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Hello all,

I am relatively new to grad cafe forum, so I apologize if I come off as naive or inexperienced in my first post. I am contemplating my options for graduate school which I will begin in the near future. In regard to my background, I am a current TFA corp member who hopes to go to law school after the typical two year stint. My ultimate goal is to work as a constitutional lawyer for the appellate division of the DOJ in Las Vegas, Nevada (my hometown) and become a law firm partner, a federal judge, or a professor of constitutional law here. My first option for grad school  would be to apply to Oxford for a two year Mphil in history/political science and then law school. I've already spoken to a supervisor who is very interested.  My second option would be to go to Oxford for a year (if at all) and attend a joint jd mpp program preferably with hks/georgetown law. My heart tells me to go for the first option as I'm a huge history buff and it's cheaper. Also, I'm not much of a quantitative guy, and I'm told that the mpp has a strong quant component. Plus, my joint jd mpp plan is probably more expensive especially if I factor in the year at Oxford, and I would limit my options for law schools. Finally, I imagine that I could always attend hks for a midcareer masters while it would be harder to attend Oxford midcareer. At the same time, the second option seems more appealing because I think that a degree from hks would probably look better for a public service career because of the faculty (David Gergen, Roger Porter) and networking options.  Am I right in this career? Which option should I chose? Would one degree look better than the other for the field I want to go into or would both be equally regarded?  In any case, I am very confused and ask for your counsel. Academically and professionally, I think that I am well-qualified. I've been published, elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and won awards for my internships and academic projects. This also provided me with some food for thought. 

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Is there any particular reason as to why you want to pursue a masters degree before law school beyond the notion that it would help out your chances of getting into a good law school? I did quite a bit of research into law once upon a time before deciding to back out, but from my understanding of law school admissions, there isn't much that matters to top law schools beyond a high lsat and gpa. The only non lsat/gpa aspect that really moves the needle is whether or not an applicant is a urm. If you have a good reason for wanting to pursue a masters prior to law school, then I would simply recommend picking the cheaper option in order to keep your debt down unless you're coming from a good financial background. I would also recommend having some backup legal careers in mind in addition to what you listed. Obtaining a position as a law partner, federal judge, or a law professor is extremely competitive and far from a guarantee even at the best law schools. This is because there's relatively few positions in each of those industries to begin with, in addition to the fact that a law school's primary value is in it's ability to help you secure that initial job out of law school. Unfortunately obtaining any one of those positions is relatively impossible straight out of law school, so even the network and prestige of a school like Yale can't really help you out there aside from helping you land into a big firm/clerk position which is a necessity (or close to it) for at least two of the positions that you listed.  I'm not telling you that you should give up on those careers, but that you should also have some fallback options in mind as well. A much more obtainable career coming out of a top law school for example would be a position at a large company (think Fortune 500) following a 2-5ish year stint at a big law firm. That is an example of a common outcome for associates that pursue big law. If that type of outcome is one that you can live with, then by all means roll the dice at a well known law school and shoot your shot. But I will say one more time that you should not pursue a masters if the main reason you are doing so it because you think it will help out your chances of being admitted. Investing that time into studying for the LSAT would be your best bet. But I believe I've read posts in the past both on here and reddit about jd/mpp dual degree students, so I would dig around some more and fine some past anecdotes from those individuals and whether or not they thought it was ultimately worth it. 

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Your career goals have nothing to do with MPP/history/political science programs of any sort. So, if you have money to burn, attend whatever program makes you happier. Otherwise, I'd take your "typical two year stint" and for example work as an Au Pair in England if it's calling your name, then when you're done fucking around, go to law school.

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Thank you for both of your responses. I am well aware that I cannot land my long-term goals straight out of law school. What I'm asking is which degree would look better throughout the course of my professional career in public service whether it be as a federal judge later or as an AUSA? Which would be of more benefit in my professional growth as a lawyer. My initial goals out of law school are an Article III clerkship/big law. After that, hopefully the DOJ and then a transition into academia, state government, or the judiciary. What I'm asking which degree will help me the most in my career whether it be long-term or short-term?  

