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Law student with MA seeking advice


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Hey everyone, it has been a few years since I have been on this site. I am looking for some advice about potential chances down the road. I know no one truly knows, but I haven't followed the last 3-4 cycles and just want to get peoples opinion. 

I am a 3l law student (graduating this year) from a top 10 law school at just around middle of my class. I am the EIC of a significant law journal. 

Previously, I got an MA in Philosophy from a strong philosophy department, with strong, but not perfect grades ( I also completed a master's thesis). It was a lifelong dream to follow the law, but I am starting to reconsider. I worked the past few summers and have a full time job lined up after graduation and taking the bar. I will take the bar and start work for a year or two. But already, I hate the actual practice of law. I truly miss philosophical work and I am taking a philosophy grad class right now and desperately miss it. 

After working for a year or so, I am considering going back to do my PHD and go into teaching (not necessarily the law job market because I am not going to a competitive clerkship, but into a philosophy department). 

My undergraduate is a small, liberal arts college that has sent students to top 10 philosophy departments previously, but rarely. 

Overall, what do people think my chances might be for a significant department, given a strong writing sample and hopefully good letters of rec. I will have been in the workforce for a year or two. 

Further information: I have been published in a mediocre philosophy journal and I currently am publishing a law review article in a half-decent or better law review (not as a student note). No GRE right now, but I have a 99.5 percentile LSAT so I am not too worried about that. Also, my gpas are in the 3.5 range. I know a lot of strong applicants have 3.9s+. I was a collegiate/professional athlete while in school so my GPA took a bit of a hit as a result. My law school gpa is likewise around a 3.3-3.4, which is at or above half the class.

Any advice is helpful. I know when I was on this site 4-5 years ago, there was a guy who didn't do well in phd apps, but went to a top 10 law school instead. I have no idea if he went back to get a PHD, but people like that with law school and legal employment experience would be most helpful, but any advice is appreciated. 

And to be clear- I will be in my late 20's when I potentially apply. I have no idea if that may help or hurt, especially if I am applying from a work environment and not an academic one.

My areas of interest are in moral philosophy, political theory, and jurisprudence.

Edited by law student
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Your chances of getting into a good philosophy department are good. Your chances of a job in philosophy afterwards are not--nobody's are, even when they come from top-notch programs. For every job you apply to, you'll be competing against 600 other applicants (many--probably even most--of which are more qualified than you are. Sometimes it's 1200 of them.). Being able to fall back on your law degree might help offset some of the desperation of not getting any academic interviews, however.

Don't let that discourage you. Just go in with your eyes open.

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8 hours ago, maxhgns said:

Your chances of getting into a good philosophy department are good. Your chances of a job in philosophy afterwards are not--nobody's are, even when they come from top-notch programs. For every job you apply to, you'll be competing against 600 other applicants (many--probably even most--of which are more qualified than you are. Sometimes it's 1200 of them.). Being able to fall back on your law degree might help offset some of the desperation of not getting any academic interviews, however.

Don't let that discourage you. Just go in with your eyes open.

 

Thanks for the reply. The job market being so poor is why I didn't continue on to a phd originally. I figured it was time to shift careers. However, I realize how much practicing law is not my thing. It will be nice having a fallback, especially working during application season in a year or two. I personally wouldn't leave unless it was to a "top" ranked department anyway. The worry is that I won't have any chance, especially because I will be out of academia, a little older, etc.

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1 hour ago, Concordia said:

Is there some mix of law and philosophy that might be useful in academia?  You may find less competition for those slots.

Ideally I would be qualified for two job markets- the philosophy market and the legal academic market. The legal market though will be a tougher sell just because the vast majority of law professors being hired now have phds in a quantitative field, like economics, and usually a Supreme Court clerkship. My plan would be to go back to do a phd with the intention of finding a school I could cross teach philosophy and potentially law subjects too,  but not necessarily in a law school. Just depends on the school and situation. For instance, my undergrad had a philosophy professor with a JD who also taught courses like intro to con law and criminal theory. Stuff like that. 

 

Edit: Overall, I am less concerned with the legal academic job market, but rather I am here more so to discuss my chances at a "top" phd program, especially given some of the potential flags in my application from my original post. I am also here to discuss ways to overcome such potential issues. 

Edited by law student
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16 hours ago, law student said:

The worry is that I won't have any chance, especially because I will be out of academia, a little older, etc.

