torn between phd and law school

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englawyer
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby englawyer » Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:07 am

another finance-related point. Debt is scary, but that does not mean that PhD is automatically better than LS financially. The apples to apples comparison would be JD + 3 years working biglaw against a 6 year PhD program. When viewed this way, I suspect both tracks would be about 0 net worth at that point. 3 years of law firm work is enough to pay off your loans if you are very diligent, and the PhD stipend is not enough to accumulate any net worth. You are basically just paid for living expenses.

also, keep in mind that the PhD stipend is also used for extortion. If the prof says jump, you say how high. You are basically an employee rather than a student. In law school, you can do whatever you want: blow off profs, skip class, etc. There is a big difference in the amount of freedom you will experience in grad school.

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cinephile
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby cinephile » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:12 pm

From what I understood, you're considering a PhD in engineering over law school. If so, go for the PhD, the job prospects will be better, you don't have to pay for it, and it sounds like something you're passionate about.

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chem
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby chem » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:15 pm

Plus, if you are a woman, it doubly sucks.

http://people.mills.edu/spertus/Gender/EKNU.html

Though I do have issues with their data not being representative

Bumi
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby Bumi » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:32 pm

sysco wrote:i also love money and doing actual work


Really? Then don't do either and go get a job in engineering, which if you can get into a top PhD program and a T-14 JD program, you should have no problem being able to do. The PhD and JD will still be there in 2 years if you change your mind about having money or doing actual work.

sysco wrote:Can anyone comment on the lifestyle and nature of work for a lawyer (say finance area)? I have pretty clear picture of how an academic career and life would be like, but for law, all I know is just about admission and getting the job, not how the job will be like and how many time the job leaves me to live other aspects of my life.


I don't get it. (1) if you don't know anything about being a lawyer, you shouldn't go to law school, period. (2) The science phds I know do not sleep. They work their entire weekends. They work harder than anyone I know or have ever met. They don't have any time to live other aspects of their life, and it's been that way for 6-10 years. Oh, and they are staying around in school because they don't have jobs.

I don't get this thread at all.

readeatsleep
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby readeatsleep » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:51 pm

i think there is a lot of misinformation floating around on this post, so i thought i'd weigh in and give another perspective.

first of all, whether you are studying engineering, biomed, or economics, expecting more than 100k for your first job after a ph.d is ludicrous. you will not be making that much money for many years. a poster above said that assistant profs were making in the 80s at UMich, one of the top research institutions in the world. presumably, you will not be getting a job at one of the top research institutions in the world. many engineering and hard science ph.ds do not actually go into academia, because the market is absolutely terrible. most go into the field, putting their knowledge into practice in a lab or business.

i am a ph.d student now, applying to the jd/ph.d program at the school i am at (a top 14 law school, ranked in the top ten in my academic field of political philosophy). granted, the humanities job market is the worst in the country, much worse than the hard sciences, but things aren't looking pretty for the hard sciences either. you need to own up to the fact that there is no guarantee that you will get an academic job, whether it pays 50k or 80k. forget the 100k starting salary, the real piece of information is this: there aren't enough jobs in the first place.

so, in the end, the test is this: would you be happy that you got a ph.d in engineering even if you don't end up working in academia? if so, go get that ph.d. is your goal academia, and if you don't get a professorship, will you regret doing the ph.d? if so, go to law school. be honest with yourself.

most importantly, realize this: you have two great options. when you are choosing between life paths, sometimes it seems like one is the 'right' choice and one is the 'wrong' choice, and you stress about trying to figure out which is which. but life is about building your life, not discovering the correct path. either road will lead you to some great experiences, friends, knowledge, and success. choose the path that you will want to have taken 10 years down the road when you reflect back on your choices. if you think about it that way, you can't lose.

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englawyer
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby englawyer » Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:01 pm

cinephile wrote:From what I understood, you're considering a PhD in engineering over law school. If so, go for the PhD, the job prospects will be better, you don't have to pay for it, and it sounds like something you're passionate about.


not to be an ass, but:

1) job prospects are not better. IP Law >> Academia.

