Should I apply to JD/Neuroscience PhD Programs, or just JD?

(Please Ask Questions and Answer Questions)

What kinds of programs should I be applying for in Fall?

JD/ PhD in Neuroscience
2
11%
JD/ PhD in Developmental Psychology
3
16%
JD/ MS in a field of study that allows me to pass the patent bar
4
21%
Just a JD, joint degrees are a waste of time
10
53%
 
Total votes: 19

nadiaorf
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:53 pm

Should I apply to JD/Neuroscience PhD Programs, or just JD?

Postby nadiaorf » Tue Jul 23, 2013 12:38 am

Hey guys, first time poster here. I've used this forum as a resource for LSAT prep and have used and abused the search function, but for my specific situation I think I need some personalized advice from the geniuses of TLS.

About me:
- 3.9 LSAC GPA, will graduate with a BS in Psychology and a minor in Math from a large research university in December and would like to apply to start law school in Fall of 2014
- extensive neuroscience/neurophys research experience, honors program, and honors senior thesis. I am published on three abstracts, countless posters, and hopefully a Science article by the end of this year
- As it stands currently, I am a competitive applicant for both Psychology, Neuroscience, and Biostatistics/public health graduate programs, but I don't want to devote my life to fighting for a tenure spot to be a professor at a university conducting research
- I got a 165 on the June 2013 LSAT and am currently studying for a retake in October (aiming for 170+, but that's never certain)
- I've always wanted to be an attorney, and the areas of law that interest me are criminal law, PI, or possibly IP
- I am extremely debt-aversive and would rather go to a top regional school with $$$ than pay sticker somewhere better

I've been toying with the idea of taking the GRE and applying to the two joint JD/Neuroscience PhD programs that exist, UW-Madison and Vanderbilt, along with the rest of my JD apps. I am extremely interested in researching how the brain affects criminal actions, and overall I would love to become an attorney who works with these type of criminals, a professor, or some type of government policy consultant.

My questions for you:

1) Is a joint degree worth the extra time? Most of these programs are 7-8 years. However, the graduate school offers much more funding that comes from research assistantships, and sometimes the JD is piggy-backed on for almost free.

2) Do the jobs I am picturing coming out of my JD/PhD even exist? If not, would the PhD make me more competitive in the PI/crim law market?

3) Would a joint degree with a different program be more worth my time? ie. a master's in pharmacology and passing the patent bar

Thanks so much for your help and time!

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22842
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Should I apply to JD/Neuroscience PhD Programs, or just JD?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:15 am

Honestly, I don't see how having a Ph.D. like that would be helpful in doing criminal defense. I could see you getting called as an expert witness if your research ended up addressing things like the circumstances under which defendants confess or (for sentencing) if your research suggested mitigation or aggravation (e.g. your research proves that kids who get beat when young have much weaker impulse control so the defendant really couldn't stop himself from committing that crime [that's a terrible example but hopefully it gives you an idea]). I could also see you doing research on criminal defendants' brains or the like. The thing is that it doesn't seem to me that if you were the actual lawyer, any of that expertise would help much - you couldn't testify or bring in your own expert knowledge about neuroscience, and in the average criminal case, I don't think any of that knowledge would be relevant. Whether or not the police were justified in stopping John Defendant, which led them to find meth in his car, has very little to do with how the criminal brain works.

So it seems to me that the PhD would be more relevant to becoming a professor (but then you're back to fighting for a tenure-track spot to conduct research) (it could help in becoming a law professor, but that's not any easier than becoming a professor in any of the non-legal fields you list). Or, in theory, some kind of policy position - I am sure there are groups/institutions that work for criminal defendants' rights, but I don't know enough about what they do to say whether that's a realistic option.

I know nothing about IP, so someone else will have to speak to that.

nadiaorf
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:53 pm

Re: Should I apply to JD/Neuroscience PhD Programs, or just JD?

Postby nadiaorf » Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:33 am

Thanks for the response, to clarify re: professor jobs, I would be interested in teaching law at an interdisciplinary level a la neuroscience or psychology or public policy. I would love to know how hard these types of jobs would be to get and what kind of schooling I should go for. I am not interested in being a tenure-track psychology professor at a research university.

I agree with the notion that the neuroscience PhD would not help me in any way as a fully practicing attorney, it seems like wishful thinking to specialize that far and expect there to be a niche. Is it a feasible career trajectory if I got both degrees, worked as a criminal defense lawyer for 5-10 years, and then applied that knowledge to a government consulting/ law professor/ brain research job afterwards?

a-quad
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Aug 24, 2012 11:15 am

Re: Should I apply to JD/Neuroscience PhD Programs, or just JD?

Postby a-quad » Thu Jul 25, 2013 4:57 pm

Absolutely, but only if the JD is free. Those PhD programs are 5-7 years (I have a friend in one), and the odds of getting a job that will let you service the debt+interest (post docs are not well paid) is hard to say. But a niche like that could be really interesting, and expert witnesses can charge a lot of money for very little work.

User avatar
JuTMSY4
Posts: 265
Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:40 pm

Re: Should I apply to JD/Neuroscience PhD Programs, or just JD?

Postby JuTMSY4 » Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:10 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Honestly, I don't see how having a Ph.D. like that would be helpful


ftfy

There's no option for PhD only.

