Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 17 of 17

Thread: Adding a law degree to a planning degree (was "Law")

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    The American New South
    Posts
    3

    Adding a law degree to a planning degree (was "Law")

    Has anyone here been in planning and later decided to obtain a law degree?

    I am going to be taking the LSAT in June.

    What do you think is the best way to prepare?

    Moderator note:
    <Gedunker> Ellijay -- welcome to Cyburbia. In the future, please use a more descriptive title for threads that you start. Thanks!
    Last edited by Gedunker; 26 Nov 2006 at 12:25 AM.

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Medford, Massachusetts
    Posts
    3

    LSAT Preparation

    To prepare for the LSAT, buy one of the preparation manuals and make sure to spend time working the analytical reasoning section. A lot of the test is reading comprehension. Understand that the test is difficult mostly because it is timed and you have to work really fast to finish it.

    Good Luck

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ssc's avatar
    Registered
    Sep 2005
    Location
    New York's beautiful Hudson Valley
    Posts
    155

    Why law?

    I am curious as to how long you have been a practicing planner, why you are going into law and what type of law you will practice. I have been extremely unhappy with my career choice and have also been considering law school.

    By the way, I took the LSAT years ago after a good prep course - I highly recommend a prep course!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Posts
    6,044
    Blog entries
    6
    A planner who worked for my department went to law school and now is a very good land use attorney.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  5. #5
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Where Valley Fever Lives
    Posts
    7,324

    Yup....

    Go for it....there are many many good attorney's out there, who were planners first....tons of them in Denver by the way....Clarion Associates seems to make this a requirement of employment
    Skilled Adoxographer

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    The American New South
    Posts
    3

    law

    ssc,

    I have been in planning for approximately eight years. I became AICP certified four years ago.

    I am not totally unhappy in planning, but I'm looking to grow in my career.

    I am currently working in the private sector for a landscape architecture firm.

    At this stage, I am somewhat interested in municipal law, but that may change.

    Nate--thanks for the advice. I'm also thinking of enrolling in the Kaplan online classes in February.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    85

    Bump

    Quote Originally posted by Ellijay View post
    ssc,

    I have been in planning for approximately eight years. I became AICP certified four years ago.

    I am not totally unhappy in planning, but I'm looking to grow in my career.

    I am currently working in the private sector for a landscape architecture firm.

    At this stage, I am somewhat interested in municipal law, but that may change.

    Nate--thanks for the advice. I'm also thinking of enrolling in the Kaplan online classes in February.

    I find myself in a position very similar to the person above. He or she wrote this 3 years ago, though. My addition to the question is: if you have a masters degree in planning along with alomst 8 years experience, does it make sense to get into a law program with a land use specialty? Or since you already have the work and academic background in planning, just get into a non-specialized program and be a land use attorney after graduation, bar exam, etc?

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Megalopolis
    Posts
    13
    I would proceed with caution, given the expense involved and the fact that high paying jobs are few and far between for recent grads.

    I graduated about 5 years ago, with both a MURP and JD. I incurred something around $105,000 in student loan debt over the course of undergrad, grad school and law school (including bar study loans for living expenses the summer after law school) which fortunately, at that time, I could consolidate into a low interest long term loan. This is about $550 per month. Law school is even more expensive now and so is the cost of student loan debt post-credit crunch as interest rates have risen for these loans and I hear about people graduating now with around $150,000 or more JUST from law school, so if you're bent on doing it the best way is to choose a public univ. and work your way through if at all possible.

    The employment front is scary right now. I have been with a private firm for a while but not exactly secure, given the decrease in workload (we have public and private sector clients but primarily public). Private developer-representative land use attorneys who have been downsized. Who knows - maybe the next boom will hit as you graduate in a few years but I am not so confident.

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Sacramento, CA
    Posts
    1

    Don't Do It

    I recently dropped our of law school. I strongly recommend you don't go to law school. It's a big scam. It could ruin your life. In law school and a legal career, you won't have any free time and most lawyers are totally miserable.

    Law school is a rip off. You'll be in debt way in over your head when you graduate. So many people have started going to law school recently that there is a huge oversupply of lawyers and law school students, and there are not enough jobs to go around. Unless you graduate from a top 20 law school, or a top 40 school at the top of your class, job opportunites won't be great.

