Law Degree With MArch?


I am a first year grad student and have been flirting with the idea of getting my law degree either right after I get my MArch or a couple years down the road. Would the addition of a Law degree be appealing to a large firm and would it be worth the time to do?

Jan 30, 12 12:27 pm
On the fence

It would be very benificial when applying to a law firm when your desire is to become a lawyer.

Jan 30, 12 12:48 pm  · 
2  · 

It would probably have some (not a lot) of "value', but you won't get compensated for it.  An architectural firm doesn't practice law, so how could they bill out your time as a lawyer?   Make up your mind which profession you want to be in.  Can't do both.  My advice:  skip MArch, get a law degree, and make an actual living (now there's a concept). 

Jan 30, 12 1:08 pm  · 

An MArch and a JD?  That sounds like a phenomenal waste of money.  With that kind of ambition, you should be a politician.  Moon bases, yo!

Jan 30, 12 1:10 pm  · 
el jeffe

i think the MArch would be far more appealing to a law firm if you did construction litigation, than a JD to an architecture firm.

Jan 30, 12 1:41 pm  · 

you guys don't know what you're talking about. having a degree in architecture, or civil engineering, or project management, is an excellent asset when your intention is to enter the field of construction law. many law firms that deal with construction/development related disputes look for backgrounds in these things.

i would encourage you, mikeyjoe23, to network with nearby law firms that do such work, and ask the attornies there.

Jan 30, 12 1:43 pm  · 

jk3hl:  The poster was asking (I think) if a law degree would mean anything to an architectural firm.  It doesn't sound like he intends to practice construction law.  Yes, if he goes the law route the architecture degree would have value to the law firm.  I still wouldn't bother with the Masters.  One architectural degree is enough if it allows him to sit for the test.

Jan 30, 12 7:00 pm  · 

The CA director of our architecture firm is a lawyer/ architect.  He reviews all contracts, protects us from CA debacles and is a valuable resource for the entire firm.  I think you ought to focus on one path immediately and incorporate the other down the road once you've developed a strong foundation in the first. 

Jan 31, 12 8:47 am  · 
1  · 

How would a law degree matter to an architectural firm, when an architectural degree doesn't even matter to an architectural firm?  I say skip the Arch Degree altogether.  Just make sure you go learn Revit and several of the 3D modeling software packages.  That's the only thing that will allow you to be employed (ie. billable for an architect). 


Jan 31, 12 9:43 am  · 
1  · 

America in general needs to get over the notion that if you collect enough degrees, employability and earnings will surely follow.  If you go deeper in debt for additional schooling without some game plan, you will just increase your frustration level when it doesn't pay off.  Learning can be done--arguably much better--by reading, reading, reading.  Be self taught and save yourself the student debt burden.

Jan 31, 12 10:02 am  · 
Lian Chikako Chang

Our professional practice prof at the GSD, Jay Wickersham, has an architecture degree as well as a law degree, and represents many architects in his (LAW) practice, including many of our local professors. He seems to do quite well for himself.

The largest architecture firms probably also retain their own in-house counsel (this only seems logical to me, but can anyone confirm this?)

But to work in this capacity, you'd have to article and become a lawyer with some experience, not just get a law degree. Just having a law degree to work in an architecture firm doesn't seem very useful for anything except increasing your debt.  :(

Jan 31, 12 12:02 pm  · 
1  · 

Everyone knows that getting TWO overpriced degrees is like a job-cannon that will blast you off into the job-land. So put on your job-helmet and hop in!

Jan 31, 12 12:49 pm  · 

I LOVE all of these responses and think they are all pretty correct.  on the fence, yours made me LOL, as did NOTrusty's of course.

mikeyjoe, please be aware that a law degree is not longer the golden egg-laying goose it once was.  Law grads are getting more jobs than architecture, but not by much.

Jan 31, 12 1:58 pm  · 
1  · 
Wilma Buttfit

My aunt works at a library and is reviewing applicants for a low paid entry level position. She told me the applicants with advanced degress in law and architecture that want this position is mind-blowing. Just a reality check here. Please be careful out there! Maybe work a little bit before making the leap to make sure it is really something that will work for you and the market!

Jan 31, 12 2:28 pm  · 

Add an MBA into the combo and you'll be all set.

Jan 31, 12 4:07 pm  · 
1  · 

as mentioned already, a law degree just doesn't have the value it once had.  Law school struggles along with architecture school in that you don't learn any practical skills to actually practice.  In my opinion, if you want to do law - any kind of law - you gotta pursue it aggressively and devote a good amount of time to develop your skills; only THEN you'd be an asset to an architecture/construction firm...

