Law School Discussion

Engineers in Law School

Engineers in Law School
« on: December 22, 2005, 09:20:37 AM »
I was hoping to get some thoughts and reflections on the law school experience from people who did their undergrad in an engineering major.

Everyone on this board and elsewhere talks about how insanely difficult law school is, how it's nothing like anything you could experience in undergrad in terms of intensity, and how there is really no time to do anything else so you might as well forget about having a social life, a hobby, or even a relationship. Well as someone who worked my ass off in undergrad as an Electrical Engineering major at a decent school, I like to think that I'm used to the intense and rigourous academic requirements that would be expected of me in law school. I can say I'm used to spending a lot of 12 hour days at school working on homework assignments, projects, labs; pulling all-nighters during finals and living on little more than mountain dew and taco bell for weeks. I've been through periods where it felt like the only thing I did was study or work on lab projects. As for reading dense abstract texts, I can't imagine anything worse than reading about discrete-time signal processing, mixed signal electronics, or semiconductor physics. Am I right to think that? I mean, is the intensity of the work you have to do in law school comparable to what you had to do to get high grades in a competitive undergrad engineering program? Or am I just being tragically naive and have no idea what I'm getting myself into?

That's what's mostly on my mind, but I'd love to hear any other thoughts about the law school experience from the perspective of former engineering majors.

Re: Engineers in Law School
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2005, 10:04:13 AM »
I'll probably get reamed for saying this, but I really don't think you have anything to worry about.  If you can read, memorize, regurgitate, and write well, you should be good to go.  Just have confidence in yourself.  If you made it through digital signal processing or solid-state physics, you've got what it takes to succeed in law school.  In fact you're probably far ahead of others with less rigorous UG degrees.

I'm assuming you want to go into IP; what schools are you looking at?

Re: Engineers in Law School
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2005, 10:42:31 AM »
Thanks Coog. That's what I'm guessing, too. I do believe that law students coming from backgrounds in business, history, pol sci, and the like may not be used to the kind of hours that engineering and science students had to put in. (Just in case someone misunderstands and decides to hammer me on this, let me say that I hope no one understands from this that I think they're any less capable or intelligent. I mean they do make up the majority of law grads afterall, and look at some of their LSAT scores!) Anyway, since I haven't actually been to law school yet, I thought it might be a good idea to ask.

IP is definitely an option, but I plan to work in Saudi Arabia and I'm not sure how much of a market for IP we have here. I'm totally open about specialties, anyway. As for schools, well here's my LSN page


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Re: Engineers in Law School
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2005, 11:31:17 AM »
BSME/MSME and just finished first semester as a PT student while working a 40 hr week.  I guarantee law school will be easier than engineering.  I'm pretty sure the two other engineers in my class would agree.  Besides, it's fun watching the liberal arts majors struggle with 'if A then B and if B then C therefore If A then C' thinking...


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Re: Engineers in Law School
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2005, 12:12:19 PM »
I come from a BS in aerospace engineering, with 8 years of work experience.  I've got 1 year left in law school.  Law school is nowhere near as difficult as engineering.  In fact, I sit in class most days and do complex CAD design work on my computer while listening to the lecture and taking notes at the same time.  Then when I get called on by the prof, I usually nail the answer cold.  This is at a school with one of those supposedly "killer" curves that everyone freaks out about.  I agree with the above poster concerning most liberal arts undergrads -- many of them seem to struggle and stress out over bullsh*t.  I've never seen an engineering undergrad react to law school like that.

Good luck.
"What we do in life...echoes in eternity." -- Gladiator


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Re: Engineers in Law School
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2005, 12:27:17 PM »
wow - a lot of snobby engineering grads here i see.

I have a couple buddies who have their engineering degree from cornell who i go to school with. They say that law school is a lot more work from undergrad. maybe not harder than, but just a lot more to deal with. Although, isn't this what everyone says? law school aint hard, but the overwhelming amount of work it throws at you makes it hard.
check the footnotes ya'll

Re: Engineers in Law School
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2005, 01:08:06 PM »
I hold a B.S. in Architectural Engineering with 4 years of work experience and I'm a 2L in law school currently.  I had the opportunity to attend the patent law interview fair this past summer in chicago and there were about 3 to 400 engineers who were attending various law school all across the country at this event.  I ran into several of my old buddies from my engineering days who I had no idea were even thinking of going to law school, and we all talked about this very topic, which is harder, law school or engineering.

The two are difficult in different ways.  As far as subject matter, engineering has got law school beat every day of the week and twice on sunday.  When I went to get my engineering license, there were questions on that exam that I couldn't finish if I had an entire week and a study team.  That's just the nature of the beast with engineering.  You either get it, or you don't. And even when you get it, its still difficult.  Law School subject matter is not rocket science.  Anybody can get it with enough time.

However, law school is more difficult with regard to the overall academic experience.  Engineers come from a background where you didn't need to be in the top 10% of your engineering class to get a good job.  Just graduating with a B.S. is enough to find employment.  Speaking from personal experience, my undergrad boasted a 100% placement rate for 6 consecutive years for its graduates, while simultatneously my major's average GPA was a 2.6.  But it doesn't matter for engineering because as long as you can graduate you have a job.  You don't need to make Engineering Review or anything like that.  In law school you are pushed to make the grade.  The law profession is a very credentials-oriented profession.  Graduating with a 2.6 in law school = public interest work for you, buddy.