 

Don't worry about that. Those factors aren't relevant. Age is completely irrelevant (and being in one's later twenties or early thirties is quite commonplace in PhD programs), and being out of academia isn't bad in the first place (in fact, many think it's better to have spent some time doing something else first). Besides which, you're graduating this year, which means that you haven't been out of academia at all. Don't sweat this kind of stuff, it's irrelevant. Just pay attention to the things you can control, like your statement, writing sample, and choosing schools that fit your interests well.

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  • 2 months later...
14 minutes ago, law student said:

Bump, looking for anyone else to chime in. Thanks for everyones comments so far.

It's a small world. Please give some thought on how to avoid statements like:

On 8/30/2017 at 5:28 PM, law student said:

But already, I hate the actual practice of law.

[...] significant department [...]

[...] a mediocre philosophy journal [...] half-decent or better law review[...]

Alternatives

  • "To my dismay, I'm finding that the practice of law doesn't suit me..." (I am recommending that you avoid giving voice to such strongly held thoughts.)
  • "I hope to earn an offer of admissions from X, Y, and Z or comparable institutions." 
  • IRT journals, people in your fields will know which ones are better than others. Conversely, you will not know if people or their colleagues in your fields have had works published in those journals.

IRT your plans to earn a doctorate in philosophy, I recommend that you practice law long enough and well enough to establish a positive professional reputation. Put yourself in the best position to get promoted and, if it comes to it, to get your job back if additional graduate work doesn't take you where you want to go.

As a rule of thumb, it takes 2 / 2.5 years to learn how to do one's job. If you leave before an employer has had an opportunity to get solid work out of you, you'll be costing people time and money and they'll remember it. If you accept this recommendation, I urge you to embrace your job--the benefits along with the suck. 

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9 hours ago, law student said:

Bump, looking for anyone else to chime in. Thanks for everyones comments so far.

A few thoughts--

I can't comment on the student-with-a-JD perspective other than to say I know someone with a JD who is pursuing an MA in philosophy now, with the intent to go on to do a PhD after, so you're certainly not the only person in your situation out there.

As for being an older student, I don't think that that matters at all. I'm in my 30's, and there are several others in my graduate program in their 30's. It's not uncommon, from what I can tell, although you may find that most of your cohort is much younger, with much less life experience, and that can be jarring sometimes.

As for the fact that you dislike being a lawyer--well, I say, it's an asset to be honest with yourself about what you do and don't like to do, and it makes sense to do what you find fulfilling. I have to disagree with the above comment. I think if you hate law, it's better to be honest with yourself about that. I worked lots of jobs and finally started a career in tech rather than going to graduate school for philosophy because I knew the academic job market was awful, I wanted some financial stability, and I thought maybe I'd find tech work interesting. I realized that I really missed philosophy, though, and I didn't much like tech, so I left. Will I get an academic job after graduating? The odds are against it, but at least I'm getting to do what I want to do for now, and I don't regret it. I realized that I'd spent most of my 20's drifting around between jobs I didn't really want to do, and that I would spend my 30's doing the same if nothing changed, so I decided that I might as well do what I really want to do. What's the worst that can happen? I'll be in my mid-to-late 30's, and need to rethink my career options? That would probably happen anyway, if I'd continued to work at things I didn't really care about. I'm also glad that I tried lots of other things before going back, so I'm not second-guessing my decision so much. I think having some real-world job experience is good. You may also find that you like having a regular job more than you think, if you haven't done it before.

This was my thought/decision process. I realize that law school debts or other practical considerations may make your choice more difficult, and that you may have other priorities. In any case, having law as a fallback option and having some experience is probably a good thing, as having some tech experience in my back pocket is for me.

I'll also add--I think it can be a good idea to keep in touch with your old professors, so that your email asking for letters a couple of years from now won't come out of the blue.

If you have other questions, feel free to ask or PM me.

Edited by hector549
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  • 4 weeks later...
19 minutes ago, law student said:

Thanks for all the help and replies!

 

Do you think a 3.5 gpa amongst my degrees would be prohibitive from getting into a top 10 program (I know that is completely arbitrary), but just curious.

This is just a guess, but I would think that of the three (undergrad, masters, and law school) your MA philosophy grades would be most important. Many people will be applying with a perfect GPA from their MA program (and many of those will be rejected). But the question of whether it would be prohibitive probably depends on the rest of your application. 

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