JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 302614
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 10, 2017 12:33 pm

This thread is giving me a migraine. I have a PhD from a "top" program and a JD from a different "top" program (none of which were HYS or S (though my resume does include H)) and I had no issues getting into the job market and having prospects. I ultimately didn't pursue it because, well, I wanted big law money for a few years. I'm still here publishing, though, and keeping that foot in the door.

But the circle jerk of HYS on here is blinding. Also, thanks to the above poster for putting some empirical evidence from Lawsky that everyone ignored.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302614
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 10, 2017 3:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:This thread is giving me a migraine. I have a PhD from a "top" program and a JD from a different "top" program (none of which were HYS or S (though my resume does include H)) and I had no issues getting into the job market and having prospects. I ultimately didn't pursue it because, well, I wanted big law money for a few years. I'm still here publishing, though, and keeping that foot in the door.

But the circle jerk of HYS on here is blinding. Also, thanks to the above poster for putting some empirical evidence from Lawsky that everyone ignored.


Let's talk about Lawsky's numbers. If I'm reading the report correctly, in 2017 there were 62 self-reported hires. 9 of them graduated from Harvard, 9 from Yale, and 2 from Stanford. So 20/62 of self-reported hires went to just three law schools. Even accepting that none of the remaining spots were filled by super-regional candidates with connections, that seems like pretty strong evidence for HYS's domination in this process. Add in NYU (9), Columbia (3), and Chicago (0??) and over half of self-reported spots last year went to graduates of the top 6 schools.

But we should dig a little deeper, right? These numbers are so small that a single year's numbers are unrepresentative--according to self-reporting, 2017 appears to have been a bad year for Stanford and Chicago, two schools reputably strong for academia.

Again, if I'm reading things correctly, in 2016, there were 83 self-reported hires. Of those, 18 received their JDs from Yale, 11 from Harvard, and 8 from Stanford. 37/83 (or an even higher percentage) of self-reported hires went to just three schools. Adding in NYU (9), Columbia (6), and Chicago (6), and 58/83 of self-reported hires went to just six schools.

In 2015, there were 70 self-reported hires. Of those, 21 received JDs from Harvard, 6 from Stanford, and 6 from Yale. So 33/70 of hires graduated from HYS. Adding in Columbia (2), Chicago (5), and NYU (5) and 45/70 of hires graduated from the top six schools.

Altogether, over the past three years, 78/215 (36%) of self-reported hires received their JDs from HYS. And 135/215 (63%) went to HYSCCN. Even without adjusting for class size, I think it's pretty clear that HYS--and to a lesser extent CCN--continue to dominate legal academia hiring. (I also want to note that if you quickly peruse previous years, you'll see that the past three years are fairly representative. If anything, Yale's had a relatively mediocre past year or two.)

Now, I don't think numbers are everything. For example, I wouldn't, based off of these numbers alone, choose NYU over Stanford for academia. But it's worth noting that the numbers strongly support the general consensus on this board--on which you are so condescendingly pushing back--that law school pedigree, and a HYS pedigree in particular, appears to be a highly relevant direct or indirect factor in law professor hiring. This isn't to say that you can't get a position if you don't go to HYS. A majority of the candidates who are hired every year went to different law schools. But I think it's fair to remind prospective applicants coming from non-HYS (and in particularly non-HYSCCN) schools that they are facing an even steeper uphill battle than what would otherwise be the case.


http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblaw ... ng-report/

Anonymous User
Posts: 302614
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 10, 2017 3:36 pm

sparkytrainer wrote:
Its Yale + a PHD in a field people want right now. It used to be economics, but the hiring market is seeing a rise in phds in stuff like sociologists using empirics on criminal law stuff. Seems to be the rage. But something like over 50% of all new hires are Y grads and another 30%+ are HS grads. The last 10-20% are made up from the top kids at NYU, Columbia, Chicago, etc who have useful phds and have supreme court type resumes.



The above is what folks are pushing back against. There is a huge difference between saying that 80% of new hires are YSH grads and 25%-35% are YSH grads. Yes, Harvard and Yale produce the most new hires, but there are several other top schools that are clearly investing in infrastructure to produce good job candidates, and students should think seriously about those options.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 28671
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Oct 10, 2017 3:38 pm

Agreed with the above.

