Wednesday, December 14, 2005

PhD vs. JD

Since this is my blog, it is my place to speak my mind on a variety of subjects and rants...

If you are one of my friends with a JD or a law student -- you may want to skip this post. It reveals much more about what I think of lawyers and the academic system in general than you may want to hear. It also doesn't apply to any of my friends, as I think y'all should have gone to grad school instead, because you are way too smart to be lawyers and you are not fulfilling your intellectual capacity.

Many lawyers think that a JD is about equal to a PhD. I think that is crap.

Sure, a JD is a "terminal" degree - probably because lawyers make those kinds of rules and they'd put up a fuss if they weren't included...

I think a JD is more like an MA... the classes (at least in my program) are of similar difficulty. The exams and papers are of similar length and they generally take the same amount of time to complete. While you are doing them, you wonder about your career choices EVERY day (my favorite options were truck driving school, prostitution and selling drugs -- never did any of them, but I seriously considered the truck option..). You generally go through the "why did I think I was so smart as an undergrad" phase etc...

At the end, to use your JD you need to take the bar exam. That is much like the comprehensive exams needed to ENTER the PhD program. Some ignorant people (I don't use that word lightly) think passing the bar is like writing a dissertation.. they are wrong. Passing the bar requires a few months of study and two days of testing.

To finish a PhD you need to write a BOOK. Your help for this book will be a committee of people you selected, but wonder why you did so... you have no classes to help, either too much or too little guidance from your supervisor-- and many of us have to do it while holding down a full-time job.

At the end, the last thing you want to do is write some more... so you end up teaching in places like the Philosophy Factory.. .which isn't a bad job overall, but way underpaid for the level of schooling it requires.

i also think that there are way too many brilliant people in law school. These people are smart, passionate and innovative, and law school will grind all of that out of them.

Hubby had really good LSAT scores, excellent grades and good extra-curricular activites -- plus unique military experience. He could have been accepted at most of the top law schools. The trouble with law school is that, in the end, you are a lawyer... although, on the other hand -- he'd be done by now -- hmmm--- making money --hmmmmmm, but, I wouldn't see him -- ever ==== and it wouldn't be worth it. For sure, he'd be one of those people on the road to work by now, in the snow and traffic, hating every minute of it. Instead he's working on a paper that is due later and asking if I'm going to make oatmeal. I think I'll do just that.

44 comments:

Natalie said...

I don't disagree overall and would definitely agree with the MA/JD comparison. However, for me grad school was the sould crushing destroyer of worlds that you describe law school to be. I really really hated grad school and still feel the repercussions of thinking I have nothing new or interesting to say, can't write, have nothing useful to say in class, etc.

However, I have to agree with you on the schedule. Next semester I teach 4 afternoons a week. Not too shabby.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I can understand your grad school experience... especially MN seemed to be that way -- and the "can't write" thing happened to me in grad school the first year or two -- but, then somehow it passed.

My other beef is with the people who somehow try to justify going to an elite law school by saying that they are going to use their law degree for greater good -- I'd be happy if they just said, "yea -- going to (Harvard, Fordham, NYU, etc..) is elite and I earned it...

Andrea said...

Not sure what that comment means, unless you think people who say that aren't truthful, which I doubt.

The more "elite" law schools have much better funded loan forgiveness programs, summer grants, counseling staff, etc. for people who go into public interest law - that's a big reason to choose those schools.

Anonymous 3L said...

Jealousy is an ugly shade of green, Patty.

Ian Samuel said...

I am glad that Thurgood Marshall got a law degree, so my brother and I could attend high school together.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Yea -- 3L, call it jealousy, or whatever... if that is what you think -- fine :)... My blog and yours serve the same basic purpose. Post about philosophers, I'll probably get a kick out of it.

Ian -- I'm glad Marshall got his degree -- and I'll be glad when I need a lawyer in the future that he or she got theirs... I actually feel kind of bad for law students (worse for most grad students... but, that is another post) because the job market is so nasty for lawyers -- and the average law school debt is so high.

