Master of Legal Studies Alumni Spotlight: Luke N.

Decoding Dilemmas at the Intersection of Ethics and Law as a Graduate of the Online Master of Legal Studies Program

What often lies at the intersection of ethics and law? Luke N., of Hamilton, OH, knows the answer: Dilemmas.

As a Conflict of Interest (COI) Analyst in the University of Cincinnati (UC) Office of Research Security and Ethics[SE1], Luke decodes dilemmas every day, balancing legal obligations with moral responsibilities to achieve a balanced resolution.

Luke’s work is centered on legal and ethical problems that stem from compliance requirements and transparency policies. Daily, he must remain aware of multiple intricate and ever-changing legal parameters.

Political Experience Informs Present Work

Before Luke served as a COI Analyst at UC, he worked at the White House as a director for the Presidential Gifts Office, where he processed all gifts given to the President, First Lady, members of the First Family, and White House staff. Luke was already familiar with some aspects of the legal system. But now that his UC role involves ensuring ethical research practices, he sees an entirely different area of law and its associated dilemmas.

The growing importance of transparency and ethical conduct in professions even remotely linked to governmental functions underscores the gravity of these challenges. Luke knew there was more involved than merely understanding the law but also navigating the gray areas it creates when it intersects ethics.

The Practical Side of Law

When Luke began wondering where he could turn for additional guidance without becoming a lawyer, his quest for clarity led him to explore viable options. This pursuit led him to the University of Cincinnati’s Master of Legal Studies (MLS) online program.

Since Luke wanted a deeper understanding of the law, the program seemed ideal. While he wasn’t interested in practicing law, he liked knowing the MLS program was an extension of UC’s renowned law school. He says, “We’re being taught by the same legal professionals that instruct aspiring attorneys at the College of Law but with a different approach.”

Real-Time, Relatable Legal Education

UC designed its legal studies master’s program with professionals like Luke in mind. The fully online curriculum includes topics like business law, compliance, risk management, and privacy and cybersecurity law, which are practical and related to real-world scenarios.

The MLS program’s applicability is something our students notice; Luke echoes this belief, saying:

Professors know you’re a working professional who’s not enrolled to practice law eventually — and this shows in the material we study. Each course in the program had a direct connection to my work as a conflict-of-interest analyst, including those that covered the compliance aspects of research agreements and grants. One module I remember specifically, due to its timeliness, was in the Contracts course, where Professor Sean Mangan explained the potential contract terms for Elon Musk’s interest in purchasing Twitter.

Here are a few examples of how the legal studies master’s degree courses tied directly to Luke’s work as a COI Analyst:

  • Introduction to Law helped with strategic thinking and reconsidering how questions and statements are worded in a legal setting.
  • Contracts, focusing on negotiation, formation, and interpretation of contracts, and Business Law provided valuable insight for reviewing research agreements and grants.
  • Legal Research and Communication, Compliance, and Risk Management focused on ways to communicate with researchers to ensure compliance and minimize risk when human subjects are involved.
  • Administrative Law, which enriches a student’s understanding of the U.S. Constitution, emphasizes the powers of government and the need for keen analytical skills.

Luke says his learnings from Privacy and Cybersecurity Law, Employment Law, and Administrative Law converged during the conflict management planning process at work. His team needed to consider how research results and data are protected, how research remains independent, and any new agency rules/regulations the industry must follow.

Capstone Project Locks in Learning

Luke’s final project to complete his UC degree, the capstone, allowed him to examine an area he knew well, take a deep dive, and suggest improvements; he describes the experience in this way:

Since leaving the political world, I’ve noticed a substantial increase in partisan attacks on elected officials regarding gifts and their financial disclosures.

My project examined the statutory requirements for the gift disclosure, acceptance, and reporting process with executive branch officials and compared them to the different requirements for presidential candidates.

Since there should be minimal bureaucratic obstacles to compliance and transparency with gifts, this project discussed changes that could be made at each federal agency with suggestions for gift and ethics reform across the federal government.

Looking Forward to What Comes Next

Luke’s work experience and academic pursuits underscore the need for a balance between law and ethics. He summarizes his experience in UC’s program with sentiment and conviction, saying, “I’m confident this was the best professional investment for my career.”

Luke plans to continue serving as a COI analyst at UC. Though he never thought compliance and ethics would be his career path, he now sees how the need for legal compliance will always be present. “Working in risk management, due diligence, and compliance offers much better job security than working in the political world,” he says.

Interested in Learning More?

With his solid grounding in law, Luke’s future certainly looks promising. He credits the program with immediately improving his performance in the workplace, which is something we hear from other UC students in this program.

If you’re ready to take the next step to determine if UC’s Master of Legal Studies program is right for you, connect online with an Enrollment Services Advisor. To speak with an advisor right away, call (833) 556-7400 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern.

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