Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

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gobuffs10
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Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby gobuffs10 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 1:28 am

If I didn't want to be a lawyer, my other choice was to get a PhD in philosophy, as I'm attracted to fields with outstanding job prospects. As it turns out, I go to a school with a JD/PhD in philosophy. From talking with other dual-degree students, it sounds like it's easier for students already in grad/professional school to get accepted into another program than it is to get accepted right from undergrad. Hopefully, then, I'll have a shot at getting in if I want to.

I met with one of my law professors to talk about this degree option, and he advised against it. His reasons were that I'd be spending extra time not working in the legal field for an even more useless second degree, and that legal employers would frown upon that. He told me a law firm would see a JD/PhD and not really know what to make of it. Conversely, a JD would likely be a turn-off for academic employers (not that there are any). So, after that meeting, I made up my mind against pursuing the PhD.

The past month or so, however, it's been on my mind quite a bit. Cons abound, and the only pro seems to be that I'd get to continue to study something I'm passionate about. My idealistic side believes that higher education should be about furthering knowledge, finances be damned. My practical side knows that I'm already undertaking a pile of debt for bad employment opportunities, and adding a PhD is only going to make things worse.

Is there anyone who thinks this is a good idea (or at least not the worst idea of all time)? Half the time my brain knows that this is a terrible idea, and the other half says do what you love because law can wait a few more years. I need a dose of reason, if anybody would care to provide it.

gman1978
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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby gman1978 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 1:32 am

The professor was doing you a favor. The payoff in terms of opportunity cost and potential income is even worse for a Philosophy Ph.D. than a law degree: it's a lot of time, and it's very very unlikely to get an outcome (tenure-track position) that makes it worthwhile.

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MrSparkle
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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby MrSparkle » Thu Jan 03, 2013 1:34 am

Sounds like you have all the reasons you need; you just need to decide. Why not just do the Ph.D later on? I had a TA in undergrad who got into law not knowing why, practiced law until he paid all his debts, then went into a phD program to follow his passion. Why not that? If it is your true passion, it will still be your passion later, assuming dropping the JD right now isn't an option.

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gobuffs10
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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby gobuffs10 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 1:37 am

MrSparkle wrote:Sounds like you have all the reasons you need; you just need to decide. Why not just do the Ph.D later on? I had a TA in undergrad who got into law not knowing why, practiced law until he paid all his debts, then went into a phD program to follow his passion. Why not that? If it is your true passion, it will still be your passion later, assuming dropping the JD right now isn't an option.


Not an option I considered, and also not a bad one. Thanks for the tip.

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Shmoopy
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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby Shmoopy » Thu Jan 03, 2013 1:55 am

If you want to get a phd in philosophy just to stimulate your mind, couldn't that goal be served just as well by reading and writing in your spare time, outside of a degree program? The life of the mind doesn't end outside of school... Write a blog or something. A blog really isn't much more bogus than a useless phd and it's free too!

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gobuffs10
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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby gobuffs10 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 2:10 am

You guys are good at this. I like you.

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Doorkeeper
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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby Doorkeeper » Thu Jan 03, 2013 2:34 am

What school do you go to? If you don't want to answer that, what is the philosophy department at your school ranked on Leiter's Philosophical Gourmet ranking?

This could only possibly make sense if you want to go into academia, and even then it only makes sense if your school's philosophy department is good enough for it to give you a decent chance at being hired.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jan 03, 2013 2:46 am

I have a PhD (not in philosophy, but in the humanities). I am as much about learning for learning's sake as the next person, but a humanities PhD does nothing but prepare you to be a research professor and there are no jobs anymore. Also, the PhD tends to mess with your head. If you want to practice law in the traditional sense, it won't do anything for you. If you want to be an academic, though, I actually don't think doing the JD first would hurt you (I know a number of JD --> PhDs who have excelled). Apart from the no jobs thing.

Also, you should never go into debt to do a PhD. Never never never. It's not like law school, where the tippy top schools are worth sticker price - no humanities PhD is worth sticker. For one thing, top programs only accept students they can fund - it's the TTT equivalents that make you pay. The trade off for no debt is that humanities PhDs take a really long time, so you're losing the chance to earn an income AND you have no non-academic work experience for that period, so when you don't get an academic jobs, other employers think you're a freak. (Maybe philosophy doesn't take quite as long as the other humanities - I don't know - but the humanities take the longest time overall.)

Don't mean to sound bitter. :wink:

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Richie Tenenbaum
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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby Richie Tenenbaum » Thu Jan 03, 2013 2:49 am

Doorkeeper wrote:What school do you go to? If you don't want to answer that, what is the philosophy department at your school ranked on Leiter's Philosophical Gourmet ranking?

