And I often get feedback in those discussion threads, such as ‘I didn’t think about it like that, but that’s a really interesting way of putting it.’”

Ultimately, the dedication to ensuring her students’ optimal education comes back around. “My sense is, at the end of the day, when the students are done with the course they have a deeper understanding of federal environmental law. I’ve had students who now practice in the environmental field say, ‘you know this was really helpful.’”

McGeorge’s online MSL curriculum consists of courses like this one, taught by expert, supportive, and passionate professors. Apply now and take the first step towards a fulfilling career.

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!

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!

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.

Election Law

Election Law and How an MSL in Government Law & Policy Can Help Advance Your Career

Professor Rebecca Olson is a full-time attorney, one of the founding partners of Miller and Olson, LLP, who specializes in political, campaign, election, and nonprofit law. Professor Olson provides legal advice to corporations and trade associations; serves as general counsel and treasurer to many campaign committees for local, state, and federal candidates; handles matters relating to compliance with campaign, lobby, and election laws; and much more. Oh, and she earned her J.D. right here at McGeorge. 

Professor Olson previously worked in campaign finance compliance, so she empathizes with those who don’t want a JD but do want a degree that can assist with upward mobility, a better pay grade, increased input and value in the workplace, and other benefits. Though lawyers traditionally tend to believe that students need to go through a J.D. program to really understand the law, professor Olson reassures us that “it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I can tell you the difference between someone who didn’t have the background and someone who had the MSL through the Government Law and Policy program? It would be night and day.”

What is Election Law?

“For many years, Election Law has been a niche practice that people didn’t understand. Now we’ve come much more to the forefront,” Olson says. Much of it comes from constitutional law, talking about political speech, voting rights, and how the First Amendment was born.McGeorge’s Election Law course provides an overview of the subject’s origin and how it trickles down into daily politics. We address redistricting and representation, gerrymandering, election administration, ballot propositions, campaigns, and more.

Professor Olson appreciates the way students get a little taste of the different areas within election law. She reveals that Election Law is not a difficult area of the law to learn, but it is very specific, meaning that professionals without that base of knowledge can feel overwhelmed. Well if you’ve got the base, you may be able to help in a field where election law or a companion subject comes into play. “It helps to have a broad perspective on where everything fits in – and that, I think, can help advance careers in a number of ways.”

Endless Career Possibilities 

There are many jobs assisting lawyers and clients where you don’t need a J.D. to be heavily involved and heavily necessary,” Professor Olson explains. An MSL in Government Law and Policy degree is widely useful; you could work, for example, with the Fair Political Practices Commission, which has a whole department dedicated to compliance education for those lobbying or running for political office. 

The MSL can also help with drafting statutes and regulations in these areas of election law, as well as understanding what can and cannot be regulated as per the Constitution. If legislative offices have staff with the proper background, they can immediately safeguard against unconstitutional actions and prevent costly mistakes. 

Then there are governmental affairs departments serving a myriad of businesses that need to have an active presence at the Capitol. State or local agency jobs have ethics sectors requiring lots of administration; in nonprofits, voter registration or rights are sometimes the whole mission of the foundation; and of course, if you want to work in campaigns, having election law knowledge helps the campaign run smoothly and successfully. 

Election Law

Always In Demand

Election law can prove an extremely interesting subject because it’s constantly evolving with the current legislation. Professor Olson admits she keeps busy, which is a good sign when “it also means that people who have that base of knowledge and understanding are in demand … As we see attacks on administrative officials, people who know the rules will just continue to grow in importance. And it’s important that we have well-trained people who want to do this kind of work.”

Taking the Election Law course or being in the Government Law and Policy MSL program keeps your finger on the pulse. Knowing where the law comes from, what the basis is, how it can change, and how it has changed recently, can make you extremely helpful in any career – and advance your career where you already are as well.

The McGeorge MSL Distinction and Details

McGeorge decided to move the MSL program entirely online prior to COVID, so it’s always been meticulously crafted, highly interactive, and designed with intention. Your degree can be completed in 2 or 3 years, and students often choose to attend part-time; the asynchronous structure allows you to work at a time that’s convenient for you personally. Half of your coursework is a requirement, the other half is left for electives, and the final project is on a current topic of your choice. Need some help? Zoom in for optional office hours. Need to bounce ideas around? A weekly discussion group means there are plenty of opportunities to create a dynamic collegiate conversation. 

If you’re interested in learning a little more about the online programs, contact our admissions office today to get started on a personalized trajectory resulting in career growth, lifelong knowledge, and practical skills from McGeorge School of Law. According to professor Olson herself, “You know that it’s high quality and you know that you’re getting a good education.”

