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Champagnemami

Should I get MPP (masters in public policy) or JD (law school)? ANY ADVICE WOULD BE HELPFUL.

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Background: I’m going to my third year of my BscN (bachelors in nursing) and all I know is I don’t want to be a bedside nurse of any kind.
I’be always been I interested in law. But I’m really only interested in the social justice aspects of it and possibly working for the government to improve people’s lives. As I come from a low-income background, having a job that makes a difference in the lives of people who grew up similar to me is a very important motivating factor. Which is why I’m currently leaning toward getting an MPP. As it’s more coherent with that goal. MPP is also cheaper and I wouldn’t like to have the debt gained from law school.

The downsides to the MPP is the income. I have a feeling that you’re not gonna be making much money in the entry-level positions. Like less than $50k? (I don’t know for sure). I would like to start a family before I’m 30, so having a higher income would be beneficial. Another downside to the MPP is the stability, I feel like it’s less of a ‘concrete’ degree than JD and it would be harder to get a good job. Since JDs can apply for jobs that are targeted towards MPPs, but it cant go the other way around. I also feel like the JDs path would also be more forgiving to taking time off to raise a family, because the degree is more specialized & ‘concrete’, where as anyone can get a job targeted toward an MPP aka more demand for JDs than MPPs.

I have heard of combined JD/MPPs, but I feel like that’s a waste of time and it’s better to choose one and work towards it.
I also know I can get my masters in nursing and branch into other fields besides bedside nursing but the MPP and JD interests me more.

Any advice??
Side note: I haven’t taken the lsat yet, but I’ve always gotten good grades in school even in the hard subjects like calculus, chemistry and bio so I don’t think I’ll bomb it if I dedicate a lot of time studying for it.

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^ this op, the "social justice" aspect of law is admirable but hardly lucrative. You should do some research into salaries and whatnot to see if one path has a higher salary ceiling than the other. You could very well end up with the same earning power but shackled with enormous debt. 

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I think you know the answer (well maybe not, but it seems like you do). I'd say go with the JD because like you said, practically any job that an MPP can get, a JD can get you (and since you are uncertain of where you want to work, this is obviously advantageous). Obviously this does not hold true the other way around.

Sounds like you'd be a great fit at Windsor and Ottawa (if Ontario is your goal). In regards to the salary, the other posters are right, don't expect over $50k for either.

About the LSAT, definitely don't underestimate it. It's a whole different beast compared to school work. My GPA has always been really really good but I scored a 157, so make sure you take the time to learn it.

Good luck!

 

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2 hours ago, Champagnemami said:

I have heard of combined JD/MPPs, but I feel like that’s a waste of time

I'd disagree, if you're looking to work in government. I'm seven years into a public sector law career and I've seen people using the JD/MPP (or MPP-equivalent) as a significant asset.

Bear in mind that working as a government lawyer means you are working to support the government's agenda. Hopefully that agenda includes "improving people's lives", but that's up to the politicians.

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Posted (edited)

Would you say that a person with an MPP/JD would have a significantly higher chance of getting hired in the public sector for non-law jobs obviously than a person with just an MPP?

Edited by Champagnemami

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9 hours ago, whereverjustice said:

I'd disagree, if you're looking to work in government. I'm seven years into a public sector law career and I've seen people using the JD/MPP (or MPP-equivalent) as a significant asset.

Bear in mind that working as a government lawyer means you are working to support the government's agenda. Hopefully that agenda includes "improving people's lives", but that's up to the politicians.

Would you say that a person with an MPP/JD would have a significantly higher chance of getting hired in the public sector for non-law jobs obviously than a person with just an MPP?


 

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Posted (edited)

For full disclosure I'm an applicant, not a law student; however, I do have a Master's in public policy, work for the government, and can relay some information that I've been given by lawyers I work with and other graduates on this forum. 

The most critical piece of advice I've been given is--do law if you want to be a lawyer, aka, you intend to practice law. As a lawyer in the public sector you could advise various program areas/review drafting instructions, be a legislative drafter, and I'm sure a variety of other positions wherein you advise internal (government) clients. 

