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Appendix G: Considering a Joint Degree
Published November 2009
You should be aware that top law schools offer joint degrees, sometimes called concurrent degrees or dual degrees. Stanford University, for example, offers its law school candidates over twenty-seven formal joint degree programs to choose from, in addition to providing you with resources to customize your own joint degree track if you choose. A joint degree allows you to explore ideas across disciplines and merge them into a knowledge base to fit your professional goals. Most often you will need to apply and be accepted to both degree programs individually. For example, if you are not enrolled in a graduate program at Stanford and you would like to obtain a joint JD/MBA, you would need to apply separately to both programs, mentioning your interest in a joint degree on both applications. If you have already been accepted to law school, you may later choose to apply for a joint degree. Be sure to explain your intention to pursue a joint degree, since the two schools will probably not communicate during the admission process.
Some popular joint degrees include:
Most law schools expect you to complete your joint degree in four years. Northwestern offers the largest and most integrated joint JD/MBA; the program is three years and requires only one application and one standardized test (GMAT).
Some top law schools collaborate with another world-class university program to offer stellar joint degrees. For example, law schools at Stanford, Columbia, and NYU offer joint JD/MPA degrees with the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. UC Berkeley Boalt Hall offers a joint JD/MA with the J.F.K. School of Government at Harvard University. Cornell has a joint JD/Master en Droit—two years spent studying in the U.S. and two in France—culminating in credentials to pass the Bar in the U.S. and France. Some students would like to round out their law degree by spending a semester or a year at another top law school. UC Berkeley and Harvard, for example, have a cross-registration arrangement. Approximately five students per year at Harvard Law take their third year UC Berkeley Boalt Hall, and vice versa.
Up to twenty-five percent of law students pursue dual degrees. A joint degree typically saves a year of coursework. For the JD/MBA and most joint degree programs, the first year is spent at the law school, the second at the business school, and the final two years is a mix of courses taken at both schools. There are positive and negative aspects to pursuing a joint degree. To some employers it suggests you are multi-dimensional; to others, it suggests you are still exploring career options. Joint degrees increase your debt, so be sure you provide yourself with strong evidence for the benefits of having a joint post-graduate degree. If this option makes sense for your career plans, you find it compelling, and you can manage the (probably substantial) extra debt, by all means pursue this option. If you are not sure about filing for a formal joint degree, you will probably be able to take (or sit in on) a course or two in the department or school you find particularly exciting. Most top law schools allow you to apply for a joint degree in your second year of law school.