Older applicant....PhD in another field

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Older applicant....PhD in another field

Post by barnaba » Sun May 12, 2019 5:57 pm

This is my first on LSL. Hello everyome, and thank you for reading.

I realize people on this forum are likely very busy, so I will try to be as brief as I can.

First of all, II already have a PhD. in Physics, with concentration in Atomic/Molecular/Optical Physics (specialization in atomic ultracold physics). I have always both considered and desired to study law, but because of very high costs associated with law school and the notion that studying "pre-law" as an undergraduate would not lead to any reasonable job - not to mention a real career - I decided to select another field as my major. In the second semester of my last year as an undergraduate (double major, graduated with both a BS in physics, and BSEE in opto-electrical engineering) I chose Philosophy of Law in order to satisfy a general education course required by my university. The class was absolutely amazing, and even though I was already accepted into a PhD. physics program, I still nonetheless considered giving an LSAT a try and applying to law schools instead. However, once I attained a very prestigious and very competitive research assistant position for the summer I decided to forgo these law school plans in the end.

Today, over a decade later, I again have the urge to pursue a JD, and for the following reasons. First, in spite of my PhD. in physics, my current career falls in the realm of cybersec/infosec. It was not as big of a departure as it might seem at first, as during the candidacy/dissertation part of my graduate studies, the branch of atomic physics I was in required designing, building and programming all the instruments responsible for data gathering and analysis. Secondly, finding myself at 32 years of age, I believe I have a good understanding of life, and for better or worse I have left a lot of idealistic as well as naive beliefs of my youth. Finally, in the last 4 years, I have gotten a reasonable exposure to both the theoretical and the procedural aspects of our legal system, by successfully representing myself in 3 separate trials. Even though these involved nothing more than traffic citations, in all three instances I got a chance to cross-examine a witness, and in all three instances I was able to have the citations dismissed by researching the appropriate case law precedent, and pointing out corresponding procedural errors.

Now, I realize I might likely be at a disadvantage in comparison to a lot of applicants. Pursuing an acceptance to a law program at almost 33 - and if accepted being only a hair short of 34 - would make me a rather old entry-level attorney upon graduation. Given that law programs are very expensive and in most cases require loans to cover tuition, some programs might view me as a candidate that will have a difficult if not impossible time repaying these loans before they....welll....die.

Additionally, I am not sure if my age would be the only issue. Given that 11 years had passed since I received my undergraduate degrees. and 7 since my PhD. , I am not sure how my college transcripts would be evaluated. Similarly, providing letters of reference might be an equally difficult task, since my main sources of these would be my superiors at work, and having three separate references from a single source might be evaluated with a grain of salt. I would only be interested in applying to the most prestigious programs in the northeast (Univ. Chicago being the only exception) like HSL, Columbia, NYU, Cornell, Yale etc.

My udergraduate general GPA was 3.80, and my departamental GPAs were 3.79, and 3.78 for my BS in Physics w. Honors, and BSEE in opto.elec. engineering, respectively.

My graduate/doctoral GPA was either 3.86 or 3.89. I cannot exactly remember which, and graduate school was a different beast all together and I don't recall anyone ever caring about their GPA, as in physics many professors used only B+,A- and As for their passing students, B- for those that did not prove sufficient grasp of the material (If I recall correctly, you could have at most two B- grades and still apply to take your comprehensive exam to advance to candidacy/dissertation stage, I did not have any )

I have not taken my LSAT yet, but what would my chances for these Top 10 law programs in the northeast be if applying at 34, with a PhD. in experimental AMO physics, and let's say an LSAT score of 168 (83/101 correct)?

Additionally, how big of a difference in terms of acceptance would getting an LSAT score of 172 (88/101 correct) make?

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Re: Older applicant....PhD in another field

Post by Stranger » Sun May 12, 2019 9:47 pm

First off, "top 10" isn't the meaningful distinction among law programs. Realistically, if you're looking for that level of distinction, you want to look at the top 13 (usually called T13, traditionally it was T14, but there's some debate about whether Georgetown really belongs in the conversation with the others anymore). Your age won't matter significantly. At some schools, it will be a minor asset (since you have work experience), at others it will be a non-issue (I say this as a 36 year-old law student). Your PhD will be a minor asset, though given the field, it could be attractive to IP law programs if that's the route you want to go. But again, those things are only at the margins - your numbers will make or break your candidacy. So, let's explore the two scenarios you've brought up:


Enough of the T13 are friendly to those numbers that with your "softs", I would give you a decent chance of getting admitted to one or two, maybe with a scholarship, if you had a 168 LSAT.


Obviously, the odds improve dramatically with a 172, as does the money situation.

You're also mistaken about the number of correct answers needed to reach certain scores on the LSAT. The number changes with each administration, and frequently, a test taker could miss anywhere from 8 to 12 questions (and sometimes a more extreme number) and still get a 170. On my administration, I missed eight questions and scored a 173, but the same number of incorrect answers resulted in a 171 on the cold diagnostic I took (do not expect a cold diagnostic that high - I'm an outlier).

Don't worry about being too old, by the way, I'm the third oldest in my class, and there's a guy a year ahead of me in his mid 50s. Your life experience will be an asset when you actually turn to the task of going to law school.

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Re: Older applicant....PhD in another field

Post by HelloYesThisIsDog » Mon May 13, 2019 4:10 am

I'm not worried about you getting into law school. Your GPAs are solid and I'm assuming, if you apply yourself and do ample test prep, you can get a good LSAT score north of 165 to get you to a T14, or maybe a T20 school with more scholarships.

Your rationale right now reads more like defenses about why you're capable of doing it. All I really got from your "why law" was it just really interests you. That's fine, it interested me too as a prospective applicant. But it would behoove you to start contemplating what kind of job you see yourself doing. It sounds like you enjoyed litigation. Have you talked to litigators about the various practice areas you could end up in?

Spend some time researching this a bit. You don't need a perfect answer (goals/plans change) but having some understanding of which broad practice areas or categories interest you will help clarify your goals and decisions going forward, for picking schools, weighing financial aid, weighing job markets to pursue, etc.

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Re: Older applicant....PhD in another field

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Fri May 31, 2019 10:20 am

Do you not like your job? Is that really "as brief as possible."

The problem with law school as an old isn't law school. You're probably less likely to get sucked into all the high school drama but that's a plus, not a negative. The problem is do you really want to go to a firm and (more or less) be working for mid level and senior associates who are in their early 30s when you're damn near 40? You'll be starting essentially from scratch.

If you don't want to go to a firm, that's kind of another story. But generally any option that doesn't going to include going to a firm is going to involve a lot more hustle and a significant pay cut. Do you want to be a public defender? Prosecutor? Hang a shingle? (I'm assuming you want to litigate).

Hello, yes--this is Dog, is right. We can give you more meaningful advice if you can give us a better idea of what you want out of law. For now, my advice is that the reasons you've given us (enjoyed traffic court, enjoyed a philosophy of law class) are not great reasons to go to law school, and that if that's why you think law school's right for you you should probably stick with the career you've put the last decade of your life into.

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Re: Older applicant....PhD in another field

Post by Nony » Fri May 31, 2019 10:46 am

Yeah, your age won't matter for getting into schools. It might have some effect on your job search, but as an older applicant/student/grad/lawyer, it's definitely surmountable. (If you wouldn't be working under people who are younger than you, yeah, firms may be an issue...but I don't know why you'd be uncomfortable with that. I've taken directions from tons of lawyers who are younger than I am, and it doesn't matter at all because they've been doing this longer than I have and know more than I do.)

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