Globe and Gavel
The practice of law, notes Chancellor’s Professor Christopher Tomlins, has become much more interdisciplinary, with specialties in psychology, anthropology, economics, engineering, medicine and the hard sciences. Michelle S. Kim / University Communications

Under a new program developed at the 3-year-old UC Irvine School of Law, the interdisciplinary study of law may be combined with graduate research or a professional degree in a related discipline.

The Program in Law & Graduate Studies enables students to pursue a J.D. from the law school concurrently with a master’s or Ph.D. in any UCI graduate program.

“We’ve created a structure to plug in a J.D. to other department’s degrees,” says the program’s co-founder, Chancellor’s Professor of Law Christopher Tomlins. “This is one of the most comprehensive programs in the country. It allows the most latitude and choice – really any combination of degrees.”

He plans to have common colloquia, luncheon workshops, social functions and retreats so that students and faculty from different disciplines can swap perspectives.

“It will create a sense of interdisciplinary community and tie the law school into the rest of the campus,” Tomlins says. “Irvine is an especially appropriate place for such a program because there’s already an unusually large concentration of faculty outside the law school doing law-related work.”

The Program in Law & Graduate Studies, he says, is ideal for students interested in professional or academic careers involving law and legal institutions, policy analysis or applied research in law-related fields. These include criminal justice and criminology, urban planning and environmental issues, discrimination, human rights and intellectual property.

Lauren Gruber, a second-year law student who’s also pursuing a master’s in the Department of Planning, Policy & Design, says: “I came to UCI because I knew I wanted a concurrent degree. My desire to study law is rooted in a love for cities and a deep interest in policy. At UCI, I knew I could combine a J.D. and a master’s degree in urban & regional planning and get the exact education I wanted. These programs complement each other in a way I didn’t find at other schools through their focus on public service and interdisciplinary studies.”

Benjamin Beezey didn’t decide to seek a second degree until he was already enrolled at UCI. “The more I delved into my coursework as a second-year law student, the more I realized how important business knowledge is to the practice of law,” he says. “When the opportunity arose to apply to the concurrent program with The Paul Merage School of Business, I jumped at it.

“I believe the combined study of law and business administration will give me unique insights that could prove valuable to clients and companies. And it gives me the flexibility to engage in business, law or both as I move forward.”

Participants in the Program in Law & Graduate Studies are eligible for financial support through their chosen graduate school while pursuing graduate degree studies and through the law school while pursuing law studies.

Matthew Fritz-Mauer, who is working on a doctorate in criminology, law & society as well as a J.D., says: “The perspective of a social scientist differs greatly from that of a lawyer, and I hope that by studying the law from both perspectives, I will someday have a sophisticated understanding of what the law is, what the law does and what the law can do.”