Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

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VJR16

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Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby VJR16 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:05 pm

Hi all,

Interested in whether I should:

1) Apply and (if accepted) attend law school straight out of undergrad
2) Apply and (if accepted) defer law school for a 12 month MA
3) Do an MA and then apply for law school

I'm a science major, and I'd be looking into a climate change/ public policy masters, and eventually interested in public interest/ environmental law.

Any thoughts?

Thanks!

Itwasascam

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby Itwasascam » Fri Jul 06, 2018 7:56 pm

You don’t need both degrees

Also depends on the school/debt

I’d do the MA and then work. Unless you’re going to HYS you’re probably not getting an “environmental law” job

nixy

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby nixy » Fri Jul 06, 2018 8:12 pm

Itwasascam wrote:Unless you’re going to HYS you’re probably not getting an “environmental law” job

This isn't true actually (I didn't go to a T14 and I have a number of classmates doing environmental law, though it can depend a little where in the country you are).

But I would actually agree with do the MA and then go work in the field. If you find work that satisfies you without the JD, you've saved yourself three years and a lot of money, and if you find you still want the JD/want to do jobs where it would benefit you, you'll be in a much better position to get that environmental law job.

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby Wubbles » Fri Jul 06, 2018 8:50 pm

Itwasascam wrote:You don’t need both degrees

Also depends on the school/debt

I’d do the MA and then work. Unless you’re going to HYS you’re probably not getting an “environmental law” job

Lots of firms have environmental practices, though probably representing the wrong side of suits for most environmentalists

nixy

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby nixy » Fri Jul 06, 2018 10:08 pm

There are also a lot of government environmental/land use positions.

VJR16

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby VJR16 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 10:48 pm

Thanks everyone-! I'm actually more set on law than I am on environmental law specifically- I was more wondering if there is any use in having a masters in the subject that corresponds with the field of law you're interested in. I also have a background in biology, so I am interested in environmental law because it does play to previous strengths/ experience. I also have been looking at firms / legal aid positions where people in environmental law tend to have MAs in environmental science, so I thought I'd ask around.

If there isn't an advantage to it though, I may just go through law without the masters.

VJR16

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby VJR16 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 10:52 pm

Also re: debt; obviously an issue! However, if I decided to do an MA in the US, for instance, I could pick a Canadian Law school and the two together would still be cheaper than a US law degree at sticker, just more time.

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby totesTheGoat » Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:03 pm

VJR16 wrote:I was more wondering if there is any use in having a masters in the subject that corresponds with the field of law you're interested in.


The answer is a solid "depends." There are plenty of lawyers with an MA who are seen as top candidates because they have that extra experience. There are plenty of other lawyers who got nothing but student loans out of their MA. It's hard to tell which side you'll end up on beforehand. By and large, unless there is a direct and strong correlation between the subject matter of your master's and the law you will be practicing, you'll be wasting your time and money.

I will say that you're thinking in the right way. It's always good to get a bit of extra experience prior to starting law school. However, I think that getting a job and working a couple years in your field of interest will reap more reward than an MA, on average.

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby ClubberLang » Sat Jul 07, 2018 3:12 pm

VJR16 wrote:Thanks everyone-! I'm actually more set on law than I am on environmental law specifically- I was more wondering if there is any use in having a masters in the subject that corresponds with the field of law you're interested in. I also have a background in biology, so I am interested in environmental law because it does play to previous strengths/ experience. I also have been looking at firms / legal aid positions where people in environmental law tend to have MAs in environmental science, so I thought I'd ask around.

If there isn't an advantage to it though, I may just go through law without the masters.


Minimal to no use in the MA. If you want to help the environment there are better things to do than practice law. But, if you are set on law, there is no reason to delay and/or blow more money on school, particularly when your preferred field right now is low paying.

VJR16

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby VJR16 » Sat Jul 07, 2018 4:03 pm

This is all good advice- I realize that all of this is situational and something that helps one person won't necessarily help another.
Sounds like going straight into the JD is a better option; again I was just wondering if additional schooling in a specific law area would be beneficial.

nixy

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby nixy » Sat Jul 07, 2018 5:48 pm

No. Additional work in a relevant area can help, or mayyyyyybe if it’s a very desirable professional/technical degree that has a strong pipeline into jobs on its own. But the JD isn’t a specialized degree and you don’t need more education in anything before doing it.

VJR16

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby VJR16 » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:22 pm

nixy wrote:No. Additional work in a relevant area can help, or mayyyyyybe if it’s a very desirable professional/technical degree that has a strong pipeline into jobs on its own. But the JD isn’t a specialized degree and you don’t need more education in anything before doing it.


Makes sense. Wasn't sure what the thinking was on that so thanks for helping out!

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby Ah15e » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:43 pm

If you're set on practicing law or policy, definitely don't waste time on the masters, and get the law degree.

I currently work for a federal agency doing environmental regulatory work and civil works projects. I have a political science undergrad (went straight to law school), and I found that none of my jobs I ever worked expected or wished I had a specialized/MA degree. (I've worked private, local, state, and federal environmental jobs). Most places will be able to teach you all of the scientific or technical expertise you would need to answer legal and policy questions - the only thing you need to know is environmental LAW, and you can get that PLUS a decent science background/overview just through a good environmental law program. This is probably the key - if you are set on environmental law, you probably have to go to a good enviro program. Firms and Government jobs really do care and it does help boost your resume to get the exposure to the practice area as well as demonstrate your interest in the subject matter to the hiring committees.

All in all, if you get hired as an environmental lawyer it will be based on your legal skills, not your scientific ones, - as long as you are able to show them your interest and passion in environmental law and science. Good Luck! (feel free to message me if you want more specific details, as someone who went through this recently I amy be able to help!)

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby QContinuum » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:21 pm

Ah15e wrote:This is probably the key - if you are set on environmental law, you probably have to go to a good enviro program. Firms and Government jobs really do care and it does help boost your resume to get the exposure to the practice area as well as demonstrate your interest in the subject matter to the hiring committees.


But not at the expense of not going to a T13. Going to, say, YLS is absolutely the right thing to do over going to Vermont Law (ranked #1 in Environmental Law by USNWR). By and large, firms and government jobs care about law school pedigree (and law school grades) far, far, far more than they care about whether a law school has a particular program (most of the T13 don't have any specific programs).

OP can demonstrate his/her commitment to environmental law by writing a Note in the area, joining/leading a relevant student org, doing a relevant journal (although doing Law Review would outweigh doing a secondary environmental law journal). No need to go to a law school that boasts a specific environmental law "program."

nixy

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Re: Law School straight out of Undergrad vs. MA first?

Postby nixy » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:40 pm

I think both the above are correct, to a certain extent. I think you can pretty much always get where you want by going to a top school and making the experience happen through clinics/internships/externships etc., but also I suspect all the T14 are going to have a decent core of environmental courses just based on the kinds of resources they have available. At the same time, I do think that environmental is the rare field that does reward some specialization, in that I have seen a number of people from lower-ranked schools "punch above their weight" for environmental jobs - the schools with strong environmental programs are more represented than one might expect, especially (IME) in federal government.

The problem, of course, with going somewhere like Vermont is that while its grads that do have success may have more success that expected in environmental jobs, their overall employment numbers are not good, so you're running a much greater risk of struggling than if, say, you go to Yale.

(This is assuming the OP is competitive for the T14, of course.)



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