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How an Online Master of Legal Studies Can Advance Your Career in Compliance and Risk Management

Online Master of Legal StudiesAt the end of her first year in Seattle U Law’s online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) in Compliance and Risk Management program, student Christian Kennedy is already seeing results at work. Her senior leadership sees them, too.

Christian joined us in a webinar to tell us more about why a master’s in legal studies was the right choice to advance her student’s career. 

Discovering the Master in Legal Studies Degree

Christian works as a compliance manager at a biotechnology company. She works in the area of pharmacovigilance, which is the regulatory area created to ensure that food, medical devices, drugs, and other therapeutics are effective and safe. Christian works with internal departments to make sure their processes and procedures are aligned with corporate governance and policies and regulatory agency requirements. 

Christian made a decision to pursue an advanced degree in order to advance her career. “I have solid experience and a great background for my role,” Christian told us. “But in biotechnology it’s advantageous to acquire additional education if you want to move into leadership roles, and that’s my goal.”

Christian began by exploring MBA programs but ultimately decided these programs “just didn’t hit the mark.” “MBA programs,” she explained, “lack deeper focus on the communications, compliance, regulatory, and law components that I need to advance my skills and become a good candidate for leadership positions.”

Christian also investigated master of arts or master of science degrees in communications. “I thought that perhaps I could parlay my background in communications into a foundation for growth if I obtained an advanced degree,” she said. After investigating multiple MA and MS programs, though, Christian determined that these programs also didn’t provide the specific compliance and legal skills she wanted.

“Then,” said Christian, “I discovered the master of legal studies degree.”

Choosing Seattle U Law’s MLS program

Christian investigated multiple master of legal studies (MLS) programs, ultimately choosing Seattle U Law’s online MLS program.

Christian wanted a program grounded in legal issues, which provides the opportunity for more engagement with the issues she deals with professionally every day. “Working at a big corporation,” Christian said, “we work with law all the time.”  “But usually when a matter goes from compliance to legal,” she continued, “you hand over the issue with notes and it’s taken from there. Or it goes to a senior manager or director and they handle the discussion.” 

“I like that the Seattle U program,” she said, “has its foundation in law, with compliance and risk management built on top of that foundation. It fills in foundational areas that are absent in my background and that I want to learn in order to prepare myself for leadership roles.”

“I also was impressed with the program’s ‘compliance with a conscience’ motto,” Christian said. “I had never seen a program call out this approach.” 

“When I went to my second Seattle U webinar,” Christian said, “the speaker said things that really hit home for me.” After a conversation with the program director, impressed with the program’s accessibility and transparency, Christian made her decision. “I concluded,” she said, that this program was different from the others and that it aligned best with my professional and personal beliefs.”

Flexibility and Support

Christian appreciates the online program’s flexibility. “I work full time and go to school. The program gives me the flexibility to study at my own pace, and support for the community and volunteer I already have in place.”

Christian says the coursework is a good balance of law, risk management, and compliance. “And the professors and the staff are here to support you and they want you to learn,” she said. “They want us to reach out, and this shows a high level of teaching ethics.”

Seeing Results in the Workplace

From the start, Christian was able to apply what she learned in the program to her job. Christian handles regulatory intelligence reporting for her GPVP Compliance team, gathering information about rules, regulations, and compliance issues that are changing globally. She discerns the timing of those changes and provides reports to senior management. “Because of the legal research skills I learned in the first semester,” she said, “I could cut the time spent on those work tasks by 30 percent, which is huge! I didn’t expect such an immediate benefit.”

A similar dynamic happened for contract law. “I thought contract law would be boring,” Christian said, “but it’s fantastic, and I can apply it to my career right now.” “I can now read contracts from a very different viewpoint,” she said, “making notations during contract review with an eye toward compliance issues.” Christian says the legal team has commented that the quality of Christian’s work, while previously very good, has improved even further. 

Pursuing a master’s degree is changing Christian’s style at work, and this change is recognized by senior leadership. “During a recent departmental meeting a member of the senior leadership team recently told me that I’m seeing things differently and asking much tougher questions than I previously did,” Christian said. “It’s great to be nearing the end of my first year in the program and already seeing results like this.”

“Investing in yourself and doing the research to find the program that’s the right fit is important,” Christian concluded. “This program was the right opportunity for me.”

Master of Legal Studies in Compliance and Risk Management Program

Seattle U Law’s online Master of Legal Studies in Compliance and Risk Management program helps individuals who want to advance their careers and learn from respected leaders in ethics, compliance, and risk management. 

Depending on professional goals and interests, students in the fully online program can optionally choose to focus on financial compliance, healthcare compliance, corporate compliance, or data & cybersecurity compliance. The MLS program provides opportunities to solve problems through a legal lens and gain foundational knowledge of the law, but without a JD. It prepares graduates to lead compliance efforts in any organization, regardless of industry. Students graduate with a commanding knowledge of law, legal analysis, and the frameworks used to identify, assess, and respond to risk. The program’s values-based approach moves beyond a narrow sense of compliance and helps establish a sense of equity, justice, and inclusion.

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