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Yale's Phd in law vs just going to Yale for your JD?

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I am wondering if one wants to become a law professor what would be the best track. I'm about to do my LSAT and while I think I can get a good score I'm not sure if I can crack the 170's to go to a school like Yale at least this admission cycle. 

1-Go to a good school(I'm thinking Pepperdine law) graduate fast( 2 years) and then go to Yale. 

2- Take one more year to get a superb LSAT score and then apply to Yale. With the Yale JD I'll be easier to law teaching position without the need for an extra degree.

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For the sake of discretion, I worked at a law school for 11 years. I don't hold a JD, but I'm relatively familiar with the law school world.

I'd go with option 2, but with a caveat. I'm sure that the paper value of a Yale degree will help you obtain a job, but a job won't be handed to you by any means. You might even have to practice for a few years. The school I worked for certainly wasn't the highest ranked law program in the states, but still, the faculty members were incredibly impressive. There's a lot of law school graduates out there, so the competition can be rough.

Law school acceptances are very much a numbers game, much like medical school. And this is even more true with Yale. I haven't checked the current US News Law School book, but the average LSAT for a Yale acceptance was around 173, if memory serves, and that's on top of an average 3.8-3.9 uGPA. It's a hard school to get into, and even if you do have those numbers, you'd likely get a full ride at many, many other very good law schools.

Something to think about.


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  • 5 months later...

Judging from TLS and other forums, the best way to become a professor in the United States:

1. Go to a T18 school, and get your JD and graduate in the top 10% of the class, if not the top 5%

2. Clerk for a federal judge, shoot your shot at Supreme Court clerkship, perhaps draft a law review article

3. Lateral at biglaw practicing your area of expertise, continue writing law review article

4. Take a couple years off to do a fellowship, again, shoot for Supreme Court fellowship; write and publish during this time

5. Apply for a law school professorship

I think you're starting to see how challenging this route can be. Nevertheless, if you're talented then you can definitely achieve it!

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Pepperdine law is not considered a good law school for legal academics and going to any school outside of the top 20 would be extremely damaging for any potential academic career.  

If you went that way you would not get into the Yale Law PhD program: look at the profiles of who they admit on their website: they have five Yale JDs, one Harvard JD, one Michigan JD, one Georgetown JD, one WUSTL JD.

The Yale PhD program has never admitted anyone from a school ranked lower than 20 and overwhelmingly prefers Yale JDs.  Pepperdine is ranked in the 60s or 70s depending on the year.  

If you want to be a law professor and you have not yet begun a law degree, it cannot be stressed enough that your vital task is to get a sufficiently high LSAT score to have a chance at admission to Yale and to gain admission to Harvard.  Yale would be better than Harvard but if you can get mid-170s scores you will at least get into Harvard.  If you can't get into Harvard, going to Stanford, Chicago or Columbia might be okay but you'd still be at a disadvantage compared to candidates from Harvard and Yale.  If you can't get into one of those schools but can get into a top 20 school, you will have a narrower and more difficult route to being a law professor though its possible.  

But don't even think of accepting an offer from a school ranked lower than say, Alabama, if you want this to be an option in your future, and really don't go to anything ranked below Chicago if your preferred plan is to be a law professor.  

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If I could suggest with some more direct knowledge of this process:

1. You really need to go to a T18 school in Law.

2. There is literally no such thing as graduating in the top of your class at Yale because YLS grades are not convertible into a GPA and no rankings or graduation honors are given.  There is no such thing as graduating in the top 5% of your class at HLS because the highest distinction has a top 10% cut off.  And none of this matters because no one actually cares about your grades when applying to law teaching positions and you will not be asked to produce a transcript. Their only relevance is in securing clerkships and fellowships that are useful signals.

3. Clerking for a federal judge is nice but not necessary, a SCOTUS clerkship is rare and totally unnecessary (though would help if you have it).  

4. Literally no one care that you worked at biglaw and if you practice in biglaw for long enough to develop your area of expertise you will actually hurt your chances on the law teaching market for having been away from academia for too long and appearing to be a burt out senior associate.  

5. It is extraordinarily difficult to get a law teaching job without doing a post-JD teaching or research fellowship at a law school, it is essentially a prerequisite unlike a biglaw job (meaningless) or a clerkship (a signal of prestige but not essential).

6. It is impossible to get a law teaching job without publishing law review articles.

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