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Author Topic: Non traditional student looking for advice  (Read 1589 times)

tyoon21

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Non traditional student looking for advice
« on: October 09, 2011, 12:47:07 AM »
Hello all,

Long time reader, first time poster.  Like many on this board, I'm looking for some advice on law schools.

Currently I am a board certified periodontist (dentist that specializes in management of oral soft tissue diseases) that has a full time practice in Florida.  I've been practicing for about 6 years now.  I love what I do but recently I sustained an injury that may be career threatening.  I have seen two orthopedics and a neurosurgeon with varying results.  Long story short, I have been advised to start looking for alternative careers.  It's not easy for me to do this as I LOVE what I do, but it's also not easy practicing with constant pain. 

I have always had an interest in law...so I figure now may be the time to start researching.

I have a DDS (2.9 GPA in dental school), and a masters of science in oral biology (3.9 GPA in masters program).  I've completed a residency in hospital dentistry, a three year residency in periodontology, and a fellowship in maxillofacial surgery.  I am board certified by the American Academy of Periodontology.  The problem is my undergrad GPA is low.  I was accepted to an accelerated program at Missouri Kansas City in which we had to get our biology degree in two years.  As long as we maintained a 2.8 GPA or higher in those two years we had automatic admission into dental school.  Granted it wasn't easy (we carried about 20 - 22 credit hours per semester) but I finished with a 2.9.

I haven't taken the LSAT yet.  My practice LSAT's have been in the low 160's.  I know I can improve.

My question is what tier of school should I be applying to?  In an ideal world, I would love to go to either USC, UCLA, Loyola or Pepperdine as I would like to practice in Southern CA.  But I know with my low undergrad GPA it may rule me out of these schools.  Should I even focus on any tier 1 schools or just get into whatever will take me?

My second question is what type of job opportunities should I expect?  I am not expecting to make millions of dollars practicing law but I would like to be able to land a salary somewhere between 60k - 80k.  I have heard the stories of individuals that graduate from tier 4 schools that are unemployed and to be honest, it scares me quite a bit.

With my background I am very interested in patent law...I don't think I could get myself to do medical/dental malpractice.

Thank you everyone for reading.  I would appreciate any advice on my situation.

Cheers!
Tom

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Re: Non traditional student looking for advice
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2011, 03:59:31 PM »
If you're set on law school, for your GPA, addenda are going to be your saving grace. Write all you can, as concisely as you can, about the rigor of your undergraduate program, as well as your accomplishments in postgraduate education and in practice. Most importantly, for a personal statement, find a topic that's more compelling than "I got hurt and can't do what I love anymore, but law's interesting!" Find a reason why this is what you want to do and where you were meant to be, despite your success in a previous career that has been stripped from you, rather than seeming like you have no other ideas.

Or, you can skip all of this bull and--if you're willing to relocate to DC--be a federal patent examiner for about the salary range you're expecting from practicing law, with the bonus of not having to be a lawyer and do stupid *&^% lawyers do. It's not just T4 graduates that are having trouble finding work. There are more new lawyers than there are new jobs, by a large margin.
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tyoon21

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Re: Non traditional student looking for advice
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2011, 08:32:01 PM »
If you're set on law school, for your GPA, addenda are going to be your saving grace. Write all you can, as concisely as you can, about the rigor of your undergraduate program, as well as your accomplishments in postgraduate education and in practice. Most importantly, for a personal statement, find a topic that's more compelling than "I got hurt and can't do what I love anymore, but law's interesting!" Find a reason why this is what you want to do and where you were meant to be, despite your success in a previous career that has been stripped from you, rather than seeming like you have no other ideas.

Or, you can skip all of this bull and--if you're willing to relocate to DC--be a federal patent examiner for about the salary range you're expecting from practicing law, with the bonus of not having to be a lawyer and do stupid bunnies lawyers do. It's not just T4 graduates that are having trouble finding work. There are more new lawyers than there are new jobs, by a large margin.

Thank you for the advice!  I checked out the federal patent examiner website....of course the job openings link is down, lol.

Just one question, do you think I should apply to my "wish list" of schools (UCLA, USC, Loyola, Pepperdine) or should I be realistic and target tier 4's?

Thanks again! Cheers!
Tom

justanothersucker

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Re: Non traditional student looking for advice
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2011, 08:52:38 PM »
You can be a Patent Agent in ANY state if you take the patent bar. You only need to move to DC if you want to work for the govt.

If you want to work for companies and those trying to be the next Steve Jobs, you can do that on the side for a contract for stock if they make it (plus costs) and stay a Dr with that as a side hobby untill you get a big enough bite and then retire on it.

That's worth a thought too.

tyoon21

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Re: Non traditional student looking for advice
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2011, 09:30:03 PM »
You can be a Patent Agent in ANY state if you take the patent bar. You only need to move to DC if you want to work for the govt.

