Thursday, August 23, 2012

J.D. to Ph.D. - a few suggestions

I loved Josh's recent "top ten" list for history PhDs who are headed to law school. In response to his post, reader Emily asked for JD-to-PhD suggestions.

In the comments, LHB blogger and JD-turned-PhD-candidate Clara Altman counseled Emily to "resist the temptation to outline everything so that you can let your brain work in new ways, but figure out when your outlining skills can yield something important/insightful." Josh recommended "getting as caught up on the 'canon' as you can."

Here are a few more suggestions, based on my experience doing a year of JD coursework before starting my PhD:

1. In a PhD program, your classmates are truly your colleagues -- and will be your colleagues for the rest of your professional life. You are not competing against them for grades or a coveted spot on the law review. If like me, you spent much of law school like this, take the time now to build personal relationships and explore intellectual connections. Ask your peers to read your work, and be generous and thoughtful when you have the opportunity to help with theirs.

2. When I wore my "law school hat," I often felt that I had to be extremely efficient and focused in order to get all my work done. It took me a long time to realize that part of the graduate school experience is wandering down some rabbit holes. If you feel like you have wasted time on a fruitless or unsustainable research trail, cut yourself some slack.

That said ….

3. Law students turn work in on time. There is no other option. Graduate students often do not. They ask for extensions, carry papers over to subsequent semesters, and so on. Others may disagree, but on this, I would encourage JD-to-PhD students to stick to their habits. I think that good time management leads to less stress over all. Honoring deadlines also demonstrates respect for your professors and their schedules.

Readers -- any additional thoughts?