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Programs Going to law school AFTER getting a PhD?

  1. Jul 24, 2009 #1
    I have several potential career plans mapped out and I don't pretend to know which is best, but one of them leads to the life of a patent lawyer. I'd graduate from undergrad, go to the peace corps for two years, go to grad school for physics and then enter law school. I'd finish law school as a 30 year old and settle down to business...

    There will be about a 7 year gap between my undergrad graduation and my entrance to law school. I know the Physics Forums isn't exactly a common haunt for lawyers, but does anyone know how law schools would judge such an applicant? Would they look at undergrad grades, or graduate school gpa? What would be the criterion for entrance exactly?

    By the way, I don't want to skip the PhD and go for law school, because I'm relying on my experience as a grad student and researcher to help me decide if I want to continue as a postdoc or as a student of the law...

    Oh and does a fundamental disbelief in the rule of law complicate things? :uhh:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2009 #2


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    Have you thought about interning with a patent law firm to help guide you? Some fields of law are VERY tedious and grinding, and you might not be cut out for that. My brother works for a custom extrusion business, and he and his boss are always trying to come up with patentable production processes to make reverse-engineering their products difficult.

    It's very detail-oriented work, and they can keep their patent lawyer busy researching to make sure that they are not stepping on someone else's toes and that they can go ahead with patent applications for their proprietary processes. I wouldn't want to be their patent lawyer, though the continued success of that small business in these lean times is keeping him fully employed.

    Good luck, whatever you decide.
  4. Jul 24, 2009 #3


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    Man, that's a lot of school. Finishing by the time you're 30, seems rather ambitious too.

    As for criteria for getting in, it's a safe bet they will look at everything. Some professional schools will weight your average differently when you have a graduate degree. It's best to look up the specific schools you're interested in and check out their admissions processes on an individual basis. In some cases you may qualify for 'mature student' status, which can have a seperate selection criteria.
  5. Jul 24, 2009 #4
    Nah, I've got a two year leg up, I'll be 19 (almost 20) when I graduate, 2 years in the peace corps will shoot me to 21/22, then 5 years in a PhD program and 3 years in law school will put me right around 30.

    If I wanted to go into academia, I'd have to do a postdoc anyways, that's 2 years instead of 3. I figure I'll have to be a poor student for a while no matter what route I take.
    But hey at least I'll have an excuse to party a lot. My parents were doctors and were dirt poor at the age of 30 due to the long medical training process, when I was like 2, so I'm used to living the lowlife methinks.
  6. Aug 22, 2009 #5
    The first step is to make sure you really want to do this. It's a big commitment and planning your life for something that you may or may not do may lead you to make decisions that will foreclose other options should you change your mind and wish to pursue those options later. One good way to figure this out is to intern at a patent law firm or two. If you're in NYC, Kenyon and Kenyon comes to mind. If you find it to be the most mind-numbing work you've ever done, as I did, you will quickly know you should do something else.

    Ok, so let's assume you've decided there is nothing else you want to do but law school and become a patent lawyer.

    First, you don't need a graduate degree in physics. My understanding is you can be a patent lawyer as long as you have some BS in a scientific field. So if that is the case, skip the graduate degree. You'd do better off with a joint MBA/JD than with a graduate degree in physics and law. But you could always do a joing PhD/JD, which are becoming increasingly more common these days.

    Law schools will look at your undergraduate GPA and LSAT score. That will be the first cut. Then they will look to see if you add diversity to the student pool. The Peace Corps will definitely help you in that respect. Work experience as a paralegal at a top patent law firm is pretty standard but would likely help you as well. But if you can do something extraordinary that demonstrates initiative and leadership, they will love that. In my case, I was leader of a thousand community service and political organizations in undergrad, and they found that to be very interesting.

    I actually think you are looking at it in the wrong way. If you want to decide whether to be a patent lawyer, start by exploring whether you like the law or not. This will make it easier. If you do, and assuming you like science enough to get a PhD in physics, you can do a joint PhD/JD application. If not, then you have science as the fall back plan, since it seems from your post that you have decided on physics but are undecided on law.

    Amidst the controversy of FDR hiring JFK's bootlegging dad as SEC Chair to regulate the financial markets after the stock market collapse, FDR responded: "It takes a crook to catch a crook."

    Disbelief in something gives you out-of-the box thinking. Nothing wrong with that.
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