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I would assume that HKS fits better for your goals unless Oxford has a multitude of courses that are centered around U.S. policy. Regardless I would still argue that an mpp/mpa doesn't really move the needle for you (or anybody really) in terms of trying to both get into law school as well as securing specific positions. At the end of the day an mpp is for policy work while a jd is for legal work. If you're simply worried that you don't have enough of a public service background then I think you're underselling yourself since TFA is a very well known 2 year public service stint. If you absolutely insist on getting an masters degree from a well known university, then I would recommend compromising a bit and expanding your list of schools beyond Harvard and Oxford. Many of Kennedy's peer schools would be much cheaper for you to attend while still giving you the same level of education and development. Off the top of my head Duke Sanford's mpp gives at least $28,000 to TFA admits, and really you'd be competitive for much more than even that with a decent gpa and a good gre score. So I would say to expand your list to other well known programs around these parts, (Duke Sanford, CMU Heinz, Chicago Harris, Georgetown McCourt/SFS, Johns Hopkins Sais, Columbia SIPA, Michigan Ford etc etc etc) take the offer from the school that gives you the best funding, and simply try your best to take relevant coursework while networking and interning/working within the legal sphere as closely as you can. 

At the end of the day things like academia are way to difficult to plan around since it's only mostly accessible to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Chicago grads (and even at those schools you need to kill it in terms of grades, writing ability etc). Your most realistic goals from what you are working at either the state of federal level, but working specifically at the DOJ can be tough straight of of law school, although it's more doable if you bide your time and you keep trying to make it in during your big law stint.  A lot of law and prelaw students seem to get really hung up on the idea of working just for the DOJ when they think of fedgov work, when in reality they should also be considering other departments and agencies as well since they're less competitive and also have interesting work in some cases. If you expand your periphery beyond the DOJ, then I would say that fedgov work is very doable for you coming from a T14 law school. Again don't let me stop you from swinging for the fences, but always have several more realistic backups in mind. And make sure to keep debt in mind as well if you aren't planning on staying on the private sector side of things long term. Unless you get heavy funding from both your masters and jd programs, you will be staring down at a TON of debt that even a solid 120-160k salary as a fed attorney would have a tough time paying off. The debt is honestly the main reason why I would recommend skipping the masters and going straight to law school unless you have a financial safety net lying elsewhere. That's also why I would recommend taking a scholarship offer from a law school in the 4-15 range as opposed to the HYS trio since they don't really do the whole merit scholarship thing. Even if that does make the already difficult prospect of getting into academia even more challenging, avoiding 200k+ in debt is well worth it. 

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Hi. @Guesswho has already done a pretty wonderful job of laying out the facts of your intended career path as well as the various pros and cons to pursuing a master's prior to applying to law school.

Edited to add: if you're asking which degree is more valuable to your personal and professional growth, I'm afraid that's a question that only you can answer. But if you're asking in terms of what is valuable in the legal world...my two cents (as someone currently working in law, with several Ivy League-educated lawyers in the family, some of whom conducted law school interviews for years, in case any of that matters to you) is this: don't bother. For what you want to do, work experience in a field somehow related to your intended work after law school--at a law firm, for example, or in consulting, or for a nonprofit doing pro bono work, etc.--is much more likely to impress law schools these days than a master's in history ever would. To me, it's throwing time and money away when you could be gaining valuable pre-law school work experience and actually making money for yourself (law school ain't cheap!). Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I'm only saying this based on experience. My cousin deferred entry to Harvard law to work for two years at a top consulting firm, and he will have only ever finished undergrad prior to matriculating at Harvard. This is not an uncommon route--undergrad, work, law school. If this master's is valuable to you for personal or otherwise undisclosed reasons, by all means--go for it! But it is absolutely unnecessary and unlikely to make an appreciable difference in the admissions stage. Good luck. 

Edited by velvetcactus

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