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Should you pursue a joint degree?
There is no simple answer to this question. It depends upon a number of factors, including your areas of scholarly interest, the methodological approach you expect to take, your academic background and relevant skills coming into law school, and whether you are willing and able to devote the extra time to a second degree.
Although PhDs are increasingly valued on the market (the higher the law school's rank, generally the more value placed on them), they are by no means necessary, and their instrumental value varies widely depending upon your areas of scholarly interest. If you are in doubt about what makes sense for you, we encourage you to talk the matter over with relevant faculty members (the teaching placement committee, scholars in your areas of interest) either before you start law school or once you are here.
If you decide to pursue a joint degree, there is simply no better place in the country to do it than Stanford. Stanford’s joint-degree programs are very generous, judged both in tuition forgiveness and minimizing time to complete both degrees.
We currently have 21 formal programs established with other Stanford schools or departments and will work with students to design a tailor-made program if none of the already existing ones fits the bill.
How much do law school grades matter?
Of all the traditional criteria for hiring, grades probably continue to have the most significance at the entry level. But—at least for Stanford graduates—they matter much less than they used to, and much less than most prospective applicants think they do. In general, law schools will be nervous about people who didn’t graduate in the top third of the class. But even that will not be fatal if other things in your record (writing, references, job talk, interviews) give them confidence that you are smart and will be able to command the respect of your students in conventional law courses. For graduates with a Ph.D. in an allied field, law school grades seem to have even less significance than for other applicants, although this may change if law schools return to more traditional hiring criteria, in response to a constricting legal market. (See Credentials).
Once you land your first teaching job, your academic record as a law student will become largely irrelevant. What matters in moving laterally is the quality of your writing, teaching, etc.