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Vanderbilt Law School faculty created and designed the online Master of Legal Studies curriculum from the ground-up for engaging online learning. The 30-credit program offers a wide variety of subjects, allowing you to take foundational classes with the same cohort of students, while tailoring some advanced classes to your specific interests. The core courses are based on the first-year curriculum for JD students with a focus on the structure of U.S. law, corporations, contracts, torts, and legal research, among others.

You can expect approximately 16 hours of work per week, which may include lecture videos, reading, discussions, and assessments. In each course, you will have opportunities to analyze complex legal issues in conversation with both your instructor and peers who are located around the world.

You will have the option to come to campus for the Negotiation course. This course takes place primarily over the weekend and includes the chance to meet with a faculty member and fellow students. If you are unable to come to campus, there are alternative Specialized Topics courses to choose from that will allow you to enjoy the benefits of remote learning.

“The flexibility of the online program has enabled me to continue my full-time employment here at Vanderbilt University while also going back to school to earn a degree. It enables me to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and the benefits definitely are enormous.”

Kirra M. Cruise-Streat
Kirra M. Cruise-Streat
Senior Executive Secretary, MLS Online Student


This class introduces the structure of the American legal system, to the forms of legal reasoning, and to the sources and nature of law and legal advice. It also introduces students to the tools for identifying, referencing, and evaluating legal texts.

Experiential learning activities:

Case studies, policy debates, role-playing exercises, and "virtual field trips" using Vanderbilt campus services.

Learning objectives:
  • Develop a knowledge of the foundational structures and rules necessary for legal studies
  • Distinguish between structures of the legal system as well as federal and state governments
  • Identify sources of legal rules
  • Analyze the rationales for legal rules
  • Evaluate sources of legal risk
  • Identify the stages of the litigation process and the roles of the participants

A study of the modern business corporation, both publicly held and closely held enterprises, including the organization and financial structuring of corporations; the allocation of control among shareholders, directors, and officers; the responsibilities of management and controlling shareholders; and the issuance of corporate securities.

This course explores the general law of contracts. In addition to studying the definition of a contract and how it differs from other promises, this course explores the common components, interpretation, and enforceability mechanisms of contracts, as well as what happens when contracts are violated.

Experiential learning activities:

Case studies, self-reflective questions, research, quizzes, discussions

Learning Objectives:
  • Distinguish a contract from other types of promises
  • Define the key components of a contract
  • Describe situations where agreements are not enforceable
  • Identify ways that contracts allocate risk
  • Explain the basic principles that guide contract interpretation
  • Determine the consequences of a breach of contract
  • Explain the meaning and importance of common boilerplate contractual provisions

This course provides an overview of the ways in which administrative agencies operate in our legal system. It will provide an overview of the most important forms of agency actions – rulemakings, adjudications, and guidance – as well as an introduction to how to contest, interpret, and advocate before agencies.

Experiential learning activities:

Case studies, polling activities, debating policy directions

Learning Objectives:
  • Identify the various ways regulations impact individuals and businesses
  • Interpret regulations and identify sources for interpreting regulations
  • Understand how agencies conduct investigations and adjudications
  • Recognize which aspects of regulatory framework are likely to be subject to change
  • Develop a strategic sensibility of how to advocate before an agency

This class introduces students to the basic tools of legal research. It teaches students to use specialized electronic databases for legal research and develops legal research skills more broadly.

Experiential learning activities:

Scenario-based case study, legal research practice, role play.

Learning Objectives:
  • Independently identify and locate appropriate resources to answer common legal research questions.
  • Understand that for most legal questions, secondary sources describing the law governing an issue provide an ideal starting point for research.
  • Use different types of legal primary resources, and understand how and where they are published.

This course focuses on liability for intentional harm to person or property and for similar harm caused by negligent conduct.

An introductory study of due process and equal protection as general constitutional restrictions on all government actions that affect individuals and an introduction to the structural role of the Supreme Court in enforcing those constitutional restrictions against the other units of state and federal government.

This course will explore fundamental concepts in American criminal law and American criminal procedure.

The goal of this course is to introduce students to the vocabulary lawyers and judges use in processing criminal cases, the ways in which the criminal legal system effectuates society’s goals, and the central controversies associated with that system.

Experiential learning activities:

Plea-bargaining exercise, case studies, policy debates, role-playing exercise, cooperative-learning jigsaw activities

Learning objectives:
  • Read and understand the elements of a typical criminal statute
  • Identify the primary components of criminal law defenses
  • Identify the stages of the criminal process and the roles of the participants
  • Analyze the risks and benefits of punishing given conduct

This course outlines the basic concepts, principles, and statutes that define employment law in the United States. After exploring what distinguishes an employment relationship from other types of workplace relationships, this course considers how the employment relationship affects the legal responsibilities that businesses and workers have towards each other and towards third parties.

Experiential learning activities:

Case study, self-reflective questions, research, quizzes, discussion, assignment, and online resource reading

Learning objectives:
  • Distinguish and employer and employee from other types of workplace relationships
  • Describe the implications of an employment relationship, as opposed to other types of workplace relationships
  • Define the default rule of employment at will
  • Identify common methods of contracting around the default rule
  • Recognize the limited privacy rights available to employees in the workplace
  • Identify the duties that employers have towards their employees, particularly with respect to wage and hour rights
  • Identify the duties that employees have towards their employers

Specialized Topics course combinations will vary each semester. Learners will pick one Specialized Topics course combination for a total of 3 credit hours. Below are examples of Specialized Topics courses that have been offered in the past.

Intellectual Property Survey:

This course explores fundamental concepts in American intellectual property law, more particularly copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secret law. Topics covered in this course include how rights are created and the registration process, as well as the scope of protections and applicable exceptions. It also briefly explores international aspects.

Experiential learning activities:

Case study, self-reflective questions, research, quizzes, discussion, and polling

Learning objectives:
  • Identify what types of objects or information can be protected by copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secret law
  • Identify cases when applying for or registering intellectual property rights is necessary or useful, and where and how to do so
  • Apply basic principles of intellectual property law to common simple situations in various types of industry or business
  • Understand the basic elements of the international protection of copyright, patents, and trademarks

This course emphasizes fundamental concepts in American property law. It explores the role of property in the American legal system, identifies legal tools that facilitate property transactions, and introduces technical vocabulary that lawyers use when discussing property, and examines the interaction between private property and public power.


This optional in-person intensive short course will focus on the theory and practice of negotiation. It will primarily take place over a weekend, except for a few out-of-class reading and writing assignments. Course topics will include conflict style, adversarial negotiation, and problem-solving negotiation. By taking this course, you agree that you will join a weekend on-campus immersion, which will take place August 9-11, 2024 for the Summer 2024 term. (Future terms’ on-campus immersion dates will be listed here once they are determined.) Please note that the cost for travel, lodging and meals is not included in tuition and will be at your own expense.

*Students who choose to enroll in this course will participate in an on-campus learning experience. The cost of travel, lodging, and meals are not included in tuition and will be at students’ expense.

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To learn more about the online Master of Legal Studies and download a brochure, please fill out this form. You can also reach an admissions advisor directly by calling 844-723-9010 (toll-free).

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