Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

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mx23250
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Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby mx23250 » Mon May 20, 2013 3:56 pm

Hi everyone!
I'm new to this site but I've already found a wealth of information. Thanks! Anyhow, I recently received my PhD in the hard sciences (in the areas of biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, with an overall cancer focus) and I'm looking to go to law school to become a patent attorney. Despite having a masters degree and PhD each with a 4.0 GPA along with multiple publications and prestigious graduate-level honors/awards, my UGPA is relatively poor (~3.0). I know that a high LSAT can certainly increase my chances at a top law school, but I'm curious if anyone has went through the law school application process with a PhD degree in the hard sciences and what your experiences were? Specifically, did it dramatically affect your acceptance based on expectations? (i.e., were you accepted to any/many "reach" schools?) I know what the odds are for acceptance of someone with my UGPA and my target LSAT range, but I'm more interested in knowing how having a PhD in the sciences might affect the decision (i.e., is it a lot or very minor?)
I appreciate any insights or experiences you're willing to share!

Thanks!

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon May 20, 2013 4:06 pm

My PhD is not in the hard sciences, so this is not personal experience, but: My understanding is that it will not make a huge difference to your admissions chances, because schools still have to report UGPA and LSAT to USNWR for the almighty rankings, and they don't get to report your UGPA as "but has a hard sciences PhD!" However, once you're in law school, it should be a great boost for getting a job.

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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby bp shinners » Mon May 20, 2013 4:08 pm

mx23250 wrote:Hi everyone!
I'm new to this site but I've already found a wealth of information. Thanks! Anyhow, I recently received my PhD in the hard sciences (in the areas of biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, with an overall cancer focus) and I'm looking to go to law school to become a patent attorney. Despite having a masters degree and PhD each with a 4.0 GPA along with multiple publications and prestigious graduate-level honors/awards, my UGPA is relatively poor (~3.0). I know that a high LSAT can certainly increase my chances at a top law school, but I'm curious if anyone has went through the law school application process with a PhD degree in the hard sciences and what your experiences were? Specifically, did it dramatically affect your acceptance based on expectations? (i.e., were you accepted to any/many "reach" schools?) I know what the odds are for acceptance of someone with my UGPA and my target LSAT range, but I'm more interested in knowing how having a PhD in the sciences might affect the decision (i.e., is it a lot or very minor?)
I appreciate any insights or experiences you're willing to share!

Thanks!


Almost negligible, unfortunately.

Flipside, it will almost guarantee you employment at a patent firm upon graduation.

Take the LSAT and get as high a score as possible. With a 170+ and 3.0, you should have some solid options. I'd probably recommend going to the highest ranked school that gives you close to a full ride in the market in which you want to work, assuming you score in the 165+ range. Lower than that, and then we'd have to do some analysis of your options to see what the best one is.

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Dr. Dre
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby Dr. Dre » Mon May 20, 2013 6:40 pm

GPA/LSAT, brah.

mx23250
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby mx23250 » Mon May 20, 2013 8:21 pm

Dr. Dre wrote:GPA/LSAT, brah.


GPA is about 3.0, haven't taken the LSAT yet (taking it in October). I just started studying and I'm scoring in the mid-160s on practice tests, so I'm hoping to be in the low to mid 170s by October.

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LexLeon
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby LexLeon » Mon May 20, 2013 10:22 pm

I respectfully disagree with much of the above advice.

It is true that a ~3.0 GPA may be what schools would have to report for the purposes of rankings, or LSAC data, or whatever.

However, your writing, if very strong, would in conjunction with your excellence in your advanced degrees establish both your intelligence and your ability and motivation to do the work that will be required of you in law school.

I think that the best schools will grant you clemency for your "poor" GPA. But my prediction presupposes an excellent LSAT score, one on par with your advanced degree performance.

Anyway, at the best schools a 3.0 would be far below the median, which is the datum used to calculate GPA selectivity for the purposes of USNWR ranking.

If someone would like to consider this fact and let me know why he or she thinks a school would still be inclined to reject you, OP, for the sake of "almighty rankings," please respond.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon May 20, 2013 10:40 pm

LexLeon wrote:I respectfully disagree with much of the above advice.

It is true that a ~3.0 GPA may be what schools would have to report for the purposes of rankings, or LSAC data, or whatever.

