I've been considering programs that offer the option of getting a JD/master's dual degree in 4 years, but am wondering about benefits/drawbacks of that. I'm interested in environmental law and policy and so the programs I'm looking at have the option of doing a joint JD and MS in environmental science in 4 years. But I'm wondering whether extending the process of earning a JD would ultimately put me at a disadvantage when it came time to apply for jobs since I'd be on a different cycle then the rest of my class who were doing the standard 3-year JD?
Does anyone have experience with this?
Along the same lines, in deciding which school to attend, how much weight should I give to law schools with highly ranked environmental law programs versus overall rank? For instance, in considering Arizona State and University of Colorado. ASU has a higher overall rank, at 27, but Colorado has a highly ranked environmental law program - 5, with an overall rank of 41. How significant is the difference between 27 / 41? I've previously read that the overall rankings and not the rankings of specialized programs are the most important consideration, but that advice seemed to be geared toward younger prospective students. I'll be starting law school as a second career and I know I want to focus on environmental law, so that advice seems like it's not quite as relevant to me.
Dual JD / Masters degrees
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I don't have direct experience with a combined JD/MS, having done just the 3-year JD myself, but I will say that there really should not be any disadvantage inherent to the time frame. Employers will be hiring every year; that you started a year earlier than others interviewing at the same time really shouldn't matter. It's possible that your additional degree will be an advantage, and I don't see any reason it would be a disadvantage.
I'll offer what advice I can about your second point. 27 vs 41 is a significant difference, but not enormous. I think you should investigate what the 5th ranking in environmental law entails. Where are people working after graduating? Did they come into law school with prior education or experience that you would lack? It may be that a school ranked high in a specialty is attracting candidates who have experience in the field and want to supplement their expertise with the ability to practice law. Also consider location - while it's not necessary to take the bar in the same jurisdiction as that in which you attended law school, it's typically much easier to do so than in another location. First, some jurisdiction-specific details will be emphasized where you go to law school. Second, it's easier to interview and exploit networking opportunities geographically close to the school you attend. Consider where you want to practice and what opportunities will be available there, and weigh that in addition to other factors.
Thanks Robert. I hadn't thought about the possibility of people with prior experience looking to supplement with the ability to practice law. Definitely something I'll look into.
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