In addition to just job placement, the way law school is set up is more difficult than engineering with the socratic approach. The system is designed for you to teach yourself the law so that allegedly the smartest and brightest rise to the top.  Engineering was difficult enough without the hastle of hiding the ball.  This aspect makes law school more difficult to learn in and sets up a dynamic that actually forces you to think differently, whereas you didn't have to think differently to do engineering.  You could do engineering assignments and go home and leave it behind.  You can't leave the law behind in the same manner...thinking like a lawyer requires you to actually change your everyday way of thinking, even when you leave the classroom.  Because of this, when you finish engineering, you are very knowledgable in engineering principles and applications - in contrast, when you finish your first year of law school you are more than knowledgable in legal principles, you actually view the world differently.

All the engineers in my law school class, including myself have done very well, especially in the rules oriented classes like Civil Procedure and with property future interests. So I agree with the previous posters, just attack law school like you attacked engineering and you'll be ok.
Burning Sands

Re: Engineers in Law School
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2005, 02:19:43 PM »
I graduated from a very competitive engineering school in CA and I have obtained my PE in civil engineering.  After 13 years of experience, I decided to go back to school.  I decided to attend law school because I like to argue with contactors.

I have found that law school and engineering undergrad are totaly different beast.  For example, in engineering undergrad, there wasn't too much reading.  All you needed to do is pay attention in class and do the homework.  That is not the case in law school.  Another major difference is that in engineering classes, the objective is the final output or final answer.  In law school, the objective is the analysis and not necessarily the final output or final answer.

Overall, law school is more difficult than engineering undergrad.  There is a ton more reading and memorizing.  Most engineering are disciplined to do the work.  At first it is a struggle to get out of the "engineering" mind set while studying law. 

Just to affirm Burning Sands - I did well in Civpro and Real Property (ah those future interest and RAP!) but I also enjoyed Commnunity Property and ConLaw. 

Good luck.

Re: Engineers in Law School
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2005, 06:45:11 PM »
Though not an engineer I studied biochemistry as an undergrad and then worked for 3 years in a lab researching neuroendocrinology. I am currently half way through my first year in law school. Law school, for obvious reasons, marks a stark departure from what had become my norm. A couple of things that I have noticed thus far:

People are tremendously talented at communicating in law school. Yes - a blatantly obvious statement I know given that it is *law school* but you don't really realize it until you sit through your first month or so of classes. In lab I was by far the most talkative / articulate person in the building and they knew it - used me to conduct interviews, used me to meet with people I had no business meeting with, etc. - in law school I am definitely one of the "quiet kids". This is not to say that I struggle, I don't. When called on, my answers are short and to the point and generally are correct. I feel as if my background has given me an eye for detail that some of my liberal arts trained classmates have yet to come to appreciate - though they routinely amaze me with their ability to wax and wane on for hours in front of entire class about something that is only mildly related. Not something that I was used to coming into LS.

Not everything in science is absolute. Many of its precepts are based upon theorems that have yet to be proven. This being said, however, (and definitely more applicable in its functional sense) science is largely governed by cause-and-effect relationships - add HPRI to inhibit RNases that might degrade your mRNA template - easy, concrete, straightforward idea. In law school you get exposed to some pretty vague concepts. For example, in torts this semester we learned about proximate cause. It is nothing overtly esoteric or complex but when you are exposed to it for the first time (especially coming from a science / engineering background) it can be a little confusing - or at least it was for me. I remember my professor had explained it as "basically it stops things from getting too weird" and I had no way of incorporating that into the grand scheme of things in any sort of functional sense. but you read a lot of cases, and talk a lot about these concepts, and they soon make sense. it's something new, its a challenge, and that makes it fun.

If you read every line of assigned reading without using any study aids / supplements (as I did last semester) the work load can get a bit overwhelming at points - especially when you factor legal research and writing and the various memos / research that you have to do for the class during the semester. But nothing is hugely complex. Spend a night with an idea and by the end of it you should have it on lockdown.

The socratic method is new. We didn't have that in bio courses. As long as you come prepared it isn't a big deal, though I won't lie, it definitely adds a point of stress in an already busy schedule ...

Point of all of this? Yeah it's different but you won't have any trouble surviving. There is a reason adcomms love engineers / biodorks with high lsats - we work hard, appreciate detail, and generally do very well in LS. My engineering and science buddies in LS have all done very well thus far ...



Re: Engineers in Law School
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2005, 12:32:37 AM »
i majored in engineering before coming to law school.  i am now a 2nd year (although I am officially half way done with this hell called law school).

as an engineer, you are used to the time commitment necessary to do well in law school.  as for the substantive material - doing well in law school really means doing well on law school exams.  being a engineering major gives you no advantage over someone that majored in philosophy.  however, with the ability to put in so much time on a regular basis, you have the ability to start assimilating the information earlier on and not get burnt out.

good luck.