New York Law School and John Jay College of Criminal Justice announced plans on Monday to start a new joint degree program in forensic psychology and law.
The program will take four years to complete, and students will finish with a Master of Arts in forensic psychology from John Jay and a Juris Doctor from New York Law School -- shaving a year off the time now required to complete both degrees separately. The program is intended for law students with an interest in mental disability law and psychology graduate students who wish to learn more about the legal system.
It will be the first program of its kind, according to New York Law School professor Michael Perlin, who is also the director of the law school's Mental Disability Law Program. There are several existing joint degree programs that combine law and psychology, but those programs focus more on research rather than practice, Perlin said.
New York Law School already offers 13 courses dealing with mental disability law, while John Jay already offers an M.A. in forensic psychology, which examines psychology as it relates to courts and the law. Six of the 35 faculty members in John Jay's psychology department are both psychologists and attorneys.
"Our graduates will be well-trained lawyers for people with mental disabilities issues and have the potential to become legal advocates, work on public policy or become law professors in this unique niche," said James Wulach, the director of the M.A. Program in Forensic Mental Health Counseling at John Jay College.
Students must apply and be accepted to both schools separately. Once in the program, which will start in the fall of 2012, they will take classes including a survey of mental disability law; criminal psychological assessment; and mental health professionals, social science and the law. Perlin said he expects to enroll about 25 students in the program.
"I'm very excited about the joint program because it highlights the interdisciplinary nature of what we are trying to do through our mental disability law program," Perlin said. "We created courses specifically to appeal to both lawyers and mental health professionals. This program helps create a synergy that ensures, as best we can, that graduates will have a deep understanding of the other discipline."