I also think that self-selection into HY explains some of those numbers (not all, but some). It would be helpful to know how many people applied from what schools, not just who got hired.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302614
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:10 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Agreed with the above.

I also think that self-selection into HY explains some of those numbers (not all, but some). It would be helpful to know how many people applied from what schools, not just who got hired.


It'd also be helpful to know where people are getting hired. Given how tight the market is these days, I suspect that you'll see HYS grads being hired all across the T100--but it would be interesting to see if there's an overall difference between not just the # of outcomes but the quality of outcomes for graduates from different sub-tiers of the T14.

Another helpful and relevant piece of information that is probably accessible--if tedious to obtain--would be how no-PhD candidates from these schools perform. I suspect that where you go to law school matters relatively less for your candidacy if you already have a PhD--which could be an effect that is masked by the inclusion of PhDs in the overall numbers. Then again, it's possible that HYS matriculate relatively more students with PhDs and that the HYS placement numbers are therefore inflated by the fact that there are a disproportionate number of HYS JD/PhDs on the market each year.

Anonymous User wrote:
sparkytrainer wrote:
Its Yale + a PHD in a field people want right now. It used to be economics, but the hiring market is seeing a rise in phds in stuff like sociologists using empirics on criminal law stuff. Seems to be the rage. But something like over 50% of all new hires are Y grads and another 30%+ are HS grads. The last 10-20% are made up from the top kids at NYU, Columbia, Chicago, etc who have useful phds and have supreme court type resumes.



The above is what folks are pushing back against. There is a huge difference between saying that 80% of new hires are YSH grads and 25%-35% are YSH grads. Yes, Harvard and Yale produce the most new hires, but there are several other top schools that are clearly investing in infrastructure to produce good job candidates, and students should think seriously about those options.


I didn't read the poster that you quote to imply that 80% of new hires are HYS grads. I also don't think that the poster is wrong: that is what hiring committees want. (Probably, more precisely, they want HYS + PhD + some practice + clerkship/fellowship.) That does not mean, or imply, that these represent the only folks getting hired or the majority of folks getting hired. I do think, though, that you have to have credentials of around this level to feel anywhere close to secure about going on the academic job market these days. The only exception would be if you've published like a rock star--think multiple top 50 publications, at least one of which was in a T10 journal. Sure, this doesn't represent the level of success required to be a credible candidate: there are all sorts of credible candidates, with and without PhDs, from all sorts of institutions. But the majority of credible candidates aren't getting tenure track positions these days.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302614
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:05 pm

Law students are so obsessed with credentials that it's hilarious to watch them stay super credential focused in a scenario where there are huge "soft" factors.

For example, one of the biggest bottlenecks in legal hiring is producing scholarship. Can you actually produce reasonably interesting scholarship that will get published? Most JDs, even from OMGHYS, could not write an interesting article to save their lives. Even with top grades, they are not creative enough to come up with anything novel (a circuit split is not actually interesting to the vast majority of legal academia). Or they come up with very few novel ideas, or they can't tell the good ones from the bad ones, so they cling to the first idea they have that resembles a good idea in some superficial way, and they plow hundreds of workhorse, perfect-citation hours into it, producing 70 well-formatted pages of boring, trivial, nonsense.

Another issue is qualifications to teach subjects that need to be taught. Wow, you want to write about conlaw? Well, there are already 5 brilliant conlaw profs at most schools and 3 dull ones, so I hope you can teach something besides conlaw. But those profs won't understand your paper unless it's kinda about conlaw. Good luck!

Anonymous User
Posts: 302614
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:26 pm

^^^I'm that anon continuing my kinda-rant.

PhD programs are generally better than JD programs at selecting people who can actually produce written work. That plus the additional years to write, and the coursework that is focused on more than shitty/boring caselaw, and the credible expertise in a non-law subject, are all likely to be reflected in increased job prospects if you can actually hack it and/or have a lot of luck.