DR. BOB DIOTALEVI said...

Sir,

For your considsration:

The problem with thinking that a J.D. is not a terminal degree is that you would then have to apply that same rationale to an M.D. A medical doctor does not write the paper either, but the last time I looked we still called him or her a doctor. Further, yes, J.D.’s have to endure a bar exam that Ph.D.’s do not. And it is a two-day exam covering 30 subjects, hardly an entrance examination. Furthermore, as I understand it, there are no accredited Ph.D. programs in the United States-they simply exist under the umbrella of the regional accreditation for the institution in which they are merely a component. I think the animosity exhibited by some (certainly not all) Ph.D.’s stems from academic protectionism, viz., some feel threatened by the J.D.’s presence.

Having published over 50 manuscripts and co-authored 2 books I think I know a little about writing, too.

Finally for your viewing pleasure:

"J.D. Degree - Ph.D. Degree Equivalency:

WHEREAS, the acquisition of a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree requires from 84 to 90 semester hours of post baccalaureate study and the Doctor of Philosophy degree usually requires 60 semester hours of post baccalaureate study along with the writing of a dissertation, the two degrees shall be considered as equivalent degrees for educational employment purposes;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that all appropriate persons be requested to eliminate any policy, or practice, existing within their jurisdiction which disparages legal education or promotes discriminatory employment practices against J.D. degree-holders who hold academic appointment in education institutions."

This comes from the ABA’s section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar and is included in their material on the ABA approval of Law Schools found at http://www.abanet.org/legaled/standards/councilstatements.html

In addition to the ABA, TAANA (The American Association of Nurse Attorneys) has issued a position paper approving the J.D. as terminal degree. See http://www.taana.org/shownews.asp?newsid=42

I know this will not change your mind, but, as Rodney King stated, maybe we can all just get along.

DR. BOB DIOTALEVI, ESQ., LL.M.
FGCU

Bonita Applebum said...

As a current grad student in Women's Studies, I can see how both a JD and PhD would be useful in my areas of interest. I've even considered applying to joint PhD/JD programs (hence the reason why I came across your blog while doing a Google search). I think that much of what's being debated here depends on a person's overall interests, goals, and shear willingness to sacrifice her/his life for a considerable amount of time. My area of interests will always lie in activism. I'm a good enough writer and researcher to enter and do well in a PhD program (plus I love to teach). I also think because of my research skills and all out activist-mentality, I would probably fair well in a law program. It's unfortunate that these two degrees are pitted against one another as if to imply that one is automatically better than the other. In the end, they both serve their own unique purposes.

Jonny Bochese said...

Okay... I am graduating with a JD in the spring and I have a Master's degree. Law School is 1000 times more difficult than graduate school. The workload is higher, the material much more difficult, and the teachers use the "socratic method" - which would put tears in the eyes of most graduate students. Okay - so the papers may be simmilar in length - but you must have never heard of the idea of QUALITY over QUANTITY. In a masters program, you can fill a paper with facts, quotes, and all sorts of other BS; however, Law School papers require concise analysis of the topic at hand. When you write motions or appellate briefs for the first time, you HATE the fact that there is a page limit because there is SOOOO much to squeeze into such a short space.

Take it from me (as I have done both), masters degrees are nothing compared to Law School.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

It also depends on the discipline and the school. Try taking some PhD level courses in analytic philosophy sometime...

and, in retrospect, the Dissertation has to be MUCH more difficult than passing the bar exam. The bar exam doesn't take years to study for, it isn't adjudicated by a group of faculty who may be at odds with one another and it simply isn't a book-length piece of original scholarship.

so -- until your MA coursework is also the coursework to make you ABD... cool it.

Martin said...

Let's start the transatlantic transcultural part of the discussion. For example, in most European countries, you will have to do post-graduate studies before earning a doctorate, regardless of law school, med school etc, including a written thesis and an oral examination (defending the thesis).
Therefore, J.D. in not equivalent to Dr. jur., or M.D. is not equivalent to Dr. med.
Best regards
Martin

Matthew said...

