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Online degree from ASU Law gives contract administrator the tools he needs

Photo of Dave McNaughton, ASU Law graduate, class of 2022

David McNaughton will graduate this fall with his ASU Law MLS degree in construction law and sustainability law.

November 23, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

Entering a new career opportunity as the only non-attorney contract administrator in his company, David McNaughton recognized he needed a firm grounding in basic legal theories to be proficient in his new role.

“My manager and I worked to find a program that would provide me with the requisite knowledge and experience,” said McNaughton, who was a cost estimator with Elliott Company’s aftermarket parts division before joining the contract administration team. “ASU Law’s Master of Legal Studies program stood out from all other online programs in terms of relevance, cost and degree completion time.”

McNaughton, from Irwin, Pennsylvania, now looks forward to earning his MLS degree with an emphasis in construction law and sustainability law this fall from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU Law — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: Speaking in terms of changing my perspective, I am now more fully attuned to the realities of energy production and consumption as a result of completing the Energy Law and Policy course. What I mean to say is, we – Americans and humans in general – will and must eventually turn away from relying on fossil fuels to provide both base and demand load electric power. It is my firm belief that, if and when we become serious about addressing energy policy, we will need to embrace an expanded nuclear power generation footprint. Renewable energy sources are just not capable of meeting demand alone.

Q: Why did you choose ASU Law?

A: In my comparison of several other MLS programs offered through other universities, ASU Law provided the most appropriate learning path for my career needs and at a reasonable cost.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Law?

A: This is an easy question: Professor Kirk Hays, (who taught) Construction Law and Advanced Construction Law. Aside from the facts that Professor Hays is both a talented instructor and highly experienced professional, he possesses a wonderful sense of humor. The most important lesson he taught me was this – sometimes, how you approach a legal problem or issue is more critical than whether or not you have the right answer.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: As many students enrolled in the MLS program are working adults with children, my best piece of advice is simple: Don’t stress – it will all come together. I stressed myself out almost to the point of exhaustion during my first two semesters. This came from a combination of my desire to be as perfect as I could with my coursework, the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown, and trying to be an attentive father to my two-year-old daughter. Spend time with your children and your spouse, take time for yourself, and don’t sweat the coursework – it will all come together.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to remain in my current role as the insurance and fleet programs manager with Elliott Company. That said, if an opportunity to obtain my JD presents itself, I may pursue it.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: This is a tough hypothetical, and I suppose my answer is somewhat biased toward my own experience. As I’m a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I would use the $40 million to establish a nonprofit aimed specifically at preventing veteran suicide and improving veteran mental healthcare. We lose some 22 veterans a day to suicide, and many of these veterans represent, like me, a unique subset within the larger veteran community: men and women who have actually fought in close combat situations, i.e. combat arms – infantry, armor, medics, special forces and the like. These folks need our support and help, and $40 million would go a long way in terms of prevention, awareness and outreach efforts.

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