Earth Day with Kim Delfino

McGeorge Celebrates Earth Day with Kim Delfino

Earth Day with Kim DelfinoEarth Day is an annual event that focuses on environmental issues. April 22, 2022 marked the observance of the 52nd Earth Day. This day challenges people and governments to establish protocols to improve the earth by reducing human impact. The Earth Day theme for 2022 was “Invest in Our Planet.”

Kim Delfino, an adjunct professor at McGeorge School of Law and the President and Founder of Earth Advocacy, spoke with Clémence Kucera, the Assistant Dean for Graduate, Online, and International Programs, for an Earth Day webinar. Their conversation highlighted ways that McGeorge’s online MSL degrees in Water and Environmental Law and Government Law and Policy can contribute to making tomorrow a better place.

About Professor Kim Delfino

Professor Delfino is a 1993 graduate of McGeorge School of Law. She began her practice as an attorney in Washington, D.C. at Meyer & Glitzenstein. For almost four years, she represented environmental organizations focusing on the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Clean Water Act. She then moved away from litigation and worked with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) as their conservation advocate.

After several years, Professor Delfino returned to California and worked as the program director for the California office of Defenders of Wildlife. She later started her own advocacy firm, Earth Advocacy, where she is a consultant for nonprofit environmental organizations and foundations. She represents organizations in the state legislature and helps foundations with strategy and policy over the long term.

Environmental Careers That Do Not Require a JD

Although Professor Delfino started her law practice in litigation, she emphasized that the work she is currently doing does not require a Juris Doctor degree (JD). However, this does not mean that knowledge of the law is unimportant or unhelpful – quite the opposite is true. There are several career paths in environmental work that do not require a JD, but absolutely benefit from having a legal background. For example, Professor Delfino’s legal knowledge helps her write laws (statutes) that she then seeks to have enacted by working with the legislature. Her legal knowledge also helps her understand how laws and policies come together in practice. 

Some careers that benefit from legal expertise, but do not require a JD, include:  

  •         Lobbyist
  •         Environmental Policy Advocate
  •         Environmental Consultant
  •         Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Analyst
  •         Public Information Officer
  •         Land Use Planner
  •         Public Agency and Legislative Staff
  •         Policy Advisor
  •         Environmental Policy Specialist

And more. 

The state legislature also offers several opportunities on committees, agencies, and boards where a foundation in law is beneficial for those working with the branch of government enacting law. Conservation organizations and environmental nonprofits have positions where a legal background would also be an asset, as do state and local agencies. This is especially true in California, where environmental protection is greatly valued, and many policies are tested at the state level before moving to the national level.

How a Legal Background Helps with Environmental Work

In the state legislature, having a legal background helps in understanding how laws are made. It provides an awareness of the specific meaning of specialized terms, and how they should be used, whether in litigation, at the legislature, or working with agencies or the public. This knowledge helps to guide language when drafting a bill, so that the bill is clear and precise.

There are many statutes and laws that govern complex environmental issues pertaining to water, air, and land. It is important to comprehend how the statutes that affect each issue work together. Earning a master’s degree in Water and Environmental Law will strengthen your knowledge base while showing others in the field that you have valuable insights and can design policy initiatives that succeed.

A legal background also helps with interpreting the numerous rules and regulations established by local agencies, and state and federal administrations. You need to know what actions are required by the regulations, and why the requirements exist. Knowing how regulations affect the water or environmental sector where you work is essential. Understanding how the legal framework intersects with business and public agencies is also critical in environmental work.

By now, it should be clear that a legal background is incredibly helpful in this field. However, if not a JD, then what? How does someone interested in a well-rounded approach to environmental careers get this knowledge? Let’s look at two options.

McGeorge’s MSL in Water & Environmental Law Program

The Master of Science in Law, Water and Environmental Law program covers the legal principles of critical environmental and water issues. The program is taught by experts in the fields of water and environmental law, who are focused on developing and changing policies in both areas.

A unique feature of the program is that McGeorge is one of very few law schools that emphasizes water resources law and offers a legal degree for non-lawyers. Some of the topics covered include surface and groundwater rights, drought management, tribal rights, rights for federal lands, reasonable use, waste, the public trust doctrine, and water storage projects.

The Environmental Law courses focus on air pollution, solid waste management, fish and wildlife resources, environmental impact analysis, and related topics, with particular attention to common law doctrines and public rights.

Professor Delfino teaches Environmental Law in McGeorge’s MSL in Water & Environmental Law program. Her policy expertise is in state and federal endangered species, land use planning, water, and other natural resource laws.

