Change of Career Post BL

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incognito
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Change of Career Post BL

Post by incognito » Tue May 01, 2018 3:06 pm

I created a new account in an attempt to preserve my anonymity.

I have been working in big law doing litigation for 5-ish years since graduating from a T40 law school. I'm in a rather small and insular legal market and to be quite honest, I'm rather tired of being a lawyer. I've always wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy and work in academia. My wife will support my decision to go back to school, but I have reservations about 1) employment post Ph.D. 2) foregone income (would it be possible to make some money off legal work while in grad school) and 3) should I just let go of this dream and find something else to do?

Financially, I've paid off my law school debt and have a manageable mortgage. My wife works in healthcare and would be able to support us along with my depressing T.A. stipend.

I'm interested in getting some feedback as I've only discussed this with my wife.

Edit:
I should add that there is a top philosophy department in my area, and I would only consider pursuing this route if I were to be accepted into the program.

notlegaladvice
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by notlegaladvice » Tue May 01, 2018 3:49 pm

I wrote out a whole thing just now but forgot a very important preliminary question. What is it specifically that makes you tired of being a lawyer?

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Hand
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Hand » Tue May 01, 2018 3:53 pm

(a) there is literally like 1 tenure-track for every 100 persons with a philosophy Ph.D. in this country, no joke the job market is beyond belief bad
(b) even at tippity-top programs (NYU, Harvard, Princeton, MIT, ...), half the people don't make it through the program, and even there a sizable number of people don't have good job outcomes
(c) philosophy grad school has crushed the spirit of many
(d) even if it all works out way better than you have reason to expect ex ante, you'll be a philosophy prof, probably at a university or college you wouldn't have dreamt of attending yourself, in a place you'd never chose to live in if you had any say in the matter, teaching a soul-crushing 3-3, the same classes over and over again to stupid, uninterested teenagers who treat you like a servant, making 75K a year, and you'll tell yourself that writing the navelgazing articles you churn out at a maddeningly slow pace that no one reads somehow make it all worth it

incognito
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by incognito » Tue May 01, 2018 4:05 pm

notlegaladvice wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 3:49 pm
I wrote out a whole thing just now but forgot a very important preliminary question. What is it specifically that makes you tired of being a lawyer?
I don't find the law particularly interesting or stimulating anymore (although this could just be a byproduct of my job since I enjoyed my time in law school). I feel like I've spent the past 5 years pretending to be someone who I'm not. Finding the motivation to go to work and going through the same daily grind is soul crushing. I also have two young children and I would like to be able to spend a significant amount of time with them. I thought about trying to transition into an in-house role, but I don't think that would give me the additional free time I'm looking for.

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Nony
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Nony » Tue May 01, 2018 4:13 pm

What Hand said is all pretty much accurate.

I will highlight the part where to get a job in academia you are essentially guaranteed to have to move, likely to somewhere you know no one and your spouse can’t get a job (unless they are super super portable).

I will also co-sign the “crush the spirit” part. Academia is kind of a cult which will change your sense of self and self-worth.

If it really is one of the top philosophy programs you could certainly contact them and look into it, and you probably could continue some with legal work (though it could also slow you down and take away the opportunities you have to get pertinent academic experience).

The thing is, I’ve met so many lawyers who fantasize about being a prof instead, and it really is a grass-is-always-greener thing.

Also profs don’t really have more spare time. You just get to decide where and when you’d like to work all the time. (I’ll grant you it’s not biglaw hours usually, but boundaries are tough.)

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Hand
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Hand » Tue May 01, 2018 4:21 pm

Nony wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 4:13 pm
Academia is kind of a cult which will change your sense of self and self-worth.
I can't emphasize this enough. Leaving academia has been the best thing I've ever done for my mental health. The amount of koolaid people guzzle down in these environments will blow your mind.
Nony wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 4:13 pm
Also profs don’t really have more spare time. You just get to decide where and when you’d like to work all the time. (I’ll grant you it’s not biglaw hours usually, but boundaries are tough.)
And this. In my experience it's way harder to set boundaries when you have no real set hours (outside of the few hours you need to show up to teach or have office hours) and the work is of a kind that is just never done--not just because you can always be better prepared for teaching than you are, but mainly because your articles or books will have no deadline, are never quite as perfect as you'd like them to be, and serve mainly as a vehicle for self-expression, and of course you are your own biggest critic.