However, your writing, if very strong, would in conjunction with your excellence in your advanced degrees establish both your intelligence and your ability and motivation to do the work that will be required of you in law school.

I think that the best schools will grant you clemency for your "poor" GPA. But my prediction presupposes an excellent LSAT score, one on par with your advanced degree performance.

Anyway, at the best schools a 3.0 would be far below the median, which is the datum used to calculate GPA selectivity for the purposes of USNWR ranking.

If someone would like to consider this fact and let me know why he or she thinks a school would still be inclined to reject you, OP, for the sake of "almighty rankings," please respond.

Dude, where do you get this stuff? I think a school would still be inclined to reject the OP because historically, people with Ph.D.s do not get significant bumps in admissions. Everyone I know with a Ph.D. who has gone to law school (including me) has been admitted exactly where their numbers suggest they would be admitted. Now, if the OP gets an excellent LSAT score, s/he has a shot at good schools, but in the same way that splitters do. Schools don't care about "intelligence and ability and motivation to do the work," they care about scores. As has been discussed one of the last times you came up with this baloney, yes, YHS may take something like a Ph.D. into account more than other schools. But can you point to anyone who's ever been admitted to one of those schools with a 3.0?

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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby phillywc » Mon May 20, 2013 10:41 pm

LexLeon wrote:I respectfully disagree with much of the above advice.

It is true that a ~3.0 GPA may be what schools would have to report for the purposes of rankings, or LSAC data, or whatever.

However, your writing, if very strong, would in conjunction with your excellence in your advanced degrees establish both your intelligence and your ability and motivation to do the work that will be required of you in law school.

I think that the best schools will grant you clemency for your "poor" GPA. But my prediction presupposes an excellent LSAT score, one on par with your advanced degree performance.

Anyway, at the best schools a 3.0 would be far below the median, which is the datum used to calculate GPA selectivity for the purposes of USNWR ranking.

If someone would like to consider this fact and let me know why he or she thinks a school would still be inclined to reject you, OP, for the sake of "almighty rankings," please respond.


The most elite schools have GPA floors that they won't go under (except for URMs?). I think he has a decent shot at most places outside of YSHCCN if he scores in the mid 170s.

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Dr. Dre
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby Dr. Dre » Mon May 20, 2013 10:44 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote: Schools don't care about "intelligence and ability and motivation to do the work," they care about scores.



TITCR

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LexLeon
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby LexLeon » Wed May 22, 2013 8:12 pm

Dr. Dre wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote: Schools don't care about "intelligence and ability and motivation to do the work," they care about scores.



TITCR


The position of you and those who agree with you--it's not even really an argument--is without foundation.

Why would (the best, don't forget we're speaking about the best) schools care about scores, but not intelligence and ability and motivation to do the work in law school? (Pause for a moment and recognize the absurdity of that proposition.)

The scores purport to predict intelligence and ability and motivation to do the work; that is their only value; and that is why schools care about scores. It is not the other way around, despite what you happen to believe without justification, and contrary to what the representatives of those schools repeatedly affirm.

Some people here might believe that schools care about scores alone because those schools care about their rankings over and above the quality of applicant they admit. However, as I mentioned earlier, the datum used to calculate ranking is median score. If a 3.0 falls far below the median, as it would at any of the best schools, those schools would have no reason to reject the OP, or a few others like him, in order to protect their rankings.

Either you:

Agree with me, without yet realizing it;

Disagree with the proposition that admitting a few 3.0s and 155s would have no effect on ranking; or

Believe there is another reason to reject people with low numbers, other than doubts about intelligence and ability and motivation to do the work in law school.

It would be amusing to see you take up either of the latter two options.

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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby NYstate » Wed May 22, 2013 8:18 pm

LexLeon wrote:
Dr. Dre wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote: Schools don't care about "intelligence and ability and motivation to do the work," they care about scores.



TITCR


The position of you and those who agree with you--it's not even really an argument--is without foundation.

Why would (the best, don't forget we're speaking about the best) schools care about scores, but not intelligence and ability and motivation to do the work in law school? (Pause for a moment and recognize the absurdity of that proposition.)

The scores purport to predict intelligence and ability and motivation to do the work; that is their only value; and that is why schools care about scores. It is not the other way around, despite what you happen to believe without justification, and contrary to what the representatives of those schools repeatedly affirm.

