Joint Degree Transition: Back at F&ES!
“Wait, so you’re not getting your law degree?” “You’re a second year law student, but you’re not graduating for another two years?” No, and yes. As a joint degree student, I have fielded many questions and needed to alleviate confusion for prospective employers and classmates alike. The F&ES joint degree program with Pace Law, Vermont Law, and Yale Law is indeed unique. It condenses the three-year law program and two-year master’s program into four years. Intending to enroll in the joint program from the start, I completed two years at Pace Law School before starting one year at F&ES. This year, my final year of the joint program, I spent the fall semester at Pace and am spending this balmy spring semester at Yale.
Transitioning to F&ES from Pace is complicated, but let me take you to the beginning of this academic journey. During my first two years of law school, I stayed very busy: from interning at the United Nations and at the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, to spending a summer at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and editing the Pace Environmental Law Review. Two days after I finished my summer at the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I moved to New Haven and started Mods. What a change! At law school, my focus was on my grades: GPA, class rank. At Mods, I was invited to orienteer with my classmates through the woods of Great Mountain. The workload at F&ES is no less challenging, and here I have learned the ins and outs of green chemistry, industrial ecology, and life cycle assessment. Both schools demand creativity of thought: a lawsuit is not won by regurgitating statutes; neither is the challenge of trans-boundary pollution solved by just listing goals. I have loved to study environmental law and the science that supports (or not) that law – and the joint program satisfies this perfectly.
That said, when I returned to Pace Law after a great year at F&ES, I felt a bit isolated. My dear friends, with whom I suffered through two years of intensive legal studies, had already graduated and taken the bar exam. I wanted to take only classes in environmental law, but I wound up in a dreadful class on corporate law. Here at Yale, I feel like I’m back home: the community is energetic, I’m taking the environmental classes that I love, and I’m enjoying the perks of the University, including visits to the renowned British Arts Center, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and Sterling Memorial Library’s rare maps collection.
Over the past four years, I have become more comfortable with transitioning my thoughts and analyses between law and science, to the point that I think I can practice law with a full integration of my knowledge of environmental science. But as a joint student, I still face many logistical transitions. I have needed to move to New Haven and back to New York, and then back to New Haven again. I spent precious minutes in fifteen-minute screening interviews for law firms explaining why I am graduating two years after finishing two years of law school (thankfully, the environmental law firm I will ultimately work for after graduation is quite familiar with the program!). At each school, I needed to go to Human Resources and reregister myself for payroll. All of these are minor complications to a fantastic joint program, but if you do a joint program with Vermont Law or Pace Law, do beware.
There’s also that pesky bar exam coming up. Since I have finished law school seven months before I will take the New York Bar Exam, I need to keep legal rules fresh in my mind. This can be tough, especially when I’m taking a full course load at F&ES, and working at the Admissions Office, and serving as a teaching fellow But, like any true Forester, I love to learn, and I accept the challenge.