When juggling a full-time job and evening classes four to five nights a week in George Mason University’s juris doctor (JD) program became difficult, graduate student Alicia Meads withdrew from the program. When she heard last year that the Antonin Scalia Law School was offering a new part-time juris master’s (JM) program, designed for working professionals, she re-enrolled.
“I wanted to understand the nuances of the law so that I could be a better lobbyist and policy professional,” said Meads, who works as a legislative affairs manager for one the nation’s largest fertilizer companies and regularly meets with members of Congress on Capitol Hill to represent her company.
Meads was able to transfer some of the credits from her JD program, and will be the first graduate from the JM program this fall. What she’s learning has been immediately applicable to her career, she said.
“I’ve been able to develop an expertise in environmental, social and governance — or ESG — reporting,” said Meads, who also helps the company coordinate its sustainability reporting and disclosure. “[The JM program] is perfect for anyone who’s working in public affairs, politics or policy and still wants a law school experience.”
Other JM students agree.
Ginger Burk, who’s been a journalist for more than a decade, said she joined the program to expand her understanding of the law and become an even stronger political correspondent.
“[Understanding the law] is inherent to all political and government reporting,” Burk said.
As a result of her studies, Burk is better able to understand court documents she reads for her job and how the lawyers she interacts with everyday have been taught to think, she said.
“A juris master’s degree will bring increased credibility to one’s skillset,” said Adriane McCray Webb, a mindfulness practitioner who said she facilitates workshops to guide clients to personal transformation, creative innovation and self-actualization. The Florida native believes the program will help her better understand intellectual property laws to help her clients copyright and protect their creative works.
Jessica Sartorius, director of the JM program, said the JM degree is in high demand and offered by almost half of all tier-one law schools. With Mason being close to Washington, D.C., the program could help many more professionals in the future, she said.
In addition to professors who keep class intellectually stimulating, there are other benefits to being part of a law school, the students said.
“You’re building professional and social connections with the people that you’re in class with and that you’re learning from,” Burk said. “It is truly a well-designed program.”