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dgallach

JD standalone, or MPA/JD... is it worth it?

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I am excited to say I've been admitted to the JD program at UNB, and the MPA program at Dalhousie... (I applied to the MPA/JD at Dalhousie but I have yet to hear from the law school. If I'm admitted to the JD at Dal, I'll be eligible for the dual-program). 

I have decided that I will not take an MPA on it's own. I want a legal education and career. But I'm stuck on whether or not I should take a JD on it's own, or pursue the dual-program if I am presented the opportunity. 

JD on it's own: 

  • 3 years, plus articling, and careers are open to be a Lawyer/Attorney, work Private or Public, and of course, work into policy is an option! 

MPA / JD: 

  • 4 years, plus articling, roughly +$13,000 than the JD alone, and careers are open to... the same as the above? Or, more...? Work in Municipal/Government, policy counsel and/or legal counsel, Management within Legislative Services, Court Program Coordinator, etc. 

I'm worried that I'm attracted to this dual-option because it sounds Boss A.F. Is it actually going to provide any benefit to me in my career and, is that benefit minimal or actually going to be worth the extra time and money? 

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts! 

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Honestly, it isn't going to be worth the extra time and money. 

If you want to get into policy, you can get into that with a JD. There is a sticky somewhere on this forum about government jobs and policy with respect to information in BC, and I really want to correct some of the inaccurate information in it (I have worked in HR at the Province recruiting/screening for policy positions). When you are going through 50+ resumes, you need a foolproof way for someone to be able to check a box that you have the experience/skills specifically asked for in the posting. I will find the post and provide advice on that 

Your JD will get you into policy work - but the salary for policy analysts isn't worth it unless you didn't article and have no hope of ever becoming a practicing lawyer. In BC, a regular policy analyst with a legal background is surprisingly common. 

In the Province, there is Policy Counsel (which you seem to be familiar with). They are different. I do not quite understand how they end up in their positions as I recruited for regular policy analysts. They aren't the lawyers that do legislative review and review policy that policy analysts wrote - they do some type of legal policy work and there isn't that many of them. I think that a bunch may have been Crown. Who knows. Someone else will be able to speak to them much better than I can. I don't know a lot and only learned of their existence this year.

For all of the jobs you have put forward, you will not benefit from an MPA in getting the job. Your JD is what will get you there. The MPA (dependent on the school) will give you very relevant skills that are applicable when you are in the workplace, but frankly, you will not use many of them if your lead into public sector work is legal work. Things like writing for public sector, strategic planning, financial management, etc. 

If there is any piece of advice that I can give to any person interested in the public sector and considering an MPA - I say consider an MBA. The MBA will get you into the same doors that the MPA would, and more. 

I have taken a lot of UVIC's MPA courses that had dual numbering (MPA + undergrad) and I will say that they were very good. Very relevant to the work that I was doing and far more useful than one of the degrees that I did (which is career based). But I did those before considering law school. If I was doing the JD, I would definitely not add an MPA onto it hoping it would help my career. 

Save yourself the money and headache - and don't do it. If you really want to, do a joint MBA instead.

As you probably know, the competition to article in the federal and provincial public sector is tough. So if you can, use your energy stores to get the best grades possible. Many municipalities have small legal teams for their size, so I imagine that articling competition will be tough. Another avenue to consider is the various Crown agencies, corporations, and independent officers of the Legislature. Some are large (like CMHC), but some are smaller. With the smaller ones you will probably experience breadth in your job which could lead to unique senior level opportunities. 

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It could benefit you.

It is not likely to benefit you. In most circumstances you'll either end up as a lawyer who spent an extra/unnecessary year in school or a policy worker who spent a lot of extra time+money on school. 

If you get a straight JD then practice law but end up hating it, you can always go back and do an MPA or MPPA or MA in PPA or whatever at that point, if you can't get hired directly into policy with the JD and you need an additional piece of paper. 

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I work with the feds as a junior policy analyst and my degree is in Economics and Math. There are a few folks with MPPs/MPAs that I have worked with and one recovering lawyer. What I have gleaned is that there are a variety of academic disciplines represented in the world of policy wonkery, but an MPP is a great way to get your foot in the door. It is however not the only way. Doing a JD/MPA is unlikely to add substantial benefit to your career as a lawyer, and a JD might be sufficient to get yourself into the world of policy. Additionally, I'm wrapping up my MPP online from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, so if you find you hate the practice of law and still think an MPP might be essential, you can earn it while working (though I'm unsure how feasible that is given the strenuous nature of law). 

Best of luck! 

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Posted (edited)

If you're targeting a government legal position somewhere in Canada, then I think the MPA might indeed help you. (I'm not qualified to advise on any particular government employer.)

As @OyVey noted, the competition for articling positions in the public sector can be very tough. One way to stand out is to have an academic and/or career history that demonstrates a sincere interest in public sector work and an understanding of what public sector life entails. I think an MPA would be pretty strongly demonstrative of the interest, at least; if the MPA includes a work placement or any kind of real experiential component, then that's even better.

I'm in my ninth year of call now, all in-house in the public sector. Back in my successive-short-term-contracts days, I applied to a lot of government legal positions. Only once was I screened out of a competition for lack of a graduate degree. So it's by no means a requirement!

I guess my advice would be that if you are more interested in working in the public sector than in working as a lawyer, then the MPA is probably worth it. If working as a government lawyer isn't your primary career target, then I think the JD+MPA is probably more cost than it's worth. (And frankly, I wonder if the MPA might be a disadvantage in applying to private sector legal positions.)

Edited by whereverjustice
typo
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You can get into policy with just a JD. However, it is easier to get a policy job with a JD and a MPA. A lot of hiring managers are sceptical of hiring JDs into policy roles because they think they are a flight risk or couldn't cut it as a lawyer. Having a JD/MPA helps demonstrate that you aren't a flight risk for policy jobs and actually interested in policy. Similarly, having a JD/MPA makes it easier to demonstrate you actually have an interest in public sector law and didn't just strike out from big law. 

I don't know what your financial situation is, but there are some benefits to a JD/MPA.

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Thank you all SO SO MUCH! I truly appreciate your posts. 

My undergrad was in Family Studies, and most of my work experience has been in public service. It sounds like an MPA/JD could benefit me, but could also raise some eyebrows in private law... and the MPA won't be a deal breaker... An MBA is also an option, and an MPA is still an option years after I complete my JD... wow, I have a lot to think about but I am much less stressed/worried. 

Thanks again. 🥰

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