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To J.D. or not to J.D.? That is the question.

This is a question that many MELPs are faced with if not all. You will likely have your own struggles in answering this question for yourself. It will only be further stressed by a significant number of current students, and faculty asking the same question multiple times throughout the year. It can get old to have the question asked so much and in some circumstances seem adversarial. The MELP program idea is very unique and other law schools really haven’t mirrored the VLS program unless you are going for your LLM which is not a viable option when you don’t have your J.D. to begin with.

There is usually a handful of MELPs that apply and stay on for the “four year” plan. This year is no exception. From what I’ve heard there are just about 15 students that have applied to stay on as JDs for the next 3 years. I am not one of those 15, which naturally raises the internal dialogue again on my interests currently and for the future. Most of my friends are not staying on which makes the choice easier. I think a factor as to why some stay and some don’t is whether you are coming right from undergrad or have been out of school for over 2 years. Before coming to VLS I was in the work force for 4 years.

Having that perspective and now a taste for law school life, I am interested to get back into the workforce. I really want to get back into the playing field and contribute to the critical decisions facing environmental policies. Because the school is a law school most of the job announcements focus on aspects with require a JD. There certainly are jobs out there for MELPs from public, to private, to nonprofit. Of course its a competitive market but, there are many more jobs out there than those requiring you to be a lawyer. So my response when someone asks me what I’m going to do with my degree is “anything.” As VLS highlights, environmental issues are truly interdisciplinary. Almost every aspect of human living affects the environment or is affected by the environment, meaning there will be jobs to address this relationship.

With that in mind. I am also personally choosing not to stay for a J.D. for political reasons. I would like to be in the workforce while I can be part of the current Presidential Administration. If I stay another 3 years there are no assurances who will be in office when I’m ready for work again. A big point of this post is that its ok to not want to stay on as a JD. It isn’t something to be taken with a grain of salt, and staying on because you can is not staying for the right reasons. Also, choosing not to get a JD from VLS in one go with the Masters doesn’t mean that you can’t come back and get it if you find that you want or need it. The best thing you can do is talk to MELPs on both sides of that coin and see how their reasons may or may not give you insight into your own interests.

I look forward to seeing some of you during the Admitted Students Day later this week.


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