If you want to work for companies and those trying to be the next Steve Jobs, you can do that on the side for a contract for stock if they make it (plus costs) and stay a Dr with that as a side hobby untill you get a big enough bite and then retire on it.

That's worth a thought too.

Thank you for the idea!  Quick question about being a patent agent:

Do companies prefer to hire patent agents vs patent attorneys?  Again, not being totally familiar with the field I would imagine that companies would want to hire attorneys. 

Thanks again! Cheers!
Tom

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Re: Non traditional student looking for advice
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2011, 09:48:43 PM »
Isn't there a teaching/research gig you can move into within your current field?  Seems a terrible waste to throw that skill set away for something like law.  You are looking at moving from the position of well paid, well respected professional to being just another law student - nobody will give a rusty armadillo fart what you did before... you are JUST a lowly law student.  Once you graduate and if by some miracle you get a job, you will be at the bottom of the ladder competing with people 15 years younger.  I think you really need to find a way to redirect within your current field.  My humble 2 cents.

tyoon21

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Re: Non traditional student looking for advice
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2011, 11:41:25 PM »
Isn't there a teaching/research gig you can move into within your current field?  Seems a terrible waste to throw that skill set away for something like law.  You are looking at moving from the position of well paid, well respected professional to being just another law student - nobody will give a rusty armadillo fart what you did before... you are JUST a lowly law student.  Once you graduate and if by some miracle you get a job, you will be at the bottom of the ladder competing with people 15 years younger.  I think you really need to find a way to redirect within your current field.  My humble 2 cents.

Very good points.  I have looked into teaching/research and it's still an option but not my first option.  The main issue with dental universities these days is that they have a "publish or perish" mentality.  I was on faculty at the University of Florida College of Dentistry and that was the single force that drove many good clinicians to retire.  The dean pretty much said, come in with a large NIH grant and publish every month or look for a new job.  To get a decent NIH grant now a days requires a PhD, which is another 4 years of schooling. 

I guess I still have a nasty taste in my mouth from my past experience as a dental educator.  :P

My plan for going to law school would be to combine the two fields.  In particular, my thoughts were to pursue patent law and apply my dental background to help develop new dental products.  My specialty also helps as the dental implant market is constantly producing new designs and materials. 

I guess I am still weighing my options.  I do like the idea of working as a patent agent as it could potentially save me thousands in tuition costs. 

Again, many thanks to all for your help and advice.

Cheers!
Tom





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Re: Non traditional student looking for advice
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2011, 02:55:33 PM »
You can be a Patent Agent in ANY state if you take the patent bar. You only need to move to DC if you want to work for the govt.

If you want to work for companies and those trying to be the next Steve Jobs, you can do that on the side for a contract for stock if they make it (plus costs) and stay a Dr with that as a side hobby untill you get a big enough bite and then retire on it.

That's worth a thought too.

This is true. I just didn't want to comment on that, since I don't know what the job situation is going to be like in individual states. I just know that the federal side is going to be going absolutely crazy with patent examiner jobs with the more streamlined patent application process.

Quote from: tycoon21
Just one question, do you think I should apply to my "wish list" of schools (UCLA, USC, Loyola, Pepperdine) or should I be realistic and target tier 4's?

If I were you: none of the above. It doesn't sound like being a lawyer is what you're really after, so giving up three years of income and paying somewhere over a hundred grand in tuition for uncertain job prospects would be an exceedingly bad idea. But, if you can't live your life without that "what if I had gone to law school" feeling, then I'll give you the advice I give everyone else who wants to go to law school:

Get into the best school you can, meaning a T14 school, for the lowest price possible. If you can't get into a T14 school, pick a geographic area where you want to practice and get into the best school you can that feeds that legal market, for the lowest price possible. And while you're in law school, network like it's your job.
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jack24

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Re: Non traditional student looking for advice
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2011, 04:23:08 PM »
Sorry to hear about your injury.  There have been a lot of good points here, and I think Irrx is right in his recommendations.  However, I will say that a T4 might not be a bad idea if you get a full scholarship that you are likely to hold onto for four years.  Patent law is a unique universe and there are a lot of job opportunities for those with a science background.  If you have the funds saved to live off, and if you get a good scholarship, your background might be very helpful in the job hunt even if you go to a poor school.  Also, if you do commit to a T4, try to choose one in an area you'd like to live and work in.  T4 degrees are particularly useless if you move out of state.

justanothersucker

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Re: Non traditional student looking for advice
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2011, 04:59:40 PM »
Big companies would prefer more qualifications over less, so yeah lawyer more than agent, but if you went solo or smaller company you'd be ok to work up a rep.

I know lots of undergrad Profs who become lawstudents. You can spot them out a mile away too (most are older than the instructor in class) but you could go to lawschool on weekends/evenings while being a Prof at a medial or undergrad school. If you just want the JD to add as a title you can look into online "executive JD"s too. They only can get licensed in CA, but if you were a patent agent anyways, it would basicly be semantics at that point anyways. You'd sitll be licensed with a JD.