Faculty Spotlight: Nora Burke Wagner, Online Master of Legal Studies

Nora Burke Wagner, Assistant Dean for International & Graduate Programs and Director, Master of Laws (LLM) Program, College of Law

Nora Burke Wagner is a true innovator in the legal field, having played a key role in the development of the University of Cincinnati College of Law’s  Master of Legal Studies program. This online program  meets the needs of busy professionals looking to expand their knowledge of how laws and regulations impact businesses of all sizes and in all industries.

Meet Nora Burke Wagner

Nora’s done a lot of listening throughout her legal career. As an assistant dean at the University of Cincinnati’s (UC’s) College of Law, she listens to her colleagues and staff and learned to listen to her students and the community around her — specifically, legal and business leaders.

This experience with listening played a vital role in Nora’s development of UC’s online Master of Legal Studies program. Cincinnati-area business leaders expressed a need for a graduate program that would help their employees learn more about how the law impacts their industries. Their employees wanted a way to learn about legal concepts without the restriction of attending in-person classes — all while still living their busy lives working and caring for their families.

Nora prioritized the collective needs of both audiences in the design of UC Online’s legal studies master’s program: It’s 100% online and presented in a self-paced way working professionals favor. There are no lectures to attend at specific times — and no more missed personal appointments because of school.

Impressive Staff and Students

The online master’s program has grown steadily since its start at the beginning of the spring 2022 semester, with the number of students increasing nearly 10-fold. “I’m so impressed with the entire system of support around the program … with what the online courses offer and all the professionals who have done every bit of what was needed to make this program excellent,” Nora says.

At UC Law since 2010, Nora says she’s impressed by the students coming from various industries and personal backgrounds. “They’re all willing to be fully engaged from the first minute,” she says.

“This degree will help me have deeper, more meaningful input and discussions of managing many distinct aspects of my current role and prepare for future opportunities as well. Specifically, it will allow me to enhance my legal literacy for the purposes of engaging in contract law and employment law.” – Edreece Redmond, Master of Legal Studies Student

Law- focused Career

Nora’s education and career experience guided her on her journey to Cincinnati and a position at UC. After graduating from law school, she clerked for a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Then Nora served at a large social service and healthcare agency in Cleveland, overseeing legal, compliance, and government relations.

When Nora arrived at UC, she had three children aged five years and younger. She initially worked two to three days a week on special projects for the law school, including developing and launching, the LLM program, a master’s program on the US legal system for people trained in law outside the U.S.

When the global pandemic changed how the entire world interacted with one another, Nora started focusing on a fully online master’s program. Soon, the innovative graduate program was ready for its inaugural first semester of students.

Degree Helps Advance Careers

UC Law’s Online MLS program is designed to teach students about the law so they can use this knowledge to advance their careers. The degree is not intended to prepare students to become lawyers but helps them gain new expertise and more marketable skills to excel in their current roles or to open new job opportunities. It’s ideal for people who collaborate with legal professionals, are in highly regulated industries, or want to manage the legal aspects of their own businesses.

The online program attracts a diverse mix of students, ages 22 to 69. While many live in Ohio, some students come from outside the state. They value an asynchronous, online program that lets them study when and where they want. But there is a time students may want to visit the UC campus — and that’s when they graduate and earn their diplomas after just 5 semesters.

Master of Legal Studies Program Requirements

To be eligible for the program, an applicant must have:

  • A bachelor’s degree from a university with regional accreditation in any field of study.
  • A written statement of interest and a professional or academic recommendation letter from someone who has known the applicant for at least one year.
  • At least two years of work experience in a professional setting.
  • An overall GPA of 2.75 or higher (on a 4.0 scale) in all previous undergraduate work.

Applications are reviewed holistically, taking work experience and other factors indicating the likelihood of success in the Master of Legal Studies program, into consideration. No standardized tests are required for admissions, but students may submit a test score, such as the GRE, LSAT, or GMAT to demonstrate academic achievement.

A Different Kind of Student

Nora says she’s noticed something distinctive about students enrolled in UC College of Law programs. “We found that when we’re talking about JD students or those going on to pursue licensure as an attorney, they’re motivated to be involved in public policy and change the world,” she says.

Online legal studies graduate students are no different. Nora says their desire to make a difference is a draw for many who pursue the program.

Nora describes the law field as equally compelling to people who follow current events and changes in our political and government system. She says, “The MLS program, while it meets some specific industries’ needs, also gives a whole new group of students a way to explore the law arena.”

“I am thoroughly impressed with the MLS program. As a UC Alumni, I knew this program would be taught by top-notch faculty — but once I started the courses, I found their credentials, background, and professional level of knowledge surpassed my expectations. Not only are they exceptionally knowledgeable, but they are also dedicated to teaching, are responsive to the students and are very approachable with questions. I feel that, as a student, I am valued and that my success is important to them.” – Hope Keller, Master of Legal Studies Student

Master of Legal Studies Program Highlights

Students can complete UC Law master’s degree program in five semesters. That’s one and a half years of part-time college courses to earn a degree that can significantly advance a career.

The curriculum includes 10 courses. Students take one seven-week class at a time and two classes each semester. The online nature of the program allows students to experience things Nora says she never got to as a law student — like listening to an actual U.S. Supreme Court argument online or in real-time.

Nora teaches Introduction to Law, officially welcoming new students into their first semester. “I designed it as an on-ramp for folks just getting started with the law,” she says, “and I love teaching it.”

Dedicated to Law and Family

When asked about hobbies or activities Nora enjoys when she’s not teaching or dreaming up new courses and degree programs, she says, “The short answer is no.”

Remember Nora’s three kids, mentioned earlier, who were five and younger? Well, they’re all teenagers now. She says her role as a mom includes being a taxi driver and calendar expert.

Keeping up with her responsibilities at UC, the legal profession and the needs of her children requires a lot of listening — something Nora excels at, as you’ve come to see.

Want to Take the Next Step?

UC Law’s Master of Legal Studies degree program runs year-round, with fall, spring, and summer start times. If you’re interested in getting started today or want to learn more about it, connect with an Enrollment Services Advisor or call (833) 556-7400 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST to speak with someone.

Nora and her fellow faculty members, including program director Susan Stephan, J.D., LLM, look forward to meeting you and hearing about your interests in the field of law and how earning this degree will benefit you personally.

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