MSW/JD, what to do...

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bryntax
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MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby bryntax » Tue Aug 11, 2009 11:31 pm

Hello everyone! I am new to this board, so I am sorry if this is going in the wrong spot. Just looking for a few opinions.

I am 25, graduated a few years ago from a small private school in Ohio with a BA in English Lit and German. Recently I decided on a combined MSW/JD. Ideally, I want to work either with (as a legal consultant) or for (policy, lobbying) underprivileged families who have a family member with developmental disability, since my sister is and I know what kind of struggle it is to figure out the legal and financial issues that go along with it.

I promptly became incredibly overwhelmed. Reading through these posts and seeing the high emphasis everyone places on prestigious schools... I wonder if my goals are obtainable. In my mind, here are the goals I have for law school: gain a solid understanding of law practice (obviously), try not to get into too much debt, and go somewhere "good" enough that I can get a job with my degree. I don't have aspirations of huge salaries or prestigious firms. I graduated with a 3.14. I signed up to take the LSAT at the end of September, and I am a very good test taker, so I think I will do very well with a lot of studying. I will go anywhere in the country as long as they have the program I'm looking for.

Here are most of the schools I have been looking at, all with MSW/JD, arranged by my chances based on their statistics of admission:
Yeah Right Schools: Berkeley, UConn, U of Maryland, Tulane, Boston College
Middle of the Road: U of Cincinnati, U of Kansas, Florida State, Gonzaga
More Confident of getting in: U of Nevada Las Vegas, Washburn University, Loyola, University of South Carolina, University of Pittsburg

I guess what I am looking for is an opinion of what I should aim for. Does the name of the school matter that much for someone with my goals? Any thoughts on the programs I've listed? Does law school HAVE to be so competitive? :) I want to enjoy my life while I live it, not obsess over grades and statistics (of course I want to do the very best I can while working hard, I just don't want to go to extremes about it). Can I get the education I want for the purposes I desire at a program that isn't highly competitive?

I appreciate your thoughts! :D

Alyosha
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby Alyosha » Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:59 am

I would include UNC on the list, as it has a dual degree MSW/JD. However, your gpa will make it hard to get in there.

For your goals, the debt should not concern you too much b/c there are federal loan repayment programs for people who go into public interest. I am no expert on these, however. There are also school sponsored loan repayment programs, but not at every school. UNC recently discontinued their loan repayment program, for example, but students can still apply for the federal program.

Your school list is all over the place. Did you choose them based on the prestige of the MSW program? From my experience as an MSW graduate, law programs are much more difficult to get into. I would wait until you get the LSAT score, then check out the law schools that typically accept people with your stats. Then look at which ones have the dual degree and go from there.

From what I have read on this board, berkley is probably definitely out just based on your gpa. I think the rest are possible with a good lsat. Good luck.

revolution724
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby revolution724 » Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:03 am

bryntax wrote:
I guess what I am looking for is an opinion of what I should aim for. Does the name of the school matter that much for someone with my goals? Any thoughts on the programs I've listed? Does law school HAVE to be so competitive? :) I want to enjoy my life while I live it, not obsess over grades and statistics (of course I want to do the very best I can while working hard, I just don't want to go to extremes about it). Can I get the education I want for the purposes I desire at a program that isn't highly competitive?


Hi there. I have an MSW already, and am starting law school... on Monday, yipe!

Question for you: what do you want to do with your MSW/JD when you finish? This will have a big influence on what kind of school you should consider.

Edit: BU also has an MSW/JD program. That's where I got my MSW, hadn't decided on a JD at the time.

Edit: Sup, I totally didn't see that part where you already said what you wanted to do. If you want to practice locally, as in, at a small, community-based nonprofit, I don't think the prestige matters too much, and you should go where you can get a nice scholarship. If you're interested in large, national organizations, the prestige of your school matters every bit as much as it would if you were trying to get a job at a big law firm.

Cornellhopes
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby Cornellhopes » Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:09 am

suny buffalo has a program

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teaadntoast
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby teaadntoast » Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:16 am

Welcome to TLS! :D

There are some very valid reasons for you to aim high when applying for law school, even though your career goals don't include working in a massive firm. As Aloysha mentioned above, some schools have very generous loan repayment assistance programs (LRAP) that will, essentially, service your debt if you're working in the public sector - but the amount of funding decreases as you move down the rankings. Harvard and NYU can afford to hand over more money than, say, UNC or Vanderbilt.

