Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

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thompsa2
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Re: Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

Postby thompsa2 » Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:01 am

Ti Malice wrote:
Hipster but Athletic wrote:
Ti Malice wrote:
thompsa2 wrote:This is the first time I have ever started a thread on a forum, and I suspect it may be the last.

thompsa2 wrote:I need to get off of this forum and get back to my work - I can already feel how some of these comments are beginning to bring out the worst in me.


Don't give up on this forum that easily. It really can be an outstanding resource, but you'll have to ignore a fair amount of nonsense along the way to finding the good info.

thompsa2 wrote:As an undergraduate I finished with a 4.0, but that was back in 1996!


With your background, you'd be all but a lock to Harvard with a 4.0/171. With a 173, your chances become strong at Stanford and pretty decent at Yale (certainly much better than the average applicant with those numbers), and full-ride merit scholarships at CCN start becoming a possibility.

You don't need anyone to tell you that this decision would entail a fair amount of risk. But I don't think it would necessarily be a stupid one.

She gets an AA boost dude.


Never saw her mention she was AA, dude, but I'll take your word for it.


I am not AA; I'm white. I research and teach in the areas of race/ethnicity, inequality, collective memory, and the South. Thank you all for the good advice. If I decide to get serious about a career switch, I will definitely take a practice LSAT and see where I fall. I honestly don't think I would go to law school unless I was accepted at a top school with funding - which would be a very long shot.

thompsa2
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Re: Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

Postby thompsa2 » Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:12 am

NYstate wrote:
thompsa2 wrote:
oshberg28 wrote:I would be wary of soliciting advice from young 20 somethings, some of whom have never had a job outside of college, who use the term "wut". With that said, this is a very knowledgeable place with folks who know what they are talking about. The problem is that on this site, pretty much everyone thinks they know what they are talking about when they give advice.

I think you should post this in the "over 30" thread.


You're advice is very much appreciated! This is the first time I have ever started a thread on a forum, and I suspect it may be the last.

Again, many thanks!


Why would you give up the best admissions resource? Just be sure to understand the employment outlook before you give up a job that you can't lose. Nothing in law compares to that - outside of the federal bar. I think you have no idea about the job market and the job market for advocates for the poor?

And don't assume that people posting here are 0Ls or people who have never had a job before. There are plenty of experienced lawyers here trying to give solid advice. I'm back from my job because of Thanksgiving. I'm trying to stop you from throwing away a solid job with benefits you might need, time to do research and enjoy life simply because you are finding it bureaucratic.


Understood, and thanks. I am definitely not one to make rash moves - I'm simply feeling out the waters at the moment. I would not leave my job unless I felt confident that I was headed in a promising direction. If that direction is law, you are correct, I would need to do a lot more research on the job market, take a practice LSAT, see if I could gain admittance to a top school (to feel more comfortable about job prospects), and on and on.

thompsa2
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Re: Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

Postby thompsa2 » Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:23 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:There is absolutely nothing crazy about choosing to give up a tenured job. There are a lot of incredibly sucky things about working in higher education right now, and to some extent, the way that the "prize" out of law school is getting a biglaw job, which looks objectively awesome but actually often sucks, the prize out of academia is getting a job/tenure, which looks objectively awesome but can also often suck. I know from the outside the job security/demands of an academic job look cushy, but they frequently are not.

This is not to say that the OP should necessarily go to law school or will enjoy the practice of law or will even end up employed out of law school (though they sound like they're well placed with a 4.0 UGGPA to start, and I think a PhD and experience as a college professor can be solid softs, spun properly, especially depending on the area of sociology). It's just to say that the OP isn't nuts for considering something else.

OP, something to recognize is that on this board there's an overwhelming emphasis on job security/stability (reasonably enough given the economy and cost of law school and the reasons why most people here go to law school), and after that, on salary (again, see student loan debt). These override most other employment concerns, which colors how people here are responding to you.



Also, this isn't the most polite place, but there is tons of good information about choosing schools and the application process. Some of it may not fit you as easily, since you're atypical of applicants here, but a lot will, if you just look past the tone.