Jan 31, 12 4:44 pm  · 


Jan 31, 12 5:56 pm  · 

Wow. Im really surprised at the negative responses I am seeing here. I worked for a few years in London for Allies and Morrison which is a pretty good size (and well published) firm. We had a woman in the office who had an undergraduate degree in architecture and a masters in law. She is extremely extremely extremely valuable to the office and up in the food chain. 

Im not sure if many of you are aware, but the building industry is a melting pot of lawsuits and planning permits. LOTS of law to deal with on a daily basis. Having her in the office was fantastic on many occasions. She processed all the paper work for each of our projects with the city. She gave lunchtime lectures on all the latest rules and planning things coming out. She was ALWAYS readily available to proof-read any emails we sent out that we felt could potentially put us in a bad place. And my absolute favorite, was I was working on a project where our client suddenly got very upset and said in a phone conversation, "I am not paying your fees!" before hanging up. No worries... we just called up our in office attorney and she drafted a letter in response to the phone conversation strait away. 

For larger offices, having an in office attorney is as valuable as having in office business management personal. Of course, make sure you are prepared to be the lawyer. She had no roles in design,drawing, or anything else that the architects did. Her role was purely building code, law and logistics coordination. But with an office of 150, that was a full time job. 

Jan 31, 12 7:01 pm  · 
1  · 

my neighbor / friend is a lawyer specializing in construction law. they do anything from representing clients to representing construction teams including architects, contractors, consultants etc.. he was very busy up until three years ago. now that construction law business is really slow, he is developing another career doing voice over acting. he knows a lot about the building process of gated communities, business parks, medical and government buildings. they are a specialty law firm and somebody with an additional architecture degree or construction knowledge would be very valuable to them, i was told in a conversation.

you might also have an opportunity to work full time for a large a&e firm as their full time in house attorney. 

Jan 31, 12 7:57 pm  · 

James, I hear what you're saying, and I've had plenty of experience with lawyers helping us and our clients wend through the permit/variance.code process.  A knowledgeable lawyer is indeed valuable.

I think many of us posting here aren't responding only to mikeyjoe's idea, but more to the sequence he's planning.  Realistically, getting a JD immediately upon graduating with a MArch is going to mean at least $100k in debt (probably twice that) and yet very little experience or knowledge that would be of value to any firm, either law or architecture.

IMO, getting the 1st degree should lead to getting the architecture license.  That will put you in the workforce for at least several years, and give you a license.  You can even work in a large corporate firm and try to focus on the permit/legal issues on projects in the office - large firms often have the ability to let interns specialize in certain areas IF the intern is proactive about it.  At that point, if you're still interested in the law side of things, consider getting the law degree - you might even be able to get it relatively cheap by then, as you'll have a better profile than the thousands of other recent grads in the scholarship pool.

If you can do it for free, then why not?  But if you can't then be smart about it.

Feb 1, 12 9:37 pm  · 
Token AE

Our office of 185 (HQ of a 380 person firm) has two full-time lawyers, but we tend to be involved in a lot of litigation cases and are retained as expert witnesses. One is senior executive level and is in charge of all principal-level hires and other acquisitions, and another is for general legal counsel. My previous firm of 350 had one full-time lawyer.

A lot of clients like to look at  professional liability insurance as a rebate of sorts- the old "I don't want to pay your fees, therefore I'm going to pick a random flaw that you probably weren't responsible for and sue you for it." Having lawyers on hand is a good way to tell them to GTFO and shake down delinquent payments. Almost like your very own thugs!

If you like the AEC field but are more interested in the legal side, you may be better served forgoing the MArch and going straight to JD if you already have a BArch or similar.

Feb 1, 12 9:51 pm  · 
Lian Chikako Chang


Just a thought...

Feb 2, 12 1:45 pm  · 
1  · 

I think that a lot of the larger international design offices benefit a lot from having in house lawyers.

And of course if you have even a bachelors in architecture that would set you apart from the lawyers who don't.

I can think of two clear roles for which I think there is substantial demand:

One is property or real estate law, if you're interested in being more domestic. There are those architectural firms that are interested in partnering with real estate firms.

The other is international intellectual property law. What happens when Sheik Whatshisname chooses to copy a building design in a middle eastern country (that he more or less owns) while the contract wih your European design firm only mandates a one-off building?

Though, you'd probably make more money if you have an office independent from a design firm. And I'd kiss your chances goodbye of ever designing anything again, besides a contract.

Let me know how it goes.

Jul 7, 12 12:16 am  · 

I'M SO L8! hold the door please...