2) you have to pay for it through opportunity costs

3) OP seems more interested in the unlikely "academia lifestyle" rather than a passion for the field.

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masochist
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby masochist » Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:36 pm

englawyer wrote:
Purposefully doing a PhD->JD path is a terrible idea. That is like 10 years of education that is highly non-necessary. PhD->JD people are generally those that thought they wanted research but then realized it was a bad fit...I am sure if you ask them whether you should do PhD/JD or just JD they will tell you just JD. This is especially true given OP is looking at a T14 law school.


As one of these people, I have to say englawyer is half right. I'd say you shouldn't do either one right now.

At the risk of sounding like a jerk, I don't think you do not have a good enough understanding of the academic job market or the demands of a Ph.D. program to begin one now. A Ph.D. is not like a professional degree; the degree itself means virtually nothing to an employer (other than as a minimum qualification). What matters are publications, and you get publications by working non-stop during graduate school and your post-doc. A limited number of graduates will immediately land a tenure track position based upon luck and research skill, but everyone else works for 2 to 10 years in various post-docs, lecturer positions, and non-tenure track positions before getting the publication record that can lead to the jobs with a reasonable salary and a path to tenure. If you are sufficiently stubborn, you will eventually land a tenure-track position at which you may make a six-figure salary, but expect to make 40k for several years before that happens. Do not kid yourself about compensation in academia; nobody becomes a professor for the money. Also do not confuse the lifestyle of your professors with the life you will lead upon graduation. Well-respected university departments are staffed with early career superstars and mid to late career professors near the top of their field. To use them as a guide would be like using biglaw partners as a guide to the average life of a lawyer. If you want to hear what academia is really like, go to a community college and talk to the professors there (not that this average academic's life is terrible or anything, but it certainly isn't highly profitable and lacking in stress).

Lawyers make more money than professors on average. If money is a significant concern, this would seem to be the way to go; however, you end up kind of stuck with being a lawyer once you start law school because of the debt involved. If you have any doubt about law, you should resolve that doubt before taking on 60k in debt for your first year. The fact that you are torn between two radically different fields may mean that you are not completely convinced that either one is something you'd want to do for the rest of your life. Maybe taking a year off to consider the situation would be better than rushing into a decision you'd later regret?

I got the same advice when I was applying to Ph.D. programs, and I ignored it. If I had it to do over again, I would have waited a year. Hopefully I would have come to the correct conclusion that I liked both the field in which I got my Ph.D. and law, and I would have applied to a dual degree program as a result. This would have saved me about five years of schooling. I recognize that you might be inclined to ignore this advice just as I did. Waiting a year always seems like a bigger deal prospectively than it does in retrospect. If that is the case, go to the Ph.D. program. You could use the Ph.D. program as a sort of funded M.S. and trial run for academia. Unlike law, a funded Ph.D. program doesn't trap you with debt. You can leave after two years having lost nothing but time.

sysco
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby sysco » Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:39 pm

chem wrote:Plus, if you are a woman, it doubly sucks.

http://people.mills.edu/spertus/Gender/EKNU.html

Though I do have issues with their data not being representative


Somehow I cannot open the link, do u mean it sucks for woman in engineering or law? Thanks!

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chem
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby chem » Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:50 pm

sysco wrote:
chem wrote:Plus, if you are a woman, it doubly sucks.

http://people.mills.edu/spertus/Gender/EKNU.html

Though I do have issues with their data not being representative


Somehow I cannot open the link, do u mean it sucks for woman in engineering or law? Thanks!


Engineering. Should be fixed now

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englawyer
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby englawyer » Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:56 pm

masochist wrote:
englawyer wrote:
Purposefully doing a PhD->JD path is a terrible idea. That is like 10 years of education that is highly non-necessary. PhD->JD people are generally those that thought they wanted research but then realized it was a bad fit...I am sure if you ask them whether you should do PhD/JD or just JD they will tell you just JD. This is especially true given OP is looking at a T14 law school.


As one of these people, I have to say englawyer is half right. I'd say you shouldn't do either one right now.


That makes sense; I was making the unstated assumption that OP was sure he/she wanted law. My point was that once you sort that out, between PhD/JD and JD you should go JD.

