Law School Discussion

J.D + Divinity degrees


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Re: J.D + Divinity degrees
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2009, 05:44:58 PM »
i have a jd and an mdiv.  hasnt helped me much.

Re: J.D + Divinity degrees
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2009, 01:21:13 PM »
Having a better understanding of law by getting a JD would definitely assist someone who wanted to work for some sort of faith-based urban (or rural) development org, but I'm not entirely sure how far an M.Div would help in a strictly legal career.  Remember that most JD programs are currently still priced under the assumption that biglaw is an option, when for many of those programs your chances of paying off all that debt through a high first salary are small. Someone who knows they don't want to practice law needs to really look at the debt they're taking on by getting a law degree and factor in scholarship considerations more than someone who at least intends to practice law. 

Dunno how it works at other schools but at Vandy people can cross-register in either the law or div schools without getting a joint degree.  As an example, I went to New Orleans last year as part of a pass/fail poverty immersion course through the divinity school... we met with a number of public interest attorneys, ministers, non-profit general contractors, academics, enviro justice coordinators, and community organizers who were all working on various post-Katrina issues.  The course was open to all graduate students, so myself and another law student signed up and went. It was a great week and I got a good glimpse at how differently the divinity students were approaching the same issues as we were. One of the JD/MDivs also went to Bangladesh two years ago as part of Project Pyramid, which sends students from all the grad schools each year to meet with Yunus at Grameen Bank and help the biz school develop business plans for economic growth in a few rural villages.  He didn't need to be a joint degree candidate to go on the trip, he just had to cross-register for a course in the biz school to prepare.

But getting back to jobs: you don't need a joint degree to be able to either 1) add religious aspects to your legal education in preparing to be a lawyer or 2) enhance your understanding of legal issues in preparation for some sort of faith-based work. But if you're really passionate about both and you don't mind footing the bill, it's certainly not a bad 4-6 years to spend.

Re: J.D + Divinity degrees
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2010, 01:55:46 AM »
My interests were more intensely in philosophy and theology entering college...A dual degree is obviously quite an investment of money and time - is the J.D. component really providing any tangible and worthwhile opportunities?

Considering the original intent of your question and the thought and research you've already put into this query, it seems the M.Div. is the degree you are definitely planning to pursue and the J.D. is the option you are considering, not vice versa. Speaking as someone who is making this decision myself, I have determined a few key reasons the J.D. is compelling:

1. You are marketable. In a difficult job market, any advantage you have helps your resume work its way to the top of the pile. You can get an M.Div. or M.T.S. or Ph.D. and have obvious advantages over someone with a bachelor's alone, but you'll likely still have to spend several years gaining experience before you are considered for a management-level position. The J.D. will give you the decision-making skills to confidently apply for and work as a decision-maker. Considering the cost of the J.D., take into account that many non-profits offer debt-repayment plans depending on the amount of time you work for them and the type of work you do.

2. You are credible. No matter what the perception of lawyers, the perception of people who have successfully completed a law degree is that they are hard working, logical problem-solvers. Whether you're hoping to work in a church or a charitable organization or an international relief group, the credibility you gain with a J.D. will help you beyond the intellectual gains you've made through law school. Especially if you are working with people of multiple backgrounds/faiths, having a J.D. gives you clout you might otherwise lack with the divinity school alone.

3. You have options. The J.D. gives you the option to work in an area which has nothing to do with religion, but without it your options are limited. That said, disregard warnings against the J.D./M.Div. only being useful to people who want to find a special niche. What's wrong with a niche? My management experience has taught me having a niche is a good thing. Some of the best management books on the market today, including the StrengthsFinder series, laud the development of your niche. You're not cornering yourself, you're specializing, and that seems to be what interests you.

These opinions were formed through research (likely very similar to your own) and conversations with friends. One friend is in her second year of divinity school at Yale, and she's considering a J.D. or an M.B.A. to help her get the kind of job she wants and to avoid possible negative stereotypes as someone who is purely academic or, worse, who can preach but cannot "do." Another friend completed his J.D./M.Div. at Emory (his first choice was Duke, if it matters, but he ended up loving Emory) and now works as a manager at my home church in San Antonio, which has membership over 10,000 and supports a multitude of charitable works. A mentor of mine from years ago received his degree (not sure which specifically) from Princeton divinity school in the 90s and worked at L'Abri (a theology/philosophy community of learners in Switzerland) before becoming an author and college professor. He did not pursue a law degree because law is not one of his professional interests. In high school I worked with a man in San Antonio who has a J.D. from Harvard and chairs various charitable organizations in San Antonio. Some of his work is religiously affiliated, but most is not. He recently advised me to go for the dual degree if it was a strong interest because of the preparation it will give me in "learning to think like a lawyer and a saint." :)

I know these comments come late in the thread, but I hope anyone reading this and embarking on a similar search finds them useful.