MSL Program FAQs

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Academic & General

Anyone who wants to gain understanding of the law pertinent to their interests, plus analytical, writing, and speaking skills that will enhance their ability to perform the aspects of their job that require knowledge of law and the legal system. As the legal profession evolves, the need for non-JD personnel with a working knowledge of the law is increasing. Our MSL program will serve the educational needs of this expanding segment of the workforce. Some examples of jobs for which the MSL could be useful include: accountants; arbitrators; architects; business administrators; civil engineers; construction engineers and managers; educational leaders; environmental scientists; journalists; mediators; legal/regulatory compliance officers; oil and gas administrators; non-lawyer state magistrate judges and tribal judges; tribal leaders; managers of tribal enterprises; public administrators working in local, tribal, state, and federal government; public health administrators; and water resources professionals.

Yes. Full-time MSL students may work, subject to the following restrictions:

  1. Due to the intensity and importance of the first semester curriculum, UNM strongly recommends that students refrain from any employment during the first semester.
  2. Students who decide to work during their first semester must attend a counseling session with Career and Student Services prior to the start of the second week of law school.
  3. Full-time students may work no more than 15 hours per week and must certify that they will comply with the Policy on Student Employment.

Part-time students may work as permitted by their personal circumstances so long as they can come to class well prepared and otherwise meet the program requirements. Indeed, the part-time option is intended for people who continue to work while they pursue the MSL.

No. For all law courses it’s a classroom-based program. However, with the approval of the Program Director you may take up to 6 credit hours of graduate-level courses in other UNM departments--some of which are on line--and count them toward the 30 credit hours required to complete an MSL.

Yes. It is a generalist program with optional “transcripted” areas of concentration in Indian Law (IL) or Natural Resources-Environmental Law (NREL).

Indian Law Concentration. Since the 1990’s the rapid development in New Mexico of tribal casinos and off-shoot enterprises such as hotels, performance venues, golf courses, gas station-convenience stores, and other on-reservation businesses has dramatically expanded the size and breadth of the workforce employed by tribal communities. Given the increased complexity of managing and operating tribal governments and enterprises, the MSL degree will help to meet the growing need for a workforce with training in law and the legal system. Tribal executives, councilors, and judges with an MSL will be better prepared to administer the branches of tribal government. Likewise, a casino or hotel manager with an MSL will be better prepared for the thousands of commercial transactions with non-Indians that occur on a weekly basis, and for the court cases that occasionally stem from these interactions.

IL required course: Indian Law

Natural Resources and Environmental Law Concentration. Natural Resources and Environmental Law is very important in New Mexico, and the law school has a long and proud tradition of preparing students for this field. Professionals of many kinds may wish to pursue an MSL with a concentration in this area. For example, the MSL would benefit personnel working in federal, tribal, state, and local government, and in private-sector fields ranging from real estate, to energy production, to banking, to environmental consulting. The MSL also may be attractive to national laboratory personnel and graduate students enrolled in other UNM programs. The MSL will train its graduates to meet the state’s need for cross-disciplinary expertise in environmental and natural resources jobs.

NREL required courses: At least 6 credit hours from Administrative Law, Environmental Law, or Natural Resources Law.

Each concentration requires at least 15 credits of pertinent courses, 12 of which must be from law school courses, and 3 of which can be from a graduate course in another department with prior written approval. These requirements give students a solid grounding in the legal basics of their area of concentration, while allowing them to take up to 11 elective credits in other areas that interest them.

In addition, students may plan their own “non-transcripted” areas of focus with prior written approval. These areas include, for example, Constitutional Law and Rights, Criminal Justice, Commercial and Consumer Law, and Business Practice.

We strongly recommend that you take only the required, foundational four-credit-hour course called “Introduction to U.S. Law” because it is intended to impart the knowledge and skills you will need to succeed in other law courses. If you need or want to take more than four credit hours during the first fall semester, you may take up to six credit hours of graduate-level courses (500 and above) offered by other UNM departments with prior written approval of the Program Director.

No, unless the instructor and the dean give you written approval to do so.

Yes. Up to 6 of the 30 required MSL credits may be earned in graduate courses offered by other UNM departments with prior written approval of the Program Director.

