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In 1971, responding to Chief Justice Warren Burger’s call for a program to train court administrators, Professor Harry Lawson spearheaded a program at the University of Denver College of Law which trained professional court administrators in its Master of Science in Judicial Administration (MSJA) program. To meet the demands of this emerging field, the MSJA program united the study of law with economics, political science, business and sociology.
As the MSJA program gained momentum and received national attention, many large law firms, corporate, and governmental legal departments accepted that courts required professional legal administrators. The unique training DU Law graduates received in the MSJA program prompted private law firms to hire our graduates for management positions. As a result, in 1980, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law Robert Yegge joined the MSJA program and created what is now the concentration in Law Firm Administration. By 1990, the College of Law had combined the two concentrations – Court Administration and Law Firm Administration— into a single program with a slightly altered name: the Master of Science in Legal Administration (MSLA). Professor Lawson retired from teaching in 1997, and the directorship of the MSLA program was passed to Dean Yegge. Soon thereafter, the online education market exploded; consequently, the MSLA program explored the possibility of an online curriculum. Beginning in 2003, all MSLA courses were offered both in class and online.
The MSLA Today
Today, the MSLA program is comprised of three concentrations: Law Firm Administration, Court Administration and International Court Administration. True to its roots, the program continues to advance the establishment, development, education and training of the profession that manages, operates and leads courts, law firms and legal organizations. The program prepares students for the administration and management of law firms, courts, or other organizations across the spectrum of legal institutions. The program is similar to a Master of Business Administration degree or a Master of Public Administration, but oriented toward a legal environment. Blending studies of business management with exposure to legal culture in the context of judicial and legal administration, the MSLA program provides:
- A thorough understanding of the development and process of the legal system
- Knowledge of management principles and techniques required by complex systems
- The ability to plan and interpret empirical research in social legal systems
- An awareness of the changing trends in the law, courts and legal organizations, as well as the relationships among law, society and court systems.
The Masters Program is open to applicants who have completed a Bachelor’s or foreign equivalent degree to indicate ability to pursue graduate study. Students may earn the degree in one year (two semesters plus a summer term during which they complete a ten-week full time externship), or opt for the Executive Option and go part time, while working, and finish in approximately 2 – 4 years. All courses are available online and do not have a residential requirement.
The Ricketson Law Building
In late 2004, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification to the University of Denver’s Frank H. Ricketson Jr. Law Building, the nation’s first law school building to be certified “green.”
The Frank H. Ricketson Jr. Law Building consists of 181,000 square feet spanning four stories. The $63 million structure was built with DU’s signature blend of red brick limestone trim and copper, and was outfitted with the latest in class-and-courtroom technology, including building-wide wireless access, “hot seats” in every classroom, a fully equipped training/mock trial courtroom and in-class digital document cameras, which provide the ability to display crisp images of materials that are not in digital format.
Students in the MSLA program benefit greatly from the Sturm College of Law’s state-of-the-art technology. The program utilizes educational platforms for the self-starter (Blackboard) as well as the more structured learner (Horizon Wimba).