Some people here might believe that schools care about scores alone because those schools care about their rankings over and above the quality of applicant they admit. However, as I mentioned earlier, the datum used to calculate ranking is median score. If a 3.0 falls far below the median, as it would at any of the best schools, those schools would have no reason to reject the OP, or a few others like him, in order to protect their rankings.

Either you:

Agree with me, without yet realizing it;

Disagree with the proposition that admitting a few 3.0s and 155s would have no effect on ranking; or

Believe there is another reason to reject people with low numbers, other than doubts about intelligence and ability and motivation to do the work in law school.

It would be amusing to see you take up either of the latter two options.


Schools care about numbers. Unless you've cured cancer or done something equally awesome, which I'm sure you would have mentioned, you won't overcome bad numbers.

Here is something you may not understand: the best law schools get more qualified applicants than they can admit. Even applying with a PhD doesn't make you special. They need high numbers to maintain their medians. You need something extremely compelling to convince them to admit low numbers over candidates with higher numbers.

The statistics are easy to see on the LSN website.


OP: you need to get as high a score as possible ( just like everyone else!). There are guides on this site that will help you with studying if you need it. Good luck!
Last edited by NYstate on Wed May 22, 2013 8:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Dr. Dre
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby Dr. Dre » Wed May 22, 2013 8:21 pm

Adcoms care about numbers so they can keep their jobs.

Do you really think they'd put their jerbs on the line?

c'mon now bro, who you foolin'

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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby SemperLegal » Wed May 22, 2013 8:24 pm

LexLeon wrote: ...

Disagree with the proposition that admitting a few 3.0s and 155s would have no effect on ranking; or


There are regularly three or four way ties for t14 places. No law dean is taking any chance of slipping a space, and possibly losing out on a sweet end of the year bonus, as well as the amount of savings the school enjoys in reduced compensation to professors and students if they can tout "tied for 7th Best school" rather than "10th Best School."

This doesn't mean, however, that schools will never make exceptions, they just do it for something more unique than a PHD (ie: URM, creates national headlines, children of generous donors, children and friends of state congressmen who vote on the schools budget).

In the small scale, schools don't really care about how motivated and able you are, since the course is curved anyway. What they care about is being able to continue to attract talent at a big scale, without the use of too many scholarships. Best way to do that is to game the stats, particularly targeting they GPA and LSAT medians, since that is the indicator that most students use to see "where they belong"

Sad, but true

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu May 23, 2013 10:59 am

LexLeon, yes, of course, on a certain level, scores are proxies for intelligence and ability and all that good crap. And everyone recognizes that scores are an imperfect proxy, in that people with terrible GPAs/LSATs can end up as excellent attorneys. But this doesn't mean that there's any good way for students with poor scores to convince law schools that those scores don't in fact represent their intelligence and ability etc. and that the schools should therefore take a chance on damaging their rankings by accepting those students.

Even earning a Ph.D. is not a good way to overcome poor UGPA/LSAT. It's admirable, but it's also not something that allows easy comparison across disparate candidates, as GPA and LSAT do. On the margins, yes, having a Ph.D. will likely make you a more desirable candidate than someone else with otherwise the same statistics who does not have a Ph.D. But statistically, historically, it does not overcome poor numbers. It simply doesn't. (For one thing, a Ph.D. does not guarantee success in law school. I know Ph.D.s who've performed at the top, middle, and bottom of their classes. I know *personally* that having a Ph.D. does not translate automatically into success in law school.)

You keep saying, Oh, but schools care about this/that/the next thing, not scores. What evidence do you actually have of this, when there's plenty of evidence at lawschoolnumbers and here that scores constitute probably 95% of the application?

(And, again, as we've had this discussion ad nauseam elsewhere, HYS are to some extent an exception to this. But that matters only to the very small number of applicants who have a realistic chance at HYS. You have not yet shown any example of someone with a 3.0 UGPA getting admitted to HYS on the strength of their amazing softs.)