    Go to a web site called JD Underground. It is a web site for disgruntled law school graduates who can't find work. Also check out a blog called Tom The Temp, which was voted the #1 blog by the American Bar Association. The ugly truth is all disclosed on these 2 sites.

    A lot of people are getting rich off promoting law school as a get rich scheme. Law school prep courses, LSAT prep courses, law schools, etc. Many law school grads can't find jobs; they have to get hired by temp agencies for contract work, making $20/hr. Almost all law school grads have at least $100,000 in student debt when they graduate and student debt can almost never be discharged in bankruptcy. It's impossible to pay off that much debt when you are working for $20/hr or can't find work.

    Also, legal work is now being outsourced to India. The American Bar Association voted to allow outsourcing of some legal work. This is also really hurting recent law school grads.

    If you have a planning degree and a job, it would be crazy to go to law school right now, even if you're not that happy with your job.

    Hope this helps.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Jakers's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Queen City
    Posts
    115
    I was considering law school for a while in fact, I went as far as taking the LSAT doing quite well but, later decided that law was not my avenue. If it is something you are willing to sacrifice alot to get, then by all means go for it! But proceed with extreme caution. It is the biggest financial/educational decision you may ever make so take your time, talk to lawyers, network with the school and professors, and alumni, anything and everything you can do to help you wrap your head around what you will be doing.

    To study- I bought from the LSAC website a bunch of old LSAT tests and cranked them out. I took probably 25-30 practice tests Time youself on each section because getting used to the pace is more important than anything else. I bought a Princeton Review book and a crammer book on Games because they were very difficult for me

    It is one of the hardest tests I have ever taken. For some people it comes naturally which is frustrating..to say the least. Best of Luck!
    "Inside Joke"

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    85
    Thanks for the info. Yep I've seen JD underground. When I am at my most confident I tell myself that these horror stories apply to youngsters with no real work experience, but I am sure that's often not the case.

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered
    May 2009
    Location
    Tuscaloosa, AL
    Posts
    4

    This thread is old, but...

    There is a lot of good information here. I am also graduating with JD and and MURP at the end of this year. I have about $100k in loans to repay. (I was a network engineer for 2 years prior). It really is a mixed bag right now. The opportunities are still there; the big firms aren't hiring freshly minted JD's at $160k anymore, but that business model was bound to implode at some point. A lot of people consider a law degree one of the most versatile graduate degrees you can get, but this may just reflect the fact that many JD's do not know what they want to do going in.

    Most JD's use some combination of their interests, work experience, and undergraduate education to specialize their law practice. So if you want to work in planning, your best bet is some type of experience in that field before or during law school. It's a big investment but the career aspects are not as bleak as people may think. For example, I believe with the increased emphasis on sustainability, "green jobs", smart growth, et.al., the demand for land use lawyers/planners that can navigate the adminstrative complexities will definitely grow.

    And if the original poster (or anyone else) needs help with the LSAT, the Princeton Review helped me do very well. There are three sections: writing, reading comprehension, and logic. Reading comprehension is not that difficult on its own, but the logic puzzle require a definite strategy that the Review will help you out with.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2006
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    2,802
    I work as a planner and am considering going to law school myself but only as a last resort, for a couple of reasons:

    1. Most important, you need to know yourself. Can you handle the pressures and stresses and uncertainties of law school? Too many unprepared law students focus on the end result rather than the steps needed to get there. Keep in mind, you will be taking only one exam for each course at the end of the semester. That is a HUGE gamble. The first year is really a weeding out process. Your success/failures at the end of your first semester set the tone not only for the rest of law school but also how seriously ALL employers, including the ones that don't pay top dollar, take you seriously as a would-be attorney. I seriously recommend you buy the Law School for Dummies book. I would also check out abovethelaw.com and other forums/blogs by law students.

    2. Don't go into law unless you plan on practicing law. Talk to as many practicing lawyers who do the law that you want to do, preferably the younger attorneys, as this will give you a better indication of what to expect when you graduate. Unfortunately, everyone, including the legal profession, is suffering right now, so I'm not sure if they can give you an accurate picture of what the profession will be like in a few years.