The course focuses on federal law by providing an overview of the most prominent environmental laws, such as:

  •     CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act)
  •     National Environmental Policy Act
  •     Administrative Procedure Act
  •     Clean Water Act
  •     Clean Air Act
  •     Endangered Species Act
  •     Environmental citizen suits
  •     Climate change 

The course focuses on how these laws work and the court cases that interpret different provisions within the laws. Students are given the opportunity to understand how the laws are applied in a real-world setting. Delfino’s Environmental Law course has a group project that poses important questions to the students. They are asked to devise strategies to accomplish an environmental goal and how different sectors might respond to those strategies. The project pulls students into actual environmental legal situations and makes them look at all the parties affected.

Understanding these laws and how they are enforced prepares students to influence new laws, policies, and regulations governing water and environmental issues.

To learn more about Professor Delfino’s course, listen to the webinar.

The Online Master of Science in Law Program at McGeorge

McGeorge’s online MSL program allows students to build marketable expertise in government law, water resources law, or environmental law. The courses are guided by expert faculty chosen for their outstanding teaching and depth of knowledge in their fields.

The courses in the MSL program emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. The programs are convenient and specifically designed for working professionals or students who need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations and want to further their education and advance their careers.

For more information, contact us at graduatelaw@pacific.edu or 916.739.7019.

Legal Degree for Non-Lawyers

A Legal Degree for Non-Lawyers

Legal Degree for Non-Lawyers

McGeorge’s online MSL programs offer a legal degree for non-lawyers. Neither the MSL in Water and Environmental Law nor the MSL in Government Law and Policy requires a Juris Doctor (JD) or a legal background. They are designed for working professionals and recent graduates who aim to gain a legal education to further their careers.

What is an MSL Degree?

McGeorge launched its MSL programs, a Master of Science in Law, in 2012. Neither a paralegal nor a JD degree, this versatile option is meant for professionals who seek the benefits of advanced training in legal reasoning and analysis. With so many businesses and industries being impacted by constantly changing laws and regulations, having knowledge and training in legal analysis can be advantageous when dealing with every day law-related issues. Taught by full-time tenured faculty and adjunct faculty, you get to learn from experts who conduct research and practice in the field. 

Why Pursue an MSL Degree?

An MSL degree is designed for those who work in a field that is highly regulated, who have a position where you are required to have regulatory knowledge, who want to expand and grow their existing knowledge in a specific area of law, or who recently graduated with the B.A. but want a higher level of education to jumpstart their career. You can always work with McGeorge’s Career Development Office to develop a personalized plan and determine your next steps. We work individually with all of our students to find the best curriculum for their career goals, and you have access to an advisor who you can connect with online. 

Moreover, as an MSL student, you’ll gain expertise in a particular area of the law and enjoy increased career options. In some fields, you can’t get a promotion without first getting an additional degree. 

An MSL degree is likewise the perfect choice if you want to change your field or start a new career but aren’t entirely sure where to start. This degree can help you make the transition, not only because you’ll gain knowledge and skills, but also because you’ll have McGeorge’s network at your disposal to help you find a job in your new career. Finally, you can increase your job security with an MSL by becoming more valuable to your employer. 

Watch Our Webinar 

Master of Science in Law, Water and Environmental Law


This MSL serves professionals and recent graduates who need practical knowledge of law and policy in the dynamic field of water and environmental law. This MSL is beneficial for anyone working in this field that is highly regulated since the concentration provides the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills that are critical in today’s complex regulatory environment. This course of study facilitates interdisciplinary excellence within government, non-profit, and private enterprise. Our program is often ranked as one of the best in the country, and we’re proud to have many distinguished professors widely-recognized as experts. You can take classes part-time or full-time with our flexible pre-recorded modules. The program includes eight (8) required courses and two (2) electives. 


Master of Science in Law, Government Law and Policy


This MSL introduces students to the role that government agency leaders play in developing, modifying, implementing, advocating, and influencing public policy including through legislation, regulations, executive orders, court orders, and more. The program’s coursework gives students the opportunity to analyze policies and learn essential organizational procedures. Students will also be able to consider the strategic implications associated with various venues. You’ll receive access to legal research tools equal to those found in JD programs to conduct research on federal and state policymaking. There are eight (8) required courses and two (2) electives. 


What Makes McGeorge Online Graduate Degrees Distinctive?


All of our online MSL degrees have asynchronous lectures, yet they’re highly interactive thanks to compelling online discussions. Our upgraded quizzes and chats are structured for maximized learning, and we provide practical real-world assignments. You get regular feedback from professors plus a collegiate online community. Optional live, in-person office hours and lectures may also be available. 