This could only possibly make sense if you want to go into academia, and even then it only makes sense if your school's philosophy department is good enough for it to give you a decent chance at being hired.


^This. Only do a JD/PhD in philosophy if your sole goal is academia (either in law or philosophy). And your school's ability to place you in a law school or philosophy department is of vital importance. If you go to a non-T14 and the philosophy department isn't one of the top ones, then you are putting all your eggs in a pretty shitty basket. Additionally, if you go to a law school that gives you a decent shot at legal academia, then the PhD in philosophy only adds a little to your marketability (unless you are gunning for jurisprudence, but keep in mind that area isn't really an in demand area for hiring for most law schools).

If you want to actually practice law, then getting a PhD in philosophy is a terrible idea. It will hurt your chances at being hired most places and it really messes with the normal hiring model for biglaw. If you want to practice law and still dabble in philosophy classes, then just take legal philosophy classes and try to take a few grad school philosophy classes (most law schools allow you to take a certain amount of non-law grad school classes). And a PhD in philosophy will always be there if you want to go back to it after practicing law for a few years.

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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby gobuffs10 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 3:10 am

Doorkeeper, my school is tied for 22 of 50 on Leiter's site, so middle of the pack.

A Nony, you don't sound bitter. I actually really appreciate the perspective, as I don't know anyone with or pursuing both degrees. What you said makes a lot of sense.

And Richie, I don't go to a T14 law school. As far as our philosophy department, I know it's well-regarded, but not as highly regarded as it needs to be for this to be worth it, I think. I had a professor in undergrad who did his PhD in the department, but that's my only outside contact with it.

I've actually spoken with Brian Leiter via email (not sure if this constitutes name dropping because he's an academic, but I'll be clear that this is for additional context only), and he told me that our philosophy department is a good one. Whether he did that out of kindness or truth, I don't know.

Thanks for the responses. I was hesitant to post this for fear of ridicule, so I've been pleasantly surprised. I think that this is something for later in life.

Pokemon
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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby Pokemon » Thu Jan 03, 2013 4:39 am

A JD/PhD makes the JD useless. If you really want the PhD, do the PhD first (for PhD you get stipend, so it is just opportunity cost), then see whether you get a job, and if not, then do the JD.

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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby Black-Blue » Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:43 am

As the above poster suggested, there is no added value to either degree in a JD/PhD (in philosophy). Either one or the other is going to be useless when you move away from academia. So pick which one.

The only exception to the above is if your programs are super-elite, in which case a tenure track academic path would benefit from a JD/PhD synergy. But I wouldn't bet on this unless you're going to HYS.

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Postby Myself » Thu Jan 03, 2013 12:30 pm

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NotMyRealName09
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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 1:31 pm

I was a philosophy undergrad major too. I knew it was PhD or JD (or bust). While I love me some philosophizing, for me the question was, where can I make the most impact on the world? As I probably am not the next Kant, I opted for law school. There aren't a lot of philosophy jobs in academia to begin with, and it's not like I was Oxford educated or anything.

Turns out the philosophy degree was PERFECT preparation for law school. In philosophy you read something deep, you think about what is being said, you divine the deeper meaning, then you write some bullshit about what it all means. Welcome to law school! You will be way ahead of your peers in your ability to read something unfamiliar and understand what nuanced point the author is attempting to make. And you'll be way ahead of your peers in taking that nuanced point and playing with it in words. I doubt I would have aced law school if I had not studied philosophy in undergrad.

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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 1:39 pm

gobuffs10 wrote:If I didn't want to be a lawyer, my other choice was to get a PhD in philosophy, as I'm attracted to fields with outstanding job prospects. As it turns out, I go to a school with a JD/PhD in philosophy. From talking with other dual-degree students, it sounds like it's easier for students already in grad/professional school to get accepted into another program than it is to get accepted right from undergrad. Hopefully, then, I'll have a shot at getting in if I want to.

I met with one of my law professors to talk about this degree option, and he advised against it. His reasons were that I'd be spending extra time not working in the legal field for an even more useless second degree, and that legal employers would frown upon that. He told me a law firm would see a JD/PhD and not really know what to make of it. Conversely, a JD would likely be a turn-off for academic employers (not that there are any). So, after that meeting, I made up my mind against pursuing the PhD.

The past month or so, however, it's been on my mind quite a bit. Cons abound, and the only pro seems to be that I'd get to continue to study something I'm passionate about. My idealistic side believes that higher education should be about furthering knowledge, finances be damned. My practical side knows that I'm already undertaking a pile of debt for bad employment opportunities, and adding a PhD is only going to make things worse.

