Would law degree enhance HR masters degree?
September 26, 2011 1:27 PM   Subscribe

I am currently a mid-level associate at a prominent New York law firm specializing in benefits and compensation. I am not cut out for working at a big law firm long term and there have not been many alternate opportunities lately that would be satisfying to me (i.e. working at a pension fund, compensation consultant, in-house positions). I enjoy many aspects of my field, but not the law firm lifestyle. I am considering going back to school to get a degree in human resources and am wondering if my JD and background in benefits and compensation law would help me secure a human resources job.

I am contemplating going back to school to get a two-year masters degree (likely from NYU) in human resources. However, I am 31 years old and would only go back to school if I felt that an MA in HR would be enhanced by a JD and my specific background in compensation and benefits and that I could be reasonably certain to find a job. Salary is not a big concern for me, I would much rather make significantly less money but have a much better quality of life.

What I primarily dislike about my current job/career path:

1. Unpredictable hours
2. Long hours
3. Transactional work (as opposed to negotiating employment agreements/reviewing ERISA pension and welfare plans/designing incentive plans, etc.)

For those who have experience in the field, what do you think? Is getting the HR masters of any worth when combined with my JD? Would I have decent job prospects?
posted by Falconetti to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what the job prospects are, but the HR people I know also work long hours, although they are not quite as unpredictable. If you like negotiating and designing plans, you might consider labor relations/industrial relations, although I'm not sure what the prospects there are either.

Otherwise, I'll say what I say to all large firm employees: if you are a mid-level there, people like your work. You have a lot of capital built up. You might want to consider whether they would be willing to reduce your billable hours for a commensurate reduction in salary. Memail me if you want to discuss this further.
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:35 PM on September 26, 2011

Are the jobs you are looking at (assuming you are indeed looking at HR job postings) REQUIRE a degree in HR? i would guess not.
I have to guess that you don't need a degree, but like many people, fall into it? Why don't you apply and see what happens first before accumulating more student debt?
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 1:35 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you considered looking for firms where you would not have to do transactional work? I have a good friend who just left my firm's benefits group because she was being pressured to do more dealwork, and she jumped ship to another firm where she's just going to do only plan work. She is losing some prestige (if you care about that) and is making about 50% less than market--but she got a sizeable signing bonus (though I'm not sure she'll get a year-end bonus) and is going to have a much better lifestyle. I think she starts today. She was actively looking since last fall (she got cold reviews, but wasn't canned)--so maybe eight or nine months.
posted by 5845(f)(1)(D) at 1:51 PM on September 26, 2011

To be clear, I am not currently looking at any specific jobs other than to get a sense of what employers may be ideally looking for. I am mostly just trying to gather information as to whether my law degree and specialization would be of any material benefit to me when it comes to being hired in the HR field (and whether getting an MA would enhance my prospects).

Also, I don't care about prestige and am willing to take a substantial reduction in compensation if it means a better lifestyle.
posted by Falconetti at 1:53 PM on September 26, 2011

I'm close to both the HR and Legal aspects of your question and can answer more comfortably elsewhere. If you want to follow up, feel free to MeFi mail me ...
posted by thinkpiece at 2:09 PM on September 26, 2011

Public accounting or a consulting organization? You'd still be stuck in a large-firm culture, but that might be a better fit and your current education and experience would be plenty.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:25 PM on September 26, 2011

I showed this to my father, who has a JD and works at a high level in HR for a national organization. Here is what he said:

I would advise him NOT to get another degree. What he has is more than adequate. If he wants to do comp and benefits there are other certifications he can get for that. If he wants to be an HR Generalist/executive, join SHRM and take the SPHR certification (it's an easy test compared to law school rigors and for some in the industry it is considered a credential).
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:01 AM on September 27, 2011

These days a JD is almost never the best option for anything except actually practicing law.
posted by toomuchpete at 7:41 AM on September 27, 2011

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