Professionals Gain Legal Knowledge Through UC Hastings Certificate Program

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Construction project manager Julie Parker earned a Certificate of Studies in Law (CSL) at UC Hastings last spring.

Working as a successful construction project manager, Julie Parker encounters legal issues in her job almost every day — from complying with building codes to reviewing contracts to following safety regulations.

“In construction, we do so much legal work,” she said.

Last year, Parker decided to take her knowledge of the legal field to the next level by pursuing a UC Hastings Certificate of Studies in Law (CSL), a 12-credit program that can be completed in one full-time year or up to three part-time years.

“I was looking to explore if I want to do more with the legal field or not,” she said.

Launched in 2021, the CSL program gives students a strong base of knowledge in legal thinking and legal analysis. It empowers professionals in fields including health, finance, engineering, and human resources with a better understanding of the laws and legal institutions that affect their work.

“The CSL is a fabulous way to get a taste of legal thinking, legal writing, and legal analysis, and build professional networks,” said Jessica Vapnek, who directs the CSL program at UC Hastings. “The required and elective courses that CSL students take provide a solid foundation for professionals in a variety of fields.”

The program starts with introductory courses on the U.S. legal system, legal research, and legal writing. Then, after personalized counseling sessions with a faculty advisor, students can focus on a specific area of law or pursue a general course of study. Students can choose from electives, including data privacy, environmental law, and employment law.

Completion of the CSL program also puts students halfway through the requirements for a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) degree at UC Hastings, which can be completed in one full-time year or up to four part-time years.

Parker said the CSL program allowed her to explore her interest in law without making the time or financial commitment that would be required for a JD or master’s program, “It makes more sense from a financial perspective.”

Parker, who completed the CSL program last spring, said she valued the option of taking classes remotely or in-person, which made it easier to fit in courses around her full-time work schedule.

Another program graduate, Va’Nechia Rayford, who was previously a chaplain in Alameda County and now serves as head chaplain at the Emory University Hospital System in Atlanta, said she found it extremely valuable, “I highly recommend this program to those who want to learn more about our legal system and how it applies to a vast array of disciplines.”

Parker added that through her negotiation class, she learned about deal-making strategies and tactics. She plans to share some of that knowledge when she gives a talk on negotiations at a national conference for general contractors later this year. The program also allowed Parker to expand her professional network and connect with JD students enrolled in some of her classes.

After completing the program, Parker said she now feels more confident when interacting with lawyers and other legal professionals as part of her job. She said, “I’m taking a lot of valuable knowledge from the program with me.”