Next Steps


Watch our June 2022 Webinar, with Assistant Dean Clemence Kucera to hear how you can further your legal career by earning a Master of Science in Law (MSL) in either Government Law & Policy or Water and Environmental Law.

Apply to our program by clicking on the link below. No GRE or LSAT, entrance exam, J.D., or any other law degree is required to enroll in this program.


We’re happy to set up one-on-one sessions to discuss your career goals, answer your questions, and walk you through the application process. Remember, the sooner you apply, the more likely you are to receive scholarships!

Why Lobbyists Should Earn an MSL in Government Law & Policy

Chris Micheli 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. Micheli, a lobbyist for over 25 years, is the founding partner of Aprea & Micheli, Inc., a governmental relations and advocacy firm in Sacramento, California.

Micheli recently spoke with Clémence Kucera, the Assistant Dean for Graduate Law Programs at McGeorge, for a webinar. He highlighted how the online MSL in Governmental Law & Policy degree helps to advance a lobbying or legislative career.

Types of Lobbyists

Lobbyists Should Earn an MSLLobbyists, as defined by Micheli, represent clients and their issues and perspectives on legislation. They advocate and educate legislators, appointed officials, and staff on rulemaking activities and their client’s views.

There are four types of lobbyists – three that work in the private sector and government lobbyists. Micheli is a contract lobbyist, which means he is contracted to represent companies or organizations in the state. He meets with public officials or politicians to relay his client’s position on legislation that could have an effect on their industry.

Trade Association Lobbyists work in both nonprofit and for-profit associations in various areas such as business, labor, and the environment. Lobbyists actually have their own trade association, the Institute of Governmental Advocates (IGA). In-House Lobbyists are typically employed by a business or corporation. And for both trade association and in-house lobbyists, their employers are their only clients.

There are around 200 agencies, departments, boards, and commissions under the executive branch in California alone. Each of those executive branch entities has a lobbyist. Their titles vary depending on where they work within the government. A Deputy Secretary for Legislation works at the agency level, while a Deputy Director for Legislative Affairs works at the department level.

The Importance of the MSL in Government Law and Policy Degree for Lobbyists

Micheli says there are two reasons why having a legal background is important for lobbyists.

Understanding the Law

The first reason is being able to understand the law. Lobbyists need to know how laws and regulations are written, developed, implemented, interpreted, and enforced. The same applies to knowledge of regulations.

Legal Skills

The second reason is the skills that a legal program like McGeorge’s MSL degree can develop. On a day-to-day basis, lobbyists will use research and analytical skills to develop factsheets or interpret laws and their possible deficiencies. They will need oral and written advocacy skills to write advocacy letters or testify before a legislative or regulatory agency.

Ultimately, there are thousands of private or government sector lobbying positions where McGeorge’s MSL in Government Law and Policy degree would be beneficial. The degree provides real-world knowledge of the law for legal careers at the local, state, and federal agency levels. It is designed to enhance skills in lawmaking, regulation, election law, and lobbying for people who do not want to practice law.

Watch the webinar to learn more about lobbyists and Professor Micheli’s courses.

How McGeorge’s MSL Degree Differs From Other Programs

Micheli noted how McGeorge’s program differs from other MSL degree programs. “The Lobbying and Politics course will give students a very clear idea of what you do as a lobbyist,” said Micheli. There is exposure to how to be a lobbyist, the rules that regulate them, and some of the specialized forms of lobbying. It’s more in-depth than conceptual discussions about being a lobbyist or the different influences on elected officials.

The MSL program provides practical teaching and skills and covers the aspects of what you’ll be doing every day as a lobbyist. And the courses are taught by professionals who practice in the field, so it’s not just a theoretical approach. For example, you’ll learn how to write an effective advocacy letter. You’ll also learn how to prepare and give testimony in a legislative committee or before a rulemaking agency. The skills that you’ll learn go beyond an academic viewpoint.

Professor Micheli wrote, “A Practitioner’s Guide to Lobbying and Advocacy in California”, a renowned textbook in Lobbying and Politics.

The MSL in Government Law and Policy Degree at McGeorge

McGeorge’s Government Law and Policy MSL degree is designed to be convenient for working professionals. The online program has asynchronous lectures, weekly interactive discussions, and a collegial online learning community. The courses prepare students to advance their careers with practical, real-world assignments and regular feedback from professors who are active in their field.

Students build marketable expertise with the guidance of expert faculty chosen for outstanding teaching and their 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 graduatelaw@pacific.edu or 916.739.7019.

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.

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 graduatelaw@pacific.edu or 916.739.7019.

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