    I agree that professional experience will help you in whatever area of law you want to work in. Find connections between your planning experience and the area of law you want to pursue. Take a general aptitude test. You might find out that you are interested in other areas of law besides land use law. I am curious about anti-trust law, mergers and acquisitions, and intellectual property/patent law in addition to land use law and environmental law.

    3. It sometimes takes up to a year after graduating law school to pass the bar exam (if not longer) so the stress is not going to dissipate.

    4. Law school should really be a last resort. It is very expensive, there is a high dropout rate, and a partially-completed degree is almost, but not completely, worthless. Take an aptitude test. Try to land a job doing expert witness, zoning ordinance updates, find volunteer work in APA's legal division or similar groups, or anything else that can help fuel your interest in law. After you exhaust all options and that is still not enough, maybe you should seriously consider law school.

    5. Live within your means, both during school and when you practice as an attorney. The median income for most practicing attorneys is maybe a step above certified accountants. Check the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the American Bar Association for a better estimate.

    A friend of mine dated a Harvard law grad who worked in a flashy law firm in London. He was well over 100k in debt fresh out of school and planned on paying off his loans within 5 years. As the most junior associate, he was still expected to drive a nice car, live in the preferred neighborhoods, etc. Because he didn't have good money skills, he went further into debt and is still paying off school even though he is making in the middle six figures now. I know you are considering working as a city attorney, but learn to live cheaply in school. The last thing you want is to hedge your bets that you come off on top, don't complete the degree, and then have a bunch of debt to pay off anyway.

    6. Have at least one or two backup plans in case law school doesn't work out. This should really be the case with any profession, including planning.

    7. Enroll in a discovery course, non-degree course in law before taking the plunge.
    It might be a far less-costly alternative to determine if you have the right analytical skills to make it in law school.

    8. If you are in a relationship, make sure your significant other, partner, etc. understands that school will come first. If he/she can't accept this, you are going to have seriously consider which is more important. It is a huge decision, and the Idiots/Dummies book talks about this in great detail. My sister dated a law student when she was working on her masters in journalism. She spent too much time with him during his first semester and he failed half of his exams. There were other reasons why he failed including lack of discipline and focus, but even a healthy relationship can take a hit during school.

    If you have a family to feed, taking care of sick relative, the "rules" are a lot more complicated. It might mean going to school at night or part time. You can still complete the degree, but you might loose out on the extracurricular (moot court, law review, clinics, etc.) things that "might" make you a more promising job candidate. Another friend's brother worked at Home Depot, was married and had 3 kids to feed, and went to school part time at NIU in DeKalb. It took him 6 years to finish law school and failed the CA Bar Exam twice before passing it on the third try. He now practices patent law and his brother (my friend) is a public defender specializing in homicides.

    Hope this helps-
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  14. #14
    Member
    Registered
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Pensacola, FL
    Posts
    5

    Don't do it! (unless you really want to)

    I am one semester from graduating from law school, and have a MUP. I plan on continuing to work as a transportation planner when I graduate.

    A lot of good and realistic advice above. I recommend that you take a day and attend law school classes at the nearest law school. All day, and first year classes. Then think about your reasons for wanting to go to law school. If it is because you passionately love The Law (and some do), then do it. If it because you are intersted in planning policy- you are already a planner, maybe make a lateral move within the planning field. Want to protect the environment? Study envirenmental protection. Law school is NOT the place to decide what the next step in your life should be. I would say that 70% of the students from my first year of law school would not repeat the experience. Most do not end up in the area of law they initially intended to practice.

    Figure this out before you start going down this road! I did well on the LSAT, and was offered a full scholarship. At this point I did not feel that I could turn it down. In retrospect, I would! Good luck.

  15. #15
    Member
    Registered
    Aug 2009
    Location
    New York City
    Posts
    2

    What about adding a planning degree to a law degree

    This might help people decide but maybe someone can help me too. I am a lawyer who wants out. I went to law school right after college without knowing the realities of the profession and life in general. Now I regret my decision. There are many lawyers coming out these days, making jobs competitive to get. Even ones that excelled in school and therefore able to get into large firms and make good money are not too happy with the hours of work required and the ones that did not excel are very dissastified with careers. If you really have the passion for it and will start building a career from law school go for it (it is time money and stress even after school trying to get admitted). I am currently working but Im building no career and do not enjoy what I do. I am looking for an alternative career and think that I am interested in planning and city development. But what I should have asked before I went to law school and what I want to ask now is... are there plentiful careers out there if I go to school for planning or is it a struggle getting started and finding a job. Any other advice is helpful

    Thank You

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2006
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    2,802
    A lot of different people are interested in planning and city development, from students fresh out of high school or college with no experience to working professionals looking for a career change. There has, and probably always will be, an imbalance of people looking for planning work and planning jobs available. You can do great work in planning and a legal background will help, especially if you have a experience in land use or real estate law.