Only someone with a Ph.D could have sparked an interesting discussion like this one.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

What is really funny about this -- is that this post is pretty old and keeps getting comments.

Also, my hubby is planning to start law school in the fall. His Law program and his Ph.D. program are both rated top 20ish -- and are at the same university.

He'll be able to solve this argument for me... although, he's already said that the Ph.D. is more difficult because a JD doesn't require writing a book.

Andrea said...

I've got a MA (history) and a JD. The MA was challenging but not really comparable to the law school experience.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

My MA in philosophy was really easy compared to writing the dissertation... and I have yet to finish the dissertation.

Meg said...

the PhD people keep saying it takes longer and is harder and less people finish etc

So what- its the usefulness that matters maybe 1/2 way through people think wow this PhD in history is going to get me no place!!!!

An MD or PharmD or frankly DO iw much more valuable to the person and the public- thats why they are paid more. If sosicety fell apart the docotors could still bater services for eggs the PhD- no way

IF you like the PHD get one but dont says its better becasue its

- harder
- less people finish ( maybe its the smart ones that quit)
- takes longer
- you have to write a book 9 I personally read 3 books a week and have never read a book by a phD that I know of other than really boring ones for my job and a few hsitories maybe)

those that can ....

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

The dissertation is still a work of original scholarship -- with all the requirements to make contributions to the field. Passing the bar isn't that kind of challenge, rather it's more akin to the requirements to become a Ph.D candidate -- in that it requires showing mastery of a subject matter.

stanleyjessica said...

OMG! You don't even have a PhD!

stanleyjessica said...

I think that you really want a JD and you should pursue it after you obtain your PhD, or you could do it INSTEAD of finishing your PhD. It would be easier than finishing that book, right?! Wouldn't it be a relief just to study some real stuff for a change instead of trying to make up "original" stuff for that dissertation?

Cesar said...

JD >> PHD

IMO anyone can spout off some philosophical pseudo intellectual dissertation-babble, as most of the nonsense is subjective anyway. Being a JD you can be a lawyer, or even a judge and you have knowledge that applies in a practical way to potential tangible change in the lives of others. PHd's are just academic blow hards basically.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Wow -- a 5 year old post still gets comments.

Hubby is now a 1L -- and ABD, at the end of the process he'll have a direct comparison... I still maintain that finals and taking the bar exam may be a more intense intellectual exercise, but it isn't creating the new scholarship necessary to earn a Ph.D.

Gavin Black said...

Hmm....

The bar exam tests a lawyer's MINIMAL abilities to practice law. I cannot imagine that graduate students would say the same about dissertations.

Also, the bar exam's purpose is to defend the public from incompetent attorneys. This is so because lawyers usually have a huge role in the personal lives of private citizens. Again, I cannot imagine anyone of sound mind saying that a dissertation is a means of public protection.

I have my law degree and I'm currently in grad school. I do not have a preference for law school--in fact, I hated law so much that I went to grad school. However, a bar v. dissertation comparison is just dumb.

Would you compare the World Series to the Superbowl and say that football is a lot easier because it only takes one game to be a champion?

JB said...

The JD actually started (and is still considered in some parts of the world) a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree, which changed because you later had to have a Bachelor's degree to study law. Effectively, however, it's still on the level (in structure) as an LL.B.

Secondly, if we consider a JD a doctoral degree based on it being a "terminal" degree (albeit there's the LL.M and S.J.D), then it's only fitting to consider an MBA a doctoral degree as well given that it's also a terminal degree.

So, let's presume you're still not convinced that their not equivalent (despite what, of course, the ABA states - why wouldn't they advocate that position?). What makes a PhD a doctoral degree, in part, is making an original contribution (which advances our society through innovation) and the independent dissertation research. I could be incorrect, but a J.D. curriculum is pretty much handed to the students. However, once you've finished the program requirements in the PhD program, you still have your independent research requirements (which is done will little to no guidance, but still has to be significant enough for committee approval - and you typically don't get another try if you fail).