Source: very friendly with hiring committee at my school and frequently talk with them about what they look for in candidates, mistakes candidates make, things that make candidates stand out, etc.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 28671
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:48 pm

The thing is that PhD programs are all about teaching people to do research, and the JD just plain isn't. I'm sure some faculty at some schools work with some students on a reasonable facsimile, but you can get through a JD program - excel, even - without coming up with a single original research idea, and you just can't do that in a PhD program.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302614
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:11 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:The thing is that PhD programs are all about teaching people to do research, and the JD just plain isn't. I'm sure some faculty at some schools work with some students on a reasonable facsimile, but you can get through a JD program - excel, even - without coming up with a single original research idea, and you just can't do that in a PhD program.


I mostly agree. A perhaps pedantic/unimportant point, I've known a lot of people who were allowed to limp along in PhD programs without demonstrating anything approaching the level of originality you'd need for a reasonable shot at a law teaching job. In other words, some PhD research is much more like a student comment than the kind of work you'd be expected to produce as a law professor. Yes, it's original and useful in some ways, but it doesn't have the sort of novel theory that law profs expect in other law profs. (Probably the major exception here is statistical-empirical work, which can be almost completely descriptive and still be considered decent --- but even that tends to need some kind of new or flashy theory behind it in the law prof context.)

Anonymous User
Posts: 302614
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 10, 2017 11:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Law students are so obsessed with credentials that it's hilarious to watch them stay super credential focused in a scenario where there are huge "soft" factors.

For example, one of the biggest bottlenecks in legal hiring is producing scholarship. Can you actually produce reasonably interesting scholarship that will get published? Most JDs, even from OMGHYS, could not write an interesting article to save their lives. Even with top grades, they are not creative enough to come up with anything novel (a circuit split is not actually interesting to the vast majority of legal academia). Or they come up with very few novel ideas, or they can't tell the good ones from the bad ones, so they cling to the first idea they have that resembles a good idea in some superficial way, and they plow hundreds of workhorse, perfect-citation hours into it, producing 70 well-formatted pages of boring, trivial, nonsense.

Another issue is qualifications to teach subjects that need to be taught. Wow, you want to write about conlaw? Well, there are already 5 brilliant conlaw profs at most schools and 3 dull ones, so I hope you can teach something besides conlaw. But those profs won't understand your paper unless it's kinda about conlaw. Good luck!


Sure. I don't think anyone here is claiming that going to HYS or going to HYS and getting a clerkship is anywhere close to sufficient to land a tenure track gig. You're arguing against a straw man. We all agree that scholarship is immensely important in landing teaching jobs. The question at the heart of this discussion is whether school pedigree/performance also is. The answer to that is, obviously, an emphatic yes. Is school pedigree/performance as important as scholarship? No. Nobody here has claimed that it is. But that also doesn't mean that it's only relevant as a tiebreaker either. The quality of scholarship is sufficiently hard to judge that school pedigree/performance (and lots of other factors that school pedigree/performance influence--like clerkships and post-graduate opportunities) end up entering into the equation in probably a majority of cases, and often do so significantly.

It's worth reiterating that school pedigree/performance become more important the more marginal you are as a candidate. It's neither particularly interesting nor particularly controversial to assert that it won't matter much if you went to NYU Law School or New York School of Law if you have the fifth most impressive publication record in that year's applicant pool. It's kind of like arguing that, for clerkship purposes, it doesn't matter if you go to Yale or to UConn because, if you are #1 in your class, you're probably getting a clerkship out of either school.

There are really two questions that matter: (1) how do you put yourself in the position to write the best (and most) possible scholarship before going on the market; and (2) what happens if your scholarship is sufficiently high-quality and prolific to put you on the edge of consideration for schools? This entire thread is devoted to answering #2--in part because #1 depends a lot on innate qualities of the OP about which we have little information (although I suspect that doing better at a better school is probably helpful for #1 as well). It's worth noting that probably the biggest chunk of applicants each year fall into the territory described by #2: these are folks who have written well enough that they could plausibly get hired, but not well enough that they definitely will. So what differentiates some of these folks from others? With the exception of PhDs, just about all of the rest of the biggest things that do--fellowships/VAPs, clerkships, and connected professors going to bat for you--are all factors that are heavily influenced by where you go to law school and by how you do in law school. To a lesser extent, what you do after law school can also end up mattering--and this, too, is influenced by where you go to law school and how you do in law school. (Understandably, an enviro-law candidate who has done cutting-edge work with the NRDC is going to be more attractive than an enviro-law candidate who has done fairly basic deals work at an indistinguishable biglaw firm.) Oh, and where you go to law school and how you do in law school also directly influence hiring committees.

