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In an increasingly digital world, Chase College of Law is expanding its Master of Legal Studies program with new courses that combine law and technology, and putting those courses entirely online to reach students anyplace they might be in the physical world.

The concentration on the intersection of law and technology launched this year with courses such as Digital Crimes and Torts, Legal Boundaries in the Digital Age and Digital Commerce and the Law as a track within the graduate-level program for students who want to be able to understand legal issues but do not want to become lawyers.

“In today's high-tech world, knowing both the available technology and the laws that apply to it is essential,” says Lawrence Rosenthal, associate dean for academics. “There is a technology (and legal) component behind almost everything these days, and knowing that information will be tremendously advantageous in the workplace.”

The addition of the online Digital Law and Technology track gives students, in effect, three ways in which to earn an MLS degree at Chase: entirely online, in-person in traditional law school courses or a combination of traditional in-person classes and online digital law courses. Students can complete the online track in 10 to 20 months, depending on how many courses they take each of six academic terms in the online program.

How the program works: Students can take one course a term, or they can take a cluster of courses. Students in their first term, for example, could take an online version of the traditional law school course Legal Analysis and Problem Solving and might add Digital Crimes and Torts to their schedule. In a subsequent term they might select from courses such as Digital Commerce and the Law, Law for Entrepreneurs or Seminar in Technology Law. The six seven-week terms during an academic year give students flexibility to enter the program or to take breaks from it as they choose.

How law and technology merge in courses: Just as a traditional law school course in criminal law, for example, introduces students first to the basics, such as statutory elements of crimes, a digital crimes class will introduce students to what constitutes a crime, say theft, whether from a brick-and-mortar store or an online store. With an understanding of that type of basics, students can then explore how existing elements of crimes may or may not be recognizable, or need to be redefined, for digital crimes, such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying or cyberterrorism.

The types of students who might enroll online: Like the broader MLS program that allows students to tailor courses to what they think might be valuable in their careers, the online track allows students to be as general or specific as they wish. That means, for example, a student who works for, or wants to work for, a company with significant online functions might want to take courses related to data privacy and security, while a student involved in sales or who has visions of becoming an online retailer might take courses focused on digital commerce. Others, such as business executives or consultants, might want to sample the array of courses to gain a general understanding of law and technology issues.

Where newly gained knowledge might lead: Like law and technology that are continuously evolving, the online track is a building block for developing skills and problem-solving in fields that exist and ones that will emerge from those fields. Among them are blockchain technology, in which information is stored in blocks that are chained together, Artificial Intelligence, self-driving vehicles and the Internet of Things, which allows the interconnection of everyday devices.

An innovation among innovations: The online Digital Law and Technology track is one of the few programs of its type at an American Bar Association-approved law school, and complements law-and-technology programs for Juris Doctor students at Chase. The W. Bruce Lunsford Academy for Law, Business + Technology was established eight years ago with a gift from alumnus W. Bruce Lunsford to prepare students for practices in the merging fields of law, business and technology and the Chase Law + Informatics Institute was reimagined this past year to focus on legal issues of privacy and data security. For MLS students, the new track adds an innovation to the five-year-old program to allow them to choose to attend Chase from anyplace in the world.