I greatly appreciate your feedback. You summarize my own thoughts quite well - academia seems like a dream job to many people, but the reality is quite different. And of course, as you mention, I am sure that getting a "biglaw" job is viewed in a similar manner, but the reality is also quite different. I do not necessarily have aspirations to be in a courtroom; I actually would rather, with my background in sociology/research, work with a non-profit group focused on issues of racial and/or social class inequality, perhaps in a more research capacity. I would have to learn more about the field and job prospects in order to see if this could be a real possibility for me, and whether it would be a good "fit." And here I am clearly ignorant about the day-to-day aspects of practicing laws and preparing/researching cases.

thompsa2
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Re: Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

Postby thompsa2 » Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:44 am

NYstate wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Someone with tenure in a job that provides housing in NYC has already won the lottery, academically speaking.


I only know about Columbia and NYU. I think other schools may do the same, but I don't know. Housing isn't free but it is heavily discounted. They don't pay salaries that allow professors to pay market housing costs.


I have seldom heard of tenured jobs that provide any money for housing - though some schools in NYC may have such perks due to the high cost of living. The only two professors I know who worked at colleges in NYC both left because the cost of living was so high, and their pay so low. Most of us can't afford summers or winters in Aspen or Europe. The actual pay for professors (unless you are at a top research school or you are a professor in an area like business or medicine), is surprisingly low. We, too, have been hit by the recession, thus salaries are stagnant. In terms of a competitive job market, academic jobs are also hard to come by these days. Yes, I know the reaction may be something along the lines of "then why give up a tenured position?" Unfortunately, when you are tenured at one school, this does not mean that if move to another school you will retain your tenure - this rarely happens. Just as you can find yourself in a bad working environment at one law firm, you can also find yourself in a bad working environment at a given college or university. The odd thing about academia is that because of the tenure system, you are likely to be working with the same folks for 20 or 30 years. This is great if you are lucky enough to land a job in a place where you like to live, and at a school where faculty, colleagues, and administrators have a good working relationship. However, as those working in higher education know, many colleges/universities are characterized by entrenched tensions and organizational dysfunction. Also, trying to move to another college/university job almost always requires uprooting your life. I know many professors who have changed jobs several times over their careers, known of whom were able to do so without moving to an entirely new state. It is clear based on various responses on this forum that working in law is no picnic and highly competitive, but academia is also no paradise.

thompsa2
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Re: Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

Postby thompsa2 » Fri Nov 29, 2013 7:07 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Hipster but Athletic wrote:What do in-house NPO lawyers get paid?

I honestly don't know. Wouldn't be surprised if it's comparable to academia. To be fair, I realize the OP didn't talk about money as a reason for getting out of academia - that was just me on my soapbox.


I've enjoyed reading your "soapbox" and find that your comments ring true in terms of my experiences in academia. I am not one for acronyms, so I have no idea what "OP" means - though of course I understand that this term is referring to me. No, money is not my interest. I have been poor ever since I left home at 17, so I am pretty used to it by now. I do care a great deal about my work, and engaging in meaningful work. In my current academic position, I no longer feel that I am engaging in meaningful work - or I should say that I seldom feel that the work in meaningful. Perhaps at another institution, things would be different.

The idea that a professor can work only eight hours a week is rather astonishing to me. I have never heard of any full-time professor who works eight hours a week. I average 12-14 hour days (no lunches or breaks), including weekends. Granted, I could work less, but I would not be fulfilling all my responsibilities to my students, colleagues, or the college. And I can already anticipate the comments that lawyers work longer hours - if you need to vent, feel free. I've been doing some venting myself.

NYstate
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Re: Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

Postby NYstate » Fri Nov 29, 2013 7:10 am

thompsa2 wrote:
NYstate wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Someone with tenure in a job that provides housing in NYC has already won the lottery, academically speaking.


I only know about Columbia and NYU. I think other schools may do the same, but I don't know. Housing isn't free but it is heavily discounted. They don't pay salaries that allow professors to pay market housing costs.


