PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

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PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:40 am

So, I am a 2L with a SA lined up for next summer. However, I have a prof pushing for me to apply to a L&E PhD program that would be fully funded with stipend. I'm wondering where I'll be if I decide to go "back" to BigLaw. Would my SA firm be reasonably likely to hire me (assuming I get an offer next summer) --- would I be more marketable to firms?

I by no means feel sure that I'll want BigLaw when I'm done (if I was sure, I'd just stick with BigLaw) -- but it is kind of scary going to academia -- after all, I'm not at HYS CCN -- so my chance at landing a professorship right after I get the degree is not stellar. I understand that there are plenty of doors this sort of thing could open, but how firmly do they shut the others?

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Aberzombie1892
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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Aberzombie1892 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:51 am

If you entered into academia, you would most likely be an economics/pre law professor (and not a law school professor).

As for big law, I think you would pretty much be out in the short term if you acquired the PhD.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:05 am

I'm very curious myself as well. I'm afraid I'm not knowledgeable enough to address your question directly.

I will offer my perspective: if you're at Cal or Penn, your prospects for academia in non-law departments are solid (Econ, Business School, Policy, etc.). Both of those schools have very highly ranked Econ departments. Though each of these fields are competitive, you give yourself a wider playing field.

Northwestern is a close third. Followed by Mich and then UVA

Duke, Cornell...then I would think hard

Georgetown, then nah....

OP, how long will it take? If you were lucky enough to get clerkship, do you know if you'll be able to clerk while finishing up your dissertation?

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:12 am

I disagree slightly with Aberzombie1892

The majority of the Law Professors who specialize in Law and Economics have a PhD in Economics. It's almost a prereq these days. In other words, there are slots in law schools "reserved" for scholars with dual credential.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Aberzombie1892 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:15 am

Anonymous User wrote:I disagree slightly with Aberzombie1892

The majority of the Law Professors who specialize in Law and Economics have a PhD in Economics. It's almost a prereq these days. In other words, there are slots in academia "reserved" for scholars with dual credential.


While I'm not familiar with the credentials for only Law and Econ legal professors, most law professors have elite JD credentials. Considering how (extra) constricted the legal job market is, more candidates with top credentials will go for academia (Clerkship/fellowship -> academia). Thus, the OPs lack of an elite JD may mean more than the addition of a PhD.

But anything is possible.

Edit - Even if you disagree, can we at least agree that it is more likely that the OP would be working in non-legal academia than legal academia?

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:25 am

Yes. In fact, I would recommend OP to take up the PhD only if he/she is interested in teaching outside of law school, and that he/she currently attends Cal, Penn, NU, and maybe Mich/UVA.

OP, if you're in Vandy, I would consider it as well. The Vandy JD/PhD program is well respected, at least certainly more so than its JD program.

It really depends on how much you want to teach vs. BigLaw. If you like academia significantly more, then a PhD would help tremendously, if you are currently attending one of the aforementioned schools. If I were you, I would enroll in the program and still go through with the SA. Make a decision then, not now.

But again, I'm off topic. Just trying to give an alternative perspective.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Yes. In fact, I would recommend OP to take up the PhD only if he/she is interested in teaching outside of law school, and that he/she currently attends Cal, Penn, NU, and maybe Mich/UVA.

OP, if you're in Vandy, I would consider it as well. The Vandy JD/PhD program is well respected, at least certainly more so than its JD program.

But again, I'm off topic. Just trying to give an alternative perspective.


OP here: This is about the Vandy Program. It will be abbreviated since I'll have the JD out of the way. I went to Penn (Wharton) undergraduate, degree in Economics and concentration was very Econ heavy. I won't say more about my current school though.

I think overall, not going to Yale or Chicago is going to keep me out of legal academia. I can live with Econ academia, though...perhaps even prefer it.

I'm finishing with no debt, but it would still be hard to say no to some BigLaw cash for a couple years.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:05 pm

If you entered into academia, you would most likely be an economics/pre law professor (and not a law school professor).


Not sure how true this is.... I would think it depends heavily on the law school. My antitrust professort at Berkeley is a JD/PhD (econ) and is a full time faculty member at the law school.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby quiver » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
If you entered into academia, you would most likely be an economics/pre law professor (and not a law school professor).


Not sure how true this is.... I would think it depends heavily on the law school. My antitrust professort at Berkeley is a JD/PhD (econ) and is a full time faculty member at the law school.

But where did s/he get the JD? I think that's the point Aberzombie1892 is making.

Edit: Do you have Krishnamurthy? If so, his JD is from Yale and his MA/PhD is from Berkeley. Edlin also has a JD/PhD with both degrees from Stanford. This seems to lend weight to Aberzombie1892's point.
Last edited by quiver on Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:03 pm

But where did s/he get the JD? I think that's the point Aberzombie1892 is making.


Ah, I see. Totally missed that. He went to YLS. So... yea.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:17 pm

OP: How many years will it take for you to earn your PhD in the Vanderbilt law & economics program ?

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:24 pm

OP here: they say 4-5 years. It's a PhD, so not really an exact science (based on the experiences of the PhDs and PhD candidates I have known). It's 6-7 for non JDs.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:30 pm

In light of the 5 year committment, you probably need to select between law & academia after your biglaw SA experience. My best guess is that biglaw may not be a realistic option due to the 5 year gap from law.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby anongoodnurse » Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:55 pm

Two questions:

First, [EDIT -- nevermind. Didn't read the OP carefully re: funding].

