Law (JD) v. Policy (MPP)

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
User avatar
blerggggg
Posts: 36
Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2015 1:42 pm

Law (JD) v. Policy (MPP)

Postby blerggggg » Tue Dec 12, 2017 5:41 pm

(I'm sorry I know this topic has been beaten to death before)

Does anyone have any advice for prospective students that are debating between the law and policy route? How do you know you should go one route v. the other? If you have any inclination to practice law, should you just ignore the MPP and get the JD? Consensus on TLS sounds like getting both is unnecessary.

I'm a 0L who is 1.5 years out of undergrad. While working in legal practice as a paralegal (criminal defense), I've found that, although I think legal practice is interesting, I'm more focused on having a tangible impact on policy, specifically criminal justice reform (which makes the whole JD v. MPP discussion a bit more confusing). Not sure what my ideal career would look like but I've worked in non profits and think tanks before and didn't hate it.
I've found a nice policy program abroad that I like, it would be one year and only costs 50k, a lower price tag than a law degree.

sparkytrainer
Posts: 424
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2015 12:32 am

Re: Law (JD) v. Policy (MPP)

Postby sparkytrainer » Tue Dec 12, 2017 5:56 pm

If you want to do policy, do policy. If you want to do law, do law. It's pretty simple. I would recommend you try to get a job doing whatever policy you want before deciding, so you can be truthful to yourself.

arose928
Posts: 129
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:05 am

Re: Law (JD) v. Policy (MPP)

Postby arose928 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 9:28 pm

I was in a pretty similar situation prior to law school. I knew I wanted to work in criminal justice, and possibly policy reform. At the time I was mostly working for education policy-focused non-profits and what I realized is that the people who just went to policy school and then got fancy positions, didn't have much credibility with the people who had actually done the work, like teachers. A teacher could just look at a proposal and tell the problems with it. For me it was more important to have credibility with the people on the ground doing the work, than the people at foundations or whatever. And so I realized if I wanted to work in criminal justice policy, and haven't actually been involved with the justice system in any way, I needed to at least work in it before I started trying to do any work on changing it. Otherwise you could just find yourself tilting at windmills, or going about it the wrong way. So that's why I went to law school instead of policy school, because I actually wanted to work with people, and ground myself in the nuts and bolts of how the system works. I figured I'd work as a PD for a few years and then go on to policy work, although now I actually don't want to go into policy at all and just want to be a PD. But who knows what the future holds.

What helped inform this decision was talking to a lot of people who had gone to one, or another, or both. And also people working in jobs I thought I might be interested in. Once someone described people who went to policy school as 'ivory tower policy wonks with no idea how any of this works', that kind of sealed my decision... but different things matter to different people.

ETA that I would also talk to your people in the field that you're interested in about the virtues of a 1 year policy program abroad? It seems like you'd be competing against people who had done 2-year programs here, which seems more rigorous and more relevant.

tomwatts
Posts: 1703
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:01 am

Re: Law (JD) v. Policy (MPP)

Postby tomwatts » Wed Dec 13, 2017 12:53 am

A lot of the TLS thinking around careers has to do with how much money you make immediately out of law school, which is part of the reason that joint degrees get crapped on here. I did a JD/MPP, loved it, and am pretty sure it will be useful in the long term in my career even though it didn't get me my first job out of law school. A JD/MPP is a pretty solid choice for those who want to do policy work in a law-heavy field (such as criminal justice); you can do policy work with only a JD, but you're probably better at it if you also have the MPP background. It's also a solid choice if you want to do legal work in a policy-heavy field (such as legislative affairs or a regulatory area).

If not both, you're probably better served getting just the JD for more or less the reasons the previous poster mentioned.

I'd be pretty skeptical of an MPP abroad if you want to work in American criminal justice reform.

mcmand
Posts: 736
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2014 12:45 pm

Re: Law (JD) v. Policy (MPP)

Postby mcmand » Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:45 am

tomwatts wrote:A lot of the TLS thinking around careers has to do with how much money you make immediately out of law school, which is part of the reason that joint degrees get crapped on here. I did a JD/MPP, loved it, and am pretty sure it will be useful in the long term in my career even though it didn't get me my first job out of law school. A JD/MPP is a pretty solid choice for those who want to do policy work in a law-heavy field (such as criminal justice); you can do policy work with only a JD, but you're probably better at it if you also have the MPP background. It's also a solid choice if you want to do legal work in a policy-heavy field (such as legislative affairs or a regulatory area).

If not both, you're probably better served getting just the JD for more or less the reasons the previous poster mentioned.

I'd be pretty skeptical of an MPP abroad if you want to work in American criminal justice reform.


Yeah but how are you managing student loan payments? You make a good case for the non financial aspects, but you're completely downplaying the finances, which do matter.

User avatar
pancakes3
Posts: 6538
Joined: Sun Jul 20, 2014 2:49 pm

Re: Law (JD) v. Policy (MPP)

Postby pancakes3 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 10:21 am

you still need a plan after getting the MPP. a MPP in and of itself doesn't open doors, it just greases you up so you can slide through the opening more easily.

hilltern->staffer experience + MPP or some other substantive experience + MPP are credentials you should be looking for. what jobs steeped in crim policy would hire a crim defense paralegal + MPP that wouldn't hire the same candidate sans MPP?

