Area Adviser: Dr. Rich Wiener
Under the dual sponsorship of the Department of Psychology and the College of Law, the Law/Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been recognized since its inception in 1974 as a leading program in training scholars who are engaged in basic and applied research and writing on psycho-social issues and problems related to the law. The program is the world's oldest, on-going integrated program in psycholegal studies. It remains unusual in the breadth of potential training. Students may specialize in virtually any area of psycholegal studies, with one important exception. The Program does not offer training in the forensic/behavioral sciences designed to lead to careers in the FBI, the Secret Service, or other, similar law enforcement agencies.
Law/psychology students may focus their studies in psycholegal areas such as jury behavior, therapeutic jurisprudence, eyewitness identification, children's decision making, domestic violence, research ethics and the law, forensic assessment, criminal responsibility, juvenile justice, the admissibility scientific evidence in litigation, and so on. They also may focus on less-studied topics, such as tax compliance, altruistic behavior, child support payments, health care policy issues, and grandparents' rights. Except for forensic students (for whom the JD-Ph.D. combination is generally not available), students ordinarily may choose from the following combination of degrees in both law and psychology: JD-Ph.D., Ph.D.-MLS (the masters of legal studies is a 33 hour program in which a student receives foundational training in substantive law, legal process, and the legal system), or JD-MA. It is expected that Program students will possess at least master's level knowledge in the "other" field. The Program is primarily research oriented, and graduates are trained to work in universities, in research and public interest organizations (e.g., American Bar Association, Federal Judicial Center, National Center for State Courts), or in consulting organizations (e.g., jury research firms). Some graduates (especially those in the JD-MA track) do pursue more applied or practice-oriented careers.
Of particular interest is the specialization in Mental Health and Justice Systems Research. The goal of this special track is to produce psychologists (Ph.D.-MLS) and lawyer-psychologists (JD-Ph.D.) who have expertise in both legal and psychological research on issues relevant to mental health and justice systems interactions in urban and rural areas. Students will receive training in a variety of areas including, for example, research ethics in mental health settings, Therapeutic Jurisprudence, (a perspective that views the law as potentially therapeutic and champions effective service delivery when the mental health and justice systems intersect) and psycholegal aspects of HIV/AIDS. Pending continued approval, students in this track are eligible for support from a NIMH training grant. Trainees are intended to become (a) sophisticated in the identification and analysis of legal and policy issues that have implications for mental health and justice systems' interactions, and (b) skilled in conducting empirical research that examines law's assumptions, processes, and effects related to mental health issues. Graduates are trained to work in universities, in research and public interest organizations that address issues related to mental health and justice systems interactions, and in public agencies that plan, regulate or deliver services in the context of mental health and justice systems interactions.
The length of the Program depends upon the student's track. At a minimum, students must plan for four years of graduate training (for the JD-MA track); most students, regardless of the track, leave the campus for employment opportunities within six years. Students in good standing with the program can expect to receive funding for their entire training period.