A legal curriculum to transform your career.
A legal curriculum to transform your career.

Pitt Law’s Master of Studies in Law Curriculum

The Online MSL core curriculum consists of nine courses offered sequentially, with courses between 3 to 8 weeks in length. Upon completion of the core curriculum, MSL students will move on to the coursework in their chosen specialization. The core MSL curriculum provides a solid foundation in a wide range of legal topics that are crucial to developing a successful career in a variety of professional fields.

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Find the online program that fits your needs. Our Online Master of Studies in Law (MSL) program is designed for professionals seeking to enhance their careers through a legal education with a versatile alternative to the traditional three-year JD degree. Our graduate certificates can further your expertise within a specific area of the law in 10 months. Students who complete a certificate program have the option of applying those 15 course credits toward the Online MSL degree.

Complete the form to get a program brochure for Pitt Law’s Online MSL plus your chosen specialization, or your chosen certificate program, delivered to your inbox.

Online MSL Curriculum
(Core courses, 15 credits)

American Legal System (2.5 credits)

This course will begin to help MSL students to “think like lawyers.” Students will gain experience in reading and analyzing cases and statutes in order to begin to understand how to use the law to predict answers to legal questions. The course will also include a sampling of legal readings and guest lectures in the various areas of substantive law.

Private Law I: Contracts (1.25 credits)

​​What promises are legally enforceable? Why does the law enforce those promises? What does it mean to enforce a promise? This course explores those questions, using the basic concepts, principles, and doctrines of contract law, sometimes called “the law of broken promises.” Specific topics include the requirements for formation of a contract (such as offer and acceptance), justifications for enforcing promises (such as consideration or detrimental reliance), justifications for denying or limiting enforcement (such as unconscionability or mistake), interpretation of contract terms, and remedies for breach of contract.

Private Law II: Torts (1.25 credits)

This course explores Torts, the field of private wrongs. People, or companies, file tort claims as a way to get compensation for harm that another party's conduct has imposed on them. Tort claims vary from personal injury (“slip and fall” type accidents, or medical malpractice) to business torts (tortious interference with contract, or securities fraud) to reputational torts (defamation). Students study the methods and policies for allocating responsibility and compensating losses when one party harms another party, their property, or other interests under civil (as opposed to criminal) law. The course examines the three main theories of tort liability—intentional, negligent, and strict liability—and surveys key categories of tort claims that MSL students are likely to come across in professional and personal pursuits.

Private Law III: Property (1.25 credits)

Property examines the concept of what it means to own “things”—including real property such as a house, personal property such as a car, and intangible property such as the right to reproduce a work of art. From historic disputes over ownership of lands held by Native Americans to current controversies over government “taking” of private property, property use and ownership builds and destroys fortunes and captures the public imagination. The course covers what property is and why it is so important to us as individuals and as a society. Students learn what “rights” property owners hold, and how are they acquired and transferred. Finally, students learn the ways a property owner can exercise those rights, and how those rights are bounded by the law. Specific topics include acquisition of property, present estates and future interests, co-ownership, marital property, landlord-tenant law, land sales, title recording systems, easements, restrictive covenants, nuisance, and public land use regulation (including zoning, eminent domain, and the issue of regulatory takings).

Public Law I: Constitutional Law (1.25 credits)

An introduction to American constitutional law, with an emphasis on U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The course will explore various methodologies of constitutional interpretation and modes of constitutional analysis. Topics covered include the role of the judiciary in reviewing acts of the political branches of government; the separation of powers and relations among the three branches of the federal government; the powers of the national government and federalism-based limits on Congress and the states; and individual constitutional rights.