This is all to say that discouraging the OP from caring about her grades because she has a PhD and is at a thoroughly excellent (but not HYSCCN) school does her a huge disservice. It is highly probable that the OP's grades will directly or indirectly prove to be a relevant factor in her being hired or not hired. (And this is in part because the OP is not at HYS--were she at HYS, being median would have less of an impact on the other things that matter, like clerkships, job opportunities, and fellowships/VAPs.)

Anonymous User
Posts: 302614
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:42 am

Great. You're also arguing against a strawman (or possibly another anon). I didn't say they shouldn't worry about grades. I was talking about the PhD, and them trying to puzzle out how much the PhD would help.

I find the grades/school argument to be deeply boring (which I why I wasn't engaging in it).

Anonymous User
Posts: 302614
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:54 am

Also a JD/PhD, a few years further along than you are. The most important things you can have are a) support, and b) a plan to publish at a pace that will make you competitive for a fellowship at the appropriate moment, and eventually for the actual job market.

For a): are there people who have already gone through your school's JD/PhD and come out with jobs? Which profs did those people work with? Hopefully you're already connected both the former students and the profs--but if not, plan to contact them soon. If no such predecessors, then you need to go read faculty bios and figure out who are the people who do work similar to yours. Go meet with them. Plan to do independent studies, take their seminars, and/or research assist in the future. Yes, you have PhD advisors but you MUST have law mentors too, to push you toward research that will be marketable to law reviews and subsequently law schools, rather than research oriented just around the questions your PhD field cares about. Also to help you with logistical and strategic questions (critique your job market talk, help you choose a journal between competing offers for your pub, etc.).

For b): This can be rough because you likely can't/don't want to publish your whole dissertation before graduating especially if you're in a book field. This means you have to do more research & writing than others to be competitive, and your research might also be more time-consuming than typical legal scholarship depending on methods in your field. So you have to plan carefully. Writing a note is a good opportunity to get a first pub. You need that, plus a job market talk (i.e. very far along draft), plus preferably at least one more publication to get a decent fellowship. [Note that I am only including publications in journals that are either in law or at least law-adjacent--publishing in your own field is good but counts much less.] When are you going to produce this stuff to make sure you're in shape to get the fellowship by the time you run out of departmental funding for your PhD? Think about the timing and start brainstorming projects that will make sense at particular moments.

Caveat: you're in 1L. Both these are ongoing projects, and you may have more insight as time goes on, especially if you aren't too far in your PhD either. Just start thinking about them, especially a).

Another general comment: yes, your JD/PhD makes you eligible for various kinds of positions. But know that positioning yourself starts way before the job market. The places you publish and the kinds of work you do will very much affect your prospects, since different fields have different priorities. Not to say that you have to decide for sure which track you want, you can stay competitive-ish in multiple fields, but law especially will demand that you do certain things so if you want law as one of your options you have to learn those things and do at least most of them.

To answer your original question about grades, you may well surprise yourself and do very well. But regardless, it isn't clear that they matter much. Mainly, they help get you a fancy clerkship which is a minor help but less important than it use to be. (Also sometimes PhDs can help you get a clerkship that your grades wouldn't have gotten otherwise, which is nice.) There are also some soft benefits, like impressing people at your school who will then be motivated to help you, positive feedback loop, etc. But I know other JD/PhDs at not-HYS pursuing legal academia without ultra-impressive grades--can't say the outcome yet but no one is telling them they're misguided somehow for pursuing it.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302614
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: JD/PhD Prospects in Legal Academia

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:28 pm

OP here.

I just want to express how thankful I am for all the advice given to me in this thread, especially to the most recent anonymous poster who really helped lay out some concrete steps I need to start taking. I'm only 1/2 through my first semester of 1L, and the way my program is structured means I won't start my PhD work until after this year, so it's really helpful to have this advice at an early stage in this six year process.

You've all done a fantastic service to me.

Cheers!




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.