The Joint Degree: A Growing Trend for Law Students Seeking to Broaden Legal Career Options

Specialization is a growing trend in legal education, prompting many law students to earn a master's degree in addition to the Juris Doctor (JD). This decision can lead to more professional development opportunities for law students during law school, as well as career advantages after graduation. And many law schools are responding to the demand for specialization by offering joint degrees — the ability to earn two degrees during the same course of study.

More opportunities as law students

Earning a joint degree can yield many benefits for law students, including a reduction in time (and financial aid) required to finish school. For example, a JD takes an average of three years to complete while a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree requires two years, on average. A joint JD/MBA is usually offered as a four-year program.

There are professional development benefits to a joint degree, as well. Because each degree is usually offered through its own college, students have twice the opportunity to gain practical knowledge. Law students can expand their experience through research assistantships, judicial clerkships, clinics and summer associate positions, while acquiring valuable skills in their second area of study. In addition to work experience, dual studies can open up increased opportunities for networking while in law school.

Career advantages

An individual who earns a joint degree can take advantage of myriad career opportunities upon graduation in two different industries. For example, JD/MBA graduates can focus on finding a traditional attorney position in a law firm or corporate legal department; search for an alternative legal job, such as legal consultant or mediator or law professor; or pursue a wide range of business professional positions – whatever option best utilizes their unique qualifications and interests. The additional education and experience can also be advantageous when it comes time to negotiate a salary.

Other joint degree options

A law degree combined with a Master of Engineering or other Master of Science degree can also be valuable to law students who want to pursue positions in intellectual property, patent law, environmental law, or other legal fields that may require specialized scientific background. Law graduates who earn a JD/Master of Computer Science dual degree, for example, have an advantage in the field of intellectual property law due to expertise gained in various technologies while in school.

Another dual degree path is a JD and Master of Laws (LL.M.). Students generally receive these degrees from the same law school; often, one or two more semesters of course study are required. Schools across the country offer a range of LL.M. degrees on topics such as taxation, intellectual property, estate planning, real estate law, technology, privacy law, and more. LL.M. degrees enable law graduates to leave school with expertise in a particular area of law, which can help them jump into a new job without as much training as a graduate without the same type of education.

There is increasing demand in the legal field for graduates to start performing practical legal work quickly and with minimal initial training. Law students who take the path of a joint degree may find they have more marketable skills upon graduation and are better equipped to meet employers’ high expectations at the start of their employment.

Find out what level of starting compensation your skills and experience could help you earn in today’s legal field by visiting Robert Half Legal's Salary Center.