Finally, I think it's important to note that it's not a "battle" between the degrees. However, there is an issue when a J.D. minimizes the value of a Ph.D.

I'm sure we can all respect the contributions each field makes to society. But, just in case we can't, just remember the next time you take medicine, or use a computer or cell phone, or consider the technology our military uses to defend our country, that research conducted by someone with a Ph.D. most likely made that fundamentally possible through basic research.

William said...

I think that the J.D. and PhD are equivalent. They are both extremely different, and difficult in different ways. The dissertation is difficult, however saying that there is so much research (which there is) most of the dissertation is regurgitated from the research. Also, is this presuming that there is no research in law school? That's all we did in law school, and after law school for that matter. When I think of those with PhDs, which I considered before law school, "they were all stuffy, and all about, the people in academia are better than everyone else."

Happy that I could add to the long life of this discussion.

I think that the high number of suicides in law school should probably say something about the difficulty as well.

TexasGuy36 said...

I do realize this thread it quite old, but I thought I would add my views on this. As a person about to defend his dissertation, I can attest to the difficulty associated with this process. It takes a significant amount of original thought. I am not saying the field of law does not require original thought, but as my girlfriend is currently studying to be an attorney, I can see it requires more memorization than original thought.

This is not meant to belittle the JD degree. However, we have discussed it at length and agree that a JD could be better served by being a 4 year degree as it is in many parts of the world.

At the end of the day, I have been on a near decade long odyssey to achieve a title that will only make a difference in my particular field, but I have contributed something particular that advances my field of study. That is the requirement for the title. An attorney does nothing to advance his or her field of study at the outset of their career. Perhaps later they do, but not when passing the bar.

Strictly from an academic view, law school curriculum does not appear difficult. It is mostly time management and a person's ability to memorize and study effectively and follow particular rules set forth by the teaching faculty. This is not to say it is not difficult.

As for the ABA declaring no difference between the degrees, that is correct. However, the US Dept of Education and the National Science Foundation do not consider the degrees equivalent. Neither of those organizations have a stake in the stature of the degree.

Good luck to all pursuing either of those degrees. Either road is fraught with difficulty. But I will not run into a courtroom to practice law if lawyers do not run around calling themselves doctor.

javaron said...

I would say they are equal. Being a law student myself has its challenges both up and down. I do not plan on calling myself a doctor but I would love my degree to be respected either way they are not free.

J.Means said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.Means said...

[had to correct a typo] As a JD, I would rank them as follows, using a 1-100 scale:

Post-doc: 100
Hard science PhD (60 credit + diss.): 95
non-science PhD (60 credit + diss.): 90
JD (90 credit): 85-88
Ed.D: 78
MA-Science (50 credit): 50
MBA (35 credit): 39

LLMs (Master of Laws) are the equiv of PhD post-doc work. If you look at law profs at Law schools, many do not have LLMs, meaning the JD is the terminal law degree. The LLM is a post-doc equiv.

SJD's are given mainly to non-American lawyers, and are not even part of the post doc mix for American lawyers.

J.Means said...

In other words, comparing a JD to a Masters or MBA is ludicrous. Allso, claiming a JD's not a terminal law degree is inaccurate.

Having said that, I'd concede the PhD & JD are not exactly equivalent, however, the difference is incremental rather than fundamental.

Aal said...

the American Bar Association has issued a Council Statement advising that the J.D. be considered as being equivalent to the Ph.D. for employment and educational purposes..
http://apps.americanbar.org/legaled/accreditation/Council%20Statements.pdf

Dr. Lawyer said...

JD = approx. 90 semester credits post-bachelors
PhD = approx. 60 semester credits + 30 semester credits for dissertation = 90 semester credits post-bachelors.

THE PhD AND THE JD ARE, AS THE ABA STATES, EQUIVALENTS! End of story. Taking fewer overall classes, writing a dissertation and piling on statistics classes can in no way make a PhD a higher level degree. I would have liked to take 8-9 fewer JD semester classes and write a dissertation (self-paced by the way). LAWYERS ACTUALLY HAVE ONE YEAR MORE CLASSROOM EDUCATION THAN PhDs.