None of this is to say that it can't be a good life choice for some people. I know a lot of professional philosophers, and while many are fairly miserable, some are happy.

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Nony
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Nony » Tue May 01, 2018 4:53 pm

Yeah, I know lots of professional humanities people, any many in the right circumstances are happy, but I also know lots of people who aren’t, let alone the people who started on the path and fell by the wayside.

(Re: work - in my field I used to say that the work was never done because you could always learn another language.)

incognito
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by incognito » Tue May 01, 2018 5:02 pm

Thank you Nony and Hand. I really appreciate the advice you both gave me. To a certain extent, I knew that I was kind of being naive about this whole Ph.D. pursuit... Especially since I would like to remain in my current city.

If I choose to not pursue this route, do you have any other career suggestions? Work-life balance is by far the most important thing to me

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pancakes3
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by pancakes3 » Tue May 01, 2018 5:12 pm

schoolteacher

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Nony
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Nony » Tue May 01, 2018 5:33 pm

Re in-house: this is obviously only an anecdote, but a friend of mine got an in-house job that pays what she was making in biglaw (admittedly as an associate, but still, 6 figures), is strictly 9-5, and includes working from home one day a week. Also very generous vacation policies. Not all in-house jobs are going to be nirvana, but personally I would say that a job with clear, stable boundaries often provides more free time than more “flexible” but unpredictable jobs do (even the entrepreneurial types I know who run their own businesses out of their homes and set their own hours work all. the. time. They love their work, so that makes it a little different, and I am definitely someone who thrives on routine rather than unpredictable flexibility, so that colors what I’m saying here, but I throw it out there).

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Nony
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Nony » Tue May 01, 2018 5:34 pm

Also schoolteacher seems to give you a lot of spare time if you’re one of those teachers who gives teachers unions a bad name for how much you’re protected for not doing much of anything at all, but I don’t know any of those.

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SmokeytheBear
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by SmokeytheBear » Tue May 01, 2018 5:36 pm

Hand wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 4:21 pm
Nony wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 4:13 pm
Academia is kind of a cult which will change your sense of self and self-worth.
I can't emphasize this enough. Leaving academia has been the best thing I've ever done for my mental health. The amount of koolaid people guzzle down in these environments will blow your mind.
Nony wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 4:13 pm
Also profs don’t really have more spare time. You just get to decide where and when you’d like to work all the time. (I’ll grant you it’s not biglaw hours usually, but boundaries are tough.)
And this. In my experience it's way harder to set boundaries when you have no real set hours (outside of the few hours you need to show up to teach or have office hours) and the work is of a kind that is just never done--not just because you can always be better prepared for teaching than you are, but mainly because your articles or books will have no deadline, are never quite as perfect as you'd like them to be, and serve mainly as a vehicle for self-expression, and of course you are your own biggest critic.

None of this is to say that it can't be a good life choice for some people. I know a lot of professional philosophers, and while many are fairly miserable, some are happy.
Was going to highlight these same issues.

Don't do academia.

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Hand
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Hand » Tue May 01, 2018 6:15 pm

The most obvious alternative is to be a different kind of lawyer, or at least a lawyer in a different kind of setting. Going in-house has already been mentioned, but if you're willing to live on a grad student stipend (>$20K last I checked), you also should be able to make working at a non-profit work, for example. At least here (DC), a lot of civil rights non-profits seem to serve mainly as case managers, who bring in clients for pro bono projects for big law associates. They get some of the satisfaction of working on cool cases, but also get to go home at 5, since they're mostly not the ones doing the actual heavy lifting. Policy jobs also don't come with crazy hours, as far as I can tell.

kotos
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by kotos » Tue May 01, 2018 7:09 pm

Nony wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 5:33 pm
Re in-house: this is obviously only an anecdote, but a friend of mine got an in-house job that pays what she was making in biglaw (admittedly as an associate, but still, 6 figures), is strictly 9-5, and includes working from home one day a week. Also very generous vacation policies. Not all in-house jobs are going to be nirvana, but personally I would say that a job with clear, stable boundaries often provides more free time than more “flexible” but unpredictable jobs do (even the entrepreneurial types I know who run their own businesses out of their homes and set their own hours work all. the. time. They love their work, so that makes it a little different, and I am definitely someone who thrives on routine rather than unpredictable flexibility, so that colors what I’m saying here, but I throw it out there).
The chances of a small market biglaw lit associate landing something like this are similar to the chances of getting a tenure track philosophy position.