I have seldom heard of tenured jobs that provide any money for housing - though some schools in NYC may have such perks due to the high cost of living. The only two professors I know who worked at colleges in NYC both left because the cost of living was so high, and their pay so low. Most of us can't afford summers or winters in Aspen or Europe. The actual pay for professors (unless you are at a top research school or you are a professor in an area like business or medicine), is surprisingly low. We, too, have been hit by the recession, thus salaries are stagnant. In terms of a competitive job market, academic jobs are also hard to come by these days. Yes, I know the reaction may be something along the lines of "then why give up a tenured position?" Unfortunately, when you are tenured at one school, this does not mean that if move to another school you will retain your tenure - this rarely happens. Just as you can find yourself in a bad working environment at one law firm, you can also find yourself in a bad working environment at a given college or university. The odd thing about academia is that because of the tenure system, you are likely to be working with the same folks for 20 or 30 years. This is great if you are lucky enough to land a job in a place where you like to live, and at a school where faculty, colleagues, and administrators have a good working relationship. However, as those working in higher education know, many colleges/universities are characterized by entrenched tensions and organizational dysfunction. Also, trying to move to another college/university job almost always requires uprooting your life. I know many professors who have changed jobs several times over their careers, known of whom were able to do so without moving to an entirely new state. It is clear based on various responses on this forum that working in law is no picnic and highly competitive, but academia is also no paradise.


NYU and Columbia have faculty housing that is rented to professors for much much less than market. The professors I know have gone to Aspen where there is a physics institute in the summer and to places like CERN and research institutions. I think most of the cost is paid by grants. But this might also be something that boomers have ruined. Not sure how the young faculty fares, my feeling is that they do pretty well. Maybe science has more money for grants than sociology does?

I didn't mean to imply academia was a paradise. I just feel pretty strongly that you might be throwing away a job with security and end up in a worse position. The pro bono work I've done with indigent clients is exceedingly frustrating because of governmental incompetence and bureaucracy. And we only get pre- screened cases, the day to day grind of that work might be even more difficult than academics.

I know you aren't looking to make money. If you do go to law school, keep the cost in mind. Even a full scholarship can mean debt for cost of living. And the jobs you are looking for are so competitive- you should look at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia and NYU.

But to get into those schools you will have to find time to study hard for the LSAT.

Good luck in whatever you decide.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Nov 29, 2013 10:42 am

thompsa2 wrote:I do not necessarily have aspirations to be in a courtroom; I actually would rather, with my background in sociology/research, work with a non-profit group focused on issues of racial and/or social class inequality, perhaps in a more research capacity. I would have to learn more about the field and job prospects in order to see if this could be a real possibility for me, and whether it would be a good "fit." And here I am clearly ignorant about the day-to-day aspects of practicing laws and preparing/researching cases.

Are you familiar with versatilephd.com? It's a community of people with advanced degrees who are leaving/have left academia (for a variety of reasons), and are retooling their graduate training for other careers. You might find it helpful. My sense is that with a sociology PhD in the fields you describe, you might be able to find more satisfying work in a think tank/research organization without getting a JD - or at least, you could do so as part of/prelude to figuring out whether a JD would be helpful.

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midwest17
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Re: Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

Postby midwest17 » Fri Nov 29, 2013 11:44 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
thompsa2 wrote:I do not necessarily have aspirations to be in a courtroom; I actually would rather, with my background in sociology/research, work with a non-profit group focused on issues of racial and/or social class inequality, perhaps in a more research capacity. I would have to learn more about the field and job prospects in order to see if this could be a real possibility for me, and whether it would be a good "fit." And here I am clearly ignorant about the day-to-day aspects of practicing laws and preparing/researching cases.

Are you familiar with versatilephd.com? It's a community of people with advanced degrees who are leaving/have left academia (for a variety of reasons), and are retooling their graduate training for other careers. You might find it helpful. My sense is that with a sociology PhD in the fields you describe, you might be able to find more satisfying work in a think tank/research organization without getting a JD - or at least, you could do so as part of/prelude to figuring out whether a JD would be helpful.


This. I don't really know, but it seems like if you want to do research (other than directly legal research, by which I mean looking at case law and statutes), the PhD will probably be more useful than a JD would. It also looks like a lot of institutes doing the relevant kinds of research are connected to universities, so you're probably better placed to get into them as an academic than you would be as a fresh graduate from law school who also had a PhD.

Are you at a school with a law school? I think many schools allow professors to audit classes -- if you think there are some substantive legal courses that would help you do the kind of research you want to do, you could audit those classes and then talk about them when interviewing with non-profits for research positions.