I hope I'm not too late. I'm in a similar predicament. For me I think its a matter of me wanting to get into law and EVERYBODY else thinking I should be an architect. Afraid to commit, I've not done a all. Some research this past year though has opened me to some possibilities that not everyone is gon' let you in on - community college, electives, and negotiating your degree with your university are options. Two schools for instance - I think Cornell and Parsons have expressed a willingness to take on students to the graduate program with no B.arch qualification - it takes you longer to qualify for the M.arch BUT I think if you combine these options you should be fine. As well look out for the raic Syllabus program in Canada and RIBA Obe in the UK... well thats enough of that. I'm hinting here though that if you can convince an employer to hire you as a counsel or something - you can probably trade off for his tutelage under these programs (raic/riba). It might be obvious that for this time you might have to put a side of you on hold - if ur in the UK, it might be wiser to do the LPC rather than the bptc (since the latter more begs for the advocacy training?) It's the Ideas I've been playing with anyway - AND - YOU DONT HAVE TO END UP IN CONSTRUCTION LAW...god knows I don't want to. LOL.


Jun 6, 13 5:54 pm  · 

It depends on what you want to do with a JD post M.Arch.

Really, I can think of 3 major options: 1) work for a firm that does construction law, and it would be well received, and if you were a licensed architect and then immediately set off for law school, it would raise your credibility even more as an expert, 2) work in-house for a HUGE firm, especially a multi-office or multi-national set up, and 3) work for the private or public sector in the realm of development or land use issues, among others.  I think that once law school really makes someone all that much more erudite and button-down, working FOR pissy, mercurial, scarf flung over the shoulder in a display of hauteur design principals might, at that point, be a turn-off.  In a law firm, you would be in a community of like minded peers.

It wouldn't help you in a smaller firm, unless this is just a Mt. Everest of sorts for you.  Small and medium sized firms seem to hate extraneous degrees when most don't have them, and have been run by architecture only type principals with a bookkeeper on staff.  As I've said before, I've been the only M.Arch. 3+ grad in every office I've worked, and sometimes the only graduate degree holder, and it's not comfortable - because of other people's attitude issues and stupid comments about the chronology.

Jun 6, 13 6:37 pm  · 

Good for fee collections or defending liability claims. Except of course that a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.

Jun 6, 13 7:16 pm  · 

Except of course that a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.

This is so often voiced, that it is an accepted maxim.  I once did something "in pro per;" however, it was just a unilateral type of procedure and I saved some money. 

Jun 6, 13 8:36 pm  · 

i really doubt an architecture degree/jd would be of any use to a law firm.  we already talk so much on this site about how inadequate school is in preparing students for the profession.  anything a law firm would handle would be about the practice, and the design skill you'd have coming fresh out of an m.arch would be useless.

the law degree would be worth it many years later, once you have a license and no what you're actually doing.

Jun 6, 13 9:24 pm  · 

skip it if you are still in dept from your prior degrees and need to get additional load to attend law school.  If your daddy's rich, then go for it.  Doesn't hurt to get a law degree.  Many couldn't even survive if they tried.  However, just having a law and architecture degrees means very little to a firm.  Its what you really do with it that'll decide your position in any firm.

Jun 7, 13 1:22 am  · 

so is it actually possible to get a masters in law after a bachelors in architecture? pretty confused. 

Dec 27, 16 9:15 pm  · 


Dec 27, 16 9:49 pm  · 

Law degrees are getting to be a dime a dozen, just like architecture degrees.  What is the point, unless maybe to practice law specializing in construction and design liability?

Collecting degrees really isn't a magic ticket to success any more.  Don't ask how I know.

Dec 28, 16 7:19 am  · 

@lizfoo You can have any degree prior to attending Law School. 


Just be sure you know what you would like to do before you get out. My attorney friends would also advise you that going to any Law School not in the top 15 is risky (similar to what geezertect is saying). Especially if debt finance is involved. There are also plenty of law firms in big cities specializing in real estate and construction. 

Dec 28, 16 11:05 am  · 

I have both and it doesn't seem to matter in the whole scope of things.  I recommend you go with one and stick with it.

Jun 18, 24 11:31 pm  · 
1  · 

100% true, I have an M.arch - but get hired solely on my Revit skills - Oh you have an M.arch?, K., whatever,  here take this Revit test

Jun 19, 24 9:06 pm  · 
1  · 

I know some ppl who worked as an architect first then went to law school maybe 5-10 yrs later.  One guy is even licensed.

Its a very long route but they are very entrenched as experts in construction litigation and have it pretty good.

Getting both degrees at the same time is a huge waste of money

Jun 25, 24 3:43 pm  · 
1  · 
vado retro

Alex Beam's book Broken Glass contains some hilarious trial transcripts of the civil case over the Farnsworth House.

Jun 25, 24 9:55 pm  · 
1  · 

VADO!! HI!!!!

Jun 26, 24 7:51 pm  · 
1  · 
vado retro


Jun 27, 24 1:17 pm  · 

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