Public Law II: Criminal Law (1.25 credits)

Criminal Law addresses the fundamentals of the criminal justice system and the major legal principles that shape criminal law. Criminal law broadly refers to federal, state, and local laws that make particular behavior illegal and punishable by fines and penalties, including but not limited to the offender’s incarceration. Criminal law is a form of public law in which the government (federal or state) prosecutes individuals or organizations for their actions or inactions that violate the applicable law. This course begins with a study of the fundamentals of criminal law, then moves on to the elements of a criminal case, the requirements for criminal liability, and defenses to criminal charges. Students undertake a critical analysis of our criminal justice system, including criminal justice and criminal law reforms. Students study leading cases in criminal law, review selected written laws (or statutes), and apply their knowledge in simulation-type exercises.

Public Law III: Legislation and Regulation (1.25 credits)

Legislation and Regulation focuses on the role of statutes—laws of general applicability enacted by a legislative body—and regulations—rules and other pronouncements issued by administrative agencies—in contemporary American law. An unusual aspect of Legislation and Regulation is that it does not examine one particular subject area—say, Contracts, Property, or Torts—but instead equips students with the skill to interpret and apply statutes and regulations across a wide variety of subject areas. Many fields are heavily governed by statutes and regulations, including tax, health care, technology, communications, the environment, corporate and other business affairs, transportation, estates and trusts, labor and employment, criminal law, and immigration. The course focuses on federal statutes and regulations; it covers how statutes are passed, the structure and typical components of a statute, how courts interpret statutes, the functions of government administrative agencies, and judicial review of agency regulations.

Business and Tax Law (2.5 credits)

Business and Tax Law is an introductory survey of the law of agency, basic taxation, and business entities (general partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations). This course introduces MSL students to the world of business, corporate, and tax law. Students learn the differences between partnerships, corporations, and limited liability companies, as well as their variations. They become familiar with some of the key aspects necessary to start and operate a basic business, as well as far more complex corporate groups and transactions. Along the way, students acquire a working knowledge of agency law, which can be used in a wide variety of extra-corporate contexts, as well as some fundamentals about finance and property.

Commercial and Tech Law (2.5 credits)

Commercial and Tech Law combines key aspects of commercial law – the law governing business transactions and operations – with a survey of the law of intellectual property and emerging technologies. The course breaks down the
“hot topics” and focuses them specifically for MSL students. The commercial law portion of the course includes exercises in contract drafting, and includes an introduction to employment law and trade regulation (including consumer protection law, consumer financial law, and antitrust law). The technology law part of the course surveys the law of intellectual property (copyright law, the right to identity, trademark law, trade secrets, and patent law) and considers the rapidly developing law intended to harness and incentivize emerging computer-based technologies (privacy and data protection law, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and block chain).

Select Your MSL Specialization or Graduate Certificate Program

The MSL specializations and standalone graduate certificate programs draw from the same courses. Choose from Corporate Compliance, Health Care Compliance, Human Resources Law, International Business Law and Dispute Resolution. Explore the curriculum for each below.

Corporate Compliance (15 credits)

Introduction to Corporate Compliance (3 credits)

This course will provide an introduction to corporate compliance programs for U.S. and foreign lawyers, as well non-lawyers. Learn the basics of a compliance program to build a strong foundation to approach corporate compliance.

Topics covered in this course will include:
  • Importance of a compliance program
  • Importance of ethics, organizational culture (vision and values), and a code of conduct
  • Understanding the key issues of an organization’s compliance policies and procedures
  • Understanding which policies and procedures should be covered in a compliance program
  • Incorporating compliance and ethics standards in contractual arrangements

Ethics and Compliance Programs (3 credits)

This course introduces students to creating an ethics and compliance program.

Topics covered will include:
  • Framework: U.S. Department of Justice Sentencing Guidelines and Guidance on corporate compliance programs
  • How to create an effective ethics and compliance program
  • Conducting a risk assessment to determine the greatest risk facing an organization, including understanding its path to market (agents, distributors, licensees, and other intermediaries)
  • Creating a culture of integrity
  • Effective drafting of compliance policies and procedures
  • Effective drafting of a code of conduct
  • Drafting a gifts and entertainment policy
  • Integrating the ethics and compliance program into the organization

Designing, Measuring Effectiveness, and Auditing Compliance Programs (3 credits)

This course introduces students to designing and measuring effective audit compliance programs. This will be based on the Department of Justice Sentencing Guidelines.