Edited to add: you sound like you have two different interests. That's great, but they're generally incompatible in terms of actual work. Law school generally isn't an academic exercise (IMHO), where as PhDs are. And to be honest, most masters work is also fairly useless attached to a JD.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22842
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Should I apply to JD/Neuroscience PhD Programs, or just JD?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jul 25, 2013 6:15 pm

nadiaorf wrote:Thanks for the response, to clarify re: professor jobs, I would be interested in teaching law at an interdisciplinary level a la neuroscience or psychology or public policy. I would love to know how hard these types of jobs would be to get and what kind of schooling I should go for. I am not interested in being a tenure-track psychology professor at a research university.

I agree with the notion that the neuroscience PhD would not help me in any way as a fully practicing attorney, it seems like wishful thinking to specialize that far and expect there to be a niche. Is it a feasible career trajectory if I got both degrees, worked as a criminal defense lawyer for 5-10 years, and then applied that knowledge to a government consulting/ law professor/ brain research job afterwards?

Teaching law is a really hard job to get. Search "academia" here - there are a bunch of threads.

And I agree with the last poster, you're really looking at two different paths, or two different kinds of interest in criminality. Criminal defense just doesn't have anything to do with researching how criminals' brains are different from non-criminals' brains.

Jacques_Bentley
Posts: 41
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:49 pm

Re: Should I apply to JD/Neuroscience PhD Programs, or just JD?

Postby Jacques_Bentley » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:21 am

nadiaorf wrote:Hey guys, first time poster here. I've used this forum as a resource for LSAT prep and have used and abused the search function, but for my specific situation I think I need some personalized advice from the geniuses of TLS.

About me:
- 3.9 LSAC GPA, will graduate with a BS in Psychology and a minor in Math from a large research university in December and would like to apply to start law school in Fall of 2014
- extensive neuroscience/neurophys research experience, honors program, and honors senior thesis. I am published on three abstracts, countless posters, and hopefully a Science article by the end of this year
- As it stands currently, I am a competitive applicant for both Psychology, Neuroscience, and Biostatistics/public health graduate programs, but I don't want to devote my life to fighting for a tenure spot to be a professor at a university conducting research
- I got a 165 on the June 2013 LSAT and am currently studying for a retake in October (aiming for 170+, but that's never certain)
- I've always wanted to be an attorney, and the areas of law that interest me are criminal law, PI, or possibly IP
- I am extremely debt-aversive and would rather go to a top regional school with $$$ than pay sticker somewhere better

I've been toying with the idea of taking the GRE and applying to the two joint JD/Neuroscience PhD programs that exist, UW-Madison and Vanderbilt, along with the rest of my JD apps. I am extremely interested in researching how the brain affects criminal actions, and overall I would love to become an attorney who works with these type of criminals, a professor, or some type of government policy consultant.

My questions for you:

1) Is a joint degree worth the extra time? Most of these programs are 7-8 years. However, the graduate school offers much more funding that comes from research assistantships, and sometimes the JD is piggy-backed on for almost free.

2) Do the jobs I am picturing coming out of my JD/PhD even exist? If not, would the PhD make me more competitive in the PI/crim law market?

3) Would a joint degree with a different program be more worth my time? ie. a master's in pharmacology and passing the patent bar

Thanks so much for your help and time!


What exactly do you mean by "these type of criminals?" What "type" of criminal do you have in mind? Neuroscience is a fascinating and important field, but there is also a lot of junk / pseudoscience / neurobabble floating out there.

To answer your questions:

1) Depending on the market and the pedigree of the school, the joint degree can be a great idea if you're trying to break into academia, or if you're looking to become a researcher or expert witness or something. It will not help you, and may even hurt you, for criminal defense work. IMO.

2) Depends on which jobs you are picturing. You mentioned quite a few, and they are all different from one another.

-Academic positions are certainly available, but are fiercely competitive. Be willing to move to the middle of nowhere for a job if you take this route.

-I don't know much about consulting jobs. But I imagine that government positions of the kind you are envisioning would be fairly rare, if they exist. Forensic psychologists are more common, but neuroscience is still fairly cutting-edge and niche.

-The PhD would not make you a more competitive lawyer. The only area in which a PhD *might* justify the opportunity cost would be IP, and even that is a stretch. And it wouldn't be in neuroscience anyway.

3) Generally, anything beyond a JD is not worth it if your primary goal is to practice law. The only exceptions I can think of are if you're getting a pertinent technical degree for IP or an LLM for tax.

HTH.

blsingindisguise
Posts: 1296
Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2009 1:08 am

Re: Should I apply to JD/Neuroscience PhD Programs, or just JD?

Postby blsingindisguise » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:23 am

The only way I could see this combo being helpful is in academia, and you'd have to be stellar and probably you'd need HYS or at least CCN, which a 165 LSAT is not going to get you.

ksllaw
Posts: 312
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2012 6:17 pm

Re: Should I apply to JD/Neuroscience PhD Programs, or just JD?

Postby ksllaw » Thu Aug 08, 2013 2:27 pm

nadiaorf wrote:
1) Is a joint degree worth the extra time? Most of these programs are 7-8 years. However, the graduate school offers much more funding that comes from research assistantships, and sometimes the JD is piggy-backed on for almost free.

2) Do the jobs I am picturing coming out of my JD/PhD even exist? If not, would the PhD make me more competitive in the PI/crim law market?

3) Would a joint degree with a different program be more worth my time? ie. a master's in pharmacology and passing the patent bar

Thanks so much for your help and time!


How would funding and course scheduling work between the two programs?

Do you do both programs separately and receive the corresponding funding during those separate times? E.g., Years 1-5 = Ph.D. work (funded by a fellowship or research assistantship of some kind) and then years 6-8 = law school (funded by scholarship money and loans)? Or does the course scheduling overlap? If so, how would funding work?




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