Agricultural Law Schools: How to Choose
Agricultural lawyers handle cases that range from land disputes in farming to pollution claims against corporations. While government agencies remain major employers, many corporations are hiring agricultural lawyers to ensure that they maintain compliance with government standards. Law schools around the country offer an array of possibilities for someone interested in studying in this area.
How to Choose an Agricultural Law School
A few law schools offer specialized programs in which students take courses in a specific area, such as constitutional law, intellectual property law and agricultural law. At these schools, students can take a specialized curriculum within their J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree program. LL.M. (Master of Laws) programs are available as well. In addition to choosing specialized programs, students may wish to consider a number of other factors.
Summary of Important Considerations
- Exposure to organizations in the industry
- Law review centers and councils
- Active faculty
Exposure to Organizations in the Industry
Because agricultural lawyers work with a wide range of issues, students may wish to seek a school with exposure to a wide range of organizations that bring guests speakers to campus and offer educational opportunities and networking events. Common campus organizations that aspiring agricultural lawyers might look for include the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and the Environmental Law Society.
Law Review Centers and Councils
Students might investigate schools for law review centers, which provide research opportunities and experience in the field. Agricultural law students will also benefit from councils on food policy or agricultural resources.
Students may also be interested in schools with faculty members that are active in the field. Some programs include visiting scholars as part of their faculty. These scholars are often internationally recognized experts or former politicians that add different perspectives to the curriculum.
Students may want to seek programs that include courses devoted to the major issues regarding agriculture and the environment such as water, land use and natural resources. Mock trials allow students to practice in a courtroom setting during a simulated case. A trial practicum is a for-credit seminar in which students observe an actual trail in all the phases from jury selection to the verdict.
Agricultural Law Program Overviews
Agricultural Juris Doctor Programs
Juris Doctor (J.D.) programs are required for a student to sit for the bar exam and become a practicing lawyer. Although rare, J.D. programs focusing on agricultural law do exist. Most programs can be completed in three years of full-time study. Some programs require all first year law students to take a uniform first year curriculum that includes general law courses such as professionalism and ethics prior to branching off into agricultural law. Courses might include:
- Intro to agricultural law
- Business and corporate law
- Business taxation
- Legal research
Agricultural Master of Laws (LL.M.) Programs
LL.M programs can be earned with the completion of one year in an individualized course of study. Students must have earned a J.D. in order to apply for an LL.M program. Currently, there is only one LL.M. program in agricultural law in the country. This program allows students to either further their area of expertise or expand their scope of agricultural law. Coursework includes:
- Food policy and law
- Agricultural perspectives
- Introduction to agricultural law
- Federal farm programs
- Agricultural bankruptcy
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