Dr. Lawyer said...

Actually it is not 8-9 more classes that a lawyer takes over his or her PhD counterpart...IT IS 10. 10 more classes is an entire one year of classroom learning. By the way, while JDs do not write a dissertation they do spend 1 year in legal research and writing and at least 1/2 year taking trial advocacy. Sounds similar to writing a large research paper and presenting it doesn't it... Lastly, most PhDs would acknowledge that their dissertation, done before they even begin their career, is probably their weakest body of work due to a lack of any experience.

Regardless of the above, the JD also provides a license to practice in a profession unlike our PhD friends. You decide. I know I have.

philosophyfactory said...

Well, since I wrote this original post, my soon to be ex hubby has done law school instead. There is no way in the world that the legal writing requirement is the same as writing a dissertation. Simply, nope... a whole book's worth of original research... vs. the memos he wrote... no way. As for the extra classwork, I submit that the original research requirements are more demanding because they are not guided by a syllabus.

Null dereferenced said...

Im 2 years out from my PhD in engineering. When im done, I will have spent 8.5 years studying the field of engineering. 6.5 years of that I will have spent doing ORIGINAL research and real life experimentation on top of my course work. This research will help to advance my field on a fundamental level; it is a REQUIREMENT that it does so. I can't just spew philosophical nonsense as some people. I have to back up everything I say with mathematical analysis and experimental verification of that analysis. Let me tell you, the language of mathematics is far more precise than english and there are no ambiguities. If I want to practice professionally as my own firm I have to take not 1 but 2 exams given by the state; the FE first and then after like 2 years of having that and on the job training I can take the PE. These tests are composed of engineering problems that must be solved and can't just be memorized with flash cards.

When lawyers are done they've spent 3 years researching their field and aren't required to contribute anything that will help advance their field. They take an exam that is almost all based on memorization and then are free to start their own firm.

Yea, the required coursework hours in grad school may be similar ... but you're not accounting for the fact that most phd students have already been studying their field for over 4 years before starting on the Phd.

How could anybody possibly consider those two degrees as being equivalent?

Carlson.Engineer said...

FWIW, I have a JD and just successfully defended dissertation for a PhD in physics. I also have a BS and two MS in engineering and an MS in physics. My law licenses are currently inactive, but I am a licensed Professional Engineer in multiple states. I practiced law (including litigation) for a few years, and have practiced engineering (design and analysis) for the large majority of my 30-plus-year professional career.

I just like engineering better. IMO, there is little to no difference in the required intelligence, critical thinking, research and communication skills, effort and time commitment between the JD and PhD degrees or that is needed to excel at either profession. The subject matter is different is all.

IMO.

bit-twiddler said...

I hold undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science. I recently completed a J.D. The complexity of the work that I encountered while completing my J.D. was significantly easier than what I encountered as a graduate computer science student.

Reputable graduate computer science programs require one to hold an undergraduate degree in computer science from a reputable school. Law school requires no formal training in law. The requirement that one must hold an undergraduate degree to enter law school merely serves as a means by which to inflate the academic credential.

Anyone who believes that writing a concise legal paper is extremely difficult should try to write a formal proof for a complex algorithm. I had to write formal proofs for complex algorithms as an undergraduate. The work that I completed in information and coding theory as graduate student would lay waste to most law students. Most law students have absolutely no appreciation for the level complexity that undergraduate students in computer science or engineering programs encounter, let alone the hurdles that graduate students must clear. Undergraduate computer science and engineering programs have very have drop rates for a reason.

In the end, a J.D. is little more than a glorified bachelors degree. It is merely a sexed-up LL.B. Studying law may be difficult for liberal arts and business majors, but it was a walk in the part compared to what I encountered as an undergraduate and graduate computer science student.