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Shammis
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby Shammis » Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:03 pm

Get the PHD, then if you want, get the JD and go into Patent work...$$$

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mmk33
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby mmk33 » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:02 am

masochist wrote:
englawyer wrote:
Purposefully doing a PhD->JD path is a terrible idea. That is like 10 years of education that is highly non-necessary. PhD->JD people are generally those that thought they wanted research but then realized it was a bad fit...I am sure if you ask them whether you should do PhD/JD or just JD they will tell you just JD. This is especially true given OP is looking at a T14 law school.


As one of these people, I have to say englawyer is half right. I'd say you shouldn't do either one right now.

At the risk of sounding like a jerk, I don't think you do not have a good enough understanding of the academic job market or the demands of a Ph.D. program to begin one now. A Ph.D. is not like a professional degree; the degree itself means virtually nothing to an employer (other than as a minimum qualification). What matters are publications, and you get publications by working non-stop during graduate school and your post-doc. A limited number of graduates will immediately land a tenure track position based upon luck and research skill, but everyone else works for 2 to 10 years in various post-docs, lecturer positions, and non-tenure track positions before getting the publication record that can lead to the jobs with a reasonable salary and a path to tenure. If you are sufficiently stubborn, you will eventually land a tenure-track position at which you may make a six-figure salary, but expect to make 40k for several years before that happens. Do not kid yourself about compensation in academia; nobody becomes a professor for the money. Also do not confuse the lifestyle of your professors with the life you will lead upon graduation. Well-respected university departments are staffed with early career superstars and mid to late career professors near the top of their field. To use them as a guide would be like using biglaw partners as a guide to the average life of a lawyer. If you want to hear what academia is really like, go to a community college and talk to the professors there (not that this average academic's life is terrible or anything, but it certainly isn't highly profitable and lacking in stress).

Lawyers make more money than professors on average. If money is a significant concern, this would seem to be the way to go; however, you end up kind of stuck with being a lawyer once you start law school because of the debt involved. If you have any doubt about law, you should resolve that doubt before taking on 60k in debt for your first year. The fact that you are torn between two radically different fields may mean that you are not completely convinced that either one is something you'd want to do for the rest of your life. Maybe taking a year off to consider the situation would be better than rushing into a decision you'd later regret?

I got the same advice when I was applying to Ph.D. programs, and I ignored it. If I had it to do over again, I would have waited a year. Hopefully I would have come to the correct conclusion that I liked both the field in which I got my Ph.D. and law, and I would have applied to a dual degree program as a result. This would have saved me about five years of schooling. I recognize that you might be inclined to ignore this advice just as I did. Waiting a year always seems like a bigger deal prospectively than it does in retrospect. If that is the case, go to the Ph.D. program. You could use the Ph.D. program as a sort of funded M.S. and trial run for academia. Unlike law, a funded Ph.D. program doesn't trap you with debt. You can leave after two years having lost nothing but time.


I agree with everything above. Both tracks--PhD and JD--involve either a significant amount of debt and/or opportunity cost. I don't have data to back this up, but I would bet that if you mapped the level of uncertainty with the decision of an individual entering a Phd or JD program against the outcome one would find that there is a significant correlation. It is no big deal to spend a year or two doing something else interesting before committing to either path. If its the Phd you will have 10 years (5-7 to complete the degree, and then 2-4 of postdoc/lecturer/visiting assistant professor/adjunct) of very hard work where your salary will begin at $15,000 and rise to roughly $40,000 a year. So your net income for that decade of your life will total about $250,000, and until you get out of grad school its really not possible to save money. If its the JD path most students take on massive debt ($100,000+) for three years with virtually no income, and then have to work for three years just to get back to even. So either option is a really significant commitment of time and it has considerable financial implications.

dreambig
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby dreambig » Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:01 pm

If it's a T14 law school that I applied to, then you should probably go for your Phd.... That way it'll open up a spot for me ;)

collegebum1989
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby collegebum1989 » Wed Jun 06, 2012 1:25 am

Sorry to resurrect a really really old thread, but I'm facing the same exact problem as the OP right now as well. Except I'm applying this upcoming year for 2013 admissions cycles (Ph.D and JD).

