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The UC Hastings MSL is designed for individuals who do not seek to practice law, but who instead want to equip themselves with a more sophisticated understanding of legal reasoning and doctrine.

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The MSL Student Experience

Learn more about the MSL Program

The UC Hastings MSL is designed for individuals who do not seek to practice law, but who instead want to equip themselves with a more sophisticated understanding of legal reasoning and doctrine.

Play Video
The MSL Student Experience

Learn more about the MSL Program

Professionals in most fields increasingly interact with attorneys and participate in legal processes. Yet, most people have little training in the language and structures of the law. An MSL degree will not only help you further your own career and magnify your impact with a deep understanding of legal reasoning and doctrine, but it will also give you the tools to help make your organization more competitive.

As a UC Hastings MSL student, you will work closely with top law professors, Juris Doctor students, and other MSL students who are leaders in their fields. In an academically exhilarating and supportive atmosphere, you will engage with other professionals from around the Bay Area, the country, and the world as you immerse yourself in academic pursuits with practical benefits. The MSL degree can be completed in one year or spread out part-time over 2 1/2 to 4 years. The MSL program is a compelling practical addition or alternative to other master’s degrees.


MSL students may choose to pursue a general course of study, they may elect to focus on one of 15 areas of specialization, or they may design their own course of study with the guidance of their faculty advisor.


The Business specialization gives MSL students a grounding in business law through classes such as Business Associations (the law governing internal management of business entities) and Bankruptcy (the law governing creditors’ rights). Our Center for Business Law is a hub of research and innovation. Depending on their individual interests, UC Hastings MSL students can take a variety of electives including digital privacy, tax, contracts, and intellectual property.

megan miller

The Compliance specialization allows MSL students to focus on the broad and growing field of compliance work, and to understand how compliance issues cut across all areas of law. Students develop skills in analyzing compliance risks, designing and managing internal compliance functions, and counseling organizational clients. Privacy is just one area where most industries are lacking knowledge of how to comply with state, national, and international rules. Some of UC Hastings’ many course offerings include privacy, corporate governance, and business and human rights.

Moot Court
Criminal Justice

The Criminal Justice specialization increases MSL students’ understanding of criminal liability and how the justice system operates. If you are interested in pursuing or moving up in a career that intersects with the criminal justice system – such as police officer, corrections officer, probation officer, investigator, or court administrator – you will benefit from specialized knowledge of criminal justice gained as a UC Hastings MSL student. The Institute for Criminal Justice provides a wide variety of research and educational opportunities for MSL students interested in local, state, and national issues of criminal justice.

professor boswell
Dispute Resolution

The Dispute Resolution specialization allows MSL students to build and hone their dispute-resolution skills. The depth and breadth of the curriculum and experiential learning opportunities have made the UC Hastings dispute resolution programs one of the finest in the nation. MSL students specializing in dispute resolution benefit from working closely with our award-winning Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution. 


Employment, personnel, and human resources professionals must understand the legal and regulatory frameworks that affect the recruiting, hiring, promotion, and firing of employees. The ability to think like a lawyer is an essential skill to work in this area, given the pervasiveness of federal, state, and local laws and regulations and the risks of not knowing the law. MSL students interested in workplace issues of gender and racial equity can explore the topic further with the Center for WorkLife Law.

The selection of Professor Dave Owen marks the second consecutive year the Rutter Award was presented to an environmental law professor at UC Hastings.
Environmental Law

Environmental law explores issues linked to the environment, energy, and water at local, national, and international levels. Legal issues intersect with some of the world’s most intractable problems, including climate change, pollution, and species loss. Our San Francisco location is a hub for environmental law, with top private and public law firms, state and federal government offices, and non-governmental organizations just steps away from campus. MSL students work closely with faculty whose expertise includes water law, environmental law, land law, food law, climate change, and biodiversity.

CNDR participants

The Government specialization offers courses covering local, state, and national government. The specialization fosters a supportive community among public service-minded students. UC Hastings’ well-earned reputation improves the appeal of our students to government employers as well as businesses and organizations that work regularly with government agencies. The specialization is also a good complement to other subject areas that touch on or focus on public law – for example, tax law, health law, or environmental law.

Health Law Intro Photo (Sarah with Brains)
Health Law

The US health system is complex, with an array of organizations such as health care providers, insurance companies, and government regulatory agencies. Health laws and regulations have enormous impacts on the health industry, public health, and the economy. UC Hastings has unmatched course selections in the health area. UC Hastings MSL students can benefit from the extensive course offerings at UCSF under the aegis of the UC Hastings/UCSF Consortium on Law, Science, & Health Policy. 

hastings clinic immigration

The Immigration specialization gives MSL students a firm understanding of the federal laws governing immigration, a subject in the news on a daily basis. MSL students study federal legislation, court cases, and the practicalities of immigration-related work in the United States. The knowledge gained will equip you to contribute in the immigration area while your interactions with professors and other like-minded students will strengthen your network. Students can take electives including refugee law, international human rights, federal criminal law, and administrative law, and students can work with our renowned Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

International Business & Trade

The International Business & Trade specialization gives MSL students a grounding in business and an understanding of the international dimensions of business and trade. The ability to think like a lawyer is essential to those working transnationally, and our students benefit from a renowned faculty in a variety of international disciplines. Our many courses in this area include international business transactions, international trade law, prosecuting international cartels, and compliance. MSL students also build their professional and personal networks by studying alongside students from around the world.

International Law

Almost every area of legal practice crosses borders in the 21st century. The International Law specialization includes both public international law (the relationships between nations) and private international law (disputes between private entities). UC Hastings faculty are leaders in their fields, offering courses such as international human rights, international litigation, transitional justice, international trade, and international environmental law. They also mentor students pursuing international careers.


The Litigation specialization gives MSL students a firm understanding of the litigation process and builds essential practical skills. Students can take a variety of electives including contract drafting, mediation, and facilitation. A keen understanding of the litigation process sets our MSL students apart from their peers and positions them well for career success.

Julia Olson
Social Justice

MSL students attracted to this specialization come from diverse communities and perspectives, but all share a strong desire for a career that aligns with their values. This shared sense of calling builds a strong, supportive, enduring community at UC Hastings that helps sustain MSL students as they pursue this challenging and rewarding work. As a public institution, UC Hastings has a deep commitment to training those who work in or wish to work in social justice fields. You will have access to a huge array of course offerings in the social justice area, ranging from race and racism to disability law and elder law.

Start-ups & Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs interact with the law at every stage of starting or growing a business. MSL students who are or wish to become business owners or entrepreneurs may wish to focus their elective course work on contracts, tax, corporations, or intellectual property law, while working closely with our Institute for Innovation Law and LexLab. Thinking like a lawyer can be a decisive advantage for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and those working in the start-up sector.

Heather_Field, UC Hastings

The Tax specialization is designed to ensure that MSL students develop a broad understanding of key aspects of the United States system of taxation. The course offerings enable students to deepen their understanding of specific tax disciplines, such as tax policy, international taxation, and taxation of non-profit organizations. Our Center on Tax Law allows MSL students to build their professional networks. The knowledge you gain will position you well for a new career or a career move in tax or business.