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Author Topic: Best for academic path in health and biolaw: Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia?  (Read 1599 times)

heron

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Now, that my cycle is over (except for financial aid decisions), I feel comfortable posting some personal details. I hope many of the informed members of LSD who are already in law school and know more about career prospects from these schools can give me advice.

I have been accepted to Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley and received the Hamilton Scholarship (full tuition) at Columbia. I finished a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard in fall 2008, and I'm starting law school in fall 2009. I would like to move to the West Coast sometime in the future, and I hope to pursue a career in legal teaching and research. 

I know that Yale seems to be the best springboard to working in academia. My big problem with Yale (besides it being almost as cold as Boston) is that it seems none of their full time permanent faculty specializes in biolaw or health law. They seem to have strength in environmental law, but that's not quite what I would like to study.

Stanford, on the other hand, seems to be very strong in law related to science and technology.

If I wanted a firm job doing IP law, I am sure any of the schools would be great. But I know that academia is ultra competitive.

From doing some research into the new faculty hires at CLS and HLS in biolaw and health law, it seems like most of them are from SLS.

I have compelling personal reasons for preferring YLS and SLS over the others.

So would it be stupid to go to Yale given that they are not strong in biolaw and health law?
Or, alternatively, would it be stupid to turn down Yale if I want a career in academia, even if other schools have faculty specializing in the type of law I would like to study?

I did my undergraduate degree at a school with no history of science professors, and yet that was the focus of my undergraduate thesis. So even if Yale does not have faculty in science law, I am not afraid to pursue it on my own.

Which do you think makes more sense for me in light on my strong interest in becoming a professor in biolaw and health law, Stanford or Yale? Thoughts on the strength of biolaw for the others would also be much appreciated. Thanks!

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My honest assessment: go to Yale.  Even if they're weaker in terms of particular faculty, the upside in terms of getting into legal academia in general is so much higher there that it probably outweighs everything else.  Just my opinion though.

goaliechica

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It sounds like you should go to Stanford. You have a very particular area of interest and there will be more professors doing that work at Stanford. Yes, Yale dominates academia, but Stanford also does very, very well. And you already have the East Coast pedigree of a Harvard PhD.

And not that you should even be considering Boalt given your academic ambitions and other options (we're very flattered though, thanks!), but Boalt, for all its strength in IP, is not especially good for health or biolaw.
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Jamie Stringer

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Ditto Goalie, especially since you said you'd like to move to the West Coast at some point.
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I think I'm somewhat qualified to answer your question.  PhD in a different field of science, then law school.

The first thing you should do is strike Berkeley off your list.  Nothing wrong with Berkeley in general, but in your scenario there is no reason to choose to go there above any of the other schools. After that, there's something to be said for all four of them. 

YLS is head and shoulders above the rest for academia. HLS and SLS are the second-best options in that regard.  I understand your concerns about the field of bio-law.

Some considerations:
1. You don't really specialize much during your three years of law school.  If you go to a school that is strong in bio-law, you'll be able to take more classes in it, but given the fact that you have only four semesters (give or take) to take electives, even if you go to a school that has your desired field of law, you will not come out of law school as a specialist in any kind of law. The fact that you have an advanced degree in biology will give you credibility if you want to specialize in a bio-related field after law school.  Also, you would more or less automatically write your journal note (something most law students write in their second year) about a subject that goes towards your preferred area of research.

2. In your earlier thread I voted for 1. YLS, 2. CLS + Hamilton, but since you seem to have quite well-defined career goals, I think I'm going to vote 1. YLS, 2. SLS now. I think Harvard without money is not preferable over either of the other three in this situation. CLS is an option because of the money.  See #3:

3. You should think about alternatives to academia, e.g. what you would do if for some reason you ended up not being able to get a job in this field. There are two counteracting considerations: on the one hand YLS and SLS will give you a chance to become a professor even if you don't end up in the top 10%; on the other hand, if you end up at the lower end of the curve, CLS + Hamilton are a better option than any of the others.

