Law School Discussion

Northwestern JD/PhD v. Harvard JD

Northwestern JD/PhD v. Harvard JD
« on: March 11, 2009, 08:11:00 PM »
Hey everyone,

Decisions are rolling in and I am in the midst of one rather difficult decision. Back in December I was accepted at Harvard and basically made up my mind to go there (that HLS email address is a GREAT recruiting method lol) until I was accepted into Northwestern's JD/PhD last week.

Now I know that Harvard is Harvard (i.e., "golden ticket") but would I really be crazy to go to Northwestern? I get a full ride there, the 6 year coordinated program is pretty great, there are internships at the American Bar Foundation, and the faculty members' interests are closely aligned with my own.

I am going to ASW this weekend at Harvard, but would love to hear any and all thoughts. I am very interested in a career in academia, but with some policy/programmatic work too.


Re: Northwestern JD/PhD v. Harvard JD
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2009, 08:23:06 PM »
I can't speak to this, but I'll be at the ASW this weekend also so I just wanted to say hello ;D

Re: Northwestern JD/PhD v. Harvard JD
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2009, 07:28:23 AM »
First off, congratulations on two great options.

I think this is a really tough call. Consequently, I don't think you'd be "crazy" to choose either option.

I'm sure you're aware of many of the factors at play, but I'll run through them anyway:

--Harvard/Yale/Stanford carry MUCH more weight than any other schools for academia (just look at any good school's professor list: Harvard, Yale, Yale, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Stanford). That said, JD/PhD is more impressive for academia vs. plain old JD. Also, JD/PhD allows you to do slightly less well in law school and still stand a shot at academia if you are a great PhD student, whereas a straight JD requires you really be at the very top of the class, even at top schools.

--Harvard is much bigger and has a higher-caliber student body on average. Thus it will be harder to do well and harder to form relationships with professors (important for legal academia). How much harder? I don't know.

--6 vs. 3 years. How sure are you that you want to do legal academia? Northwestern PhD/JD only makes sense over Harvard JD if you're almost certain you want to be an academic. If you're very interested but not sure, I'd go with Harvard.

Overall I would normally say Harvard, but a full ride is nothing to laugh at. I guess in the end my advice would be to visit both schools and with the above factors in mind, figure out which decision you could make and have the least doubt about afterwards.

Again though, no bad choices here. Either program will set you up well for legal academia if you get good grades, and either program will give you lots of other options if you decide not to.

Good luck with your decision.

Re: Northwestern JD/PhD v. Harvard JD
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2009, 07:36:35 AM »
Harvard is much better if you want to do purely legal academia. On the other hand if what you want is to do academia in some area, not necessarily legal, a PhD would be an obvious asset. What would the PhD be in? Also, forget about the ABA internships, there are good opportunities at harvard, some that you don't even know of.


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Re: Northwestern JD/PhD v. Harvard JD
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2009, 07:47:05 AM »
Yea, I was also curious about the PhD program.  Which program were you accepted to?  Do you really need the PhD to achieve your aim?


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Re: Northwestern JD/PhD v. Harvard JD
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2009, 08:20:11 AM »
I can't help you choose, but I will say that I don't think you'd be crazy for picking either one.

Re: Northwestern JD/PhD v. Harvard JD
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2009, 01:48:52 PM »
Thanks everyone for the helpful responses!

The PhD is in Sociology. I am really interested doing research/policy related to the criminal justice system, and Northwestern have great faculty who do sociology of law and other urban-related issues. Some of my advisers have said that if I want to do academia or policy then i NEED the PhD, while others seem to think that the PhD is less of a necessity for policy. My ideal job would involve research, policy, and programming, each of these in varying degrees. I am also aware that my interests will evolve over the course of 3-6 years and I could end up wanting to do something wildly different.

At this point I want to keep as many options open as possible, and it seems that Northwestern could do this better than Harvard. That said, part of the deal at Northwestern is that I have to find an academic appointment within 4 years of completing the program or else I have to pay back 2 years of law school tuition. Two years of Northwestern, however, is still cheaper than 3 years of Harvard.

Re: Northwestern JD/PhD v. Harvard JD
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2009, 02:08:48 PM »
Chicago places well in academia, too.  It's usually Yale/Yale/Yale/Harvard/Chicago/Harvard/Havard/Stanford/Stanford.

(Or at least I hope, because I want to go into academia.)

My classmate's girlfriend is currently earning her doctorate at NU.  I know nothing about the program, though.  Sorry.


Re: Northwestern JD/PhD v. Harvard JD
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2009, 05:38:56 PM »
First, congratulations on these options. If you are sure you want to do academia, I would say that the Northwestern with the JD/Ph.D. is the better option. You would have no debt and the freedom to become a professor in law or sociology. First of all, you cannot become a sociology professor without a sociology Ph.D. Second, I do not think that it is likely that you can become a legal professor without a Ph.D. If you look at new faculty hires at the top law schools, most of them have Ph.Ds. I believe this will become even more common as the market becomes even more saturated with qualified Ph.Ds. In addition, Northwestern has a fabulous sociology department, and I believe their sociology department places well in academia.
If you think you may want to leave academia and work as a lawyer in another capacity, I would say that Harvard might make sense if you want to live on the East Coast. If you are open to living in Chicago, which is an awesome city, by the way!), or anywhere else in the mid-West then the Northwestern degree will serve you very well.

Personally, I hope you choose Northwestern. I went their for undergraduate, and it was the best four years of my life. One of my advisors for my senior thesis was in the sociology department, and I took a graduate course in sociology when I was there. The professors are fantastic. Also, the law school is in a particularly great part of Chicago.

Full disclosure: I have spent the last five years at Harvard, however, and Harvard is hard to turn down. I earned my Ph.D. in biology from Harvard. I will be starting law school next fall, and I have been accepted to Harvard and did not apply to Northwestern.

I would be happy to talk to you personally about both of these schools if you want insider information. I spent 10 years total at these two places (I even took a classe at HLS and the grad course in sociology at NU that I mentioned) and have thought a ton about what it takes to succeed in academia. Good luck!