Published on August 30, 2017 by Polly Manuel  
Robinson Hall

Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law is accepting applications for a new, fully online, part-time master’s degree program, the Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.).

The online application will open in mid-September, according to Laura Tomlin, director of graduate and professional programs at Cumberland School of Law.

Students may choose from one of four M.S.L. concentrations: Health law and policy, financial services regulatory compliance, higher education law and compliance, or legal project management. Students may opt for a custom option that allows them to choose from a variety of elective courses. The first cohort will be admitted in fall 2018.

The new degree option was recently approved by Samford’s board of trustees. The M.S.L. health law and policy concentration will replace the law school’s Master of Science in health law and policy, which recently welcomed its third cohort.

This advanced degree alternative to the traditional three-year Juris Doctor (J.D.) will prepare students for roles in compliance, regulatory affairs, e-discovery, legal project management and more, according to Tomlin. The 36-credit-hour curriculum is specifically designed for midcareer professionals and can be completed in just 24 months, with students taking two courses per semester for six semesters (including two summers). Students who have already earned a J.D. may apply for advanced standing and reduce total credit hours from 36 to 30.

“The program is designed primarily for nonlawyers interested in pursuing a graduate degree that will position them for advancement in their current field, although practicing attorneys may choose to pursue a degree that complements their current practice or opens doors to a new area of practice,” Tomlin said.

Faculty members are industry experts, practicing attorneys, Cumberland School of Law faculty and Samford faculty from other disciplines. The curriculum focuses on both foundational and specialized knowledge as well as real-world, practical skills that can be immediately applied in the workplace. The program is pending approval with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Cumberland School of Law Dean Henry C. “Corky” Strickland explained that the M.S.L. option fills a growing need in higher education to educate students for alternative legal career paths and positions that do not require a J.D., but for which specialized legal knowledge is important.

“In particular, the demand for professionals who can move into compliance-related roles is exploding,” Strickland said. “The M.S.L. degree options will enable people already in the workforce to take advantage of that burgeoning demand. It will also provide recent college graduates with almost any major an entry into the field of compliance, with several different specialty options.”

Although the program is completely online, students are required to attend an on-campus orientation before classes begin. According to Tomlin, this provides students with the opportunity to connect with their peers, professors and advisory board members at the outset, facilitating better communication and networking over the next two years. 

Applicants for the M.S.L. must have a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 undergraduate grade point average from a regionally accredited institution and submit two letters of recommendation from a former faculty member or supervisor. Competitive applicants will include a résumé demonstrating industry experience, and students applying for the legal project management concentration must have a minimum of one year of experience in a law firm or corporate legal environment.

The application deadline for fall 2018 admission is June 1, 2018.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.