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Messages - JG

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I'd bet that most lay people think Princeton has an excellent law school.  Basically, I think people who don't go to law school don't know anything about law school rankings or quality and think a law school is about as good as the undergrad institution it's associated with. 

I did essentially the same thing (chose WUSTL full ride over T14 with $20K), and I don't regret it for a second.  I love the fact that my debt is minimal (mostly just what I took out for living expenses during law school), and I can't imagine having more debt than I do.  It would make me feel trapped.  I also didn't feel like my options were particularly limited--I ended up in midlaw in a small city for family reasons, but I did a federal appellate clerkship first and   think I could easily have gone biglaw in NYC.  The only things I really felt were probably out of reach because of my school were (1) a Supreme Court clerkship, and (2) a law professorship, neither of which I wanted.

I did do very well at WUSTL, though; I might feel differently had I not. 

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: JD or PhD in Biology
« on: December 16, 2009, 12:29:41 PM »
If you're actually trying to choose a between two career paths . . .

Things that are helpful:
-opinions of people who are actually working in either field and are 1 to 10 years ahead of you (if they've been around too long, their opinions may be unrealistic and out-of-date)
-opinions of people with career experience in both fields
-concrete descriptions from authoritative sources of exactly what is required to succeed in various subpaths within each field (I'm talking about concrete facts, like the requirement that one do a postdoc before obtaining a tenure-track faculty position, not vague things like you have to love it or have a natural ability for it)

Things that are not helpful:

-opinions of people who have career experience in neither field
-opinions of people who have experience in one field but are offering opinions about the other field
-salary statistics and job satisfaction surveys obtained through Google searches
-magazine articles about hot careers
-observations of what your fellow undergraduates are doing
-anonymous internet postings by people of unknown background

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: JD or PhD in Biology
« on: December 15, 2009, 04:28:43 PM »
When I said "basic scientist," I meant anyone whose training was in physics, biology, chemistry, or a subset of those fields (genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, etc.).  My primary purpose was to exclude engineers, which is a completely different career path.

But if you have that natural ability in the sciences, you really should stay with it.  Science and technology are the fields that truly advance mankind.

If you want to view doing science as an altruistic thing that advances mankind, fine.  But most people, in considering a career path, balance their altruistic instincts and their desire to satisfy their personal goals (supporting a family, living in a particular area, buying a house, having financial stability).  Do you think that's inappropriate?

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: JD or PhD in Biology
« on: December 14, 2009, 09:24:06 PM »
I generally agree with chevelle and cranky75.

llsatt1, where are you getting your information about the scientific job market? There is a huge glut of PhDs who "really have that natural ability" but can't get decent jobs (especially if they want or need to be in a particular geographic location or can't move around frequently because of a spouse's job).  Saying, "Research is always being conducted and good researchers are always needed" is no more helpful than saying, "People are always going to sue each other, and good lawyers are always needed."  Both are true, I guess, but the relevant question is whether there are more "good researchers" or "good lawyers" than the market needs.  There are--on both counts.

I know a lot of science PhDs who have left science for other careers.  I am one of them.  Not one of the people I know left science because they thought some other path would make them a "big shot."  (On the contrary, I got a lot more admiration and respect as a PhD scientist, and even as a PhD student, than I do as a practicing lawyer.)  We left because we wanted stable jobs that would allow us to do ordinary middle-class things like settle down in a particular city (instead of moving from postdoc to postdoc every couple of years), buy a house, and/or have enough income to support a family before we were too old to have one. 


Choosing the Right Law School / Re: JD or PhD in Biology
« on: December 14, 2009, 02:53:09 PM »
Scientists like yourself will always be in demand, and frankly, our nation needs more people willing to devote themselves to scientific endeavor.

These are the sort of statements that are unquestioningly accepted and frequently repeated by politicians, by the media, and by society in general.  Talk to actual scientists, though, and you'll find out quickly these statements are completely wrong.  The nation has FAR too many scientists for the number of decent scientist jobs that exist. 

Maybe the nation needs more engineers (I don't know), but not basic scientists.

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: WUSTL (25k/yr) vs. Vandy
« on: June 10, 2008, 08:20:12 AM »
I agree that you should think about quality of life, both while you're in school and post-graduation.  An additional $75K in debt at 6.8% means adding an additional $863/month loan payment for 10 years or $520/month for 25 years--payments like that will impact your quality of life, particularly if you don't get a biglaw job (and that's not guaranteed from either school).  I'd take wustl in your situation, but I like St. Louis and I'm uncomfortable with massive debt.  Good luck.

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: JD or PhD in Biology
« on: May 31, 2008, 12:07:38 PM »
I generally agree with weymoo001, though I'd caution you that just because you like science and think you'd like law does not mean you will necessarily like patent law.

I liked science (for the most part), I love writing, and I love law.  Patent law sounded perfect.  But then I did a few of patent prosecution projects as a summer associate, and I was so bored I wanted to shoot myself.  I decided the money was not enough to persuade me to do that for a living. Before you make it your plan, find out what it's like to actually do patent law.  Talk to patent lawyers.  Read patents at (One major patent law activity is writing patents--in particular, writing the "claims" section, because coming up with those and wording them properly is critical).  Skim through some patent bar test prep materials.  Find out if it's for you.

Also, I second the suggestion about health-related degrees.  My college roommate went to nursing school after college.  A couple of years later, when I was still trying to decide on a dissertation project in my PhD program, she had a career where she's in huge demand almost anywhere in the country and has flexible hours and decent pay.  She's also getting her PhD on the side, and unlike basic science, which has a huge oversupply of postdoctoral professor-wannabes, nursing has a professor shortage.  She chose wisely.

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: JD or PhD in Biology
« on: May 21, 2008, 07:25:41 AM »
That graph is not surprising.  My impression (and someone can correct me if I'm wrong) is that the left bump is primarily a  combination of (1) people who take low-paying public interest jobs because they want them (prosecutors, PDs, DOJ honors program, judicial clerkships, etc.); (2) people who take low-paying and less prestigious public interest jobs because they couldn't find anything better (some times of legal aid, some local government-type stuff); and (3) people who take low-paying private jobs because they couldn't find anything better (personal injury law, insurance defense, etc.).  The right bump is where the medium-to-big firm people are. 

When you go to law school, you run a risk of being in the involuntary parts of the left bump.  To avoid that, you need to go to a great school, go to a good school and do well, or go do a pretty good school and do really well. 

Of course, even if you do end up in the left bump, you'll probably be doing as well as or better than most scientists are doing at a similar point in their careers.  (I say that because you're not taking out student loans; if you were, the possibility of being in that group would be much more troubling.)

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: JD or PhD in Biology
« on: May 20, 2008, 07:24:09 AM »
I agree completely with everything surenough said.  The list of questions to ask yourself is excellent.

If you decide to get the PhD and want to have a chance of success, do what you can to maximize all of the factors that are within your control.  Don't go unless you can go to a top university with a faculty member who is well-funded, publishes regularly, has connections, and has a record of former students who get faculty positions.  Get on a well-funded project your advisor is interested in, ideally in a subject that might be of interest to industry.  Assemble a committee of people who like you and who are well-connected in the field.  Get your experiments to work quickly, and publish your work.  If your project is not working after a few months, change it--too many people spend years trying to make an experiment work instead of accepting that their project is flawed.  Assess your skills and desires regularly and honestly.  If you do science for a year or two and realize you're not one of the best scientists you know, or that you don't like it that much, continuing on the traditional PhD/postdoc path is just a waste of time that will lead you straight to perpetual postdoc-land. Have a Plan B for your career, and use it.


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