Another reason to shoot for the best possible school is simple opportunity. If you're interested in shaping policy at the national level, then it's best to have a nationally recognized name on your diploma. Nonprofits, think tanks and advocacy groups are like any other employer - they want the best of the best on their side - and a Berkeley J.D. is going to open a lot of doors (or at least get you meetings) that you might not otherwise. (Note that this changes a bit if you intend to work at the state level. The best answer in that case is almost always the school in your area. UGA for GA, UNC for NC, you get the idea.)

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bryntax
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby bryntax » Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:38 pm

Thank you for all your advice! I am looking forward to taking the LSAT and then really having a good handle on my prospects.

I am going to be applying to each program (MSW and JD) seperately at each school, as most places require. Does anyone know if I get into a JD program and not an MSW program (or vice versa), if I should take my chances and just accept and then apply again for the other program the next year? I'd hate to be stuck at an MSW program unable to get in the JD program, or vice versa.

azlawlady
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby azlawlady » Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:42 pm

I'm curious what benefit you see from doing the MSW/JD? Do you have a social work type UG degree?

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dextermorgan
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby dextermorgan » Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:54 pm

Michigan has a top 10 law and top 3 MSW program. I'm not sure you really need a JD to do what you want. Any good macro-focused MSW program will provide you with the tools you need to work in policy, and huge debt can ruin a social work career. You may want to focus on getting a MSW (a two-year program since you don't have a BSW) and then decide if you want to go to law school after that.

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bryntax
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby bryntax » Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:09 pm

I want to keep my options open, basically. I am a case worker right now, and I work with low income families in a subsidy program in California. From what I can see of social work, it is very hands on, with very little power of change for the money. While I might end up doing that for a bit, I don't think I want to be a social worker. I want to be an advocate. If I work in the system, I want to work WITH the system, not for it. I'd also be interested in working in private practice as a lawyer helping families with disabled or mentally ill members figure out the help they can get and get their legal/financial situation in order (I know how confusing it can be to deal with SSI, wills, power of attorney, etc. when a developmentally disabled adult is the primary concern). I'd like the option of working with state governments in any position that might deal with social service program guildelines and policies, or like I said above, lobbying is something I'm interested in but don't have a lot of experience with.

And hey, if I get sick of helping people, I'd like to be able to fall back on my law degree and just divorce people for profit. I do think the MSW/JD is a good fit and will open a lot of doors.

azlawlady
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby azlawlady » Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:35 pm

bryntax wrote:I want to keep my options open, basically. I am a case worker right now, and I work with low income families in a subsidy program in California. From what I can see of social work, it is very hands on, with very little power of change for the money. While I might end up doing that for a bit, I don't think I want to be a social worker. I want to be an advocate. If I work in the system, I want to work WITH the system, not for it. I'd also be interested in working in private practice as a lawyer helping families with disabled or mentally ill members figure out the help they can get and get their legal/financial situation in order (I know how confusing it can be to deal with SSI, wills, power of attorney, etc. when a developmentally disabled adult is the primary concern). I'd like the option of working with state governments in any position that might deal with social service program guildelines and policies, or like I said above, lobbying is something I'm interested in but don't have a lot of experience with.

And hey, if I get sick of helping people, I'd like to be able to fall back on my law degree and just divorce people for profit. I do think the MSW/JD is a good fit and will open a lot of doors.

To be honest, I am in a similar situation and the bolded above is exactly why I chose to go for a JD rather than an MSW. With the MSW you can move into administration, but that won't open near as many doors as a JD would, even in the social services field. In my opinion, because you already have experience in the field as a case/social worker, I don't really see the relevance or need in adding an MSW because the JD can/will get you where you want to go.

With all that being said though, sounds like you know what you want to do, and I think if you just keep familiarizing yourself with the different MSW/JD programs that are available, I'm sure you'll find one that is right for you.
Last edited by azlawlady on Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Veritas
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby Veritas » Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:37 pm

Cornellhopes wrote:suny buffalo has a program

tort guy...is that you?? :lol:

Alyosha
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby Alyosha » Fri Aug 14, 2009 5:00 pm

bryntax wrote:I want to keep my options open, basically. I am a case worker right now, and I work with low income families in a subsidy program in California. From what I can see of social work, it is very hands on, with very little power of change for the money. While I might end up doing that for a bit, I don't think I want to be a social worker. I want to be an advocate. If I work in the system, I want to work WITH the system, not for it. I'd also be interested in working in private practice as a lawyer helping families with disabled or mentally ill members figure out the help they can get and get their legal/financial situation in order (I know how confusing it can be to deal with SSI, wills, power of attorney, etc. when a developmentally disabled adult is the primary concern). I'd like the option of working with state governments in any position that might deal with social service program guildelines and policies, or like I said above, lobbying is something I'm interested in but don't have a lot of experience with.