If you want to be in government doing policy work (i.e., designing policy recommendations to send up to senior/elected officials, or designing/implementing the policy coming top-down from elected officials), then an MPP or MPA would suffice to get your foot in the door. In these positions you could also be updating guidance, and developing regulatory/legislative proposals--you necessarily don't need a JD. It could benefit you from a knowledge perspective, but the ability to climb the public sector latter is largely based on your abilities and what you have done (work-wise), not necessarily education. 

Once you figure out exactly what you would like to do (or think you would like to do), you then have to consider the financials of it all. A JD will take 3 years, plus 1 (articling) before you can practice. So 3 years of tuition, and 1 year of a mediocre salary articling in government (I could be wrong but if it's not less than 50k, it's not much higher). 

An MPP at U of T is only 2 years, and an MPA at Queen's is 1 year (arguable 8 months). Both of these programs cost less than most law schools, require less time, you wouldn't be paying off debt for the few years after law school, and have really good job placements rates in the Ontario Public Service or Federal Public Service. You may start at 50k-60k, but if you're good at what you do, you can jump to 70k (in some cases even 80k/90k) in 2-3 years. You have an amazing pension, job stability (hard to get fired), and automatic yearly incremental increases in salary. One thing to consider though, is new hires, job promotions, and increased salaries (through contract negotiations), are generally more plentiful under a non-conservative government. So for instance it may be harder to get in, and/or move up in Ontario for the next 4 years, mind you--this would be the same whether you had a JD or MPP/A. 

I'm not sure what placement rates are like after JD programs into non-practicing policy positions, and I also can't speak to JD placements into the public service for practicing positions. Anecdotally, it still seems that permanent policy positions (usually stemming from masters program internships), are more readily available, as the JD job market seems to be quite saturated (JD grads > jobs available). 

That being said, I know this seems a little skewed towards the MPP MPA route, but keep in mind that while I love what I do, I'm still applying to law because I want to practice in government, and I'm willing to take the financial risk/debt to do so. I had considered the dual in the past, but my masters got me in the door, got me a great salary and stability, now I can take some education leave/consider some part-time JD studies if I get in. The alternative would have been 3.5 years for a dual, plus articling, then paying off the debt after, instead of paying for some school in advance. 

Either way, I know JD grads who left practicing and transitioned into policy, and I know some JD grads who worked in a policy capacity before practicing. Roads can lead to the same place, some roads may make the path easier, or open up other opportunities, but at the end of the day a lot of it will come down to the choices you make when a door opens, and your ability to seize new opportunities as they come (i.e., interview skills/references (overall work-related abilities), based on your network/networking skills).  

Feel free to message me if you have any other questions. 

Edited by SciLaw
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I have an MPA and I'm in my final year of law school. I have about three years combined policy work, and I'm looking to work as a criminal law attorney. I'm avoiding policy work specifically because of how separated it is from working with the general population. And because of how ludicrously boring it is (to me, at least).

Re: income - I don't know why you (and others) don't think government policy analysts don't make respectable money. Senior analysts, which is a position one can move in to after a relatively short amount of time, make $75,000 - $80,000. This is a very respectable amount of money that a lot of the people in this country don't even come close to approaching in their own jobs. Here's the EC pay scale for the federal government. An MPA and some experience would make you competitive for policy positions in any government with lots of room for growth (though they are very competitive). I would say policy work (at least for the feds and Ontario government) is on par with what a lot of lawyers make.

If you're in Ontario though.... not sure about any opportunities given the current state of the public service. Buck-a-beer though....

Re: improving people's lives - very noble and laudable. From my experience though, this is not a feeling one gets from policy work. I worked in a policy area that is right up your alley - policy development and analysis for Ontario Works, ODSP, housing and other poverty reduction stuff - for the Government of Ontario. My work no doubt helped to influence policy and programming for the people who used these services, but it was always put through like ten different channels. By the time any substantive changes or decisions occurred I had really forgotten about any input I may have had. I would say that's a universal characteristic of all government policy work. Inf act, this is why I left policy and I'm looking to work in criminal law.