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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby Hat.trick » Thu May 23, 2013 11:43 am

Your Ph.D would be seen as a nice soft, UGPA / LSAT will always be the most important factors

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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby mx23250 » Fri May 24, 2013 9:10 am

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. It's good to hear everyone's perspective. I know that my UGPA will pose a serious problem for getting into a top law school. For the record, I'm not even going to try to get into ones like HYS, in fact there are only a few of the T14 I'll apply to but will be applying to a lot of different schools (T50 and regional). I've looked at the admissions data provided on the LSAC site where some schools post how many apps they received for a given UGPA/LSAT range along with how many they accepted and I'll be particularly applying to ones that seem to be more open to my data range for UGPA/LSAT alone. For example, I noticed that GW accepts~50% of applicants within my UGPA/LSAT range (most T14 schools, though, don't post this data, unfortunately). Although I'm on the lower end of the GPA range (3.0-3.25), my hope is that my 4.0 GPAs during my masters and doctoral work will help that.
Also, just to comment on undergrad GPAs and success in grad school...I went to a private school with a very difficult science program and ended up with ~3.0 GPA but when I got into my PhD program I ended up getting the top score (setting the curve) in just about every exam (class size of ~40-50 students) whereas many of the people who failed out had undergrad GPAs of 3.8+ from "easier" undergrad programs. For them, the PhD program exams were the most difficult of their life and for me they were relatively easy given I was use to having to study my butt off. Also, my undergrad did not curve any exams for any classes (even if the high score was a C, whereas many of my classmates were accustomed to curved exams in all their classes.
I do understand undergrad GPAs are a much better way of normalizing undergrad success than other factors, since all law school applicants went to undergrad but very few went to grad school as well, and if so, went for different programs. Nonetheless, I think that the difficulty of certain schools/majors could result in the same person graduating with a 3.9 at one school/program and a 3.0 in another. Heck, if my undergrad school curved exams I probably would have finished with a 3.7 or higher :) There's my insights for what it's worth and why I was curious about how law schools view PhD degrees. I know it won't get me in, but I'm just hoping it gives me a "bump" when I'm in a range where some will be accepted and others won't.

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Dr. Dre
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby Dr. Dre » Fri May 24, 2013 9:24 am

mx23250 wrote: Although I'm on the lower end of the GPA range (3.0-3.25), my hope is that my 4.0 GPAs during my masters and doctoral work will help that.



Nope. Will not help you at all.

Sorry, PhD.

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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby mx23250 » Fri May 24, 2013 9:38 am

Yeah, that alone will have very little to no effect compared to others with the same UGPA/LSAT. I'm just hoping that if my UGPA/LSAT is within a range they would "consider", it may help or at least give reason to believe I'm not a slacker student lol.
That's why I'm working hard to get a high LSAT. Basically I'm trying to get an LSAT score a few points higher than the 75% for the law schools I'm applying to. I know I'll probably need a score in the mid 170s to even have a shot at some of the schools I want to go to.

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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby dkb17xzx » Fri May 24, 2013 9:38 am

Why be a lawyer after a PhD in hard sciences with a high GPA? I'm sure a six figure job (or near to it) is attainable at this point.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri May 24, 2013 9:53 am

mx23250 wrote:I do understand undergrad GPAs are a much better way of normalizing undergrad success than other factors, since all law school applicants went to undergrad but very few went to grad school as well, and if so, went for different programs. Nonetheless, I think that the difficulty of certain schools/majors could result in the same person graduating with a 3.9 at one school/program and a 3.0 in another. Heck, if my undergrad school curved exams I probably would have finished with a 3.7 or higher :) There's my insights for what it's worth and why I was curious about how law schools view PhD degrees. I know it won't get me in, but I'm just hoping it gives me a "bump" when I'm in a range where some will be accepted and others won't.

This view of majors makes sense, except that it's so impossible for law schools really to assess this (okay, this person did a really hard STEM major, but they were at a school with very low admission standards, and this person did a STEM major but a less hard one, but they were at a school noted for its rigor; this person has a 3.9 but it was an "easy" major [note: I don't actually buy the "easy" major logic, but it's accepted here, so I'll go with it] - how do you quantify/compare any of that? how does chem at Western Michigan compare to computer science at the local community college to English at Stanford? on the extremes you can certainly do comparisons, but it so quickly gets so messy I think law schools just stay out of it).

