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NeuroNerd93

Can any lawyers help me with a decision? (PhD/age & employment opportunities)

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Hi everyone!

I’m just finishing my MSc in the sciences at a university in Alberta and am really lucky to have recently been accepted to my dream school for the Fall of 2019 (McGill)! I have a really strong background in research but would like to ultimately pursue law for a number of reasons. This fall, when I was applying to law schools, I also applied to do a PhD internationally on a whim. It can be really hard for international students to get research funding, so I didn’t really think it would work out, but I wanted to try just in case. Anyways, I just found out I got a $300 000 scholarship to cover my tuition and living expenses at the University of Edinburgh… and to top it all off, because I’d be using equipment from a variety of places, this position would give me the opportunity to live in & visit a few different countries while I work. So that’s really exciting, and definitely an opportunity I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have!

I was thinking about potentially doing law school after my PhD, but this would also make me 30 by the time I start, and 33-34 by the time I’m ready to begin practicing law (as opposed to starting now at 26). Also, I’ve heard mixed reviews about how useful a PhD is to working as a lawyer (I’m interested in intellectual property), and am not sure how being ~34 would impact my employment opportunities upon graduation (I’m not sure what type of firm I’d like to work at but want to keep my options open for now, and wouldn’t want to be disadvantaged at say, a large firm).

Any insights would be much appreciated, especially from practicing lawyers!

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Posted (edited)

Assuming you remain interested in IP, I've heard that having an advanced degree is a huge benefit, if not a requirement for some firms.

As far as age goes, you won't be the youngest in your cohort, but you also won't be the oldest; I don't think 33-34 would negatively impact your employment prospects either. 

 

Edit: Anecdotally, one of the partners at my firm started his career in law at age 35 and has had a long and very successful career.

Edited by spicyfoodftw

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FWIW, I was called to the bar at age 30 and was within a month of the median age for my law school class. 33-34 is not at all too late to begin a legal career. Also, IP is one of the few areas where, (I'm told by several friends practicing in that area) and advanced degree helps.

Lots of people go to law school. Almost no one gets to do a fully paid, PhD at the University of Edinburgh, which is one of the world's top schools. Also, whatever you may think now, you opinion about going to law school might well change after your experiences in Edinburgh.

If you think that you can complete the PhD program, I'd encourage you to do so.

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Yeah, to be honest, the PhD sounds like a pretty fantastic opportunity. Law school will always be there, this may not.

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Practising lawyer here, 2012 call. If you were just doing the PhD for the purposes of improving your legal career prospects then the value proposition would be dubious. But it sounds like the PhD program is exciting and valuable to you in its own right, and well worth the trade-off of legal career length.

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8 minutes ago, whereverjustice said:

Practising lawyer here, 2012 call. If you were just doing the PhD for the purposes of improving your legal career prospects then the value proposition would be dubious. But it sounds like the PhD program is exciting and valuable to you in its own right, and well worth the trade-off of legal career length.

I would agree with this, as well as add that I am turning 34 this year and applying for law school, so don’t put too much weight on that side of the equation. Go get paid to see the world and expand your world view, it can only benefit you down the road no matter which career path you ultimately choose to pursue.

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Absolutely do the PhD. I can safely say McGill will love you more for it - especially since it's so international too.

I'll also make the claim that the PhD will further develop your analytical ability, and in turn I think you'll do better in law school. My friends with advanced degrees I've always noticed to just have an extra gear of thought that I envy. 

Anyway congrats on the position!

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I would do the PhD.  And I would consider applying for academic jobs while still applying for law school to see if any academic jobs pan out.  I've been a lawyer and I've been a professor and I promise that the latter is WAY better.

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7 minutes ago, ProfReader said:

I would do the PhD.  And I would consider applying for academic jobs while still applying for law school to see if any academic jobs pan out.  I've been a lawyer and I've been a professor and I promise that the latter is WAY better.

That is interesting considering I opted not to pursue a philosophy PhD and chose law instead mainly because I thought it would be comparatively easier to get a job in the legal field than in academia. Still a dream of mine to do both though.

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1 minute ago, capitalttruth said:

That is interesting considering I opted not to pursue a philosophy PhD and chose law instead mainly because I thought it would be comparatively easier to get a job in the legal field than in academia. Still a dream of mine to do both though.

Oh, it is WAY harder to get a job with a philosophy PhD (especially one that isn't in an undesirable location) than a law degree.  That's why I advised the OP to apply for academic jobs (just to see if anything panned out) while applying to law schools.

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11 hours ago, ProfReader said:

I would do the PhD.  And I would consider applying for academic jobs while still applying for law school to see if any academic jobs pan out.  I've been a lawyer and I've been a professor and I promise that the latter is WAY better.

Can't say I have ever been a full prof - but I've taught a course or two in my time. And I have lawyered for a great deal of time and this statement rings true.

Mostly because if someone is so passionate about something that they would dedicate however many thousands of hours to its study, so good at something that others are willing to pay so that that person will come to a better understanding of that thing..... maybe that is their role in life.

