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xnsch

PhD after a JD - profile evaluation

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So I've got kind of a unique situation. I'm currently a JD student at Yale Law School but I very much would like to be able to transition into academia at some point, perhaps sooner than later. While I initiated my legal education with a major focus on public policy and government work, I feel like graduate studies in a social science field would be beneficial in a number of ways including opening the door for me to transition into academia at some point as well as giving me the social science skillset that I think is becoming more and more important in technocratic policy decision-making and litigation. Most lawyers don't have this training and I think that's a definite detriment to the practice today when technology, data-driven analyses, and more complex social issues are at the forefront.

 

In any case, I've decided that I'd like to at least explore the option of doing graduate studies in Economics (which I majored in undergrad) after I complete law school. But given that this is an entirely new idea to me that I haven't really explored much in the past, I don't know much about how the process works and right now just want to get feelers as to how an applicant with a background like mine would even be viewed and potentially what I should start thinking about right now if I want to apply in a few years.

 

Background on me--

- JD student at YLS

- Majored in Political Science and Economics in undergrad, graduated with a 4.0 and almost all A+'s in my Econ classes. However, I only have a really strong relationship with one economics professor at my school, my senior thesis was in International Relations, not economics, and I haven't really done Econ research (independently or with a professor). I also worry that my undergrad education in Econ was less than stellar. I went to a UC and, with large class sizes and professors that don't make teaching a priority, even though I did really well I feel like I may not have the requisites that a grad program would look for. Most of my classes were theory based and the only really heavy quantitative class I had was Econometrics (which I excelled in, but still) and my thesis in PoliSci was mostly qualitative.

- I have done other major research projects such as my senior thesis and I have the opportunity to produce even more major research projects at YLS, however I'm not sure if an Econ program would really care about this type of work.

- Haven't taken the GRE yet but i'm typically very good at standardized tests, I got 99th percentile on the LSAT, so I'm confident I could knock that out

 

How would schools like Stanford, Berkeley, or UCLA view my application? Does it help at all coming from YLS? Will publishing while in law school help (what if I attempt to use quantitative methods)? And how much of an impact will not having econ research experience in undergrad hurt? 

 

Appreciate the feedback

Edited by xnsch

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You discuss wanting to transition to academia, yet, also talk about gaining a

26 minutes ago, xnsch said:

social science skillset that I think is becoming more and more important in technocratic policy decision-making and litigation. Most lawyers don't have this training and I think that's a definite detriment to the practice today when technology, data-driven analyses, and more complex social issues are at the forefront.

I was a paralegal for 20 years before going back to school and the things you discuss in that skillset may or may not be necessary, depending on the type of law practiced. Are you going to practice law, or do you plan on going straight to a PhD program? I knew a professor in the social sciences who was a lawyer who gained a PhD and taught, so what you're doing isn't that unusual. You may find it difficult to go back to being a poor grad student after having worked as an attorney for a few years. Do you have student loans to deal with? 

As far as how programs would view your application, while I'm not in that field, and I'm looking at this from a general viewpoint , I would think that the difficulty and the tenacity it takes to finish law school, would be viewed as a plus. However, there is always the possibility that you could be viewed as the perpetual student

Edited by cowgirlsdontcry

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Do you want to be an academic economist, or do you want to gain a quantitative skillset to help in policy work etc etc? If the former, you need a PhD. If the latter, you don't and probably shouldn't get one. If you want to learn quantitative research methods or gain some graduate-level exposure to economics, a quanty MPA program, such as the one at HKS, will suit you very well. Even a summer course or a certificate will do. There is no need to go through 5+ years of economics professionalization just to become a marginally better lawyer.

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1 hour ago, ExponentialDecay said:

Do you want to be an academic economist, or do you want to gain a quantitative skillset to help in policy work etc etc? If the former, you need a PhD. If the latter, you don't and probably shouldn't get one. If you want to learn quantitative research methods or gain some graduate-level exposure to economics, a quanty MPA program, such as the one at HKS, will suit you very well. Even a summer course or a certificate will do. There is no need to go through 5+ years of economics professionalization just to become a marginally better lawyer.

Good question. I actually would be very interested in academia, research, and teaching. The skillset made available for practice is honestly a really small factor, if it were just for wanting more skills for litigation I would think of a master's program like what you mentioned and I have previously looked at things like the HKS MPP/MPA programs but I'm really not sure those are the right fit for me because while they are quant heavy I feel like they're not at the level that would open up a spot in academia or give me enough of what I need if I wanted to do serious research in economics/law. 

 

However I have not yet fully shut the door on doing something like an econ MA (Yale actually offers a terminal MA in econ for YLS students only). But those discussions about what type of program would best fit me are ones I'm going to be having with professors in the near future, I just wanted to get an idea at if I decide that a PhD program would be the route for me what that process would look like and how they would view me as an applicant, whether I'd even be remotely competitive, etc.

