When considering graduate school, it is not uncommon for prospective students to be undecided between pursuing a degree in law or public policy. Fortunately, the University of Wisconsin–Madison offers a dual-degree option where students can get their Master of Public Affairs or Master of International Affairs degree from the La Follette School while working towards a Juris Doctor law degree from the university’s law school.
Sophia Rogers graduated with her JD-MPA dual-degree in 2019. Having completed undergraduate studies in political science, economics, and mathematics from Barnard College of Columbia University, she decided to pursue graduate school to help the greater community. “Like other La Follette students. I’m highly motivated by social problems,” says Rogers. “The issues we’re passionate about will not be solved from an ivory tower. We prefer to work in the field.” Rogers decided she could best put policy into action with an MPA and JD after realizing the benefits of studying the policymaking process as a future lawyer.
The La Follette School was the clear choice for Rogers, who is originally from Madison. “La Follette exposed me to a lot of different tools and career options which helped me decide what I wanted to do after graduation,” she explains. “The program gave me fundamental, substantive background; as well as plenty of practice writing and managing projects. It helped me develop my analytical thinking and find my skillset as a policy-minded lawyer.”
Following graduation, Rogers worked on opioid litigation as an Assistant Attorney General at the Wisconsin Department before finding a permanent position as an Assistant General Counsel at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, continuing her career as an attorney in state service.
The JD-MIPA dual-degree option allowed alum Jamey Anderson to develop his skill for work in the international nonprofit and environmental policy sectors. “I feel well prepared to engage in both law and policy, and I have the dual-degree program to thank for that,” says Anderson. According to Anderson, La Follette courses complemented his law courses, giving him an opportunity to dive deeper into studies of economic impact and statistical analysis, “subjects that complement a legal education but are rarely offered at law schools.”
Anderson recommends prospective dual-degree students consider whether the core curriculum aligns with the work they hope to pursue: “If economics and statistics are not particularly appealing to you, or if you are not excited about torts and contracts, it may feel like a long detour from your goals.”
Today, Anderson is glad to be able to speak the language of policy analysis in the legal workplace. Having graduated in May 2022, he currently works as an attorney for the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Students interested in the JD-MPA dual-degree option should contact the La Follette School’s graduate program advisor Mo O’Connor or visit the Academics page and dual-degree section on the school’s website.
– Written by Natalia Borowska