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Author Topic: PHD or JD?! Help!  (Read 553 times)

smiller511

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PHD or JD?! Help!
« on: August 10, 2005, 06:02:52 PM »
Hi. I'm going to be a college senior this year and I'm trying to decide whether or not to apply to law school. I have a 4.0 and good recs, will be taking the LSATS soon and have done well on practice ones. I am trying to choose between grad school for economics and law school. 2 major things are bothering me :

1) Law school is super expensive but short, grad school will be free but long. I have loans from my undergrad education and I seriously am sick to my stomach with the idea of going $100,000+ in debt in law school. Are there any scholarships? How high of an LSAT would I need to be competitive?

2) I work in a huge law firm in downtown Chicago now. These people make major, major bank but they all hate their jobs. I'm a good researching and think I would enjoy researching and writing as a living; plus, I'm interested in public policy and would like to work for a think tank or NGO. THAT said, the academic circle jerk is really obnoxious to me... if I were a lawyer I could help people, and I could work in politics, another interest.


This is obviously a huge decision and I would be so appreciative of any advice at all.. thank you so much.

NathanB

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Re: PHD or JD?! Help!
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2005, 06:06:01 PM »
If the expense is what is throwing you off the JD, I don't think that you should worry too much about it.  If you leave with 150K worth of loans, you still will be making nearly that every year.

Also, a Ph.D. is pretty limiting, whereas a JD is a fairly versatile degree.

risingMC

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Re: PHD or JD?! Help!
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2005, 06:09:27 PM »
If you really want to do law, don't let the money thing hold you back. With a GPA like that and a solid LSAT score, you could probably even go to law school for free. And a law degree is one of the most versatile out there --- you could go back into academia if you got tired of the practicing world, work in-house in your later years, or start off with a public interest job. Options are out there.

What have you been practicing on your lsats?

NathanB

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Re: PHD or JD?! Help!
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2005, 06:10:52 PM »
If the expense is what is throwing you off the JD, I don't think that you should worry too much about it. If you leave with 150K worth of loans, you still will be making nearly that every year.

Also, a Ph.D. is pretty limiting, whereas a JD is a fairly versatile degree.

NATE!

 :-* :-* :-* :-* :-*

Long time no see!!

Thanks Court!

I've been a bit busy.  Graduation and a job interview in NYC have kept me away from the computer.  Oh, and work too.  LOL.

Anyhow, what did I miss?

lsatlover

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Re: PHD or JD?! Help!
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2005, 06:15:35 PM »

have you read both Montauk's books on how to get into the Top Business and Top law schools?

The business one is interesting in that the MBA is more versatile and the satisfaction among attorneys is much lower.  With that GPA, have you considered a top-10 MBA program?

maximumtennis82

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Re: PHD or JD?! Help!
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2005, 06:22:23 PM »
Obviously the majority of us here are going to say law school. 

Personally, I was debating between a PhD Philosophy and a JD a little over a year ago.  My biggest recommendation is to take as much time as you need to make this decision.  Better to enter a year later than possible get locked into a program you aren't certain about.  I know that if I had to decide between the two my senior year, I'd have decided PhD and, in retrospect, have been miserable.

Essentially it's a personal decision...and knowing your GRE/LSAT scores will totally change the playing field...but assuming you score a 168 or above, here are some of the factors I thought about:
1- JDs from the top schools travel well.  With a top degree you will be able to find employment in any major city, if you dislike a city after a year or two, you're pretty free to move.  PhDs...you aren't likely to get many choices of cities to live in and you will be much more pinned down.
2- JD from top school = highly employable.  PhD in econ I am relatively ignorant about...but I know the academic market for philosophy PhDs is absolutely horrible.
3- Relative debt (and payoff schedules) for both degrees.  This one you'd have to calculate using your specific data.  Don't forget about any interest you would be accruing on your ugrad loans during the 3-7 years of grad school.  Also to be considered are loan-repayment programs of different law schools.
4- Your *true* interest in the materials...if you actually care heaps about econ and think 'oh, i'd be okay studying law', do the PhD.


DodgerLaw

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Re: PHD or JD?! Help!
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2005, 06:33:12 PM »
You seem to have the qualifications to do whichever you want. You can almost undoubtedly get a full scholarship to some law schools, a partial one to many others. Balance your debt with the "prestige"/quality of the law school you want.

A $1,300 investment in PowerScore or TestMasters will more than pay off in scholarship money. Don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to the LSAT.

jenery

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Re: PHD or JD?! Help!
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2005, 07:03:14 PM »
i was in this position (albeit in oceanography, not economics), halfway through my phd when i decided to make the switch to law.  the phd students at my institution (one of the top two in the country in my field) routinely took 6 or 7 years to graduate, only to face the prospect of at least one, and more likely 2 postdoc positions before they would be offered an assistant faculty position at some minor college in the boonies.  and while profs may get paid pretty well, postdoc salaries are averaging right around $42K right now, for a position that requires you work long hours, 7 days a week, with crappy benefits.  i figured if i had three more years of school to look forward to, i might as well have the prospect of a sweatshop biglaw position to look forward to.  if i'm going to be a slave, i at least want to get paid well.

i imagine the market's a little more forgiving to econ majors, but the academic world is oversaturated with phd's and if you're lucky enough to find a position, you usually have to take what you can get.  there's always consulting, but i think that's the mythical unicorn that all phd students hope will rescue them from their dismal job prospects.

on the other hand, i got paid $30K/year for four years with all tuition, fees, and benefits paid for to basically sit on my butt and do nothing.  so from that perspective, grad school was cool. at some point though, they start nagging you about your thesis and then you have to fish or cut bait.

seriously, though, the real reason i switched to law was that i found that the majority of professors and students on the phd track are incredibly insulated from the real world, and that the work they're doing has absolutely no relevance to most of the rest of the country.  i could take ten minutes to explain my thesis project using small words, and a 'reasonable person' would still have no idea what i was talking about, and probably not care.  at least if you're working on something for a client, theoretically that person cares about what you are doing and how well you do it.

smiller511

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Re: PHD or JD?! Help!
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2005, 11:43:14 AM »
Hey wow.. thank you all so much for the comments, especially former PhD students. Really helpful and insightful.

The job market (inside and outside of academia) is fortunately better for econ than a lot of grad degrees. If I can bring up my GRE enough to get in to a top school - right now I'm at 770/800 for quant, I'm taking testmasters and hoping for a 20 point bump, which I think will get me in to at least one top ten.. being American probably will help too. :( Although it severely hurts my pride to think I may be getting AA - I'm sure I can make a pretty good salary (80-100k) upon graduation. It's interesting that in your oceanography classes you felt people were out of touch w/ reality... that's something I'm worried about.. academics sometimes really piss me off for being so ivory tower. For my practice LSATS I've been scoring mid-160s range, but I haven't taken any courses yet and I feel confident I can bring that up. I guess I'll see how I do on my LSATs this winter.. Also I am taking linear algebra next semester, which is supposed to be a really really hard course in our math dept, so I might not be able to cling on to that 4.0. I'll be better able to evaluate my opportunity cost & potential scholarships when I have all the info.

Anyway, like I said, thanks a lot for the help, you have all given me a lot to think about.