RECORD EDITORIAL: Joint degrees are smokin’

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STUDENTS NOW HAVE MORE options in pursuing their education at Harvard Law School. The joint-degree programs, the decades old JD/MBA and the new joint- and coordinated-degree programs with the Kennedy School of Government, the School of Public Health, the Graduate School of Design and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, have and will allow students to complement their legal education while also expanding possible career choices. These new programs mean more than ever that students do not have to come to Harvard Law School just to be a lawyer.

A number of students during their senior year of college are confronted with the choice of either attending law school or graduate school. Although some hold out the possibility of doing both, up to this year incoming HLS students only had the choice of jointly seeking a JD/MBA. Any hopes of earning another masters degree or even a PhD was left to the student’s initiative upon graduating from HLS.

This choice meant that many students who were either torn between a JD or PhD or who hoped to use the degrees to complement one another had a choice their senior year: give up a degree or earn them back-to-back, a daunting time-consuming task. Many gave up on a JD degree, meaning their experiences and educational outlooks were not part of the HLS community. Now, the new joint-degree programs offer students a chance to earn both degrees using less time and money.

The Law School’s ability to attract more than firm-bound students means a more diverse student body. What is added are students who may view the law through an economic or philosophical lens more than through a what-is-the-law or how-do-I-win lens. Through this additional perspective all students are more apt to see the law as something beyond corporate or public interest law. Perhaps students will be less quick to rate a class a failure based on how well they understand statutory law. This added perspective, in turn, should answer some of the criticism, unfounded or not, that the Law School is nothing but a technical school turning out corporate lawyers.

This is an important criticism to address because the sense of community between the Law School and the other schools is lacking. There is little interaction between the Law School and the Graduate School of Design, for instance. Students, and sometimes administrators and faculty, act as though the Law School is not part of Harvard University. The educational mission is the same at HBS as it is at KSG as it is at HLS: to provide an environment for learning that enables students to aspire to greater intellectual achievements. By expanding the joint-degree programs Dean Kagan signaled a commitment to better integrate the Law School community with the rest of the University.

These new programs are still in their beginning stages and it will take some time to work out the administrative problems and to get students, both incoming and current, to know about these opportunities and to take advantage of them. We are confident that in a few years these new programs will be an additional selling point for the Law School, even more than the new ice skating rink on Jarvis Field.

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