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JazzOne
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Re: Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

Postby JazzOne » Fri Nov 29, 2013 12:58 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
JazzOne wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Academia's also not lucrative.

I disagree with this. Most academics don't chase money, but they certainly have the time to if they choose. My required weekly commitment is 8 hours. I make a solid salary for eight hours per week. I could work another full-time job on top of that. You can teach at more than one university if there are many in your area. My hourly take-home rate is higher now than it was in biglaw.

The OP is in sociology, and if I was unclear, let me say that I was talking about non-legal academia (since that's what the OP would be leaving). Non-legal (or business) academia is absolutely and utterly different from legal academia. Most non-legal academics get paid about $3000-4000 per course. (Although it varies, the average in one recent study is $2,987 per 3 credit course: http://chronicle.com/article/Adjunct-Pr ... de/136439/). Teaching, say, 5 courses a semester - which gets you to a princely $40K annual salary - is absolutely more than 8 hours a week of work, nor does it allow you time for working other jobs. If you teach at more than one institution at a time, you're usually not full-time at any of them, so you don't get benefits (never mind factoring in commuting and dealing with more than one bureaucracy). I mean, you could teach one course a semester and work a full-time job on top of that, but then you're not really making a living as an academic - you just do it on the side - which doesn't really suggest that academia itself is particularly lucrative.

Tenured profs in non-legal academia can do reasonably well, if they are superstars hired at Yale or Harvard or the like, and depending on their field. Full professors in history at state flagships, who've been working for 20+ years, make ~$125K depending where in the country you are. Someone (in history) at a branch campus who's been in the job nearly 40 years may make about $85K. I think sociology is fairly similar to history in terms of the the salary options (things like computer science and econ are obviously going to be different). Salaries vary a great deal, however, depending on the individual institution's financial position. But really, I think one of the whole points of tenure is that you can pay people less because job security makes up for it.

Very interesting. Things look much different from my perspective. This makes me feel very lucky to be where I am. You paint a fairly dismal picture of academia overall. Are you a former academic? I ask because of the forum you mentioned for PhDs who leave academia.

I still think that academics are a bit dramatic about the "difficulties" of the job. I mean, you get three months off for summer. If you're not freelancing or teaching summer school, you're just taking a vacation.


OP: How long have you been in academia? I'm curious because I was a teacher prior to law school. I left biglaw for academia.

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JazzOne
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Re: Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

Postby JazzOne » Fri Nov 29, 2013 1:20 pm

thompsa2 wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Hipster but Athletic wrote:What do in-house NPO lawyers get paid?

I honestly don't know. Wouldn't be surprised if it's comparable to academia. To be fair, I realize the OP didn't talk about money as a reason for getting out of academia - that was just me on my soapbox.


I've enjoyed reading your "soapbox" and find that your comments ring true in terms of my experiences in academia. I am not one for acronyms, so I have no idea what "OP" means - though of course I understand that this term is referring to me. No, money is not my interest. I have been poor ever since I left home at 17, so I am pretty used to it by now. I do care a great deal about my work, and engaging in meaningful work. In my current academic position, I no longer feel that I am engaging in meaningful work - or I should say that I seldom feel that the work in meaningful. Perhaps at another institution, things would be different.

The idea that a professor can work only eight hours a week is rather astonishing to me. I have never heard of any full-time professor who works eight hours a week. I average 12-14 hour days (no lunches or breaks), including weekends. Granted, I could work less, but I would not be fulfilling all my responsibilities to my students, colleagues, or the college. And I can already anticipate the comments that lawyers work longer hours - if you need to vent, feel free. I've been doing some venting myself.

I'm an adjunct, not tenured. I am only required to be at school eight hours per week (six for class and two for office hours). And I can get most of my prep-work/paperwork done during office hours (or during finals when there is no class). Having said that, I choose to work much more than eight hours per week because I enjoy it and I like the people I work with.

My example was a poor one, and I should not have included anecdotal evidence. It's easy to assume that your own situation is typical. It looks like I was mistaken in that regard. I can totally relate to the desire to do meaningful work. It's one of the reasons I went to law school.

NYstate
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Re: Current PhD tenured professor considering law school

Postby NYstate » Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:07 pm

OP means original poster or original post.




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