Classes meet weekly for 50 minutes per credit hour. Students need to devote about three hours to prepare for each hour of class. All MSL courses require rigorous class preparation and study. Students must present themselves and their work in a professional manner, regardless of JD or MSL status. Generally speaking attendance is required at a minimum of 80% of class meetings, but some professors may require a higher percentage.

Full-time students must take an average of 10 credits per semester to finish in three semesters. Part-time students need a flexible work schedule to regularly prepare for and attend classes.

Generally speaking, Monday through Friday between 8:30 am and 6:00 pm. For sample class schedules visit the schedule of classes. Part-time MSL students need the flexibility to attend class at varying times each semester.

In general:

  • 4-credit-hour classes: 3 times per week
  • 3-credit-hour classes: 2 times per week
  • 2-credit-hour classes: either 2 times per week for one hour or once a week for 2 hours.

The fall semester runs from mid-August to mid-December, and the spring semester runs from mid-January to mid-May. The summer term runs from mid-May to late July. The exact dates vary from year to year. See the academic calendar.

In August during the week that precedes the first full day of classes.

No. Beginning MSL students must start in August because a required and essential MSL-specific course called “Introduction to U.S. Law, Procedure and Legal Education” is offered only in the fall semester. In rare instances JD students transferring JD credits into the MSL program may start in January with prior written approval.

The MSL-specific introductory course employs a combination of lecture and the traditional law school Socratic Method, and the second- and third-year law courses that MSL students take generally will use the Socratic Method, with variations from course to course.

The law school’s highly qualified tenured/tenure-track faculty and adjunct faculty in the JD program. MSL and JD students take the same law courses except for the MSL introductory course. For profiles of tenured/tenure-track faculty see the Faculty Profiles section.

Yes. For example, only JD students may enroll in clinical courses, in which they represent clients in the law school’s on-site law office. Also, some other courses are restricted to JD students because they focus on law practice skills, are required for graduation, and/or require a pre-requisite.

Yes. To pursue an integrated course of study combining two master’s degree programs, graduate students may, with prior approval, propose an individualized dual degree program culminating in two master’s degrees. You must prepare a written rationale for the particular dual degree program, including a description of the objectives to be achieved. Your rationale and proposed Program of Study must be approved and signed by the law school’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the graduate unit chairperson (or graduate unit advisor). The completed materials must be submitted to the Graduate Dean for final approval. You must meet all requirements for both master’s degrees, except that a maximum of 6 credit hours from each major may be counted toward degree requirements in the other major.

Doctoral students also may choose to pursue an MSL degree while they pursue their doctoral degree. For details see the graduate programs section of the UNM Catalog.

No. At present the MSL program does not participate in the UNM Shared-Credit Undergraduate/Graduate Degree Program.

You should apply if you are intellectually curious and want to learn about law. The UNM Office of Career Services counsels MSL applicants and students on career opportunities, but the Law School's Career Services Office does so only for JD students. The UNM Office of Career Services provides professional career advisement to current UNM students as well as UNM alumni and community members. Career Development Facilitators (CDFs) are available through appointments or walk-ins to assist you with assessing abilities, interests and values, clarifying career goals, writing a resume or cover letter, preparing for interviews, conducting a job search, or preparing to attend graduate school. See the UNM Office of Career Services site.

Maybe. You might be able to tailor the MSL program to your interests and needs through the elective courses you choose to take.

No. Almost all MSL students (and almost all JD students) have no background in law, nor is it necessary. The required first-semester MSL course called “Introduction to U.S. Law, Procedure and Legal Education" is intended to provide you sufficient background in the U.S. legal system and the study of law to prepare you for your other law courses.

All MSL students are required to own portable (notebook or laptop) computers. For further information, including specifications, see the Required Laptop Program.

The MSL program uses the grading system applicable to graduate students, not the grading system applicable to JD students. An MSL student is considered to be in academic good standing as long a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 is maintained. To earn a graduate degree at UNM, students must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 in graduate-level courses taken in graduate status at the time of degree completion. For more information see the UNM Catalog.

Yes. A JD student employee helps MSL students with the MSL introductory course.