Second, how competitive would you be for admission to a top 10 econ program? Honestly, your best bet would probably be to go and clerk for a COA judge, then do appellate work for a big firm for a few years, then go back and get your PhD from Chicago or the equivalent. If you don't have the credentials for that, then I'd be very hesitant about doing a second-rate PhD program right out of law school -- you only need a top JD or a top PhD (but not both) for legal academia, but it's hard without either.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby pcwcecac » Tue Sep 27, 2011 4:36 pm

If you are looking for strictly L&E programs, then Vandy is the best choice (and pretty much the only choice). The program places students very well, especially into public policy and business schools. But I'm not sure of their prospects outside of academia. They don't place very well into Econ programs; I do not remember coming across an published econ paper written by a Vandy graduate.

If you have a solid math background (real analysis +), then I would encourage you to apply to pure economics programs. You'll spend some time learning Macro in your first year, which is irrelevant to L&E (at least at the current stage of literature), but the prestige of top economics programs carry much weight. AND, while the subject matter may be less focused, the methods of economic research will be better taught.

If you need not to apply while you're still completing your JD, why not work as a lawyer for a few years and then decide? L&E at Vandy will be there for years to come, but your job offer will not.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:15 pm

It is my opinion that OP is getting some pretty bad advice in this thread, with the exception of pcwecac's advice (above.)

Aberzombie1892 wrote:if you're at Cal or Penn, your prospects for academia in non-law departments are solid (Econ, Business School, Policy, etc.). Both of those schools have very highly ranked Econ departments. Though each of these fields are competitive, you give yourself a wider playing field.

Northwestern is a close third. Followed by Mich and then UVA

Duke, Cornell...then I would think hard

Georgetown, then nah....

OP, how long will it take? If you were lucky enough to get clerkship, do you know if you'll be able to clerk while finishing up your dissertation?


Clerking while finishing dissertations? Getting your econ PhD from Duke? What?

First of all, if you want to go into academia for economics, you don't want to go to Duke. Or Cornell. Or Northwestern. You want to go to Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, Chicago, or Princeton. I have no idea where that list came from.

You are not going to clerk while finishing your dissertation. OMG. I LOL'D. You're going to gray and cry yourself to sleep every night. That's what you're going to do while you're finishing your dissertation.

Finally, a word of caution about these sexy interdisciplinary programs that are cropping up everywhere: econ departments want to hire top economists, not people with niche PhDs from obscure programs. It is a known fact that it's harder to find an academic job from one of these interdisciplinary programs than it is from a good old econ/ polisci/ etc. department, even if you are coming from a top place. It's true law schools love PhDs these days, but they need to be published, etc., etc. It's not a magic bullet (I'm not accusing you of thinking it is one, it's just still a serious uphill slog to get one of those jobs.)

I am sorry to sound harsh, OP, but a PhD is a lot of years of your life and a hell of a lot of often extremely unpleasant work (I had a friend who used to say, "everyone comes into the program with a five year plan."). It will make biglaw firms look at you askance. Why do you want to work for them, they are going to wonder, when you have a PhD and could leave for the greener pastures of a university? If you dream of a career in academia, I'd counsel you to get a PhD from a straight-up econ department. But you have a wonderful, practical degree.... and a job lined up. Do you really want to spend five years of your life being poor, etc., to end up in the same place where you may have been otherwise?

I'm all for getting a PhD if what you want one. But frankly, don't let feeling flattered because some prof thinks you're great (and I'm sure you are) push you into this program until you have a really good idea about what your exit options from the PhD program look like.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:35 pm

OP: I know one partner at a big law firm who was enrolled in an econ PhD program (not at his CCN law school), but dropped out prior to going into biglaw. He did quite well in law school though.

I think some of this may depend on where in your class you fall. If you are the #1 student at Vandy Law and then get a PhD in econ from Vandy, I think you will have a reasonable shot at academia if you're willing to work at any law school and claw your way up by publishing. I also think judges would be interested in you as a clerk if you decided to bail later on. Firms would probably be willing to pick you up post clerkship.


pcwcecac wrote:If you need not to apply while you're still completing your JD, why not work as a lawyer for a few years and then decide? L&E at Vandy will be there for years to come, but your job offer will not.


+1 to this advice though, esp. if you're relatively young

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:10 pm

OP here --not all that young (will graduate at 35), which kind of influences that now-or-never calculus.

I appreciate all the advice. I think I'm going to stick with the bird-in-the-hand -- If I hate the SA experience (but nobody hates the SA experience amirite?) then I can still try to apply and bail after a year of BigLaw (or after a clerk year).

I really enjoy academia in a way, but I also am very much into the law in general and think it's wise to cash in rather than chase an uncertain chance at a potentially more fulfilling career that would leave me a geographic slave. My SA is in NY and I really do like New York. Nashville I'm not so hot on (compared to New York, no offense to those who like it!).

Thanks again to all who replied. My Prof can use his "influence" to get me a nice clerkship instead, hopefully.

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Re: PhD in Law and Econ -- impact on BigLaw

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:17 am

Anonymous User wrote:OP here --not all that young (will graduate at 35), which kind of influences that now-or-never calculus.

I appreciate all the advice. I think I'm going to stick with the bird-in-the-hand -- If I hate the SA experience (but nobody hates the SA experience amirite?) then I can still try to apply and bail after a year of BigLaw (or after a clerk year).

I really enjoy academia in a way, but I also am very much into the law in general and think it's wise to cash in rather than chase an uncertain chance at a potentially more fulfilling career that would leave me a geographic slave. My SA is in NY and I really do like New York. Nashville I'm not so hot on (compared to New York, no offense to those who like it!).

Thanks again to all who replied. My Prof can use his "influence" to get me a nice clerkship instead, hopefully.


I think you're making the right call, best of luck (from poster above)




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