The value of a law degree in DC

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malcbru
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Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:03 pm

The value of a law degree in DC

Postby malcbru » Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:36 pm

The general consensus I've read on this website is that "you should only get a law degree if you want to be a lawyer." I'm someone whose struggled with whether or not I should apply to law school because I'm not sure what being a lawyer entails. I pretty much assume that "a lawyer" generally refers to working for a legal firm practicing whatever kind of law they specialize in. Well from what I've gleaned about that type of career path, I'm fairly sure that it is not something I want to pursue (but then again, I only have a vague idea of what that would mean).

I have significant a interest in policy and politics and was wondering what sort of opportunities related to those fields require a law degree. I hope to land in DC post graduate or law school and was wondering what sort of advantage a law degree would give me over an MPP, or vice versa. I'm open to many types of positions, but working on a Congressional Committee, a legislative office, an NGO, or governmental agency are probably top of the list (in that order too).

For the sake of this discussion, I'd like to leave out the cost partially. Of course it can never be excluded, but my first concern is which education is better tailored to my interests and career aspirations. Lastly, why is this piece of conventional wisdom wrong: "a law degree is so versatile you can do many things with it" etc.

Thanks for your thoughts in advance.

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2014
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Joined: Sat Jun 05, 2010 3:53 pm

Re: The value of a law degree in DC

Postby 2014 » Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:43 pm

A great many politicians have law degrees so it would be naive for one to claim that it is useless, most people here are just against it since there is so much more at play to succeeding on Capitol Hill other than your education and the probable result is a lot of wasted money.

If you intend to get a law degree for this purpose I would make sure it is a very high ranked one so that you are potentially surrounding yourself with other individuals who are likely to have similar ambitions and interests. Probably means HYS or at the very least a T10 school and it is still a risky venture.

CanadianWolf
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Re: The value of a law degree in DC

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:48 pm

A law degree for lawmakers ? Interesting idea. :D

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Elston Gunn
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Re: The value of a law degree in DC

Postby Elston Gunn » Tue Jul 10, 2012 6:26 pm

I'm no expert, but unless you A) come into law school with solid DC connections (not like your dad is a senator, but at least you've done some legitimate work and know some people who will make calls for you) and go to a T14 school or GW or B) go to HYS (and really, even then you should have some connections), I don't think your law degree is going to help much in getting policy/politics work out of the gate. In the long term, no one here can really answer, and I expect the J.D. is at least moderately helpful.

malcbru
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Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:03 pm

Re: The value of a law degree in DC

Postby malcbru » Tue Jul 10, 2012 6:38 pm

CanadianWolf: An interesting idea indeed and may have been my primary thinking of why a legal education was appropriate for myself.

2014: Unfortunately my undergraduate GPA sits at a mediocre 3.49 (although I'm taking my last two classes right now and hope to push that over 3.5), which pretty much precludes me from HYS. I do not know what that will translate into with LSAC, but my college follows the standard A- is 3.7 and B+ is 3.3. From what I understand unless I have a stellar LSAT the top 10 would be very difficult to crack as well. I was thinking my best shot/option would be GULC, which I thought would put me in the presence of like-minded individuals (perhaps not as elite as HYS). However, that discussion is pretty moot because I haven't tackled the beast that is the LSAT.

Elston Gunn: I have zero DC connections, but hope to work there prior to any sort of graduate or law school and ideally establish some. But that was the path I was hoping: T14 + some sort of prior established connections. Easy to say, harder to accomplish.

Any takers on job prospects when comparing a MPP and JD? Any proponents of the argument that a JD is versatile degree? What kind of work requires a law degree but doesn't involve practicing law? Have any graduates out there both practiced law and switched careers paths to something else law-related? Feel free to answer any other questions that you think are more pertinent to my situation.

Another feeling I had is that I simply cannot answer this question yet. Until I gain a better idea of what career positions I want, how will I know what advanced degree will get me there? But this is very unsettling answer to me. Currently, my plan is work for two years and then apply to graduate or law school. So since I'm two years out, I'd like to have somewhat of a plan.

Thanks for everything so far, much appreciated.

AllTheLawz
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Re: The value of a law degree in DC

Postby AllTheLawz » Tue Jul 10, 2012 6:51 pm

You dont get those kind of jobs in DC by having a particular degree. People involved in policy and the like in DC generally establish those connections BEFORE they get whatever advanced degree they end up with. You generally work on the hill (often for crappy pay) as an undergrad or right after undergrad then you go get an advanced degree to help you out in applying for better jobs. Then you have the hill connections and experience to sell in job interviews. For people involved in policy, government relations, regulatory stuff, etc. in DC their relationships are wayyyyy more valuable than their degree but the degree qualifies you for certain jobs and gets you in front of interviewers via things like OCI.

ETA: You need a law degree to work as a lawyer at the DC firms and for certain jobs on the hill. Thats it. Also, I'm answering this assuming you dont have a technical degree of any kind. Technical degrees can get you a lot of jobs in DC for agencies needing certain types of expertise or consultants.

CanadianWolf
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Re: The value of a law degree in DC

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:02 pm

If deciding between degrees, research Duke Law School for dual degrees. If accepted to Duke Law School, only a letter of interest is required to get into a masters degree program in another discipline.




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