I spent the last year doing a masters in engineering and was set on law school until I got a international research fellowship for next year with a top 5 medical school. There is high probability that the professor will sponsor me or write me a LOR to the PhD program. It's a program where I would have never had a shot unless I had this fellowship and rapport with the professor.


To be clear, I haven't applied to anything yet, but I'm deciding between the two and the feedback on this thread has been super helpful. But here's one thing I can't get over:

I can see myself being a lawyer (great writing and communication skills) but I can also picture myself being an engineer/researcher. For me, lawyer seems like the road to a "regular" job (less volatile than a PhD) and a good earning, whereas the PhD is essentially a gamble.

I want to know from other "englawyers" how they felt when they made the transition from engineering to law. I feel like I'm abandoning the science and technology (which makes me interested in the field) but I would hate to do research my entire life (or even for a career). But at the same time, I love the employment options for IP, and the great salary but feel uncomfortable giving up my trade skills as an engineer.

Please help me decide.

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chem
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby chem » Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:46 am

collegebum1989 wrote:Sorry to resurrect a really really old thread, but I'm facing the same exact problem as the OP right now as well. Except I'm applying this upcoming year for 2013 admissions cycles (Ph.D and JD).

I spent the last year doing a masters in engineering and was set on law school until I got a international research fellowship for next year with a top 5 medical school. There is high probability that the professor will sponsor me or write me a LOR to the PhD program. It's a program where I would have never had a shot unless I had this fellowship and rapport with the professor.


To be clear, I haven't applied to anything yet, but I'm deciding between the two and the feedback on this thread has been super helpful. But here's one thing I can't get over:

I can see myself being a lawyer (great writing and communication skills) but I can also picture myself being an engineer/researcher. For me, lawyer seems like the road to a "regular" job (less volatile than a PhD) and a good earning, whereas the PhD is essentially a gamble.

I want to know from other "englawyers" how they felt when they made the transition from engineering to law. I feel like I'm abandoning the science and technology (which makes me interested in the field) but I would hate to do research my entire life (or even for a career). But at the same time, I love the employment options for IP, and the great salary but feel uncomfortable giving up my trade skills as an engineer.

Please help me decide.


Then a PhD in any science is not for you. Search for the thread which is callled something similar to "patent litigator taking questions". The lawyer there talks about the field some and whether someone would like prosecution. If you have some spare time/money, I'd study for the patent bar. If you find that stuff interesting (particularly arguing rejections, claim drafting, and interferences [interferences arent really on the patent bar though]), you might like patent prosecution. If you don't like it, you may still like IP work, but I would say that liking that is a good indicator

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Bangalmafia
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby Bangalmafia » Wed Jun 06, 2012 3:51 pm

Then a PhD in any science is not for you. Search for the thread which is callled something similar to "patent litigator taking questions". The lawyer there talks about the field some and whether someone would like prosecution. If you have some spare time/money, I'd study for the patent bar. If you find that stuff interesting (particularly arguing rejections, claim drafting, and interferences [interferences arent really on the patent bar though]), you might like patent prosecution. If you don't like it, you may still like IP work, but I would say that liking that is a good indicator


I don't know if I agree... collegebum1989 are you in BME? I think there's a lot of flexibility if you are.....

Regardless... I think those PhDs that get pigeonholed into research positions unwillingly are those that weren't assertive enough about what they wanted once they completed the degree. It's no walk in the park... but to say that someone who graduates from a top 5 program with a PhD isn't going to have a career flexibility is a little overly pessimistic to me.

Here's my advice. Because I'm in/was in a similar situation...

Ask yourself if the research itself for the 5 years (or however many years the program takes) would be something that you'd feel fulfilled doing. Like... I actually finally decided to just run with the PhD opportunity that came my way. I'm telling myself it's not about the end career necessarily.... and it's not about wanting to "become a researcher"... and it's DEFINITELY not about the financial return.

But I just felt that doing 5 years of cancer detection research, in and of itself.... isn't such a bad thing. Because really... these days its more common for people to run off to Africa for 2+ years all the time doing things like the Peace Corps and what not.

