Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

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Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:02 pm

Has anyone taken a postdoc/research fellow type position for a year or two right after law school in a subject area that they want to work in? I'm curious as to whether such a position would be advisable or not. Obviously the salary probably won't be great, but what if you have manageable student loans and could make the finances work? Would it be a good step for your career? Would it be a problem if you're still interested in litigation somewhere down the line? Thanks for any helpful advice you can offer!

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby Jchance » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:07 pm

Don't do it unless you want to be an academic. Even so, when you take postdoc/ fellowship, you close so many doors except leaving open the academic path. It's extremely hard to transition back.

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:22 pm

Jchance wrote:Don't do it unless you want to be an academic. Even so, when you take postdoc/ fellowship, you close so many doors except leaving open the academic path. It's extremely hard to transition back.


Is this something you or a friend tried? Is it looked down upon for some reason besides the obvious lack of time spent developing skills in litigation? What if the research would be strongly related to the area of law you would be interested in working in?

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RCSOB657

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby RCSOB657 » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Jchance wrote:Don't do it unless you want to be an academic. Even so, when you take postdoc/ fellowship, you close so many doors except leaving open the academic path. It's extremely hard to transition back.


Is this something you or a friend tried? Is it looked down upon for some reason besides the obvious lack of time spent developing skills in litigation? What if the research would be strongly related to the area of law you would be interested in working in?


What type of law are you interested in? Which fellowships?

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Sep 03, 2017 10:07 pm

Jchance wrote:Don't do it unless you want to be an academic. Even so, when you take postdoc/ fellowship, you close so many doors except leaving open the academic path. It's extremely hard to transition back.

I think it depends what kind of law you want to do. I know some people who did this in environmental/public interest stuff. It's probably not going to work at all for biglaw, but more policy-restated stuff, I don't think it's a huge obstacle.

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby Snuffles1 » Mon Sep 04, 2017 12:59 am

I think it also depends on what kind of fellowship you're considering. Many are subject specific and might give you a boost for policy stuff like Nony suggested. These might be relatively easier to get and lower cost to take depending on what you want to do after. But the main fellowships that are not subject specific - the Bigelow, Climenko etc - are hugely difficult to get. The folks who interview for them have multiple articles (and, freakishly, now sometimes have books) published. They are meant to produce professors so like with a lot of specialized things (like various types of PI) you need to show a strong specialized background (not just grades or even grades + clerkship) to get in the door. (You might might already have the necessary background, in which case it comes back to what you want from the fellowship.)

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 04, 2017 10:03 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Jchance wrote:Don't do it unless you want to be an academic. Even so, when you take postdoc/ fellowship, you close so many doors except leaving open the academic path. It's extremely hard to transition back.

I think it depends what kind of law you want to do. I know some people who did this in environmental/public interest stuff. It's probably not going to work at all for biglaw, but more policy-restated stuff, I don't think it's a huge obstacle.


Bingo, that's what I'm hoping to do. Policy into public interest, possibly an environmental nonprofit. Not interested in biglaw, I don't have a massive amount of loans so I'm okay with lower salary (though it would be nice to make high 5 figures at some point in the future). Probably sounds cliche/naive, but I want to do work I care about, so that's my main goal, not getting super rich. So my question is more would the position get me to where I want to go? Seems like you've seen it done, which is heartening. Thanks for the input.

RCSOB657 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Jchance wrote:Don't do it unless you want to be an academic. Even so, when you take postdoc/ fellowship, you close so many doors except leaving open the academic path. It's extremely hard to transition back.


Is this something you or a friend tried? Is it looked down upon for some reason besides the obvious lack of time spent developing skills in litigation? What if the research would be strongly related to the area of law you would be interested in working in?


What type of law are you interested in? Which fellowships?


Nony nailed it. I'm interested in policy/public interest/nonprofit work in environmental law. The position is a university fellowship, sorry, not sure how much more I want to say beyond that.

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby RCSOB657 » Mon Sep 04, 2017 11:41 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Jchance wrote:Don't do it unless you want to be an academic. Even so, when you take postdoc/ fellowship, you close so many doors except leaving open the academic path. It's extremely hard to transition back.

I think it depends what kind of law you want to do. I know some people who did this in environmental/public interest stuff. It's probably not going to work at all for biglaw, but more policy-restated stuff, I don't think it's a huge obstacle.


Bingo, that's what I'm hoping to do. Policy into public interest, possibly an environmental nonprofit. Not interested in biglaw, I don't have a massive amount of loans so I'm okay with lower salary (though it would be nice to make high 5 figures at some point in the future). Probably sounds cliche/naive, but I want to do work I care about, so that's my main goal, not getting super rich. So my question is more would the position get me to where I want to go? Seems like you've seen it done, which is heartening. Thanks for the input.

RCSOB657 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Jchance wrote:Don't do it unless you want to be an academic. Even so, when you take postdoc/ fellowship, you close so many doors except leaving open the academic path. It's extremely hard to transition back.


Is this something you or a friend tried? Is it looked down upon for some reason besides the obvious lack of time spent developing skills in litigation? What if the research would be strongly related to the area of law you would be interested in working in?


What type of law are you interested in? Which fellowships?


Nony nailed it. I'm interested in policy/public interest/nonprofit work in environmental law. The position is a university fellowship, sorry, not sure how much more I want to say beyond that.


Good luck, sounds like you've already decided to pursue whatever it is.