One last thing: comparing legal research to scientific research is ludicrous. Finding supporting case/statutory law and “Shepardizing” is not exactly what comes to mind when the word “research” is brought up in a conversation with my peers.

theunbearabletruth said...

It's really entertaining listening to the PhD crowd.

They seem to forget that most (reputable) law schools require a thesis (30 pages) with an original, specified argument based on an existing legal issue... in addition to multiple (at least 8) 20 page papers. This does not include the easy 10-15 page memos or having to oral argue them in front of multiple panels.

Forget research. That's the fun and easy part.

Originality? Try forming a feasible and logical argument off the top of your head, while being put on the spot. Where do you think precedent comes from? It is a living form of originality.

It is difficult listening to individuals with a doctorate in women's studies, history, philosophy, etc trying to make a comparison. All the while they call themselves doctors. My ophthalmologist wife finds this entertaining as well.

Comparing the BAR to an entrance exam is also quite funny. Try the LSAT. I'd love to see a PhD endure the rigorous beating known as the FL, NY, CA BAR exams.

I would have loved, LOVED to have been able to write a dissertation for 30 credit hours, while working at my own pace and on the topic of my choice. Sounds like a dream come true...and then being able to call it a book.

Going to class everyday while getting pounded by professors on the Socratic method is in a different league than any PhD dissertation defense. Our professors are the "black belts" of defense. Good luck trying to win a defense with one of them.

The broad spectrum of topics demanded by the JD trumps the difficulty of any one specified area of study that PhD's get to cruise through.

Hope I have not blown any minds.

We all know how it really is:

1) MD
2) JD
3) PhD
4) MA
5) MBA
6) BA/BS
7) AA

...but, I also understand the importance of PhD "protectionism" within the academic realm. I'd be intimidated too.

Godspeed

Null dereferenced said...

Maybe a JD is harder to get and means more than some PhDs. However, if you think a JD is harder and more meaningful than an engineering PhD then you are just kidding yourself. Engineers are all about logic and details. They could easily look up law and apply logic to the particular circumstance just as lawyers do. On the other hand, I would love to see some lawyers try to solve partial differential equations which involve the use of Fourier series expansions and orthogonal integration. Even for them to just look that up and try to explain it would be awesome.

Null dereferenced said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Lucky Italian said...

I accidentally stumbled across this blog while researching my next academic move. I will openly admit that I have not read all the comments. However, I did read enough to get fired up and feel the need to put in my two cents.

As a women with an MS and PhD in engineering and an EdD (less common doctorate of education), I have had a variety of educational experiences and gone through a fantastic journey of personal hells while earning my degrees. This seems to be a common experience amongst this group posting on this blog. Additionally, I would like to add that my sister went to a top rated law school and is now a practicing attorney for the state. I do not have personal experience with law school, only secondary observation.

I simply want to state this: I believe that the difficulty of the degree depends on the caliber of th school and the effort the student puts into the degree.

Each degree requires a hefty amount if work, whether that be a thesis or a heavy dose of studying for a professional exam. However, I think that it is complete garbage that someone can earn a PhD from a cut-rate online school or a JD from a fourth tier law school and still be considered in the same class as an MIT PhD graduate or a Yale JD graduate.

So if you are a PhD or JD graduate from a credible and decently ranked school, congratulate yourself on a job well done. If you have graduated from Bobs College of Philosophy or I Couldn't Get Into Anywhere Better Law School (obviously not real names, you know if you're school is highly ranked or not so no need to call out specific schools), do us all a favor. Take your diploma, food it up, and use it next time you're in the loo. Your degree is worthless and you shame the rest of us who busted our tails to earn our degrees.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Oddly enough, this post is 5 years old -- 3 years ago I defended my dissertation. Last year my (now) ex-husband finished his JD. I have a job as a philosopher and he's still looking for a permanent law job..

Angel said...

Ph.D. way above a JD, PERIOD. Why? Two Words: Original Research. (Original Theoretical Contribution to Science/Knowledge)

This is another website: http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2006/06/jd-vs-phd-my-story.html

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