Graduate School vs. Law School Training: Is There Much of A Difference?

Posted in BioEducation

For the past eight years, I have been writing about problems with the current life science graduate training paradigm. Although I knew that these problems were not unique to the life sciences, I was amazed to read an article in today’s NY Times entitled “A Call for Drastic Changes in Educating New Lawyers.”  For example, (in the following quote from the article) if you replace the words “legal academy” with the phrase “life sciences graduate training programs” you will understand my amazement.

“While a few schools are freezing tuition and others are increasing hands-on learning, critics are increasingly saying that the legal academy cannot solve its own problems, partly because of the vested interests of tenured professors tied to an antiquated system. Effective solutions, they insist, will have to be imposed from the outside.”

Another quote from the article is also apt:

“There is almost universal agreement that the current system is broken”

The point that the article is trying to make is that the old legal training paradigm is anachronistic. And for the legal profession to continue to exist (and thrive), educational changes are necessary. While some of you may be thinking, “who cares about lawyers:” do not think that people are not saying “who cares about PhDs.”  Further, those of you who may have experienced legal challenges (for example I was sued for defamation two years ago by a nefarious and odious illicit dog breeder), you know that finding a good lawyer is of paramount importance. Like good lawyers, good PhD-trained scientists are essential to maintain societal homeostasis.

In any event, the article points out that law students, like life sciences graduate students and postdoctoral trainees, are not receiving necessary experiential training that is required to land jobs in today’s highly competitive global job market.  Like the current situation in the life sciences, many tenured law professors have little connection to or understanding of the real world practices of the law (substitution pharmaceutical, biotech and related industries). Consequently, it is impossible for them to train their students and postdocs for industrial jobs despite the best intentions of many of them. Put simply, good science does not always translate into employment!

As I have stated numerous times before, the current life sciences training paradigm is broken. Further, those of you who may be considering law as an alternative career option, please be advised that the “grass may not be greener on the other side of the fence.” To wit, many law school graduates are unemployed and saddled with enormous loan debt.  However, that said, there is a growing need for intellectual property and patent law attorneys. But, before you decide to go down that career path, I highly recommend that you read a few patents (if you can get through them without falling asleep then patent law may be for you) and talk with patent attorneys about their experiences.  It is always best to know what you are getting yourself into before taking your next career step!

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!