Joint Law: To be or not to be?

Joint Law: To be or not to be?

Here at the Admissions Office, we have begun to notify people of their acceptance to FES.  It’s so exciting!  I love to call newly accepted students and ask them if they have any questions about the program — about classes, professors, or life in New Haven, bikes — anything at all.  And people have many questions, from obtaining research assistantships to finding roommates and an ideal apartment in East Rock.  One question that people frequently ask, though, is whether they can begin a joint degree after they start at F&ES.  Depending on the joint program, the answer may be a bit complicated.  Since I am a joint degree student, I will give you the run-down on the program with Pace Law School.


Pace Law School offers incredible opportunities to learn and practice environmental law.  I chose Pace Law because of its proximity to Manhattan – including, for example, the United Nations to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.  The school is a short commuter train ride away from Manhattan.  Its environmental program is fantastic, too:  I was able to collaborate with the director of the environmental legal studies and two renowned environmental law professors on exciting projects, including a publication of environmental legal terms in English and Chinese.  Pace Law offers a United Nations Environmental Diplomacy Practicum, in which students extern for a country in the Alliance of Small Island States assisting the country on environmental issues like sea level rise and climate change.  It also has a great Environmental Litigation Clinic, where students represent Riverkeeper, Inc. and other clients in citizen enforcement actions in state and federal courts on environmental and land use issues.


Of course, I must reiterate that I went to Pace Law and have participated in the joint program because I ultimately want to practice environmental law.  This means that instead of two years at F&ES, I have chosen to complete four years of school:  five semesters at Pace Law and three semesters at F&ES.  Twice as much time in school = significantly more financial commitment = greater commitment to a narrower field.  An extra year on top of law school also means an extra summer internship, though, which can be a great resume builder (law firms like seeing experience on your plate!).  That said, don’t worry if you are seriously considering the dual degree but do not want to practice law in a private sector firm.  There are many graduates of the joint program who now work for NGOs and different levels of government in policy and other environmental fields.  If you are considering the joint law program but are unsure whether you want to practice law, I encourage you to check out the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy.  YCELP has great resources and many student research assistants who can share their experiences and advice.


For those interested in pursuing law school applications after starting at F&ES, I must warn you: it is tough to start applying for the joint law degree once you begin at F&ES.  While you do not need the LSAT to apply to F&ES, it is a required test for law school.  On the other hand, if you decide to start at law school and then transition to F&ES, you may use the LSAT as the standardized test for applying here.  Connie Vogelmann is a joint degree student with Yale Law School and notes that students that begin their degree program at FES must attend a full year of law school before spending their final semester at F&ES.  This is not an F&ES requirement, but determined by the American Bar Association (ABA), which accredits law schools.  The ABA mandates that a law school shall not give a student transfer credit for any work completed prior to the first full year of law school matriculation. Since only one semester’s worth of F&ES credits will ultimately transfer to law school credits, this requirement is not normally a problem for dual degree students.  Still, you must be sure that this “transfer” semester comes after the first year of law school.  This is important and answers many of the questions that incoming F&ES students have asked me about the joint law program:  dual degree students who begin at FES must either apply to both programs simultaneously or apply for law school during the fall semester of your first year at FES.  If you choose to apply for law school during the fall semester, you must begin law school before the second year (third semester) at FES.


Are you still interested in the joint program?   Please keep reading!  Here’s the nitty gritty of the joint program with Pace.  Pace Law School has stricter course requirements than F&ES and as a student at Pace, you will take a standard set of classes during your first year.  In your first year (1L) fall semester, you will take Civil Procedure I, Contracts, Torts, and Legal Skills I; in the spring, Civil Procedure II, Constitutional law, Property, Criminal Law, and Legal Skills II.  During your second year, Pace Law requires that you take Federal Income Tax I and Professional Responsibility; you must be in residence at Pace for the fall semester of your 2L year.  Finally, you are required to complete courses in Skills and Upper-Level Writing during either your 2L or 3L year, which can be satisfied through a seminar, in a law review, or through several other methods.  As a Pace student, you must complete 88 credits to graduate, of which 10 may be transferred to FES.  During your first year at Pace, you will earn 30 credits—leaving 48 credits that must be taken in the three remaining semesters (16 per semester).  It is possible to earn a small number of Pace credits while at FES, as long as the credits can be earned remotely, for example, as part of a law review.


Well, I did warn you that the joint program is complicated.  I welcome your emails ( and am happy to put you in touch with my friends in the joint program with Yale Law School and Vermont Law School.