But don't let that dissuade you. I just wanted to work closer to the population. You might derive the same type of satisfaction as I do working directly with people through policy work.

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57 minutes ago, FunnyLawName said:

I have an MPA and I'm in my final year of law school. I have about three years combined policy work, and I'm looking to work as a criminal law attorney. I'm avoiding policy work specifically because of how separated it is from working with the general population. And because of how ludicrously boring it is (to me, at least).

Re: income - I don't know why you (and others) don't think government policy analysts don't make respectable money. Senior analysts, which is a position one can move in to after a relatively short amount of time, make $75,000 - $80,000. This is a very respectable amount of money that a lot of the people in this country don't even come close to approaching in their own jobs. Here's the EC pay scale for the federal government. An MPA and some experience would make you competitive for policy positions in any government with lots of room for growth (though they are very competitive). I would say policy work (at least for the feds and Ontario government) is on par with what a lot of lawyers make.

If you're in Ontario though.... not sure about any opportunities given the current state of the public service. Buck-a-beer though....

Re: improving people's lives - very noble and laudable. From my experience though, this is not a feeling one gets from policy work. I worked in a policy area that is right up your alley - policy development and analysis for Ontario Works, ODSP, housing and other poverty reduction stuff - for the Government of Ontario. My work no doubt helped to influence policy and programming for the people who used these services, but it was always put through like ten different channels. By the time any substantive changes or decisions occurred I had really forgotten about any input I may have had. I would say that's a universal characteristic of all government policy work. Inf act, this is why I left policy and I'm looking to work in criminal law.

But don't let that dissuade you. I just wanted to work closer to the population. You might derive the same type of satisfaction as I do working directly with people through policy work.

Attorney

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I do not personally consider working for government aka The Man anything to do with social justice / improving peoples’ lives, and would not have read OP as expressing any interest in that. I would consider his/her question as relating to poverty law, clinic work, legal aid, non profits etc. So OP perhaps you can clarify, as I think the response is way different for government work than for the areas I listed. 

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Just to clarify one point: a JD will not necessarily get you the same jobs as an MPP/A. If you're looking for a policy role then MPP/A > JD. Also, most policy masters programs will have a co-op stream which can get you in the door to a ministry position and is honestly the reason a lot of people do the program in the first place. I had a few lawyers in my masters program who didn't have much luck applying with just their JD/practice experience but landed good gigs through the co-ops.

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On 8/3/2018 at 11:03 AM, Champagnemami said:

...As I come from a low-income background, having a job that makes a difference in the lives of people who grew up similar to me is a very important motivating factor. ...

[portion only quoted]

TL;DR: if you want to go to law school and become a lawyer, do so because you want to be a lawyer, not merely because of what you think you can do as a lawyer. You already don't want to be a nurse, a profession which certainly helps people and makes a difference in their lives...

Why? I mean, I know people who work full-time at ordinary job X and do significant volunteer work (either using their professional skills, or more general volunteer work).

What if you find a meaningful job that makes a difference, but pays crap and makes you miserable? Or pays okay or well, but makes you miserable? And that assumes you get a job in the field (legal or government) in which you think you'd make a positive difference to those in similar situations to you growing up. Others have already noted that working for government is exactly that - someone who a few months ago was helping people improve their lives with the guaranteed basic income pilot project, is now working to cancel and end that program and tell people they're screwed. So even if they were happy with what they were doing before, they wouldn't be now, but still, it's their job to implement government policy (my understanding is sometimes, at higher levels, one may point out to the political side the consequences of doing something, push back a bit, but not usually?).

Would it be better to just look for a decent job you think you'd like (whether you think you'd like being a lawyer generally, or being in government, or something else, do your research)? What if you go to law school and it turns out you find tax law fascinating and interesting and you get course prizes, are you going to abandon that and work in something you're less interested and less skilled in and have difficulty finding a job in?

Caveat that I have no particular direct information about this, and obviously don't know you!

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