There’s no doubt about it — the MSL Orientation Week for new students is intense. Because our students have been studying or working mostly in STEM fields, the law is new to them; we use Orientation Week to introduce students to legal terminology and ideas, to a different method of study, and also to a new way of thinking about issues. That’s a lot to cover in a week; we warn new MSL students to eat their Wheaties!
Throughout the week, students prepare for the start of classes by completing five academic modules and a written legal analysis memo. Through the modules, students learn legal vocabulary as they study the court system, the litigation process, how law develops, how to analyze judicial opinions, and how to apply existing law to assess risk in new situations. As the week progresses, students prepare a written memo that analyzes and applies the law to predict an outcome in an employment-related case. At the end of the week, they meet in small groups to discuss their memos and to receive feedback on their work.
Of course, Orientation Week is not all work – there’s some fun stuff, too. Students got to hear from the Law School’s new Dean, Jim Speta, and they also were treated to numerous advice sessions from current MSL students, recent alumni, faculty, and staff on an array of issues, including the curriculum, professional development, and extracurricular activities. We had a game night, a scavenger hunt, MSL Bingo, and an evening jazz concert. And even though the format was different (thank you, Zoom and GrubHub), we continued another MSL tradition – the end-of-Orientation luncheon, where students, faculty and staff gathered to meet each other and share thoughts about embarking on the MSL adventure.
For many, a highlight of Orientation Week was hearing from our alumni speaker, Amy Garber (MSL ’18), a member of the inaugural MSL class. Here’s a small snippet of her inspiring speech:
“Enrolling in the MSL program in the very first year it was offered was risky, but I chose to take that risk, having confidence in the program’s mission and its targeted dedication to STEM professionals within a top-tier law school framework. I went on to become a student of the MSL program’s inaugural class of 2015, and I have no regrets. The MSL program gave me the opportunity to interact with a diverse student body. It gave me the opportunity to team with other members of the Northwestern community and capitalize on my newly groomed skills in intellectual property, regulatory affairs, and business. The MSL program also gave me the tools to know when to seek the advice of attorneys and other consultants and what questions to ask in order to focus their efforts and to arrive at positive and efficient business results.”
Though Orientation Week presented unique challenges this year, our new MSL students dove in with good humor and great energy. And now, five weeks into the first term, they are veteran law students who know their way around the study of law! Stay tuned for more posts about the adventures of MSL students during the 2020-21 academic year.