To me the research is just like that. My alternative-much-more-regimented-likely-more-stressful Peace Corps. Haha.

I'm hoping to just keep my eyes and ears open to opportunities that come along the way.

collegebum1989
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby collegebum1989 » Thu Jun 07, 2012 11:32 am

Yeah, I'm BME, so I would do a PhD in BME, and not a hard science.

I love conducting research, writing scientific papers and critically analyzing data. In this regard, I would love to do a PhD. What draws me more into it is that when I applied to the masters program which I recently completed, I wrote a SOP about helping developing nations through my field and coincidentally with the fellowship I am doing next year, I will be doing exactly that. The impact which the research has is what makes me passionate about it.

However, I wouldn't say I want to conduct research as a career. Unfortunately, those that do are so passionate about it that they give up salaries and other opportunities to do it, and I don't see myself doing that. Patent Law (although it doesn't have much an impact on my field directly) is a way for me to utilize my engineering background and achieve a comfortable living (financially and socially). With the BME PhD, most lucrative job offers come from industry where you are pushed towards the research side since you are so specialized or into management.

Hate to say it, but the earnings of a PhD vs. a JD also plays a big factor for me also since I have 3 MDs in my family. Most of my family friends are also MDs, so even though people say money shouldn't be the main factor, it still is a factor. With a PhD, the process is more individualized and hard to track the salaries and career prospects after graduation. Likewise, a PhD pedigree usually leads to great research opportunities, but I'm not sure this is the case with earnings. However, with a JD, and certain profile (T20 school, class percentile, location, etc), you can predict how much you will earn.

Another thing holding me back from pursuing the BME PhD is that you're immersed in the medical field where all the MD's call the shots. I've seen numerous PhDs (industry, academia, etc) who get frustrated because at the end of the day, its the MDs that make final decisions on medical therapies/techniques. I wouldn't want to enter a career where I have to constantly deal with that.

With a undergraduate and graduate engineering degree, this seems like law school would be a lucrative option for me. I also wouldn't mind being an attorney because I've researched all the negative aspects people have mentioned and weighed options.

PolySuyGuy
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby PolySuyGuy » Thu Jun 07, 2012 5:09 pm

Doorkeeper wrote:Hmm. I looked up some engineering assistant professors at Michigan and they seem to make 70-90k, but ok.



$70-80K a year is the academic standard for engineering professors. The norm now seems to be giving them that for the first two years and then after that they have to find their own funding.

I looked up the faculty here too.

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manofjustice
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby manofjustice » Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:55 pm

englawyer wrote:another finance-related point. Debt is scary, but that does not mean that PhD is automatically better than LS financially. The apples to apples comparison would be JD + 3 years working biglaw against a 6 year PhD program. When viewed this way, I suspect both tracks would be about 0 net worth at that point. 3 years of law firm work is enough to pay off your loans if you are very diligent, and the PhD stipend is not enough to accumulate any net worth. You are basically just paid for living expenses.

also, keep in mind that the PhD stipend is also used for extortion. If the prof says jump, you say how high. You are basically an employee rather than a student. In law school, you can do whatever you want: blow off profs, skip class, etc. There is a big difference in the amount of freedom you will experience in grad school.


What?

collegebum1989
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby collegebum1989 » Sat Jun 09, 2012 12:33 pm

I think he means that law school is more like "school" in a sense where you can study without going to class and come out doing well if you study whereas PhD is like a job where you need to work your ass off and impress your PI to graduate.

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englawyer
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Re: torn between phd and law school

Postby englawyer » Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:35 am

collegebum1989 wrote:I think he means that law school is more like "school" in a sense where you can study without going to class and come out doing well if you study whereas PhD is like a job where you need to work your ass off and impress your PI to graduate.


exactly. PhD is very job-like. you need to be in your office for X hours during the day, the prof will "stop by" to make sure you are there and ask questions, etc.

i am not saying its a good idea to be lazy in law school, but its a freedom-related point. there is no "boss" in law school, you can really do whatever you want. and, at least for me, there is a major difference between busting out six hours of reading at the local coffee shop or library on my own time and having to report "to the office".




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