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Nony
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Nony » Tue May 01, 2018 7:13 pm

Eh, that’s pretty much the situation my friend was in. I get that’s it’s absolutely not guaranteed, though, and I meant it more as an example of a lifestyle where time with kids would be more easily managed.

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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by lolwat » Wed May 02, 2018 1:56 am

I'd venture a guess that the reason you're tired of being a lawyer probably has to do with the fact that you've been in biglaw for 5 years. The "daily grind" of litigation is simply neither stimulating nor interesting. The good news is there's so much more to law than the biglaw grind.

Look for in-house opportunities (whether lawyer or JD-preferred or whatever). Smaller boutique firms doing what you might consider more interesting work. Government jobs. Non-profits. You'll most likely take a pay cut going to any of these places from biglaw, but you'll likely have more time to spend with your family. I also think that even if you don't get significantly better work-life hours, you'll likely have a much better life if you're happier with whatever you do at work. Money doesn't make up for grinding long hours of misery day in and day out.

I took like a 50% paycut to do something I found far more interesting and which demands fewer hours, and so far I'm way happier than I was towards the end of my work at my last firm.

dog
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by dog » Wed May 02, 2018 8:16 am

at the risk of overkill, +1 not doing academia. i got a humanities phd and was on the job market for two years. it's as bad as everyone says it is, and it feels worse when you're the one actually doing it.

if you're really set on getting out of the legal world, i would look into teaching at a high school, maybe a college prep school, which sometimes have similar curricula as freshman and sophomore-level college courses. the only thing is this might require a secondary degree - but maybe you could do a one or two year MA instead of a phd.

regular public high school wouldn't be bad either, if you would enjoy working with that age group. i have friends who are high school teachers who still publish, research, go to conferences, etc., and don't have to deal with the constant humiliation of working in higher ed.

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Sinoper
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Sinoper » Wed May 02, 2018 11:42 pm

dog wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 8:16 am
at the risk of overkill, +1 not doing academia. i got a humanities phd and was on the job market for two years. it's as bad as everyone says it is, and it feels worse when you're the one actually doing it.

if you're really set on getting out of the legal world, i would look into teaching at a high school, maybe a college prep school, which sometimes have similar curricula as freshman and sophomore-level college courses. the only thing is this might require a secondary degree - but maybe you could do a one or two year MA instead of a phd.

regular public high school wouldn't be bad either, if you would enjoy working with that age group. i have friends who are high school teachers who still publish, research, go to conferences, etc., and don't have to deal with the constant humiliation of working in higher ed.
+2 for not doing academia. The humanities job market is pretty much trash right now. I heavily considered it and got into a top 10 program at the T14 law school I attend. I eventually turned it down, because there are 60 or so TT legal academia jobs in recent years and there only looked to be 40-60 non-adjunct jobs (not even TT jobs) listed in my field at any given time. The risk of striking out in the academia market was a lot scarier than striking out in big law and having to do PI work or go to a smaller firm. Equally important, the risk of succeeding and ending up at a school I didn't like and in a region I loathed with a fixed-term contract was too much for me to handle. Even if I had succeeded and landed a nice TT gig, then I'd be busting the next 5-8 years to hit associate professor and get tenure. The work would have likely been as much as big law but done at home or in a log cabin or somewhere else where it would have been just as miserable as doing it in an office. This isn't to say that being a professor is completely miserable. It isn't and can be very rewarding, but it's not all it's cracked up to be.

+1 for HS teaching. If you don't mind the prestige hit, teaching at some of the top private high schools or even some good/mediocre publics/privates could be a blast. There's also some decent money in K-12 education. I know professionals that have made a good chunk of money doing college entrance consulting, publishing books on educational leadership, giving speeches at other schools/conferences, running HS tutoring services, ACT/SAT prep courses, and various other things on the side of teaching. In addition, administrative jobs can also pay quite well. I know the superintendent in my old very average high school's district made $200,000 and I know that the superintendent in the small college town I got my bachelor's in made $180,000. Administrative work can be demanding, but the work load is nowhere near big law in the vast majority of districts (and might even be lower than the teaching work load in some) and you can have a meaningful impact on your school/district.

