By Andrew Cohen
Berkeley Law and UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group (ERG) have created a concurrent degree program that enables students to earn both a J.D. and an M.S. or M.A. after four years of study. The new program reflects a growing interest in energy-related legal work and a spike in job opportunities within the field.
“This enhances the law school’s overall energy program and gives us an important competitive edge,” said Professor Daniel Farber, who chairs ERG and is the director of Berkeley Law’s Environmental Law Program. “More law students are moving toward energy than ever before. It was very rare, five to 10 years ago, to have a student interested specifically in energy. Now it’s one of the areas where law firms are hiring aggressively, even with the economic downturn.”
Formed as an academic degree-granting program in 1973, ERG is a cross-departmental community of graduate students, core faculty, and over 100 affiliates and researchers from across UC Berkeley. Its research informs scientific, policy, and business communities, and tackles issues within clean energy, climate science, ecosystems and biodiversity, energy systems, international development, technology and society, and water policy. ERG study programs lead to M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees, as well as an undergraduate minor.
Synergy already exists between Berkeley Law and ERG. Farber and many other law faculty are ERG affiliates with full voting rights, and ERG core faculty have participated in several joint projects and grant proposals with law school colleagues. ERG and Berkeley Law students also take courses within each other’s unit, and interact through the Berkeley Energy Resources Collaborative.
Recent ERG work has centered on electricity transport, Smart Grid design, and ways to improve solar and other renewable forms of energy. Farber notes that this meshes well with Berkeley Law’s energy courses taught by Steven Weissman, its new certificate program in Energy and Clean Technology Law, and ongoing projects at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE).
“ERG faculty have been interested in creating a stronger tie at the law school, and our dean (Christopher Edley, Jr.) is always interested in forging meaningful collaborations with other units on campus,” Farber said. “It’s a natural partnership.”
Berkeley Law has implemented seven other concurrent degree programs with the schools of Business Administration, Journalism, Public Policy, and Social Welfare, and with the departments of Asian Studies, Economics, and City and Regional Planning. Law faculty unanimously approved the ERG concurrent degree program at the beginning of the academic year, and it was recently made official after going through a university review process.
“The program takes effect this fall, which means both new and current students can start applying,” Farber said. “It’s a natural partnership. It will give our students great tools and expertise, enhance their job prospects, and ensure that they have the best training to analyze and create innovative solutions to current and future energy problems.”