Access our archived course, Law Basics 101: Understanding Law and the Legal System, for a preview into the course offerings of the Master of Legal Studies program. This Lifelong Learning: On Demand course is not directly affiliated with Northeastern University’s School of Law learning assessments.

Why is it important to understand the basics of law and the legal system? There is a growing demand for non-lawyers to have the skills and knowledge to think and communicate critically about legal issues that affect their fields. The Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program is designed to impart working knowledge of the law, without going into the level of technicality typically required to become an attorney.

Stay ahead of the curve and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s next with our preview of the MLS program. You will learn from faculty experts like Dan Urman, director of Northeastern School of Law’s online and hybrid programs. You will read cases, understand the structure of the legal system, and gain baseline knowledge of major debates about constitutional interpretation.

About the Featured Faculty Experts

Dan Urman, JD
Director of Hybrid and Online Programs, School of Law
Faculty, School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs


Michael Meltsner, JD
George J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews
Distinguished University Professor of Law


  • Module 2: Lawrence v. Texas and Unenumerated Rights

    Lawrence v. Texas is one of the most important civil rights and civil liberties cases in the past 100 years. It overturned a key precedent from 17 years earlier, helping to pave the way for marriage equality, even though the case did not directly involve marriage.

    Learning Objectives

    • Continue to practice your case reading skills with a landmark Supreme Court case
    • Examine the various ways that the Supreme Court applies the constitution to cases
    • Analyze the role of unwritten, or unenumerated rights, at the Supreme Court

    Supplemental Materials

    Use the following links to support your learning experience.

    Lawrence v. Texas (2003)
    Examine the full, unedited slip opinion delivered by the Supreme Court. It contains a majority opinion by Justice Kennedy, a concurrence by Justice O’Connor, and dissents by Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas.

    Lawrence v. Texas Oral Argument
    Listen to the Lawrence v. Texas oral argument. Lawyers for each side try to convince the Justices to adopt their position.

    Lawrence v. Texas Opinion Announcement
    Hear the opinion in Lawrence v. Texas. Justice Kennedy’s powerful announcement changed the law for millions of Americans.


    Watch the featured videos in under an hour.

    Michael Meltsner, former Dean of Northeastern University School of Law and experienced Supreme Court advocate, analyzes the oral argument in Lawrence v. Texas. Meltsner, who has argued 6 cases, and shows how Paul Smith, the lawyer for Lawrence, did a masterful job during his allotted time. Click here to watch this video.

    This video introduces the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court case, which paved the way for marriage equality in the US. Hear about how the court’s differing views on privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties impacts our lives.

  • Module 3: Constitutional Theories: Originalism v. a Living Constitution

    As we wrap-up this Lifelong Learning: On Demand course, conclude your experience with this module on constitutional theories. Lawyers, scholars, and citizens often debate whether the Constitution is a “living or dead” document. The answer often drives outcomes in cases, because a fixed understanding of the Constitution may create a cramped view of the court in American life. Discover the learning programs and opportunities focused on legal studies available to you at Northeastern University.

    Learning Objectives

    • Describe the major underpinnings of a Living Constitution v. Originalism
    • Highlight the weaknesses of each major theory
    • Apply the theories to ongoing controversies at the Supreme Court and beyond
    • Explore the additional learning programs and opportunities available

    Supplemental Materials

    Use the following links to support your learning experience.

    Antonin Scalia: Originalism: The Lesser Evil
    Explore a famous lecture delivered by Justice Scalia in 1988, where he discusses the merits of originalism, his favored approach to constitutional interpretation.

    Andrew Coan: Living Constitutional Theory
    Examine the family of theories that comprise a living constitution. All of them view the constitution as a shifting, malleable document.

    Profile of Justice Scalia: Supreme Confidence
    Learn about Justice Scalia, the judge most associated with originalism and one of the most important Justices in Supreme Court history. He changed the way law schools teach law and how courts interpret legal documents.

    Profile of Justice Breyer: Without A Paddle
    Learn about Justice Breyer, a judge associated with a living constitution and a pragmatic approach to legal interpretation.

    A Guide to Earning Your Master’s in Legal Studies
    Uncover what you should know about this law degree for non-lawyers and how it can give you a competitive edge in your career.


    Watch the featured videos in under an hour.

    Explore one of the biggest debates in law, which is whether the constitution should be viewed as a living or dead document.

    Understand the view of the originalists who believe that the meaning of the constitution and its amendments are frozen in time.

    Examine the view of those who support a living constitution who believe the language of the constitution is deliberately vague.

    Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Antonin Scalia and a group of students discuss the different theories of how to interpret and apply the constitution to cases.

    Learn about what the Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program entails. By earning a MSL you’re setting yourself up to be effective in any number of jobs that directly and indirectly interact with lawyers and the law.

    Discover the certificates available in business law, health law, human resources law, and intellectual property law that are stackable into the Master of Legal Studies (MLS).

    Conclude the course with a brief wrap-up on the legal system and learning opportunities at Northeastern.


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