Professionals Advance Through UC Hastings Master of Studies in Law Program

Jen Manger, a corporate executive at Wells Fargo, said she gained a new level of legal expertise through the MSL degree program at UC Hastings.

After more than two decades of a successful business career, Jen Manger was ready for a new challenge. Working as vice president of social media marketing at Wells Fargo, Manger said she felt particularly drawn to legal aspects of her job like contracts and government regulation.

Manger was just looking to “get a taste of the legal profession” when she signed up for the Master of Studies in Law (MSL) program at UC Hastings in 2020. What she found was an intense love for the law and a depth of knowledge that she believes will help her thrive in her career.

“It’s definitely given me an opportunity to have some level of expertise as it relates to compliance and legal partners,” Manger said. “It’s nice to have a deeper understanding to help me explain some of the legal issues surrounding social media – like intellectual property rights, copyright and regulatory compliance.”

The MSL degree, which can be completed in one to four years, is geared toward professionals like Manger who are looking to gain a fuller grasp of the law as it applies to their field. The unique offering by UC Hastings allows students to earn a law-focused credential without committing as much time or money as is required to pursue a JD.

“It’s about democratizing legal education so that more people can study it,” said Jessica Vapnek, associate dean of the MSL program. “It’s for people who want to understand law and want to think like a lawyer without going into debt for years.”

The MSL program, which started in 2012, was initially geared toward medical professionals but has since grown to welcome students from a wide range of backgrounds. MSL graduates have been doctors, nurses, librarians, venture capitalists, HR professionals, city auditors and mental health professionals, among others.

Manger, who graduated in May, completed her MSL degree over two part-time years. Manger said she especially liked the lack of separation between MSL and JD students. She attended the same classes as JD students and said she was treated no differently in terms of assignments or expectations. “I liked the fact that there wasn’t a segregation,” Manger said. “It was, ‘You’re here. This is the law, and this is what you need to know when you practice law.’ I thought that was really refreshing.”

Manger, who has had vast experience with negotiations and contracts during her career, said she was surprised at how much she learned in mock bargaining sessions with fellow students in her negotiations class.

“I’ve negotiated contracts on behalf of Wells Fargo and a variety of companies I’ve worked with so I thought I had a leg up on the group, but I didn’t,” Manger said. “I learned a great deal from them.”

According to Manger, the MSL degree did more than just sharpen her legal skills and acumen. It also served as a test run to help her decide if she wants to pursue a JD in the future.

The verdict? “I think I definitely want to pursue it further,” she said. “I fully plan on continuing my role here at Wells and I’ll pursue a JD. I say I’ll be a lawyer in my retirement.”