 

Appreciate the response!

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1 hour ago, cowgirlsdontcry said:

You discuss wanting to transition to academia, yet, also talk about gaining a

I was a paralegal for 20 years before going back to school and the things you discuss in that skillset may or may not be necessary, depending on the type of law practiced. Are you going to practice law, or do you plan on going straight to a PhD program? I knew a professor in the social sciences who was a lawyer who gained a PhD and taught, so what you're doing isn't that unusual. You may find it difficult to go back to being a poor grad student after having worked as an attorney for a few years. Do you have student loans to deal with? 

As far as how programs would view your application, while I'm not in that field, and I'm looking at this from a general viewpoint , I would think that the difficulty and the tenacity it takes to finish law school, would be viewed as a plus. However, there is always the possibility that you could be viewed as the perpetual student

See my response above. I'm sure that for practicing law a PhD would be overkill. I'm primarily looking at the PhD as part of my desire to one day enter academia in law/econ. Its benefits for policy and practice are ancillary to that. I'm not sure if I would practice first before applying to a program. I think I probably would do something like clerk and potentially do some type of practice beforehand, but I'm not 100% on that yet

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16 hours ago, xnsch said:

Good question. I actually would be very interested in academia, research, and teaching. The skillset made available for practice is honestly a really small factor, if it were just for wanting more skills for litigation I would think of a master's program like what you mentioned and I have previously looked at things like the HKS MPP/MPA programs but I'm really not sure those are the right fit for me because while they are quant heavy I feel like they're not at the level that would open up a spot in academia or give me enough of what I need if I wanted to do serious research in economics/law. 

 

However I have not yet fully shut the door on doing something like an econ MA (Yale actually offers a terminal MA in econ for YLS students only). But those discussions about what type of program would best fit me are ones I'm going to be having with professors in the near future, I just wanted to get an idea at if I decide that a PhD program would be the route for me what that process would look like and how they would view me as an applicant, whether I'd even be remotely competitive, etc.

 

Appreciate the response!

So I'm struggling to conceptualize what exactly you want, I think because you don't have a very good idea yourself of what economics or academia entail as fields.

If you want to be an academic economist, like I said previously, you need a PhD. That an MPA is not enough is a given. But then you say you want to be an academic lawyer, and whilst I have no idea what that entails, I'd be surprised if it required or even considered PhDs received in things that are not law. 

What do you mean by "serious research"? If you want to credibly build your own models, you need a PhD - mostly for the credential. However, whilst most MPAs do not provide nearly enough training for testing models, the MPA-ID apparently does. In an implementational capacity it is enough. Again, I don't really understand what you want, because you say you want academia but then you also want to practice, but if you're not planning on switching over into economics 100%, I'm not sure that the PhD is worth it for you. Time-wise, it will cost you the best years of your law career. This is serious: really think about it.

In any case, in your shoes my first step would be the econ MA, for two reasons. One reason is that you don't have enough math background to get into a PhD at present, and the JD isn't really relevant. Another reason is that you may want to get more exposure to what graduate work in econ really is. The daily grind is not glamorous (unless you're one of those weirdos who enjoy cleaning data, of which there are many at PhD programs - another thing to consider), the method we have for answering questions does not appeal to most people, and it is nothing like what you experienced in undergrad. There's not a lot of writing about important policy issues and a lot of dry calculus. A lot of people drop out in their comps years because, at that level of abstraction, econ becomes pretty dull to people who are attracted to it from the policy or political economy side. So really make sure it's what you like.

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Like the other posters, I think spending a couple of weeks (if you have that luxury) thinking over your motivations and what you'd like your career to look like (including plan B and plan C) would be valuable. 

I know a little bit about Yale's econ department, and I think you should dig deeper and learn more about the MA before you sign up. Some things to consider would be: 

  • What flexibility do you have in choosing classes and electives? Would you be able to take core mathematics classes in the math or engineering department (engineering would be sufficient and possibly preferable the way Yale runs these classes)? You would want to take calculus, linear algebra, ODEs/PDEs (even as a combined class) and analysis if you can. 
  • You already have an economics degree, so what sort of courses would you have access to, and when would they be in the degree? Would you be taking classes with the econ PhD candidates? If so, your math would not be up to scratch. The undergraduate program has several streams and to be competitive for graduate studies, you would need to be taking the more mathematical stream, but the competition and workload will be tougher than the more qualitative stream. 
  • What sort of preference would you have getting into seminars, presuming that undergraduate courses are open to you? Yale's economics undergraduate program is overenrolled and you may not be able to obtain a place in the more popular classes, especially if graduating seniors are given preference, as they usually are. If you're supposed to take general undergraduate lectures (PhD seminars are a different story, so ignore if that is the case), the lectures will be huge again, and it may be difficult to build a rapport with professors.  

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