Terminal Degree endgame advice. Law degree or not?

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    Mar 22, 2009 10:02 PM GMT
    Alright, so here's the background: In undergrad, I double majored in Biology and Chemistry just because I liked it. Then I got my Master's in Genetics and Cell Biology, but really did not enjoy research because I felt like I wasn't doing anything to help people, especially when healthcare costs were going through the roof.

    So now I am working on a biomedical ethics M.A. because I wanted to work on policy. I am realizing more and more that philosophy is great for opening discourse, but it is lawyers who actually get things done. I will be finished next year and am seriously considering law school.

    I want to be able to help people and work on policy and perhaps do public law. I know it isn't a field that gets tons of money, but it seems rewarding. I think my background should help me out so that I could work with NGOs and NPOs and actually be able to do things rather than be an activist voice. If I went into academics, I would feel impotent because at the end of the day, I wouldn't be able to do anything with what I think is right.

    So anyway, does anyone have any advice? Did anyone go to law school in their mid-20s when it really hadn't been their plan? Any idea on great schools that focus on social justice? I'd like to get into a top tier one. Anyone want to write a good letter of recommendation :winkicon_confused.gif
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    Mar 22, 2009 10:46 PM GMT
    My smilies got messed up... That should teach me a lesson.
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    Mar 23, 2009 1:32 AM GMT
    sickothesame said In undergrad, I double majored in Biology and Chemistry just because I liked it. Then I got my Master's in Genetics and Cell Biology, So now I am working on a biomedical ethics M.A... I will be finished next year and am seriously considering law school.
    I want to be able to help people and work on policy and perhaps do public law. Did anyone go to law school in their mid-20s when it really hadn't been their plan?

    With your background I would say no no a thousand times no. First of all, by the time you are ready to sit for the bar exam you will have acrued so much student-loan debt you won't have the luxury of taking a low-paid socially rewarding job. Instead you will be forced into typical new-associate grunt work which is anything but socially rewarding, or rewarding in any sense. Second, your scientific background offers far more opportunities to actually do something that tangibly benefits others.
    To answer your other question: I went to law school in my mid-20s because I had no idea what else to do with my English degree. I eventually established myself as a criminal-defense litigator, and I enjoy my work and find it richly rewarding (most of the time). Buut it took years and years of drudgery in the legal salt mines to get there. I hope this helps.
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    Mar 23, 2009 2:36 AM GMT
    I work with a ton of people who write government policy. Almost none of them have law degrees. Lobbying groups, think tanks (another dirty word for lobbyists), corporations, and government bodies alike all need people who have an expertise in a field. Often, they will have a law person or department to help shape that policy.

    But you cannot be a one man policy making machine. Become an expert in biomedical ethics and do your thing and let the lawyers do theirs.
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    Mar 23, 2009 3:23 AM GMT
    Thanks for the input. I was even looking at some groups that forgive student loans. I haven't taken anything out, yet because of fellowships and scholarships. Ones I do take out for this could be forgiven by working for different organizations that focus on social justice. UTexas has something set up just for that.

    Thanks for your help, and I am glad you guys responded, because zombie and jp are two of the people I respect most on here.

    Anyway, it's a lot for me to think about, and whatever I end up doing, I'll have to keep my options open.
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    Mar 23, 2009 3:30 AM GMT
    jp how do you only have 470 posts? Surely, there is a mistake.
  • ROYCE13

    Posts: 315

    Mar 23, 2009 3:34 AM GMT
    What you have studied thus far is interesting and you could define what to do and how to do it better if you need more fulfillment in helping or aiding society, but you could also do that in your spare time as well. Law school is interesting and has advantages even if you do not intend to practice law.

    I would assume you have contacted some schools and discussed your background, education and prof. experience and what law would be beneficial if at all. Contact a few schools for this. I do not believe that law school is a waste, since it is tremendous work and it also opens many doors of opportunity.


  • ROYCE13

    Posts: 315

    Mar 23, 2009 3:38 AM GMT
    There are people in their 30's and always a few in the 40's+ in the law classes, so it is never too late.

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    Mar 23, 2009 4:17 PM GMT
    Law and medical ethics go together like love and marriage of course! Abortion, consent to treatment, embryo research, splitting conjoined children etc etc

    Honestly, studying law is a great way to get a well paid job, but unless you are exceptionally well endowed in the grades department, you will not go *straight* into anything interesting/social justice orientated.

    I've done about a million years worth of legal study (and am now trying to go into academics icon_wink.gif ) but most of my friends now practice criminal law or personal injury, only the exceptionally bright/ lucky get to take the 'cases that matter' (human rights, public law etc etc).

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    Mar 23, 2009 4:19 PM GMT
    I don't break for lawyers.
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    Mar 23, 2009 4:25 PM GMT
    Lost_And_Found said most of my friends now practice criminal law or personal injury, only the exceptionally bright/ lucky get to take the 'cases that matter' (human rights, public law etc etc).

    and criminal law doesn't matter? What could possibly be more important than standing up in front of a jury and fighting for your client's freedom?
  • tas_515

    Posts: 133

    Mar 23, 2009 4:31 PM GMT
    beeker saidI don't break for lawyers.


    ...and lawyers don't brake for people that don't put on their spelling caps.
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    Mar 23, 2009 4:52 PM GMT
    Hey there Sickof the Same...

    I went to law school when I was 22 after triple majoring as an undergrad and 2 undergraduate degrees... It made sense as my father and uncle were both attorneys and I knew I would ultimately use the education somehow..
    Since my focus has always been business... I figures my educational background would be prudently used as a financial negotiator, in contracts or something related.

    As many here know, I'm a financial planner and run my own investment firm.
    I love what I do, my legal education certainly has been helpful, but I don't work as an attorney... but that education will never go away. It makes me see things in a very different way than had I not received it. I'm a total analyst and very thorough... I have nothing but good feelings about the
    time and effort that I gave. The Series 7 is different, but as tough as the Bar exam......

    As far as your focus... I would just make sure the decision to attend law school is carefully considered. What will you gain based on your present education? If you really want to go down that path, I'm sure you will be successful, but my strong recommendation would be to contact at least two law schools in your area, talk to them at length about what you want to do and see what kind of input you receive... also about any other schools they might recommend that focus on "social justice" in the way you would find valuable. Good luck there and keep us informed.
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    Mar 23, 2009 5:12 PM GMT
    sickothesame saidAlright, so here's the background: In undergrad, I double majored in Biology and Chemistry just because I liked it. Then I got my Master's in Genetics and Cell Biology, but really did not enjoy research because I felt like I wasn't doing anything to help people, especially when healthcare costs were going through the roof.

    So now I am working on a biomedical ethics M.A. because I wanted to work on policy. I am realizing more and more that philosophy is great for opening discourse, but it is lawyers who actually get things done. I will be finished next year and am seriously considering law school. Any idea on great schools that focus on social justice? I'd like to get into a top tier one. Anyone want to write a good letter of recommendation :winkicon_confused.gif


    You've done some interesting and varied work so far - and it should be of interest to the admissions department of any good law school. I'm on the board of Stanford's Alumni Association (Phoenix chapter) and if you write me - I will do anything I can (including a letter and introductions) to put you in front of the right people, should you have interest in Stanford. Good luck - whichever way you go!
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    Mar 24, 2009 2:25 AM GMT
    Thanks a lot for the input everyone. I talked to my advisers today, and a lot of them suggested very similar things. They were all very positive, too. It was nice based on the rapport I have with them to see them be encouraging. Well, I'll keep everyone up to date, and I am definitely going to take the LSATs at the very least. It should be fun...Ha!