Law School Discussion

Law Degree for Journalism?

Law Degree for Journalism?
« on: May 08, 2005, 05:54:54 PM »
Does anyone know of careers that involve journalism where a law degree could be useful? I love to write and if money was no issue I would have pursued a career in journalism. Unfortunately, money is an issue so as for now I'll be attending law school and will likely pursue a career in the legal field. But my ideal job would be to either work for a mainstream magazine (anything from news/politics to fashion) or to work for a news network. Would pursuing a law degree be completely pointless for such a career? Or is there a job that involves a cross between the two genres? If anyone has any info. I'd LOVE to hear it. Thanks ;)!

dbgirl

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Re: Law Degree for Journalism?
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2005, 10:38:55 PM »
Hey Sophia,

I'm a journalist who is switching careers to become a lawyer.
A law degree is not pointless, just expensive. There are jobs that combine both interests, for instance working for Court TV.
Most of the reporters on Court TV are lawyers. There are also people who write about legal issues.

The biggest problem I see for you is that most people start of at entry level in journalism -- no matter the level of education. So potentially you could be making $28-30k/yr with a law degree. That, IMO, would suck.



Re: Law Degree for Journalism?
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2005, 11:45:20 PM »
That's interesting, dbgirl...it never occurred to me that those Court TV writers must have law degrees ::). If you don't mind me asking, is there a reason why you want to switch from journalism to law...besides the money, of course? The starting salary really is ridiculous. To make things worse, I was speaking to an LA Times journalist who has been in the business for years and said that your income basically hits the roof at a little over $60,000. So basically, unless I win the lottery or marry a zillionare, I guess I should plan on a law career.

Eegahh

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Re: Law Degree for Journalism?
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2005, 12:18:03 AM »
I'm in more or less the same boat as dbgirl, coming from journalism (well, if you can call writing about video games for a living journalism, but I've got my BA in journalism, so it at least halfway counts, dammit!), and frankly, money is a relatively large part of my decision to switch.  Unless you're anchoring the TV news in a big market or something, you're just not going to be able to reach even the upper-middle class as a reporter.  I figure that if I'm going to work insane hours and have a painfully stressful job, I might as well have one that compensates me relatively well.

Also, journalism just isn't as sexy as most people, myself before college included, think.  Sometimes you'll get an exciting breaking news story that gets your adrenaline pumping, or something in a subject that really interests you, but these moments are few and far between.

Besides, I like school and want to go back, but masters degrees in journalism are, in my humble opinion, not worth the paper they're printed on.

As far as law/journalism jobs, along with Court TV there are always the legal reporters for the big papers, who I'm pretty sure have JDs, as well as the trade papers.  If you just want to use your law degree and write, I'm sure there are PR jobs where the combo would be useful. Then there's one of my dream jobs, writing for Law and Order/The Practice/Harvey Birdman, or some other legal drama.  I know I read somewhere that a number of L&O writers have JDs. 

dbgirl

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Re: Law Degree for Journalism?
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2005, 09:52:12 AM »
Hey Sophia,

I think I have reached the point where the bad parts of this career are outweighing the good in terms of money and opportunity. I wanted to do longform and investigative journalism and those jobs are few and far between. And when you get those jobs, they pay very little.

I actually am a courthouse journalist now, so I get to see lawyers "in action" everyday, and their work is fascinating to me. While I never expect to make tons of money as a lawyer -- I plan to be a prosecutor -- I see it as a career choice that will offer me interesting work AND a living wage.




Re: Law Degree for Journalism?
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2005, 12:59:44 PM »
I, too, majored in journalism. I doubled with anthropology because I thought the the social sciences aspect would make it a bit more marketable. Most of my employment has been in advertising or public relations and that was very lucrative. My biggest problem was that the lucrative jobs were also the most unethical. So I had to get out.

Like DB said, at least with the law, you can make a decent living. For me, you also have the power to make a difference. I doubt the stress of a law career will be much different and if I'm working 14 hour days, at least I won't be swindling people. In my other jobs, I'd work 14 hour days regularly, but would feel like the scourge of the earth doing it.

Re: Law Degree for Journalism?
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2005, 02:47:12 PM »
Hi there Sophia - I am a statehouse reporter bagging this gig for law school. I can tell you that if money is your concern, you will never look to journalism. The only thing that I can reasonably see for a lawyer/journalist is to be a lawyer helping out the business of journalism by advocating for sunshine laws, open meetings, etc.
Or, your law degree could help you advance up the management side of a news organization. The degree could give you the pedigree to become a managing editor, etc. You could also work as a researcher, etc. for some kind of legal publication.
But going to law school to work as a reporter is a big waste of money. People don't even need degrees to get their start in this biz, and my Master's in English is basically worthless here. I mean, you could someday cover courts for the NY Times, i guess, if you know someone or are extremely lucky. And if you don't have a mound of ls debt. The journalist outlook is damn bleak, and it truly is a labor of love. And anyone with enough shoe leather can advance through the ranks.
So on the flip side -  if you love journalism and want to be reporting, go for it. You can live on the wages ($20,000 to start, but advanced through jobs over the last five years to make $35,000 now) if you live cheaply and marry well! ha ha.
I just don't want to stare down a lifetime of dinners made up of noodles and butter. And the hours...oh my god.
I feel if a trained lawyer had the option to work as a reporter or as a layer for twice the amount of money, the lawyer job would win everytime.

dbgirl

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Re: Law Degree for Journalism?
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2005, 09:40:09 PM »
Hey Montana,

I agree with everything you said except that people do not need degrees to work in the business. That may be true in some regions, but it is not a general rule.
I live in the SF Bay Area, and everyone out here has a bachelors, without one there is no way to get a job. Many people have masters degrees as well, although the masters does not equate to more money.

Re: Law Degree for Journalism?
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2005, 01:51:18 AM »
Sophia,

I can tell you through being in on the hiring process that managing editors are less concerned with your education than your clips. If you want to combine law and journalism, do what you can (even if it's for free or freelance) to build your clip file.

Good luck.

Re: Law Degree for Journalism?
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2005, 03:07:16 AM »
Wow...thanks for the insight, everyone. Who knew so many journalists had an interest in the law?!? No doubt the standard of living for attorneys is much higher than it is for journalists. But I had no idea how stressful it was to be a writer...I mean I knew they had deadlines, but I always thought they had pretty flexible schedules. That's insane if their workload is comparable to that of a lawyer and they get paid next to nothing!

I think that if I were to ever pursue a full-time career as a journalist I would rather write about current events/politics/international relations ( I was an international studies and political science major) than about the law. But like everyone else here, I'm looking to make a decent living so I plan on becoming a lawyer. I'm trying to keep my options open though because, like I said before, if money wasn't an issue I would choose to be a writer (even if the hours are crazy ;)).

So for you guys who have experience, what do you think is the best way to break into the field? Grumpy old man, you mentioned clips, but would that require me to actually work for a magazine/newspaper, or for instance could I use essays/opinions pieces that I have written over time to make up a sort of portfolio? In the case of a small, community-based newspaper would you suggest sending in a letter of interest along with a writing sample? Sorry if my questions sound completely ignorant, but I have no real journalistic background, and absolutely no notion of the hiring process...so any info would be appreciated! Thanks again!