Notify the Program Director immediately so the law school can determine if special accommodations are possible, or if a better option, after considering any financial aid factors, is to receive a “Withdrawal” or “Incomplete” grade for a course.

The MSL Bulletin and Handbook of Policies apply to the extent of any conflict with general UNM policies governing graduate students.

9 credit hours per semester (6 credit hours per semester for students with an assistantship).

Application Related

No, because the ABA approves only the JD degree. ABA Standard 313 provides:

A law school may not offer a degree program other than its JD degree program unless:

  • the law school is fully approved;
  • the Council has granted acquiescence in the program; and
  • the degree program will not interfere with the ability of the law school to operate in compliance with the Standards and to carry out its program of legal education.

    Interpretation 313-1

    Acquiescence in a degree program other than the JD degree is not an approval of the program itself and, therefore, a school may not announce that the program is approved by the Council.

    ABA Standard 506 provides:

    Without requiring compliance with its admission standards and procedures, a law school may enroll individuals in a limited number of courses, as auditors, non-degree candidates, or candidates for a degree other than a law degree, only if such enrollment does not interfere with the ability of the law school to operate in compliance with the Standards and to carry out its program of legal education.

In June 2015 the ABA Accreditation Committee acquiesced in the law school’s establishment of the MSL program.

Yes. The deadline for submitting transfer applications is June 15. The deadline for completing a transfer application file is July 15. Applications are accepted from students who want to transfer into the MSL program after completing one full-time semester, or one or more part-time semesters (1) in the Juris Doctor program at UNM or another ABA-approved law school, or (2) in a similar master's program at another ABA-approved law school. Transfer applicants are considered for admission only if they are in good standing at the law school previously attended and space is available in the MSL program. A maximum of 15 credits may be transferred to the MSL program. Credits from a substantially equivalent, required MSL introductory course also may be transferred. Transfer credits must meet the restrictions specified in the School of Law Bulletin and Handbook of Policies for the Master of Studies in Law. Credits earned at other law schools with a minimum grade of “C” or equivalent are acceptable for transfer credit to the University of New Mexico School of Law for a grade of “CR” (credit). Transfer applicants follow the same application procedure as regular applicants. If admitted with advanced standing, the student's right to continue in the MSL program depends entirely on work done at the University of New Mexico.

No. Legal education is a scarce public resource in New Mexico, so JD graduates may not enroll in the MSL program given its purpose and small size.

No, unless the Admissions Committee deems an interview necessary.

Any major is appropriate.

If you an undergraduate student interested in pre-law at UNM, contact UNM’s pre-law advisor, Prof. Peter Kierst (, who can help you decide what major will work best for you..

People who can thrive in a demanding, competitive academic atmosphere, as demonstrated by their academic record and/or professional accomplishments. We seek applicants in mid-career and recent college graduates who need or want intensive, short-term training in the law to enhance their skills for their current or future jobs but do not need or want a JD degree. For example:

  • People interested in the Indian Law or Natural Resources and Environmental Law concentrations who are working for tribal governments and enterprises, or for government agencies and nonprofit organizations focusing on natural resources/environmental issues
  • Mid-career personnel working in highly regulated industries
  • Junior and senior undergraduate students and recent baccalaureate graduates who are intellectually curious and need or want a distinctive credential that is considered useful in their chosen field

Yes. Admission is highly competitive because the MSL program is limited to 8 full-time-equivalent students (full-timers plus part-timers). Therefore, competitive applicants likely will have strong academic records and/or substantial work experience.

Yes. International students must have completed the equivalent of a US bachelor's of arts or sciences degree, and must document a minimum TOEFL score of 600 paper, 250 computer, or 110 internet, or a minimum IELTS score of 7. International students are encouraged to apply in September to allow plenty of time to process the application, obtain a visa, and re-locate to Albuquerque. Applying early may increase their chances in light of the rolling admissions process. See the admissions requirements on the Office of Admissions website.

On-line through the Law School Admission Council website. The application goes live in mid-September for applicants who want to start the program in the subsequent fall semester (students may start the program in the fall semester only).

By email, generally no later than May 1st.

By paying two required, nonrefundable UNM seat deposits totaling $400. The first deposit of $200 is due two weeks from the date of your acceptance letter. The second deposit of $200 is due June 15th. Deposits are paid through the law school website.