    It is easy to get pigeonholed in one area of planning or work for the wrong community or firm and become disillusioned. The keys to success in the field is hard work, networking, innovation, adaptability, and flexibility. Networking starts before you even apply to school, and you should focus as much time towards working on the side while in school. You will still face stiff competition for an entry-level planning job no matter what the economy. A portfolio is also something to start building now, even with your legal background, to align yourself for planning interviews. See previous posts I have written on portfolios, networking, etc.

    Hope this helps-



    Thank You[/QUOTE]
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  17. #17
    Member
    Registered
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Toronto, ON
    Posts
    10

    Some reflections and questions

    Everyone: Millions of thanks to all of you and for your invaluable sharing and comments. You have probably just saved me from making more mistakes and detours (and debts) in life.

    I am completing a phd in a humanities field whose job prospect is horrible and not growing. And I am in huge debt. In response, I took a FT gov job for almost a year, which I eventually quit - the timing and environment just weren't right for me who thought it was possible to write/finish my thesis while working with immediate bosses who made life very difficult for me.

    In fact I applied to planning jobs as an internal applicant in gov. Of course, without formal training in planning I didn't get an interview. My 'expertise' is in law and policy, but I don't have a law degree either. My undergraduate was in pre-law and I guess that helped me miraculously land the job. Having said all that, there is something positive to my experience: my hands-on exposure to the working of the combination of all these disciplines in the day-to-day process of community and policy development including municipal practices helped me see that the profession of a planner or a lawyer in the public sector can be personally (and sometimes financially) rewarding. Good planners or lawyers, who are good people, can protect the public and make a huge and far-reaching difference in society.

    On my own aspiration: there are some growing prospects to academics who can pull together an attractive package of law, policy, social/urban development and humanities. So my general (idealistic) career direction is to develop just that sort of credentials and interdisciplinary packages while working as a practitioner in law or planning (probably not both, because of my age and debt - both are growing!). To make good of that vision, I would also need experience in teaching and publishing, which is necessary for a chance to land an academic post. Would I get the time to do all that? I don't know. But first, it seems that I would have to decide between law school and planning school. Here is where your comments have been life-saving.

    No, I don't intend to practise law. But I would love to work in community and policy development with an eye on how urban form, land use and socio-economic resources/services can affect lives. A holistic approach, so to speak. Law is a vital tool for public accountability and fairness, but it seems to me that in the policy/consultation process the rule of law is passive or reactive whereas planning seems more proactive and progressive. Practically, of course, lawyers seem to make more money than planners. But cost wise, planning schools seem to be more within my means.

    In relation, I consider the LLB from London U extension, which seems affordable. But in reality, because of the lack of support network for students in the program in Toronto, successful completion of the program on one's own would seem to be a tall order. That said, could that option be a good career booster for those in planning already but don't want to practice law, perhaps? For those who want to practice law, I suppose it makes sense to go to law school.

    I guess, too, that a driving factor in personal happiness is probably not so much what you do as how much and how often you love what you do - with, of course, a personal balance between passion and practical reason (read: income and survival; what is commonly known as 'debts'). But it seems also that most careers require years of devoted 'smart growth' and don't seem to leave much room for interdisciplinary transferability.

    I am intending to do a 2-year BUP or a MPl. There is also (always) an option of a masters in public admin/policy. What would be the best path(s) to approach my aspiration? Or am I idealizing the profession of planning?

    Thanks so much for your input in advance!!

    Flex

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 6
    Last post: 11 Jan 2011, 8:10 PM
  2. Replies: 5
    Last post: 22 May 2009, 6:29 PM
  3. "Portability" of a degree
    Student Commons
    Replies: 11
    Last post: 20 Mar 2009, 11:03 AM
  4. Replies: 7
    Last post: 27 Nov 2006, 9:31 AM