Topics covered will include:
  • Administering an effective compliance program, such that the goals and objectives are achieved
  • Defining the authority and role of ethics and compliance professionals, including reporting lines and access to an organization’s board of directors or audit committee
  • Creating an annual ethics and compliance work plan
  • Ensuring that the organization has processes in place to assess key areas of risk, including intermediary review and assessment
  • Compliance lines and other telephone or online reporting mechanisms
  • Communication, education and training of a compliance risk program
  • Monitoring for organizational misconducts
  • Monitoring ethics and compliance related activities and risks
  • Conducting a risk-based assessment of the compliance program

Conducting Investigations and Risk Assessments (3 credits)

This course introduces students to conducting investigations and risk assessments and teaches them how to conduct an internal investigation.

Topics covered will include:
  • Representing the company, not the interviewee
  • Purpose of the interview
  • Legal and ethical considerations of internal investigations in foreign jurisdictions, i.e., preserving attorney client privilege where it exists
  • Responding to governmental inquiries and investigations and voluntary disclosures to regulatory agencies
  • EU Dawn Raids and other unannounced governmental investigations
  • Conducting periodic risk assessments
  • Use and development of risk assessment methodology

Special Topics in Compliance Seminar (3 credits)

This seminar study allows students to take an in-depth look at special topics in corporate compliance.

This includes topics such as:
  • Securities Compliance, including SEC Disclosures
  • Antitrust Compliance
  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
  • UK Antibribery Act
  • Joint Ventures
  • Enterprise Risk Management
  • Financial Compliance
  • International Trade and Export Compliance
  • Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance

Health Care Compliance
(15 credits)

Introduction to the Legal System for Health Care and Compliance (3 credits)

Good compliance decision-making depends on a clear understanding of the legal framework that regulates the health care industry. This course will explore aspects of tort, contract, corporate, and administrative law against a backdrop of the business of health care and compliance needs. For example, students will learn fundamental tort concepts while discussing malpractice issues and will learn basic concepts of corporate law while examining shifting alliances in the health care market. Students will also gain an understanding of administrative law by examining the authority of federal regulators and their influence on how health care is delivered.

Legal Aspects of Health Care Compliance (3 credits)

This course will examine the substantive law that generates most compliance risk issues against a backdrop of recent enforcement actions. It will cover the compliance program elements, fraud and abuse laws (the False Claims Act, the Anti-Kickback Statute, Stark), conditions of participation, coding and billing, documentation, medical necessity, cost reports, internal investigations, the attorney-client privilege, CMS/State Medicaid contractors, HIPAA/HITECH privacy and security, and OIG guidance.

Effective Compliance Program Development and Skills (3 credits)

This course focuses on the fundamentals required to develop and maintain an effective compliance program. Students will study the seven elements of a successful compliance program in practical detail and will learn best practices for compliance programs. Specifically, this will include learning how best to design and implement compliance oversight and committees, practicing policy drafting, and exploring the most effective ways to educate and train on compliance. This will also include developing an excellent understanding of audit, investigation, and corrective action skills and strategies.

Professional Judgment and Ethics, the Canvas of Compliance (3 credits)

Health care organizations can face a broad array of ethical issues and often the chief compliance officer is called on to publicize and monitor the organization’s code of ethics, vision, and values, as well as oversee the training of employees. In health care compliance, ethical issues can be especially challenging. Health care organizations are also businesses and the tension between business decisions and health decisions creates many of the topics we will discuss in this ethics course. This course will cover organizational ethics, mission and values, professional judgment, core values and managing conflict, and health care ethics and business decisions.

Selected Applications in Compliance (3 credits)

Students will self-select their areas of study by choosing three subject matter seminars from the following:
  • Hospitals and Providers
  • Advanced Hospitals and Providers
  • Privacy
  • Advanced Privacy
  • Health Care Quality
  • Risk Assessments
  • Compliance in Research
  • Life Sciences
  • Compliance for Insurers

In addition, each student will work individually with their instructor to complete a capstone paper in their area of professional interest. View the specifics of the seminars here.