Is there anyone who thinks this is a good idea (or at least not the worst idea of all time)? Half the time my brain knows that this is a terrible idea, and the other half says do what you love because law can wait a few more years. I need a dose of reason, if anybody would care to provide it.


And don't worry, your idealism will slowly be crushed by the nihilistic reality of helping asshole A sue asshole B because they are both rich assholes attempting to assert power over each other. The world is a machine - BE A COG! DIRECT THE FORCE!

questcertainty
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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby questcertainty » Thu Jan 03, 2013 2:10 pm

OP: I just wrote you a fairly long PM about this issue, since I’m writing my dissertation now in philosophy and have made something like this choice already.

Anybody else who has questions about doing the philosophy Ph.D. and wants some sense about the job prospects (spoiler: typically pretty bleak), just PM me.

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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby Doorkeeper » Thu Jan 03, 2013 3:15 pm

gobuffs10 wrote:Doorkeeper, my school is tied for 22 of 50 on Leiter's site, so middle of the pack.

Your department is indeed a good one, but job prospects are decidedly bleak in academia for anyone who comes out of your school with a JD/PhD for three reasons: 1) Your law school is not a T14, so your prospects of legal academia employment are low, and 2) Your philosophy department is not in the top 15, so your prospects of philosophy department hiring are low, and 3) The strengths of your philosophy department are not in those subareas of philosophy that intersect with the law.

Philosophy is in a really, really shitty position right now and hiring has been at its lowest point in recent memory. Obviously you would be coming on the market 6-7 years from now, but I doubt the market will get back to its 2005 days.

If you absolutely have your heart set on pursuing academia, the only good course of action here (I think) would be to only get a Philosophy PhD if you can get into a top 10 program after you finish your JD. Take a few graduate classes in the philosophy department of your current school, get to know your professors, and then apply after you finish law school. You will need the prestige of the PhD to pull up the lack of prestige of your JD.

If you want to work in the "real world" and can envision yourself happy and fulfilled in a non-academia job, don't go for academia.

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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby questcertainty » Thu Jan 03, 2013 3:20 pm

Doorkeeper wrote:
gobuffs10 wrote:Doorkeeper, my school is tied for 22 of 50 on Leiter's site, so middle of the pack.

Your department is indeed a good one, but job prospects are decidedly bleak in academia for anyone who comes out of your school with a JD/PhD for three reasons: 1) Your law school is not a T14, so your prospects of legal academia employment are low, and 2) Your philosophy department is not in the top 15, so your prospects of philosophy department hiring are low, and 3) The strengths of your philosophy department are not in those subareas of philosophy that intersect with the law.

Philosophy is in a really, really shitty position right now and hiring has been at its lowest point in recent memory. Obviously you would be coming on the market 6-7 years from now, but I doubt the market will get back to its 2005 days.

If you absolutely have your heart set on pursuing academia, the only good course of action here (I think) would be to only get a Philosophy PhD if you can get into a top 10 program after you finish your JD. Take a few graduate classes in the philosophy department of your current school, get to know your professors, and then apply after you finish law school. You will need the prestige of the PhD to pull up the lack of prestige of your JD.

If you want to work in the "real world" and can envision yourself happy and fulfilled in a non-academia job, don't go for academia.


Seconded, on all points.

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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby gman1978 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 3:25 pm

gobuffs10 wrote:Doorkeeper, my school is tied for 22 of 50 on Leiter's site, so middle of the pack.

A Nony, you don't sound bitter. I actually really appreciate the perspective, as I don't know anyone with or pursuing both degrees. What you said makes a lot of sense.

And Richie, I don't go to a T14 law school. As far as our philosophy department, I know it's well-regarded, but not as highly regarded as it needs to be for this to be worth it, I think. I had a professor in undergrad who did his PhD in the department, but that's my only outside contact with it.

I've actually spoken with Brian Leiter via email (not sure if this constitutes name dropping because he's an academic, but I'll be clear that this is for additional context only), and he told me that our philosophy department is a good one. Whether he did that out of kindness or truth, I don't know.

Thanks for the responses. I was hesitant to post this for fear of ridicule, so I've been pleasantly surprised. I think that this is something for later in life.


To chime in again, a critique of the legal profession (and an accurate one) is that many partners or people in great spots (in house counsel) would never be able to get those positions given where there JD is from in this economy. The situation in philosophy and similar fields (history, english, comparative literature, classics) is actually much worse: much less than 1/2 of people of in tenured positions would be able to get their job if applying today, and whereas a problem with law school is that there is ~ 2 graduates for every 1 legal job, in academia among the elite programs there are approximately 4-5 graduates for every 1 job, and if you take into account all PhD recipients there are between 20-40 graduates for every job. So even attending an excellent philosophy program (let's say Harvard) the odds of getting a job are significantly less likely than getting big law out of an equivalent law school, and if you're talking about a top 40 Phd program the likelihood of getting a job is less likely than getting big law (usually around 10%) and much less likely than getting a legal job (usually around 50%).

