MPP or JD for a political career?

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
User avatar
suralin
better than you
Posts: 15078
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:52 am

Re: MPP or JD for a political career?

Postby suralin » Thu Jan 10, 2013 12:23 pm

So much fail in this thread, not even limited to the whole correlation and bio thing. Just one thing: there are many, many more people who think they can use a J.D. for non-legal ends than there are people who actually make it work. It's a pretty simple cost-benefit analysis: low, if not non-existent, benefits and very high costs.

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: MPP or JD for a political career?

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:49 pm

Consider that many politicians are successful without a law degree:

  • Jan Brewer (governor of Arizona) has only a technical degree from Glendale Community College. She doesn't even have a bachelor's.
  • Brian Schweitzer (governor of Montana) has a master's in soil science from Montana State.
  • John Kitzhaber (governor of Oregon) has a medical degree from Oregon Health and Science University.
  • Rick Perry (governor of Texas) went to Texas A&M. He doesn't have any form of graduate degree.
  • Mary Fallin (governor of Oklahoma) has a bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State. She doesn't have any form of graduate degree.
  • Pat McCrory (governor of North Carolina) has a bachelor's degree from Catawba College and a NC teaching certificate. He doesn't have any form of graduate degree.
  • John Kasich (governor of Ohio) has a bachelor's degree from The Ohio State Univeristy. He doesn't have any form of graduate degree.

According to CRS, 168 of 435 Congressmen from the 111th Congress (just over one-third) had a law degree. The other two-thirds got there just fine on their own.

Those who are lawyers, well, how did they get from lawyer to their current success?

  • Mike Beebe (governor of Arkansas) has a JD from the U of Arkansas; he practiced law for 10 years before running for any political office.
  • Chris Christie (governor of New Jersey) has a JD from Seton Hall in NJ; he practiced in a law firm for 7 years, as a lobbyist for 4 years, and as Assistant US Attorney for 6 years before running for major political office.
  • Sam Brownback (governor of Kansas) has a JD from the U of Kansas; he practiced law for 4 years and served as state secretary of agriculture before running for any political office.
  • Steve Beshear (governor of Kentucky) has a JD from the U of Kentucky; he practiced in a law firm and as JAG in the Army Reserve for 4 years before winning his first political office, and practiced for 6 more years while serving as state representative.
  • Susana Martinez (governor of New Mexico) has a JD from the U of Oklahoma; she practiced as assistant DA and then deputy DA for 10 years before winning her first election as local District Attorney.
    Maggie Hassan (governor of New Hampshire) has a JD from Northeastern; she practiced privately for 17 years and served as an appointed citizen advisor for 3 of those years before her first run for political office.
  • Christine Gregoire (governor of Washington) has a JD from Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA; she practiced as a state assistant AG for 15 years before winning her first election, as state Attorney General.

You know what these people have in common? It's not just their JD, it's their practice as lawyers prior to seeking political office. Typically, they're people who practiced law well and who used their careers to their advantage. That's true for successful lawyers who turn to politics, but it can also be true for successful doctors and teachers and businessmen, which is why there are also significant numbers of doctors and teachers and businessmen who end up in politics.

There is some advantage in that there are some law-specific elections, such as District Attorney and Attorney General, which are law-specific, and those can serve as a springboard into greater politics, but to win there you need to already be a successful practicing lawyer.

There's no such thing as a "degree for a political career". If you get a JD, you better enjoy practicing law, because that's what a JD is good for. Politics won't follow if you hate actually practicing law and embarrass yourself with lackluster performance early on in your career.

User avatar
suralin
better than you
Posts: 15078
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:52 am

Re: MPP or JD for a political career?

Postby suralin » Thu Jan 10, 2013 4:00 pm

vanwinkle wrote:Consider that many politicians are successful without a law degree:

  • Jan Brewer (governor of Arizona) has only a technical degree from Glendale Community College. She doesn't even have a bachelor's.
  • Brian Schweitzer (governor of Montana) has a master's in soil science from Montana State.
  • John Kitzhaber (governor of Oregon) has a medical degree from Oregon Health and Science University.
  • Rick Perry (governor of Texas) went to Texas A&M. He doesn't have any form of graduate degree.
  • Mary Fallin (governor of Oklahoma) has a bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State. She doesn't have any form of graduate degree.
  • Pat McCrory (governor of North Carolina) has a bachelor's degree from Catawba College and a NC teaching certificate. He doesn't have any form of graduate degree.
  • John Kasich (governor of Ohio) has a bachelor's degree from The Ohio State Univeristy. He doesn't have any form of graduate degree.

According to CRS, 168 of 435 Congressmen from the 111th Congress (just over one-third) had a law degree. The other two-thirds got there just fine on their own.

Those who are lawyers, well, how did they get from lawyer to their current success?

  • Mike Beebe (governor of Arkansas) has a JD from the U of Arkansas; he practiced law for 10 years before running for any political office.
  • Chris Christie (governor of New Jersey) has a JD from Seton Hall in NJ; he practiced in a law firm for 7 years, as a lobbyist for 4 years, and as Assistant US Attorney for 6 years before running for major political office.
  • Sam Brownback (governor of Kansas) has a JD from the U of Kansas; he practiced law for 4 years and served as state secretary of agriculture before running for any political office.
  • Steve Beshear (governor of Kentucky) has a JD from the U of Kentucky; he practiced in a law firm and as JAG in the Army Reserve for 4 years before winning his first political office, and practiced for 6 more years while serving as state representative.
  • Susana Martinez (governor of New Mexico) has a JD from the U of Oklahoma; she practiced as assistant DA and then deputy DA for 10 years before winning her first election as local District Attorney.
    Maggie Hassan (governor of New Hampshire) has a JD from Northeastern; she practiced privately for 17 years and served as an appointed citizen advisor for 3 of those years before her first run for political office.
  • Christine Gregoire (governor of Washington) has a JD from Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA; she practiced as a state assistant AG for 15 years before winning her first election, as state Attorney General.