Human Resources Law
(15 credits)

Introduction to the Legal System for Human Resources; Hiring and Firing (3 credits)

This course will begin by explaining primary sources of law and exploring the judicial process, which will include an overview of state and federal court systems, state and federal administrative agencies, jurisdiction, class actions, the civil litigation process, and alternative dispute resolution. It will next look at job classification: whether a worker is an employee, an independent contractor or a student intern. Next this course will review job selection and hiring issues, such as resume fraud, background checks, questions considered inappropriate to job seekers, employee contracts, noncompetition and arbitration agreements, protecting trade secrets, job references, and vicarious liability. Finally, this course will cover selected legal disputes surrounding job termination: claims of wrongful discharge and violation of whistleblower laws.

Wages, Hours and Benefits (3 credits)

This course will begin with an examination of issues presented by the Fair Labor Standards Act: minimum wage, overtime, off-the-clock work, and child labor. It will next look at human resource record keeping functions such as personnel file maintenance, medical file maintenance, performance evaluations and disciplinary actions. Finally, this course will cover selected employee benefits and income maintenance issues, such as health insurance, pensions, disability benefits, unemployment compensation, family and medical leave, and plant closing/mass layoff notification.

Working Conditions (3 credits)

This course will begin with the topic of health and safety at work, including employer obligations under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act and state workers compensation laws. It will next look at human resource challenges posed by employee handbooks and employer codes of conduct. This course will next cover employee privacy issues, such as workplace appearance and grooming, “love contracts,” privacy off the job, employee monitoring, social media and politics in the workplace, and drug testing. Finally, this course will explore selected labor-management relations issues, including situations where employees (union and nonunion) engage in concerted activity for their mutual aid and protection.

Anti-Discrimination Law (3 credits)

This course will cover federal, state and local anti-discrimination laws and will begin with identification of protected classes, including race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, and disability. It will next look at employment discrimination enforcement mechanisms, legal defenses, and legal remedies. Finally, it will look at “types” of discrimination, including disparate treatment, disparate impact, harassment, and retaliation claims.

Selected Topics in Human Resources Law (3 credits)

In this course students choose a number of short elective courses in their areas of interest or choose electives in areas for study in greater depth.

International Business Law and Dispute Resolution
(15 credits)

Introduction to U.S. and International Business Law (3 credits)

This course will provide an introduction to U.S. and International Law for the non-lawyer and/or the foreign lawyer. It will provide the baseline knowledge necessary for students to understand how the U.S. legal system works, and how transborder transactions can be approached.

Commercial Aspects of Cross-Border Transactions (3 credits)

This course will introduce the student to commercial transactions that cross borders. Students will consider the impacts of choices of law and choices of forum on the transaction.

Specialty Areas in Cross-Border Transactions (3 credits)

This course will introduce the key specialty areas that are involved in a cross-border transaction. Students will learn how taxes, intellectual property and contractual provisions are used by international lawyers to allocate and minimize risks in such transactions.

Foundations of International Dispute Resolution and Litigation (3 credits)

This course will introduce the resolution of disputes in cross-border transactions. Students will learn the basics of how disputes arise, how to avoid or resolve them, and how to litigate them when cases are filed.

Special Topic in International Transactional or Dispute Resolution Law (3 credits)

This seminar study will allow the student to take an in-depth look at either (i) an international transactional issue; or (ii) the challenges of doing business in a specific geographic area, including Latin America, Africa, the Middle East or Russia; or (iii) an international dispute case. It will consist of a five to 10 page written project and a five-minute online presentation, as well as a final exam.

Master of Studies in Law Admissions Deadlines

Priority Deadline
December 22
Spring 2023
Final Deadline
January 5
Spring 2023
Start Date
January 9
Spring 2023