And hey, if I get sick of helping people, I'd like to be able to fall back on my law degree and just divorce people for profit. I do think the MSW/JD is a good fit and will open a lot of doors.


You don't need the MSW to do any of the above. The JD with a focus in public interest work will suffice. If I were you, I would go for the highest ranked JD program I could find. The higher up the food chain, the better the loan repayment programs. Most T14's have incredible institution based loan forgiveness programs, and in my opinion they are unlikely to go anywhere. The federal loan forgiveness program is probably a little more risky, as the political powers that be can obviously discontinue these programs.

If you enter the MSW program (and I don't think it is really necessary), the poster dextermorgan above is correct about the "macro" practice concentration. Most "top" MSW programs actually focus more on macro practice (intervention at the level of social systems, such as policy analysis, advocacy, program administration, etc) than individual casework. Berkeley, UNC, Michigan come to mind. You would obviously want to choose this concentration. However, my experience is that most agencies that are looking for lobbyists, policy analysts, or program administrators want the JD as opposed to the MSW.

As to your question above about getting into one program and not the other, my guess is that if you get into the JD program, you should be golden for the MSW program, as long as you don't totally mess up the applications. If you don't get into the JD program the first time around, it will be difficult to get in the second time around, even if you are in the MSW program. You will need something materially different about you application, such as a higher LSAT score when you reapply. I would not enter the MSW program hoping you can reapply for the JD program.

revolution724
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby revolution724 » Sat Aug 15, 2009 5:37 pm

bryntax wrote:Thank you for all your advice! I am looking forward to taking the LSAT and then really having a good handle on my prospects.

I am going to be applying to each program (MSW and JD) seperately at each school, as most places require. Does anyone know if I get into a JD program and not an MSW program (or vice versa), if I should take my chances and just accept and then apply again for the other program the next year? I'd hate to be stuck at an MSW program unable to get in the JD program, or vice versa.


If you can get into the JD program, you can get into the MSW program. The JD's the hard part, so focus on that.

Edit: You may not "need" the MSW, but I predict you will find it infinitely useful in terms of providing a perspective and method very far removed from the one taught in the JD program. So, it may or may not be the deciding factor in getting you a job, but the education will be useful to you in practice.

Gooner
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby Gooner » Sat Aug 15, 2009 5:57 pm

I would recommend doing the WUSTL, but only if you can score a full ride.

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bryntax
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby bryntax » Sun Aug 16, 2009 12:20 am

Thanks again for the thoughts. If I am reading correctly, a lot of people are saying that a JD with a focus in public interest would be fine for what I want to do. My question then is this: what is the MSW/JD for? Why is it offered if it isn't useful for the scenarios I mentioned? What sorts of situations would it be useful for? I am now wondering if there is any reason for me to be a licensed social worker and also have a law degree if I don't want to be a social worker. I think revolution made a good point - the social work program itself I think, not the degree necessarily, would be very valuable in terms of preparing me for work in a social service arena, be it policy making, lobbying or something else.

I don't know much about public interest law... would these programs adequately prepare me for this kind of work, in place of the MSW courses? I'd love to be able to go to school for 3 years instead of 4, but I certainly don't want to sacrifice any preparedness to do what I want to do.

You guys have been great! Love this forum! :)

edit: good news! I got my first LSAT book Friday and without any studying, took the first practice test (untimed) just to kind of get an idea of where my "starting point" is, and I got a 159! I think that's pretty good for a first round before doing any studying! :) The worst was the logical reasoning, yeesh! Everything else i got almost perfect! (/dance) Now for 6 weeks of hardcore library time. I'm aiming for a 170! (reach for the stars, right? :)

edit edit: my gpa is weak... but my junior/senior GPA is 3.3, as is my major GPA. Does that matter much? I read somewhere that schools will look at your last two years of college more, is that accurate?

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JCougar
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby JCougar » Sun Aug 16, 2009 11:49 am

bryntax wrote:edit edit: my gpa is weak... but my junior/senior GPA is 3.3, as is my major GPA. Does that matter much? I read somewhere that schools will look at your last two years of college more, is that accurate?


Not really. All law schools put your GPA and LSAT score into an algorithm that gives each component a certain weight, and you get ranked with other applicants based on the output of this algorithm. The good news is -- for people with low GPAs -- law schools weight the LSAT score between 2 and 6 times greater than they do your undergraduate GPA. This is how most applications are processed, and things like how you did your last two years of undergrad compared to the first two don't really factor in unless you are really on the fence.

There are a few exceptions to this rule: some law schools will let almost anyone in that takes the application process seriously if they have above a certain LSAT, no matter what your undergrad GPA. Others don't seem to let you in unless you have a GPA above a certain point, no matter what your LSAT score (most of these are T20 schools).