I do think, though, that if you're in staggering distance of acceptance, having a major/Ph.D. in a difficult field helps (the GPA In the Ph.D., probably not so much, just because they're even harder to assess than UGPA. It sounds like this wasn't the case in your program, but, for instance, in a lot of Ph.D. programs the de facto grade is an A - if you get anything less, it's a sign that you're really struggling. So the specific grad GPA probably wouldn't have that much effect, unless there's some kind of notation on your transcript about grading systems and curves and where you fell). You still have to be within range, but once you're there it might have a small effect.

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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby Randomnumbers » Fri May 24, 2013 9:57 am

dkb17xzx wrote:Why be a lawyer after a PhD in hard sciences with a high GPA? I'm sure a six figure job (or near to it) is attainable at this point.


It depends on the field, but we have a massive overproduction of STEM PHd's in this country (Along with pretty much every other kind of PHD). The job market with a PHD is far worse then the job market for JD's. If it's anything in the biomed field, then the job market is particularly horrible.

(But don't worry, Congress has a new immigration bill that will expand the H1-B program because companies just can't get enough top quality talent at Indian salaries)

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Dr. Dre
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby Dr. Dre » Fri May 24, 2013 10:06 am


mx23250
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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby mx23250 » Fri May 24, 2013 10:48 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
mx23250 wrote:I do understand undergrad GPAs are a much better way of normalizing undergrad success than other factors, since all law school applicants went to undergrad but very few went to grad school as well, and if so, went for different programs. Nonetheless, I think that the difficulty of certain schools/majors could result in the same person graduating with a 3.9 at one school/program and a 3.0 in another. Heck, if my undergrad school curved exams I probably would have finished with a 3.7 or higher :) There's my insights for what it's worth and why I was curious about how law schools view PhD degrees. I know it won't get me in, but I'm just hoping it gives me a "bump" when I'm in a range where some will be accepted and others won't.

This view of majors makes sense, except that it's so impossible for law schools really to assess this (okay, this person did a really hard STEM major, but they were at a school with very low admission standards, and this person did a STEM major but a less hard one, but they were at a school noted for its rigor; this person has a 3.9 but it was an "easy" major [note: I don't actually buy the "easy" major logic, but it's accepted here, so I'll go with it] - how do you quantify/compare any of that? how does chem at Western Michigan compare to computer science at the local community college to English at Stanford? on the extremes you can certainly do comparisons, but it so quickly gets so messy I think law schools just stay out of it).

I do think, though, that if you're in staggering distance of acceptance, having a major/Ph.D. in a difficult field helps (the GPA In the Ph.D., probably not so much, just because they're even harder to assess than UGPA. It sounds like this wasn't the case in your program, but, for instance, in a lot of Ph.D. programs the de facto grade is an A - if you get anything less, it's a sign that you're really struggling. So the specific grad GPA probably wouldn't have that much effect, unless there's some kind of notation on your transcript about grading systems and curves and where you fell). You still have to be within range, but once you're there it might have a small effect.



I would completely agree with you here.

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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby mx23250 » Fri May 24, 2013 11:01 am

In and of itself, a PhD degree on the resume will have little effect on helping law school admissions. What I'm hoping, however, is the context wherein my PhD lies. I've received a very large number of awards and recognitions, many at the national/international level, including a highly competitive fellowship with the department of defense for my innovative research project. Several awards are due to my writing and oral presentations as well, which I think I could certainly market in my application as being important for a lawyer to have. What I'm hoping to do is convey myself as being "at the top of my doctoral class". Obviously just graduating with a PhD shouldn't say much about how "good" you really are or how well you would perform in law school and beyond, but what I'm hoping to convey with my PhD and accomplishments achieved during that education is that I am at the "top of my field" (of fresh PhDs). I certainly won't do it in a conceited way at all though. I would like to note, I don't expect this to make much more of an effect than "nudging" the admissions reps into giving me an acceptance if they are already on the fence given my UGPA/LSAT scores.

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Re: Applying with a PhD in the hard sciences

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri May 24, 2013 11:12 am

Honestly, I don't think being at the "top of the field" of your Ph.D. class will make much difference (don't get me wrong, those are all great things, but there are lots of people who come into law school with impressive writing and speaking experience through various means). Mostly, I think outside of academia, a Ph.D. is a Ph.D. is a Ph.D. But I think all those things *will* help you when it comes to getting jobs.

(Not to say you shouldn't point all those accomplishments out, mind you. They're certainly all good things.)




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