You know what these people have in common? It's not just their JD, it's their practice as lawyers prior to seeking political office. Typically, they're people who practiced law well and who used their careers to their advantage. That's true for successful lawyers who turn to politics, but it can also be true for successful doctors and teachers and businessmen, which is why there are also significant numbers of doctors and teachers and businessmen who end up in politics.

There is some advantage in that there are some law-specific elections, such as District Attorney and Attorney General, which are law-specific, and those can serve as a springboard into greater politics, but to win there you need to already be a successful practicing lawyer.

There's no such thing as a "degree for a political career". If you get a JD, you better enjoy practicing law, because that's what a JD is good for. Politics won't follow if you hate actually practicing law and embarrass yourself with lackluster performance early on in your career.


Amazing post. This should be reposted every time one of these threads comes up.

User avatar
bizzybone1313
Posts: 996
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 4:31 pm

Re: MPP or JD for a political career?

Postby bizzybone1313 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 4:11 pm

OP, most of these guys are experts when it comes to Big Law, but I think they fall a little short when it comes to other careers. These guys provided me a lot of advice in another thread basically arguing what is listed above with Susana Martinez and all of those guys. That you don't need an elite degree to do well in politics. I completely disagree, so I am not going to follow their advice. I have long considered a MPA degree like you. The problem with an MPA is that it costs so much and you cannot as easily build a sustainable career as you could with a law degree if politics doesn't work out. Getting admitted to MPA programs is much easier than being admitted to elite law programs though, so I may go that route even if I don't want to. One of the most successful MPA educated graduates that became a politician was Henry Cisneros. Some of these guys are haters and are going to provide you with worthless advice. Like you, my goal is to get into politics no matter what. So, if that is your dream, figure out a way to get the necessary education to make it a reality.

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: MPP or JD for a political career?

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Jan 10, 2013 10:31 pm

bizzybone1313 wrote:OP, most of these guys are experts when it comes to Big Law, but I think they fall a little short when it comes to other careers. These guys provided me a lot of advice in another thread basically arguing what is listed above with Susana Martinez and all of those guys. That you don't need an elite degree to do well in politics. I completely disagree, so I am not going to follow their advice.

This is the worst response ever. "I disagree" isn't an argument. It's not even a position. It's just a rejection of someone else's position. There was plenty of actual, rational, helpful commentary about why a law degree (let alone an elite law degree) isn't important or particularly useful. If all you have to say to that is "I disagree", that's a pretty good sign you have nothing to respond with.

bizzybone1313 wrote:Some of these guys are haters and are going to provide you with worthless advice.

Lol, "haters". Yes, we hate OP, which is exactly why we're trying to give OP useful and practical advice on how much they don't need a law degree to succeed in politics.

What, pray tell, am I supposed to hate on? I have an elite law degree, but of course I'm going to "hate" on someone for desiring one. I couldn't possibly be giving advice about law degrees and politics because, you know, I have a law degree and I care about politics.

bizzybone1313 wrote:Like you, my goal is to get into politics no matter what. So, if that is your dream, figure out a way to get the necessary education to make it a reality.

No matter what your goal is, you'll get there faster if you don't ignore people trying to give you good advice. Anyone who considers a law degree a "necessary education" is making an enormous mistake; anyone who does it willfully after hearing advice to the contrary is self-destructive; someone who willfully encourages others to make such a mistake is malicious.

If you want to fuck things up for yourself by spending three years and lots of money on a JD you don't need, then that's fine, but don't go telling other people it's a good idea too.

User avatar
Panther7
Posts: 455
Joined: Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:34 pm

Re: MPP or JD for a political career?

Postby Panther7 » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:23 am

I'm a fresh graduate with an intention to run for state office. I don't think JD is any worse for a political career than MPP. A lot of it just depends on your class selection (I spent most of my freebies on classes like legislation, admin law, comparative constitutional law, and a few policy classes). I spent my 1L summer interning with a federal judge, and my 2L summer and 3L fall working on a US Senate campaign. I did general research for the campaign staff. I don't think JD puts you in any worse of a position than MPP; a lot of it overlaps. However, it does have slightly different stuff. If you're interested in Agency management and that type of stuff, MPP is probably better. If you're looking to do legislative stuff, then JD is probably better. Had my candidate won, I would be in a DC office right about now. I think the most important thing for someone in your position to know is that politics doesn't pay very well, and you work exceptionally long hours, with little job stability. Just keep that in mind while you make a school selection.

Two of my classmates actually took a semester off to run for state assembly during law school. One was elected, the other lost in the primary.

edit: I think it's worth noting that there aren't a lot of "open posting" jobs. People don't look to hire JD's much in the political world. Most State legislators can't afford you, and most Congressmen have a list a mile long of people they "owe". Since my candidate lost, I'm likely just going to do solo practice for a while until I find either another candidate I'm willing to support, or I decide to run myself.

timbs4339
Posts: 2733
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2011 12:19 pm

Re: MPP or JD for a political career?

Postby timbs4339 » Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:07 pm

So much 180 ITT. Should be stickied or auto-posted every time someone posts a topic with "JD" and "politics"




Return to “Ask a Law Student / Graduate”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: splitterfromhell, Yahoo [Bot] and 4 guests