If you fail to submit your deposits by the required dates you will forfeit your place in the entering class. Although deposits are nonrefundable, they will be credited toward your tuition and fees upon matriculation. All applicants, including scholarship recipients, must pay the deposits.

International students must pay the entire $400 deposit two weeks from the date of their acceptance letter to ensure that the visa-application process can be completed on time.

Tuition and Financial Aid

By submitting a petition for residency after living in New Mexico for twelve consecutive months immediately prior to the term for which residency is being sought and complying with specified overt acts that demonstrate intent to become a resident. The rules for establishing residency for tuition purposes are defined by state law. The residency decision is based on the information in your application for admission. See

Yes. To apply for financial aid:

  1. Need-based scholarships are available through the UNM School of Law. Please complete and submit the MSL Need-Based Scholarship Application to by the deadline.
  2. Assistantships, Graduate Fellowships, and Scholarships are available through the UNM Graduate Studies Office. For more information or to apply please visitFunding for Graduate Students at UNM page.
  3. Federal Financial Aid: To apply for work-study and student loans all U.S. citizens and permanent residents must submit the Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The school code for UNM is 002663.

In addition to federal student loans and work-study, eligible students may also apply for Alternative Student Loans and Veterans Benefits.

Maybe. Find out if your employer has a program that pays all or part of your tuition and fees up front or reimburses you for this expense.

If you are a UNM employee, read the Education Benefits Policy to determine your eligibility and any restrictions, etc. See

UNM Tuition Remission benefits can be applied to the MSL program, subject to any requirements per UNM APPM Policy 3700: Education Benefits (


Bright, promising, and interesting candidates who UNM would be happy to have in our community if a space becomes available.

No. The number of students who accept our offer of admission determines whether and to what extent we admit from the waitlist.

No. Waitlisted applicants are reviewed holistically and accepted based on institutional need.

We admit waitlisted applicants who will complement and balance the MSL program.

Usually by June 30, but sometimes earlier or later. In any case we will notify you no later than July 15 concerning the status of the waitlist. We appreciate your patience!

Career and Professional Development

Yes. The Program Director can advise you, and there is a faculty advisor for each MSL concentration.

No. The MSL is a graduate degree, not a professional degree, so it is not intended to train students to take the bar exam or practice law. If you want to become a lawyer, you should apply to our JD Program instead. The MSL provides new skills and knowledge to enhance your existing ones rather than to prepare you for a new career. It will not qualify you to take the bar examination or to practice law.

No. MSL graduates will not have sufficient expertise to give legal advice to anyone because they are not trained to be lawyers. The MSL is intended to enhance understanding of the law and legal principles in the context of the student’s current or future job. It is not intended to prepare students to take a bar exam or to practice law. Here are just a few examples of job-related contexts in which an MSL could be beneficial:

  • Personnel of tribal governments and enterprises who frequently interact with in-house and/or outside attorneys and with all levels of government on legal issues regarding tribal sovereignty, easements, gaming compacts, taxation, criminal justice, contracts, human resources, etc.
  • Regulatory affairs managers who oversee compliance with laws on environmental protection, export control, equal employment opportunity, etc.
  • Healthcare personnel who oversee state and federal health law compliance; physicians providing healthcare in rural areas who need basic knowledge of family law and disability law; case managers who need basic knowledge of family law.

No. The American Bar Association doesn’t allow MSL credits to be applied to a JD degree.

No, but MSL graduates will have a better understanding of law than other JD applicants without this experience. However, if you already know that you need or want a JD, you will save a lot of time and money by applying directly to that program.

No. If an MSL student decides to seek a JD, the standard JD application process must be followed.

Yes. Lobo Career Connection is UNM's career portal and on-campus recruiting site. Log on to Lobo Career Connection to:

  • Access hundreds of internship, co-op and post-graduate opportunities specifically for UNM students
  • Sign up for on-campus recruiting and employer information sessions
  • Upload your job-specific resumes, cover letters and other application documents
  • Publish your resume in our resume books that are accessible to top local and national employers
  • Research employer contact/industry information
  • Learn about upcoming Career Services events