May 17, 2018
Some members of the inaugural online Master’s of Jurisprudence in Labor and Employment Law, which graduated May 19.
There are executives who turn to their legal department for help, and then there those who can help their corporate attorneys along the way. Monica Manolas is the latter.
One of the first graduates of Tulane Law School’s Online Master of Jurisprudence Program (MJP) in Labor and Employment Law, Manolas, Vice President of Sales at Florida-based CEMEX, found herself negotiating a union contract even while taking a class on negotiations.
“I’m doing pretend negotiations in class one week, and the next week I’m doing it in reality,” she said. “I’ve learned so much through Tulane’s program that our legal department now comes to me on some issues.”
Launched two years ago with an inaugural class of 11, including Manolas, the group of professionals from around the country will graduate its first class Saturday, becoming the first of Tulane Law’s online MJPs in labor and employment law.
"We are so excited for them,” said Joel Friedman, Program Director of the Online Master of Jurisprudence in Labor and Employment Law. “Human resource professionals interact with the legal regime in a myriad of ways virtually every day. While they do not need a full blown law school education, they certainly can profit from extensive exposure to the relevant legal principles that govern the workplace in multiple ways.”
The program was created for managers like Manolas, with formal human resource titles, and those who are not in HR but have those duties in addition to their full-time roles. Students take courses over two years on such topics as employment discrimination and labor law, intellectual property, regulation of social media, and preparing for arbitration, among others.
Gary Maxwell, one of the Master’s of Jurisprudence graduates, said Tulane’s online program and his professors helped him reach a goal he thought unattainable.
Generally, classes cover those day-to-day decisions requiring compliance with increasingly complex regulations, where missteps can become legal nightmares, said Friedman.
“This program is a real investment in their careers and for a company, in their human capital,” Friedman said. “Because we’re a nationally-ranked law school, we have the whole panoply of our administrative services available to these students -- that’s the beauty of it. It’s something you can’t find anywhere else.”
Although Manolas now is a sales exec, when she started Tulane’s program she was a human resources manager. Increasingly, she found herself negotiating contracts, dealing with intellectual property matters and managing more complex legal issues, she said.
But a law degree wasn’t what she wanted. She needed expertise in contracts, in IP and other regulatory issues.
“I saw that Tulane Law was starting an online master’s program, and it was exactly what I was looking for,” Manolas said. “I applied and I think I was the first registered student.”
On Saturday, the 11 “pioneers” are graduating from the program, which has grown to 250 enrolled students.
“This is a testament both to the need for this program and the very positive impact it is having on our students’ lives, both personally and professionally,” Friedman said.
Gary Maxwell, a union negotiator for Chrysler Corp. in Michigan, said his need was to improve his bargaining skills and move into management.
Professor Joel Friedman, Program Director of the Online Master of Jurisprudence in Labor and Employment Law, recently received a gift of gratitude – a signed plaque -- from the ‘pioneer’ class of MJPs. The inaugural class of 11 graduates Saturday.
“Law school was not something I thought I could achieve,” Maxwell said.
Tulane’s MJP was the right combination of law and practical skills education, he said, with the benefits of a prestigious law school behind it.
“The (law school) dean embraced us and told us we were now, officially, law students,” Maxwell said. “I was amazed at how we were welcomed, and how now we were part of a law school. It was amazing.”
During his two years, his professors were a constant source of help and encouragement. While he negotiated contracts at work, his classes were often great resources for ideas and advice; he used his own experiences as part of his learning.
“They just added more tools to my tool box,” Maxwell said. “Their help really boosted my confidence and made me better at whatever I was doing day-to-day.”
During this time, Maxwell’s father died and his mother had a stroke. His law school professors rallied, and he had several personal cell numbers.
“Those were very difficult days,” Maxwell said. “This wasn’t just about helping me graduate. It was that they really cared that I was well, and that I knew they were going to help me get through all of this.”
Now that he is graduating, he’s confident the future holds great things.
“Hopefully this is going to lead to something else, but I know I have more confidence to get out of my comfort zone and really move into areas I would not have before,” he said.
More information on Tulane’s Master of Jurisprudence in Labor and Employment Law can be found here.