User avatar
blerggggg
Posts: 36
Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2015 1:42 pm

Re: Law (JD) v. Policy (MPP)

Postby blerggggg » Wed Dec 13, 2017 12:06 pm

arose928 wrote:I was in a pretty similar situation prior to law school. I knew I wanted to work in criminal justice, and possibly policy reform. At the time I was mostly working for education policy-focused non-profits and what I realized is that the people who just went to policy school and then got fancy positions, didn't have much credibility with the people who had actually done the work, like teachers. A teacher could just look at a proposal and tell the problems with it. For me it was more important to have credibility with the people on the ground doing the work, than the people at foundations or whatever. And so I realized if I wanted to work in criminal justice policy, and haven't actually been involved with the justice system in any way, I needed to at least work in it before I started trying to do any work on changing it. Otherwise you could just find yourself tilting at windmills, or going about it the wrong way. So that's why I went to law school instead of policy school, because I actually wanted to work with people, and ground myself in the nuts and bolts of how the system works. I figured I'd work as a PD for a few years and then go on to policy work, although now I actually don't want to go into policy at all and just want to be a PD. But who knows what the future holds.

What helped inform this decision was talking to a lot of people who had gone to one, or another, or both. And also people working in jobs I thought I might be interested in. Once someone described people who went to policy school as 'ivory tower policy wonks with no idea how any of this works', that kind of sealed my decision... but different things matter to different people.

ETA that I would also talk to your people in the field that you're interested in about the virtues of a 1 year policy program abroad? It seems like you'd be competing against people who had done 2-year programs here, which seems more rigorous and more relevant.


Thank you to everyone for your input. You've given me a lot to think about.

I had always planned on entering law school before I started college, and I had a few experiences in college that cemented my interest in the legal/policy field. But as I figured out more about what I wanted in a job, my main priority became how I wanted to make an impact (maybe I'm just naive and I'll actually be in big law in x years) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Working in a PD's office has been interesting but it's hard to watch your clients get slammed against the wall every single day, and at so many points I have wondered about focusing on the macro-level, big picture issues. Being able to watch your impact in direct services is rewarding, but its hard to see the policy failures of the CJ system everyday. Policy has it's own issues too: like Arose928 mentioned, living in an Ivory Tower in someways separates you from what you truly want to change, and I would loose my ability to see my work make a direct impact. Maybe in an ideal world I would work in impact lit where I see the broad policy changes and the impact on my clients (but everyone and their mother wants to work in impact lit)?

The foreign program I'm talking about would be a masters in criminal justice policy at a pretty reputable university, but you are right, I do need to consider that. Ideally, I would move back to the U.S. and work at a nonprofit as a program/research associate, maybe a policy advocate at an advocacy org. Will I be competitive for it? No clue.

TL;DR: I had always planed on going to law school and now I am having cold feet. Working in legal practice as a paralegal (such an invaluable experience) has made me realize that although I enjoy working in legal practice I think I could be happier working in policy. I'm just really lost and don't know many people who I can turn to to give me substantive, credible advice.

User avatar
landshoes
is that cool?
Posts: 1273
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2012 2:17 pm

Re: Law (JD) v. Policy (MPP)

Postby landshoes » Wed Dec 13, 2017 12:10 pm

The foreign program I'm talking about would be a masters in criminal justice policy at a pretty reputable university, but you are right, I do need to consider that. Ideally, I would move back to the U.S. and work at a nonprofit as a program/research associate, maybe a policy advocate at an advocacy org. Will I be competitive for it? No clue.


You should figure this out! Try to get a job in policy without the MPP and see how it goes.

tomwatts
Posts: 1703
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:01 am

Re: Law (JD) v. Policy (MPP)

Postby tomwatts » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:32 pm

mcmand wrote:Yeah but how are you managing student loan payments? You make a good case for the non financial aspects, but you're completely downplaying the finances, which do matter.

Either an LRAP or a high-paying job. I have the latter. A bunch of my friends opted for the former. The finances are fine — you figure it out. If you were going to get a low-paying job anyway, then living on an LRAP isn't really a big deal, and if you were going to get a high-paying job, then the payments aren't a big deal. There are some donut holes in some LRAPs for middle-paying jobs, but that's a matter of looking at the details of your school's program.

To be more specific to my situation, I went to HLS/HKS and was a teaching fellow for most of the time that I was there. The TF job basically covered the extra year, and even if it hadn't completely covered it, a bunch of the HKS debt could be packaged in with the HLS debt for LRAP purposes. (HKS has its own LRAP, but it sounded pretty meh so I didn't look into it much.) Now I'm a class action plaintiff's lawyer, so I make enough money to cover the payments without the LRAP anyway (repayment on a 10-year plan is 12% of my current income before bonuses), but if I ever switch to a more traditional public interest job, I'll be covered.

If you want to be a public defender or work in criminal justice policy, you're probably going to need to go to a school with a decent LRAP anyway, which a lot of policy schools don't really have but most good law schools do.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 29267
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Law (JD) v. Policy (MPP)

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:03 pm

Re: the program abroad - I’m not sure a foreign degree is going to make you competitive to work on policy in the US.




Return to “Ask a Law Student / Graduate”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: sailcar, Vosem and 6 guests