Help with a tough decision

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ShadowOfAristocles

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Help with a tough decision

Postby ShadowOfAristocles » Thu Sep 13, 2018 8:52 pm

I’m a grad student in a PhD program in philosophy, but I’ve realized that I no longer want to be a philosophy professor/academic and that law is a better career path. I need some help deciding how to make the transition though.

Here is my situation:

-I’m in year 4 out of 5 in my program (though many take 6-7 to finish). I’ve finished all the coursework and have just started work on the dissertation stage.

-I could quit now and walk away with a Masters, but because of my wife’s job, I still wouldn’t apply until fall 2019.

-My motivation to work on the dissertation is very up and down, as I’m no longer committed to philosophy and not super interested in the questions I’m researching, not optimistic that I can find much of use to say about them. I’m worried about what this is doing to my work ethic/habits and that it will mean that I’ll drag out the dissertation work beyond year 5.

- In case it matters, I have a strong academic record and a very good LSAT score, but not much in the extracurricular and volunteering departments

Here is my problem:

-I can’t figure out whether pushing through and finishing the PhD would make me a stronger applicant than quitting, taking the MA, and getting some work experience in a law office for the next couple of years.

Any advice on the relative merits of these two options? Would dropping out of my program make me look like a quitter who can’t handle hard work? Would the PhD give me much of a bump over the MA? Is work experience relevant at all?

Any insight would be much appreciated!

Gregsplanation

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Re: Help with a tough decision

Postby Gregsplanation » Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:24 pm

I think a PhD would give you a leg up if you wanted future you to teach law. A lot of professors at laws schools have PhDs as well as JDs.

Honestly, if you've made it this far, I'd just finish the degree. Also, what makes you want to go to law school? Law school will be boring as well. It's pretty much a means to an end, i.e. you need to get the degree to get a law license. What makes you think you won't be bored in law school? It IS incredibly boring, especially the third year.

TLDR- finish the PhD, then see where you're at. You'd be at an advantage with a PhD and you're almost there. Just push through it.

nixy

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Re: Help with a tough decision

Postby nixy » Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:45 pm

Unless you do want to become a law professor, quit and work and get real world experience. A PhD actually doesn't move the needle much. Unless it's in a science that's relevant to intellectual property law, it's not going to help compared to a high UGPA and LSAT score, and if you're no longer interested in your subject, dissertating is the worst part of grad school.

BlackAndOrange84

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Re: Help with a tough decision

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:52 pm

I think getting some real experience working at a law firm would be helpful down the line. You're going to have answer questions from firms about "why law," "are you really interested in practicing," that sort of thing. Actually having worked in a firm will give you a headstart on dealing with those questions. Going through with the PhD will increase suspicion and make those questions harder to answer, unlike being able to point to leaving the program for law-related work. That said, there's some nonzero number of former philosophy PhDs kicking around in firms, so it's not impossible to do if you want to do it.

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totesTheGoat

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Re: Help with a tough decision

Postby totesTheGoat » Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:05 am

ShadowOfAristocles wrote: but I’ve realized that I no longer want to be a philosophy professor/academic and that law is a better career path.


I just want to point out that these are two quite separate realizations. As I'm sure you recognize, there are more options than "Get my MA and go to law school" and "get my PhD"

I can’t figure out whether pushing through and finishing the PhD would make me a stronger applicant than quitting, taking the MA, and getting some work experience in a law office for the next couple of years.


Neither paths matter all that much to admissions. You'll get a small bump from the PhD (marginally more than from an MA), or you'll get a small bump from the work experience, but generally you'll only outperform your numbers (UG GPA, LSAT) by a few tenths.


Any advice on the relative merits of these two options?


Do what makes sense when you take law school off the table. Since nothing you do right now is going to have a massive impact on your law school admissions outcome, focus on building yourself a great backup option in case law doesn't work out for you. I've seen so many career transitions like this turn into desperation because something doesn't go exactly as planned, and then they are just plain desperate to go to law school because they feel like they have no other choice. Avoid that by focusing your attention on putting together a good exit plan for your MA/PhD that gives you better options than choosing between law school and well... I guess I could start applying for jobs... what exactly does a MA in Philosophy qualify me to do?" You'd be shocked how many people end up with those two options.

Would dropping out of my program make me look like a quitter who can’t handle hard work?


Only to idiots.

ShadowOfAristocles

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Re: Help with a tough decision

Postby ShadowOfAristocles » Wed Sep 19, 2018 5:52 pm

Thank you all for your input!

I have decided to leave my program and your comments were a big help, even those suggesting that I stay, as they helped me be sure I was weighing all the relevant considerations.

BlackAndOrange84

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Re: Help with a tough decision

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Wed Sep 19, 2018 11:01 pm

ShadowOfAristocles wrote:Thank you all for your input!

I have decided to leave my program and your comments were a big help, even those suggesting that I stay, as they helped me be sure I was weighing all the relevant considerations.


Thanks for the update, OP. Best of luck to you in the future.



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