Being a research assistant

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delusional
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Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:57 pm

Being a research assistant

Postby delusional » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:29 am

I have not had much extracurricular activity through first semester (I think it was the right decision), and I want to get the most I can out of school going forward. There are several professors that posted RA positions, and I am considering responding to them. A forum search shows sparse general information and little general advice, so I'm starting this topic.

1. Do professors generally want brilliant workers or do warm bodies suffice?
2. How likely is it to become a huge anchor around times that LRW, write-on, and moot court stuff are due?
3. None of the professors who posted, at least now, are well known. Only one of the three or four topics among the several that posted interest me. Should I respond now, or hold out for a posting in a month that I will be more interested in?
4. Is it more beneficial to look at the position as worthwhile for its own sake, or to see it as a good way to get a good LOR, etc.?
5. If you RA over the term, does the professor then have the right of first refusal on your 1L summer? Or might he/she think that?
6. Do professors ever end up offering or being available for help/advice/etc. outside of the work relationship? Like would you ask a prof you've RA'd for to look at a paper your working on for another class?

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hdivschool
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Re: Being a research assistant

Postby hdivschool » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:21 pm

1. I'm not sure. I had taken two classes with the professor and done well in each. I was somewhere between brilliant and a warm body.
2. You should be prepared for it to weigh you down. I wouldn't expect the professor to be familiar with your class work schedule, but if you're lucky they'll be understanding. Professors usually want stuff done ASAP, it seems.
3. As far as finding a topic that interests you, you're probably better off just approaching a professor who works in that area. I got my position that way. There'll be more competition for posted slots, especially for those in popular research areas or with well-known professors.
4. Whatever way motivates you to do your best work. Ideally, your work will build skills/expertise, lead to a good LOR, and maybe even help you land a job. This will probably vary by professor. Some may give you more feedback on your writing/research, be more willing to recommend you, or have better connections in the field. Track down previous RAs, if you can.
5. Don't know. My professor helped me land a summer job.
6. Mine has. I'd feel weird about sending them a paper for another class, mainly because they're so busy I wouldn't want to waste their time on a class assignment. But I'd expect they'd look at a journal note, etc.

delusional
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Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:57 pm

Re: Being a research assistant

Postby delusional » Mon Jan 02, 2012 2:31 pm

hdivschool wrote:1. I'm not sure. I had taken two classes with the professor and done well in each. I was somewhere between brilliant and a warm body.
2. You should be prepared for it to weigh you down. I wouldn't expect the professor to be familiar with your class work schedule, but if you're lucky they'll be understanding. Professors usually want stuff done ASAP, it seems.
3. As far as finding a topic that interests you, you're probably better off just approaching a professor who works in that area. I got my position that way. There'll be more competition for posted slots, especially for those in popular research areas or with well-known professors.
4. Whatever way motivates you to do your best work. Ideally, your work will build skills/expertise, lead to a good LOR, and maybe even help you land a job. This will probably vary by professor. Some may give you more feedback on your writing/research, be more willing to recommend you, or have better connections in the field. Track down previous RAs, if you can.
5. Don't know. My professor helped me land a summer job.
6. Mine has. I'd feel weird about sending them a paper for another class, mainly because they're so busy I wouldn't want to waste their time on a class assignment. But I'd expect they'd look at a journal note, etc.

Thanks for responding.
Does it matter if I'm a 1L and all my professors until now have been full section, assigned classes? Is it odd to be worried that the good professors have already been deluged by girls crushing on them?
If you approach the professor, does it affect whether/how much you get paid?

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hdivschool
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Re: Being a research assistant

Postby hdivschool » Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:14 pm

delusional wrote:Does it matter if I'm a 1L and all my professors until now have been full section, assigned classes? Is it odd to be worried that the good professors have already been deluged by girls crushing on them?
If you approach the professor, does it affect whether/how much you get paid?


It may matter to some professors, but I doubt it will to most. It's unlikely that anything you learn in your law school classes will be indispensable to the research. Some professors may paternalistically discourage 1Ls from taking RA positions because of the time it takes away from studying.

I doubt professors have been deluged with requests; you shouldn't be worried because most people lack the initiative/are too shy to ask.

At my school RAs are paid at a flat rate. I don't know how it works at other schools, but I would guess that the determinative factor isn't whether you asked, but whether the project requires specialized skills (i.e. quantitative analysis), or how generous the professor is.

flcath
Posts: 1502
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2009 11:39 pm

Re: Being a research assistant

Postby flcath » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:10 pm

delusional wrote:I have not had much extracurricular activity through first semester (I think it was the right decision), and I want to get the most I can out of school going forward. There are several professors that posted RA positions, and I am considering responding to them. A forum search shows sparse general information and little general advice, so I'm starting this topic.

1. Do professors generally want brilliant workers or do warm bodies suffice?
2. How likely is it to become a huge anchor around times that LRW, write-on, and moot court stuff are due?
3. None of the professors who posted, at least now, are well known. Only one of the three or four topics among the several that posted interest me. Should I respond now, or hold out for a posting in a month that I will be more interested in?
4. Is it more beneficial to look at the position as worthwhile for its own sake, or to see it as a good way to get a good LOR, etc.?
5. If you RA over the term, does the professor then have the right of first refusal on your 1L summer? Or might he/she think that?
6. Do professors ever end up offering or being available for help/advice/etc. outside of the work relationship? Like would you ask a prof you've RA'd for to look at a paper your working on for another class?

1. When the prof. puts up a posting, and if you just want a job, a warm body will typically suffice. If you'd like more than just a resume item and some $$, then you'll need to be more than a warm body.
2. Not very, in my experience.
3. It depends. Are you going to not apply to less-prestigious firms at OCI until you're sure all the top firms have dinged you?
4. Depends upon how you approach (1).
5. No. But handle the situation gently, obviously.
6. Yes, they'll typically do that, especially if it relates to their area of expertise.

morris248
Posts: 210
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2011 11:30 am

Re: Being a research assistant

Postby morris248 » Sun Jan 08, 2012 12:13 pm

Being a research assistant is usually a job of last resort. It really will not help you but it is income. If you don't need the money spend the time on better grades or something else.

delusional
Posts: 1190
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:57 pm

Re: Being a research assistant

Postby delusional » Mon Jan 09, 2012 11:42 am

morris248 wrote:Being a research assistant is usually a job of last resort. It really will not help you but it is income. If you don't need the money spend the time on better grades or something else.
That's an interesting perspective. Why do you think it won't help? Is it not a chance, at least, to learn more about something that interests you?

Miller32
Posts: 131
Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2011 1:51 pm

Re: Being a research assistant

Postby Miller32 » Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:47 pm

Probably won't help for biglaw is what he means. It can help in other ways (researching, networking, etc.)

I RA for a popular professor at my school. After sending out my resume some attorneys who went to my school noticed the resume line and reacted favorably. All depends.

An RA position is worth taking in my opinion, but obviously can vary by professor.




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