I remember being genuinely sad when some of my teachers retired. From what I've read about law firms and experienced in non-legal business settings, you're forgotten pretty much immediately after you retire by both your co-workers and clients (kids in a school setting).

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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Igloo2022 » Sat Jul 13, 2019 11:09 pm

Hand wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 4:21 pm
Nony wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 4:13 pm
Academia is kind of a cult which will change your sense of self and self-worth.
I can't emphasize this enough. Leaving academia has been the best thing I've ever done for my mental health. The amount of koolaid people guzzle down in these environments will blow your mind.
Nony wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 4:13 pm
Also profs don’t really have more spare time. You just get to decide where and when you’d like to work all the time. (I’ll grant you it’s not biglaw hours usually, but boundaries are tough.)
And this. In my experience it's way harder to set boundaries when you have no real set hours (outside of the few hours you need to show up to teach or have office hours) and the work is of a kind that is just never done--not just because you can always be better prepared for teaching than you are, but mainly because your articles or books will have no deadline, are never quite as perfect as you'd like them to be, and serve mainly as a vehicle for self-expression, and of course you are your own biggest critic.

None of this is to say that it can't be a good life choice for some people. I know a lot of professional philosophers, and while many are fairly miserable, some are happy.
Hey would any of your opinions change if one was gunning for legal academia? Would that take away from the insular nature of a humanities PhD (either philosophy or political theory), or make the job market hunt less depressing?

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Sinoper
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Sinoper » Mon Jul 15, 2019 3:18 am

Igloo2022 wrote:
Sat Jul 13, 2019 11:09 pm

Hey would any of your opinions change if one was gunning for legal academia? Would that take away from the insular nature of a humanities PhD (either philosophy or political theory), or make the job market hunt less depressing?
I would argue that the legal academia job market is much MORE depressing than the humanities market. JD+PhDs are moving in on being the de facto requirement for TT jobs. Order of the Coif (top 10%) is expected, and it's rare to see any professor without latin honors (whereas humanities grades are generally not scrutinized/are much more inflated). A handful of law schools (HYSCCN) dominate the market (versus 10-20 in the humanities). Prestigious clerkships are seen as a plus, but you need great grades from a great school to have realistic odds of accessing them. A publication record is absolutely required, whereas PhDs generally get hired with little evidence of publication potential. There's also a strong push to hire people with quantitative backgrounds, because many law schools lack those people. The number of TT positions open every year is also laughable compared to JD graduates every year.

It's pretty rare to see someone with Princeton PhD spend more than a couple of years at a low-tier school. But, it's absolutely common to see people with amazing pedigrees teaching at absolutely abysmal law schools for their entire careers. Competition is absolutely fierce.

Based on the fact that you attend a T40, (presumably) don't have insane grades/clerkships, and aren't pursuing a technical PhD, you're likely out of the running here. You'd really have to shit out quite a few decent+ quality publications.

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Nony
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by Nony » Mon Jul 15, 2019 7:16 am

I disagree with a fair amount of the above, mostly the idea that you can get hired as a PhD without a publication record (you can’t, and publication timelines in the humanities are much worse than for legal academia). I also absolutely disagree that people with Princeton degrees aren’t spending their careers at low tier schools for their entire careers - they absolutely are. I think, too, the biggest issue is that people who gun for legal academia usually have the actual practice of law as a backup option, while in the humanities you have no backup really, and going to a different job is very very tough.

All that said, doing a PhD to gun for legal academia is still going to be really tough. My question is whether you have a JD already? Or would you be doing a PhD/JD? The experience of doing the PhD is so dependent on your advisor and your program, I don’t think gunning for legal academia is going to change that.

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ohhhhhello
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by ohhhhhello » Wed May 27, 2020 11:37 am

Update?

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pancakes3
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by pancakes3 » Wed May 27, 2020 1:15 pm

my buddy is assistant GC for a trade association and it looks to be the absolute chillest legal job to be had.

advocatesdenverco
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Re: Change of Career Post BL

Post by advocatesdenverco » Tue Jun 09, 2020 3:40 pm

There are a lot of things to consider at this point in time, even though its good that your wife supports you think about the current situation is it the right time to consider taking PHD where the world is held on freeze with the pandemic.

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