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby Nebby » Tue Sep 05, 2017 12:10 am

Looks like we're applying to the same position. If you're interested in enviro litigation I recommend trying to find a position that allows you to do that first. Basic rule of thumb is that, if you want to do PI lit, you have to begin your career in lit. You can leave it after a couple of years and then go back to lit at any time, but trying to transition to lit following a postdoc research position right after law school will be difficult because there's simply no carry-over in terms of skillset. Also, litigation experience will make you more competitive for this position should you decide to pursue it in the future. One responsibility is to develop legal strategies, but that's more difficult if you've never practiced enviro/energy law in different forums.

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:06 am

Nebby wrote:Looks like we're applying to the same position. If you're interested in enviro litigation I recommend trying to find a position that allows you to do that first. Basic rule of thumb is that, if you want to do PI lit, you have to begin your career in lit. You can leave it after a couple of years and then go back to lit at any time, but trying to transition to lit following a postdoc research position right after law school will be difficult because there's simply no carry-over in terms of skillset. Also, litigation experience will make you more competitive for this position should you decide to pursue it in the future. One responsibility is to develop legal strategies, but that's more difficult if you've never practiced enviro/energy law in different forums.


OP here, I've applied to a bunch of somewhat similar fellow type positions at universities, so one of them could be the one you applied for. However, you seem to have experience already, so it seems unlikely that you would be applying for the same kind of entry level type positions I've been applying for. Don't they have higher level/paying positions for people like you with lit experience? Or are you taking a pay cut?

And I realize this probably doesn't count for a whole lot, but I do have a bit of lit experience from my 2L summer at a nonprofit that does environmental litigation. Does that help at all?

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby Nebby » Tue Sep 05, 2017 7:34 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Nebby wrote:Looks like we're applying to the same position. If you're interested in enviro litigation I recommend trying to find a position that allows you to do that first. Basic rule of thumb is that, if you want to do PI lit, you have to begin your career in lit. You can leave it after a couple of years and then go back to lit at any time, but trying to transition to lit following a postdoc research position right after law school will be difficult because there's simply no carry-over in terms of skillset. Also, litigation experience will make you more competitive for this position should you decide to pursue it in the future. One responsibility is to develop legal strategies, but that's more difficult if you've never practiced enviro/energy law in different forums.


OP here, I've applied to a bunch of somewhat similar fellow type positions at universities, so one of them could be the one you applied for. However, you seem to have experience already, so it seems unlikely that you would be applying for the same kind of entry level type positions I've been applying for. Don't they have higher level/paying positions for people like you with lit experience? Or are you taking a pay cut?

And I realize this probably doesn't count for a whole lot, but I do have a bit of lit experience from my 2L summer at a nonprofit that does environmental litigation. Does that help at all?

The one I'm looking pays higher and has a different title for those with experience, and I work at an enviro nonprofit so not much, if any, of a paycut. 2L summer lit experience isn't the same as lit experience as an attorney because it's only in the latter capacity can you really see a case through the whole process. Have you applied to fellowships placement positions?

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 05, 2017 9:29 pm

Nebby wrote:The one I'm looking pays higher and has a different title for those with experience, and I work at an enviro nonprofit so not much, if any, of a paycut. 2L summer lit experience isn't the same as lit experience as an attorney because it's only in the latter capacity can you really see a case through the whole process. Have you applied to fellowships placement positions?


Hmmm, if the fellowship you're applying for has different titles based on experience then I don't think we're applying for the same position. It's understandable that a 2L summer isn't the same as a long-term position, but I was wondering if it would count for something and maybe help to leave the door open to the possibility of lit work in the future. I don't mean to pry too much into your salary, but if a fellowship position isn't much of a pay cut (if a all), are you not really making much at an enviro nonprofit? Can you give me a ballpark idea (mid 5 figures, high 5 figures, etc.)? Also, on a different note, have you seen any sign of an exodus of fed gov lawyers (DOJ ENRD/EPA/etc.) into enviro nonprofits?

I'm not sure what a fellowship placement position is, can you clarify that part?

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Re: Postdoc/Research Fellow Position at a University?

Postby Nebby » Tue Sep 05, 2017 9:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Nebby wrote:The one I'm looking pays higher and has a different title for those with experience, and I work at an enviro nonprofit so not much, if any, of a paycut. 2L summer lit experience isn't the same as lit experience as an attorney because it's only in the latter capacity can you really see a case through the whole process. Have you applied to fellowships placement positions?


Hmmm, if the fellowship you're applying for has different titles based on experience then I don't think we're applying for the same position. It's understandable that a 2L summer isn't the same as a long-term position, but I was wondering if it would count for something and maybe help to leave the door open to the possibility of lit work in the future. I don't mean to pry too much into your salary, but if a fellowship position isn't much of a pay cut (if a all), are you not really making much at an enviro nonprofit? Can you give me a ballpark idea (mid 5 figures, high 5 figures, etc.)? Also, on a different note, have you seen any sign of an exodus of fed gov lawyers (DOJ ENRD/EPA/etc.) into enviro nonprofits?

I'm not sure what a fellowship placement position is, can you clarify that part?

I make 65k/year. I know of some ENRD people that left DOJ to join a nonprofit, but other than that not a lot. I don't of anyone at EPA that left.

Fellowship placement: Sierra Club, Earthjustice, (maybe?) NRDC, and ELPC hire unpaid fellowships directly out of law school. They require outside funding, such as EJW or your school's fellowship funding program (if they have one).

Yes, your 2L experience would leave the door open but you'd be viewed as an entry level attorney after your post-doc. Depending on what you make of the position, you could research and publish on litigation issues and that would be helpful in finding environmental litigation opportunities to begin upon completion of the research position.



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