This is all to say that if you want to get a Ph.D. in philosophy for the education or experience, go for it. If you want to get a PhD and then teach high school, absolutely by all means. It's an enriching experience to read brilliant works and talk about them with smart or brilliant people. But its important to recognize at the outset that it is nearly impossible to end up with a tenure-track job, and many professors who are currently in these positions may not recognize the difficulty of doing so any more than a current big law partner, because they have no reason to be up to date with the current labor market situation.

Also, its difficult to convey to someone the fact that the "prestige" of a degree is really only valuable in terms of what it can get you, not in terms of how you will feel about it. In other words, it's great to have a Ph.D. but when you go through a graduate program every single person (all the professors, and all your classmates) either have one or will have one. So by the end of the process, even when you are proud of what you have done, its just not that big of a deal. I imagine the same will be true of a J.D. It might be awesome to think ("wow. I could tell people I have a J.D. from Columbia University," or wherever) but if you have a Biglaw job, and every single person there graduated either from the t14 or top of their class + law review at a slightly less prestigious school, it really doesn't carry much weight. And if you don't have a big law job (or prestigious PI, or clerkship, or whatever) and you have JD from Columbia, most people will not be impressed they'll be thinking "why the f**k are you working here?" or "why the h**l are you unemployed?"

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Postby Myself » Thu Jan 03, 2013 4:04 pm

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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby eaper » Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:56 pm

gobuffs10 wrote:
MrSparkle wrote:Sounds like you have all the reasons you need; you just need to decide. Why not just do the Ph.D later on? I had a TA in undergrad who got into law not knowing why, practiced law until he paid all his debts, then went into a phD program to follow his passion. Why not that? If it is your true passion, it will still be your passion later, assuming dropping the JD right now isn't an option.


Not an option I considered, and also not a bad one. Thanks for the tip.


One of our Phil TAs was an older guy that went into law till he was about 60 (made bank) and decided to get his Ph.D after he retired. Seems like it is somewhat common. He got to teach phil of law type classes.

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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby gobuffs10 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:02 pm

You've all successfully dissuaded me. Thanks, TLS. I really just wanted to do it to keep studying philosophy, not to work in academia, so it can wait.

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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby MinEMorris » Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:54 pm

sounds like the case is closed on this thread but I just wanted to chime in and emphasize that humanities degrees are about jobs, not knowledge. As Will Hunting would tell you if he encountered you at a bar in your third year of your PhD, "you dropped 150 grand on a fuckin' education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library." It maybe different for something like the sciences where you have to worry about things like an objective body of knowledge that needs to be kept up with or facilities like laboratories, but in philosophy, where you're basically dealing with different perspectives and insights on particular issues, I just don't see why you need to sign up for a PhD program for that in the modern day and age. There are so many columns, newsletters, books, articles, public forums/blogs that professors and grad students post on, entire undergraduate and graduate courses from top universities on itunes university, etc. that you can delve very, very deep into philosophy before ever busting out a benjamin.

Of course, a PhD "proves" that you actually can speak authoritatively on the subject, but unless the people you're trying to prove that to are prospective employers, that proof isn't worth 150 grand. GL in law school!

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Re: Fellow students, please talk me out of a JD/PhD

Postby gobuffs10 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:23 pm

MinEMorris wrote:sounds like the case is closed on this thread but I just wanted to chime in and emphasize that humanities degrees are about jobs, not knowledge. As Will Hunting would tell you if he encountered you at a bar in your third year of your PhD, "you dropped 150 grand on a fuckin' education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library." It maybe different for something like the sciences where you have to worry about things like an objective body of knowledge that needs to be kept up with or facilities like laboratories, but in philosophy, where you're basically dealing with different perspectives and insights on particular issues, I just don't see why you need to sign up for a PhD program for that in the modern day and age. There are so many columns, newsletters, books, articles, public forums/blogs that professors and grad students post on, entire undergraduate and graduate courses from top universities on itunes university, etc. that you can delve very, very deep into philosophy before ever busting out a benjamin.

Of course, a PhD "proves" that you actually can speak authoritatively on the subject, but unless the people you're trying to prove that to are prospective employers, that proof isn't worth 150 grand. GL in law school!


You nailed it. There's really nothing I can't get out of a book (the only problem is I often need the books written about the book itself...always a supplements market, right?). I guess I get 3 classes outside of the law school too, so I can use those wisely and it should keep me satisfied.

Thanks for the input, everyone. It's been quite helpful.




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