To celebrate the 10th year of the Master of Science in Law (MSL) program—where STEM, law, and business converge—Northwestern Pritzker Law is highlighting alumni of the program from each graduating class since its 2014 launch.
The Master of Science in Law was created at a moment of tremendous technological and workforce change, when professionals from diverse fields were being called upon to interact with increasingly complex issues involving regulation, product development, privacy, use of data, contracts, business development, entrepreneurship, and more. The Law School recognized that STEM professionals in particular were often in the thick of these intersectional legal and business issues, but few had the training to address and respond to these challenges.
The launch of the MSL addressed this gap in the market, and the program has grown dramatically over the years – there are now approximately 200 students enrolled in the program annually. With both a full-time and part-time option, and the addition five years ago of an online format that caters to mid-career professionals, the MSL has sent more than 600 well-trained, interdisciplinary professionals into the market.
Following the interests of its students, and always looking to be on the cutting edge, the MSL program now offers more than 80 classes focused at the intersection of law, business, and STEM – including foundational classes in contracts, regulation, business formation, securities, and intellectual property, and an interesting assortment of specialized electives in such areas as fintech, privacy, data security, biotech, food, AI, forensic science, environmental law, IP strategy and management, and many more.
This week we are highlighting John Walton (MSL ‘17). He is currently in residency at Northwestern University Family Medicine Department in Lake Forest with plans to complete a fellowship in sports medicine. We spoke with Walton about the program, what he’s learned, and his advice for future MSL candidates.
What is the best piece of advice you received in law school?
One of the professors who taught entrepreneurship law told me, “Before you explore solutions to a problem, make sure you understand everything about the problem. If you start coming up with solutions too early, you may miss the best solution because you didn’t fully explore the problem.”
How has the MSL program impacted your career trajectory?
The program has always been a wonderful addition to my knowledge base as I often have expertise on law-related health issues that no one else would have. The MSL program also taught me how to “think like an innovator,” which has been essential to my growth as a doctor.
How are you currently applying your MSL studies in your profession?
Learning from some of the most successful people in the world through the MSL program, I was able to take certain attributes and characteristics I liked and make them my own. Now I use some of the things I learned through MSL to administer the best healthcare possible and innovate the healthcare system.
What was innovative about the program during your time as a student?
When I was a student, the program was still fairly new. This allowed me to shape my focus in the program around things in which I had strong interests. The program was very flexible and adaptable, which allowed me to focus on my goals and create a personalized curriculum to achieve those goals. It was also easy to have multiple focuses and shift if needed without problems. I learned from some of the best law professors in the country; the wealth of knowledge and ability to learn such important topics was amazing.
What advice do you have for future MSL applicants, students, and alumni?
My advice for future applicants and current students would be to make sure you use the MSL program as a supplement to your life goals. For example, my goal was to become an innovative doctor who could integrate new technologies into the healthcare field, so during my time in the MSL, I focused on completing classes and getting involved with activities that would help achieve that.
Explore new classes and opportunities that you may have thought didn’t interest you because you may be surprised. For alumni, try to stay connected with other students that have graduated. I met some wonderful, diverse, and talented students in the MSL who are now changing the world for the better. Staying connected with the MSL program often opens doors for you to work with other alumni in the future.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.