The bottom line is that the LSAT alone is probably worth 50-85% of whether you will get in to a certain school or not, depending on the school. Just study for it as much as you can, and don't worry about softs or anything else until you have aced that test.

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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby Blindmelon » Sun Aug 16, 2009 11:55 am

Alyosha wrote:I would include UNC on the list, as it has a dual degree MSW/JD. However, your gpa will make it hard to get in there.

For your goals, the debt should not concern you too much b/c there are federal loan repayment programs for people who go into public interest. I am no expert on these, however. There are also school sponsored loan repayment programs, but not at every school. UNC recently discontinued their loan repayment program, for example, but students can still apply for the federal program.

Your school list is all over the place. Did you choose them based on the prestige of the MSW program? From my experience as an MSW graduate, law programs are much more difficult to get into. I would wait until you get the LSAT score, then check out the law schools that typically accept people with your stats. Then look at which ones have the dual degree and go from there.

From what I have read on this board, berkley is probably definitely out just based on your gpa. I think the rest are possible with a good lsat. Good luck.


:shock: debt not a concern for someone who wants to do social work... seriously? I get the whole federal program thing, but you're making a pretty big gamble on your future well being by completely disregarding how much in the hole you will be.

Alyosha
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby Alyosha » Sun Aug 16, 2009 6:14 pm

Blindmelon wrote:
Alyosha wrote:I would include UNC on the list, as it has a dual degree MSW/JD. However, your gpa will make it hard to get in there.

For your goals, the debt should not concern you too much b/c there are federal loan repayment programs for people who go into public interest. I am no expert on these, however. There are also school sponsored loan repayment programs, but not at every school. UNC recently discontinued their loan repayment program, for example, but students can still apply for the federal program.

Your school list is all over the place. Did you choose them based on the prestige of the MSW program? From my experience as an MSW graduate, law programs are much more difficult to get into. I would wait until you get the LSAT score, then check out the law schools that typically accept people with your stats. Then look at which ones have the dual degree and go from there.

From what I have read on this board, berkley is probably definitely out just based on your gpa. I think the rest are possible with a good lsat. Good luck.


:shock: debt not a concern for someone who wants to do social work... seriously? I get the whole federal program thing, but you're making a pretty big gamble on your future well being by completely disregarding how much in the hole you will be.


umm... "not concern you too much" is not the same as "debt not a concern." By all means the OP should see if the types of jobs she/he wants fall in the purview of his school's (or the federal) LRAP. It looks like they will, based on the career goals posted above. If OP wants to be primarily a social worker, I'm not sure if law schools loans will qualify for LRAP, and then obviously OP will want to reconsider the JD (but again the OP's post above suggests he wants to be a public interest attorney, not a social worker, and it is likely he will qualify for loan forgiveness).

To OP: I think the suggestion above about waiting for the LSAT score before worrying too much about softs (like your upward trend) is spot on. The cumulative UGPA and LSAT will define the range of schools you can apply to and thus the dual degree options available to you. To be honest, your UGPA is going to hurt at the upper echelon schools, and you will need a strong (170+) LSAT for them (IMO).

As to your question about the purpose of the JD/MSW, I'm probably not the best person to ask. I got the MSW before I decided on law school. Maybe you can contact some of the schools' administrators that oversee these programs. They may be able to answer this question better, and they might can put you in contact with current students in the dual degree program. When I was in social work school, I only met one student in the MSW/JD program, and she ended up becoming a licensed clinical social worker. I don't know if she even finished the law degree, and if she did, she doesn't use the JD.

Also, you mentioned becoming a "licensed social worker." Social workers who become licensed are generally psychotherapists. They don't, at least for the first few years of their career, usually work with social systems/advocacy. Becoming fully licensed usually involves two years of full time clinical practice as a therapist, under the supervision of a licensed social worker.

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bryntax
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Re: MSW/JD, what to do...

Postby bryntax » Mon Aug 17, 2009 3:58 pm

Alyosha, thanks for your advice. I'm going to be shooting a few emails to schools that do the MSW/JD and asking them if they can explain more how it might differ in form and function from a JD focusing on public interest. All the information I have about "licensed social workers" comes from job postings I read that require it and also some experience with county child welfare workers and their supervisors. I didn't realize it was so clearly defined as a very clinical thing.

The forum has gotten me thinking about PI law instead of the MSW/JD, definitely... there's more options out there for it, for one. Less school, less debt. I could stay here (Santa Clara U) or go somewhere else. Right now I think I need to stop worrying about where I am going to apply so much and concentrate on studying for LSATs. THEN finalize my application plans.




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