What is it about law that makes everyone think it will be soooo amazing?  

Look I like my job, but  there is rarely a gathering of older fogies of the profession (when the youngen's aren't around) that doesn't at some time include a  discussion of some peer who made his or her "great escape" and is now "living the life". - you know farming goats, bar in the Caribbean... dog catcher.

Could be that this is true for all professions, but my wife is in medicine and you never hear her colleagues pining for escape (again maybe they only do it in their closed circle).

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Posted (edited)

I'm a lawyer and I have PhD. It was also fully funded (in Canada, not international).

For myself, if I had to do it again I would not go and get my PhD again. I always said that if I knew straight out of undergrad (or at the end of my M.Sc) that I wanted to do law, I would have gone straight into it from there.

My research was cool and it's nice when my wife calls me "doctor" - but I still feel like those were kind of wasted/really useless years of my life. An experimental based PhD can be the most frustrating thing to finish EVER. For me it constituted years of banging my head against the wall because I had an experiment that took a month to complete with what felt like a thousand steps, but I couldn't figure out which one wasn't working (yes, I eventually did figure it out *go me!* and it did get published - but man that glory was not worth the torture). A year and a half into it and I knew academia wasn't for me. I had many post-doc offers from some pretty incredible Universities (think Ivy league and well established schools over seas) but decided that wasn't the career path for me, and I wanted to get onto what I knew I wanted to be doing. 

Now. The PhD has come in a little handy when I was looking for IP jobs (both in law school and after being called). But you already have an M.Sc so if your goal is to get into IP, you've already got the degree to back you up. The PhD could definitely help you, but it's not going to make or break your chances. 

If you are on the fence, and you think that you could still want to pursue an academic career - then go for it! But, if you're already convinced that your career lies in law - then why waste 4-6 years of your life doing something that will have little bearing on getting you to your goal? 

Age should not be the factor you consider - but make the decision based on what you want to be doing in 10 years. If the answer is law, then the choice is a no brainer. 

Edited by TheScientist101
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9 minutes ago, TheScientist101 said:

I'm a lawyer and I have PhD. It was also fully funded (in Canada, not international).

For myself, if I had to do it again I would not go and get my PhD again. I always said that if I knew straight out of undergrad (or at the end of my M.Sc) that I wanted to do law, I would have gone straight into it from there.

My research was cool and it's nice when my wife calls me "doctor" - but I still feel like those were kind of wasted/really useless years of my life. An experimental based PhD can be the most frustrating thing to finish EVER. For me it constituted years of banging my head against the wall because I had an experiment that took a month to complete with what felt like a thousand steps, but I couldn't figure out which one wasn't working (yes, I eventually did figure it out *go me!* and it did get published - but man that glory was not worth the torture). A year and a half into it and I knew academia wasn't for me. I had many post-doc offers from some pretty incredible Universities (think Ivy league and well established schools over seas) but decided that wasn't the career path for me, and I wanted to get onto what I knew I wanted to be doing. 

Now. The PhD has come in a little handy when I was looking for IP jobs (both in law school and after being called). But you already have an M.Sc so if your goal is to get into IP, you've already got the degree to back you up. The PhD could definitely help you, but it's not going to make or break your chances. 

If you are on the fence, and you think that you could still want to pursue an academic career - then go for it! But, if you're already convinced that your career lies in law - then why waste 4-6 years of your life doing something that will have little bearing on getting you to your goal? 

Age should not be the factor you consider - but make the decision based on what you want to be doing in 10 years. If the answer is law, then the choice is a no brainer. 

I have never met a life sciences PhD that was not depressed. 

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2 minutes ago, Eeee said:

I have never met a life sciences PhD that was not depressed. 

Maybe not "depressed" - but every life science PhD candidate hates their life at some point (which, now that I think about it, is also true for lawyers). 

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A few different thoughts:

-33-34 is not too old to be a lawyer.  Plenty of people have started out in their thirties, and many have been doing much less productive things with their time than getting a PhD.

-on the other hand it might be kind of tough to live a student lifestyle for that long.  I was 26 when called to the bar and kind-of glad to start earning a real paycheque, buy a car and house, get married, etc.

-Edinburgh is a really cool city though 

-you don't mention what kind of PhD you'd be getting.  a STEM advanced degree would I understand be useful in working in IP law (but on the other hand you already have a Masters), whereas something in the humanities... not so much.

 

OP is at a crossroads, and no matter which route you take, it will be with some regret about "what might have been".  It really depends on how what you want to do with your life: if as ProfReader says you still think you might want to give academia a go, then shoot for the PhD.  But if you're pretty set on being a lawyer, I think it would be better to just get on with it and not take a multi-year detour.

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Have a PhD (experimental science-based). Tried IP, but didn't like it.

The one thing that I want to stress is that you may not feel up to another 3 years of school after the PhD. Starting law school at 30 is not a huge deal, it is more having the drive to spend 3 more years broke and studying. Other than that, this is a personal decision, so best of luck.

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