Graduate & Law School Advice

1. Graduate School

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Getting Strong Letters of Recommendation

Graduate School Advice & Resources

  • “Should I Get a Ph.D.?” by Jay Lemke. (You should read this and heed his advice on deciding whether, and where, to pursue the doctorate. I’d add this reminder to Lemke’s advice: he emphasizes faculty over curriculum, which is worth considering, but never go to grad school just to study under one particular professor, no matter how important they seem. Many of the “big names” move around as much as pro ballplayers do–always looking for a better deal. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one prof’s basket and watch them leave for another university halfway through your program. That’s why Lemke emphasizes finding departments with more than one prominent person in X area.)
  • “On Graduate School and Love,” also by William Pannapacker. (“So the rhetoric of “love” has an ambiguous meaning when it’s applied to graduate school. It can be impossibly idealistic, and deeply rooted in powerful experiences that override economic self-­interest. It also can be deeply cynical, a means of devaluing the work of some for the benefit of others.”)
  • “Moving the Goalposts in Graduate Education” by Marc Bosquet (“As responsible analysts have understood since the mid-1990s, this [lack of tenure-track jobs] isn’t because of an oversupply of Ph.D.s but an intentionally created undersupply of tenure-stream positions. Beginning in 1970, administrators began systematically turning teaching-intensive jobs into part-time or nontenurable positions that — they claim — don’t require a Ph.D.“)
  • Alt-ac Careers and the Purposes of Humanities Doctoral Programs” (by Alex Reid, on his blog Digital Digs:
    1. “Spending 8 years getting a PhD in the humanities probably doesn’t make good financial sense.  So don’t do it for that reason. (I know, that’s a shocker.)
    2. If you want to get a PhD for other, non-financial reasons, then, as they say, “it’s a free country.” However, it’s important to have both a national and program-level understanding of the career prospects of your degree, because at some point you will be looking for a job and you should at least make an informed decision.
    3. For different reasons, we should make an effort to create better careers for college teachers, though even if we did, point #1 would still apply.
    4. Part of creating such college positions should be thinking about the alternative-academic careers PhDs pursue on our campuses and ensuring as well as we can that those are well-paid and secure positions.”
  • Finding Fit (Cheryl Ball’s advice on understanding the various kinds of academic jobs. Useful for planning where to attend grad school and what you might do after you complete grad school.)

2. Law School

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Law School Advice and Resources

Materials That Every Law Student (and Lawyer) Should Own

If you do decide to go to law school, you should get, read, and annotate the following:



  • Bryan Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage, 3d. ed., Redbook: A Manual of Legal Style, 4th ed., Modern English Usage (also sign up for his Law Prose Lessons), and Garner, et. al.’s The Law of Judicial Precedent
  • Wilson Huhn’s The 5 Types of Legal Argument, 2d ed.
  • Richard Farnsworth’s The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law
  • Ross Guberman’s Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates, 2d ed.
  • David S. Romantz and Kathleen Elliott Vinson’s Legal Analysis
  • Philip Bobbitt’s Constitutional Interpretation

3. Statements of Purpose & Personal Statements

In addition to the #1 bit of advice to “write the statement only you could write” (i.e., don’t be generic, predictable, or a walking cliche), read and consider this advice. These statements will require 10-20 drafts to be truly effective. Here is some good advice: