Question about being a Research Assistant

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anonymcoffee
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Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby anonymcoffee » Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:16 pm

a lot of my professors do not hold regular office hours and I feel that I haven't really connected with a professor even during 1L. I would like to ask some professors if I can be a research assistant, but do not know how to approach this. What does being an RA specifically entail - is it time consuming, should I not have a semester internship and devote all my time to being an RA? I see a lot of my classmates being RA for old professors - does this mean they had the highest grades,how are they picked?

I received an A- in one class, and I know the professor is working on a book. Before I talk to the professor, I do not want to embarrass myself if only top grades get these RA jobs. I'm at GW - below median..should I not bother with this? So...what does an RA actually do, and what credentials should an RA have?

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Detrox
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby Detrox » Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:40 pm

RA positions can vary immensely with the professor. Some professors only take RA's with top grades from their classes, while others are willing to settle for the first free labor that has a pulse. Similarly the work demanded will vary. Generally RA positions are part time (about 10-20 hours a week), and involve researching topics that the professor is writing on or researching themselves in a broader sense. Westlaw, Lexis, Heinonline, Google + the library etc. will be your daily bread. Additionally, casebook editing can be a large source of RA work, but I cannot comment on this work as I do not have personal experience in this area. Either way, these positions are generally not very difficult to do, and can be generally scheduled at your own pace. Other RA positions can be full time jobs of about 40 hours a week and involve intensive assignments of the same variety as previously described, but with a great deal more work and less time to complete it. While professors generally encourage or at least allow supplementing your part time RA positions with another RA job or some other internship, the professors recruiting people for 40 hours a week tend to discourage sharing their RA's with any other committment. If you are a 1L, I don't recommend RA'ing until the summer (and then doing either 2 20hr RA's or 1 40 hr, or 1 20 + something else), because its an unnecessary distraction when you should be focusing on your classes. As a 2L it's up to you if you really want to RA during the schoolyear, if you have time, but I've found most of these positions are filled by professors just keeping on their 1L summers.

I guess in summary, the best bet is to talk to any professor you're interested in working for. If they don't have office hours or job postings, feel free to email them asking to meet and discuss your interests. If it is a professor you have taken a class from (or the research is in an area you have studied), be prepared to explain what you have done and why you want to work for them.

anonymcoffee
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby anonymcoffee » Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:44 pm

thanks for the post information. I am a 2L currently - struck out at OCI, still looking, and a below median gpa. So I wanted to form a closer bond with a professor to get more guidance, make a connection, see what advice they have about practicing in general but I feel that can only be if I RA - and at the same time put it on my resume.

I will make sure to ask the professor, I guess I just don't want it to be awkward - put them in the position of having to say no.

random5483
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby random5483 » Tue Oct 18, 2011 6:24 pm

anonymcoffee wrote:thanks for the post information. I am a 2L currently - struck out at OCI, still looking, and a below median gpa. So I wanted to form a closer bond with a professor to get more guidance, make a connection, see what advice they have about practicing in general but I feel that can only be if I RA - and at the same time put it on my resume.

I will make sure to ask the professor, I guess I just don't want it to be awkward - put them in the position of having to say no.


Nothing awkward about asking. Good chance they will say no, but if you don't ask you will never know.

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king3780
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby king3780 » Wed Oct 19, 2011 1:58 pm

Detrox wrote:RA positions can vary immensely with the professor. Some professors only take RA's with top grades from their classes, while others are willing to settle for the first free labor that has a pulse. Similarly the work demanded will vary. Generally RA positions are part time (about 10-20 hours a week), and involve researching topics that the professor is writing on or researching themselves in a broader sense. Westlaw, Lexis, Heinonline, Google + the library etc. will be your daily bread. Additionally, casebook editing can be a large source of RA work, but I cannot comment on this work as I do not have personal experience in this area. Either way, these positions are generally not very difficult to do, and can be generally scheduled at your own pace. Other RA positions can be full time jobs of about 40 hours a week and involve intensive assignments of the same variety as previously described, but with a great deal more work and less time to complete it. While professors generally encourage or at least allow supplementing your part time RA positions with another RA job or some other internship, the professors recruiting people for 40 hours a week tend to discourage sharing their RA's with any other committment. If you are a 1L, I don't recommend RA'ing until the summer (and then doing either 2 20hr RA's or 1 40 hr, or 1 20 + something else), because its an unnecessary distraction when you should be focusing on your classes. As a 2L it's up to you if you really want to RA during the schoolyear, if you have time, but I've found most of these positions are filled by professors just keeping on their 1L summers.

I guess in summary, the best bet is to talk to any professor you're interested in working for. If they don't have office hours or job postings, feel free to email them asking to meet and discuss your interests. If it is a professor you have taken a class from (or the research is in an area you have studied), be prepared to explain what you have done and why you want to work for them.


I definitely agree with it varying by professor. At my school, professors sometimes will email the whole school looking for RAs. I personally just emailed a prof who teaches in the area of law I'm interested in practicing in and set up a meeting. Went in and talked, he could see that I was passionate about the subject, we talked about the research, and it seemed to be a "good fit" so he hired me. Never asked for grades and I hadn't even taken a class with him yet. My time commitment was 6-10 hours a week and my schedule was flexible; he'd give me assignments and we'd meet every two weeks to go over my findings.

anonymcoffee
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby anonymcoffee » Thu Oct 20, 2011 9:10 pm

did you know if the professor was working a book/paper or did you just email to talk in general about the area of law? also, do you have to write long papers/memos or just research and summary/synthesis of what you found?

I love researching it and finding everything and just reading about it, then I like dividing the sources, and seeing their arguments but I'd dread writing a long memo/ton of citations.

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Detrox
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby Detrox » Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:49 pm

anonymcoffee wrote:did you know if the professor was working a book/paper or did you just email to talk in general about the area of law? also, do you have to write long papers/memos or just research and summary/synthesis of what you found?

I love researching it and finding everything and just reading about it, then I like dividing the sources, and seeing their arguments but I'd dread writing a long memo/ton of citations.


Not the person your questions are directed towards but I'll throw out some more info. First off, Citationcs will occur alot, and its good practice if you're going to do any journal work. Most professors won't care about the bluebooking being perfect for your citations as long as they can find the source themselves from your description, but it's good practice (and a good way to bill hours to get that extra min $10 or whatever).

As for everything else, again its going to vary by prof. I had to do three or four assignments per week which I compiled into single memos, but I don't believe any of them were longer then 5-10 pages, and often they were just a collection of sources with paragraph summaries. Professors are asking you to do research so that they don't have to read tomes of material, it would be counterproductive to hire an RA to save them time on research and then expend alot of it reading pages and pages of detailed reports. The harder part will generally be being confident enough to recognize whats important and what to report, and leave out what is irrelevant to your professor's interests. The step after that is to become well versed enough in your research to make recommendations about areas to focus on or solutions to problems in an area.

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king3780
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby king3780 » Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:21 am

anonymcoffee wrote:did you know if the professor was working a book/paper or did you just email to talk in general about the area of law? also, do you have to write long papers/memos or just research and summary/synthesis of what you found?

I love researching it and finding everything and just reading about it, then I like dividing the sources, and seeing their arguments but I'd dread writing a long memo/ton of citations.


I'm not sure if this question was directed to me or not. I agree with the above poster though as far as length of assignments and the point of profs having research assignments. I would read through tons of material and pick out the most relevant cases, articles, and books and write a couple paragraphs on each. Then when I met with him I would give a super quick overview, but more importantly talk about how all the materials tied together. He would ask me questions and opinions based on my findings which would then help lead to more research.

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Extension_Cord
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby Extension_Cord » Fri Oct 21, 2011 2:05 am

do you get paid for it? How much?

zomginternets
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby zomginternets » Fri Oct 21, 2011 3:00 am

Extension_Cord wrote:do you get paid for it? How much?


My school offers $15/hour. I think most are around that range, depending on the RA budget that your school has allocated to the prof.

anonymcoffee
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby anonymcoffee » Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:29 pm

Yeah, the questions were directed toward king3780 sorry about the confustion - but hey, I got two great answers. Thanks for letting me know - this actually sounds like fun, I should have applied for profs asking during the last summer.

I think I'll go ahead and email the professor I would like to RA for, and see what he says. I'm not sure about the pay - I mostly want to work with a professor.

I'm at GW if anyone has specific recs about profs. they worked for.

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king3780
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby king3780 » Fri Oct 21, 2011 2:42 pm

On the pay issue, I worked as an RA for a semester for a couple credits (graded believe it or not, easiest A ever), then got paid $12.50/hr when the prof still needed my help after the semester was over.

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shepdawg
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Re: Question about being a Research Assistant

Postby shepdawg » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:56 pm

Some cheap schools will not let you RA unless you have applied for federal work study.




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