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I’ll just add (and I know nothing about any of these schools) that what little I know about legal academia is to be seriously considered for it you need to publish while in law school. And it needs to be more than your note. You need to be writing law review articles on your own, and you need to get them published. I worked for one of the profs at my school who did the interviewing every year for new legal academics.

There is a conference each year where all the budding want to be law professors go and meet the schools. When I was helping him prioritize applicants to interview at the fair (most of them right out of law school) he had me list them by numbers of publications first, everything else second. Then pull their publications so he could read them over.

There are also a few blogs out there that talk about what it takes to get a professorship, in addition to good school is always publications. So go where you can write a lot, and plan to write a lot more than most law students. Many schools will let you do directed research for credit, which you can use to write about some topic that interests you. And you should write about bio law stuff. It really does not matter that much if your school has bio law classes, you’re going to be doing it on your own anyway, and the point is to make yourself, not the professors, look like an expert on the subject by the time you graduate.

I disagree with the other poster, you can specialize in law school (even if that school does not have a program) but it takes doing the majority of the work yourself. Getting your rep out there by getting published. Getting involved in bio law organizations, taking the time away from school to go to bio law conferences, presenting papers at bio law meetings. Its more work to try and specialize than to be a generalist, but if you do everything you can to target your resume and activities in one direction it can be done. It also makes you more interesting as a prospective law professor to law schools if you can belivably pass yourself off as an expert. Schools don’t really give a damn if you can teach or not (see generally some of your professors) what schools care about is publications and having “experts” on staff. BTW you might also consider getting an LLM in bio law after your JD, I think Arizona State is the only school that offers it, but it will give you more chances to publish and get an advanced law degree at the same time.

Anyway, good luck to you.
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Majmun

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Yale.

Stanford is competitive for academic jobs but it's not even close to yale.

http://www.leiterrankings.com/jobs/2008job_teaching.shtml

Private David Lewis

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Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think Yale's edge in academia comes primarily from its name or selectivity.  A lot of people like to say "Yale is best for academia," pointing to the % of professors that comes from Yale, but they never really go beyond that.  I think the reason Yale is so good for academia is that they encourage their students to write and develop scholarship in a way that other schools do not.  If you feel you're set on pursuing an academic career, then you probably won't need as much incentive to develop scholarship, and so going to a school with faculty that is high up in your desired field might be a better idea. 
The main partner in their Entertainment Law group went to CLS, but he was Fiske and on LR, so be careful.  You don't want to set yourself goals that are too high.

goaliechica

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Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think Yale's edge in academia comes primarily from its name or selectivity.  A lot of people like to say "Yale is best for academia," pointing to the % of professors that comes from Yale, but they never really go beyond that.  I think the reason Yale is so good for academia is that they encourage their students to write and develop scholarship in a way that other schools do not.  If you feel you're set on pursuing an academic career, then you probably won't need as much incentive to develop scholarship, and so going to a school with faculty that is high up in your desired field might be a better idea. 

I agree with this 100%. Particularly when you're talking about Stanford v. Yale. If you are focused about seeking out mentor professors who can help foster your scholarship, then it will matter whether there are faculty members doing work in your field.
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Majmun

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Two things to consider.  You say you want to do health/bio law.  What does this mean to you?  Stanford is dominant for the technological/IP side of bio law.  However, if you are talking about health law, med ethics or bioethics, then that's a different story.  AFAIK SLS doesn't have really have a focus on the latter,neither does Yale. Though Yale does have the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics. 

Also, outside of publishing your own work early, the other thing that new hires tend to have, particularly first-job direct hires at top schools, is either SCOTUS or prestigious circuit court  clerkships.  Yale dominates that arena, just like publishing early or academic placing it could be self selection but it seems unlikely that selection completely explains the disparity.