Academic common room
Career and PhD
Linda1981 · 11/02/2018 08:36
Dear all, I would love to hear your thoughts on this: I am working full-time as a solicitor whilst doing a part-time PhD (since October) which is going well, having written 10% so far. We are buying a house and hoping to have children in the next 3 years or so. Now the thing is, most people I know are telling me that doing the PhD is a silly move really, as they think it will not enhance my career and that I will earn peanuts if I wanted to become an academic. My dilemma is that I cannot see being a City solicitor as compatible with motherhood one day. Hours are unpredictable, pressures on finding clients and billing are increasing, aggression in the workplace is high due to constant competitiveness in the profession. I like law and my PhD is closely linked to my specialisation. However, I do feel saddened and discouraged by some of the comments I am getting. I know that emotionally, I will not be able to hand my child(ren) to a nanny without seeing them when they are awake during the week. Also, having changed law firms recently, I noticed a certain attitude towards me as potential 'maternity time-bomb'. My husband works full-time in a kinder industry but cannot give up his job. I guess what I would like to know, are my decisions and thoughts unreasonable? Thank you.
Brokenbiscuit · 11/02/2018 08:45
Academia is not an easy path. I do lots of recruitment and see loads of unemployed people with PhDs.I also have quite a lot of friends who are academics, and it can be tough at times.
Many early career academics are stuck on crappy zero hour or fixed term contracts. It can be very difficult for people to find open-ended jobs in this field. And those that do have secure permanent posts tend to work crazy hours to get everything done. On the plus side, the hours are often extremely flexible and leave allowances are generous.
Academic pensions are about to be slashed, so that's a significant benefit that will go - a lot of university staff will be striking about this soon.
What is your area of specialisation in law? Perhaps there might be other avenues that you could consider?
Linda1981 · 11/02/2018 09:11
Hi there, thank you for your response. Would you say that a PhD cannot be like a hobby?
On another note, I am in construction law, to answer your question.
user1494149444 · 11/02/2018 10:15
Lots of people are trying to make the same move. The pay is less but the environment and hours are better (anyone who says otherwise has never worked ft at a big law firm); a friend of mine who has worked in both says there is no comparison between the two (this is his opinion, I've no idea as I've never worked in law).
Law is one of the few areas where you could pick up a university teaching job without a PhD, although that is changing quite quickly so it is good you are enrolled on one. You could start looking at jobs now, and complete the PhD whilst teaching, so start looking at jobs.ac.uk.
PhD as a hobby? It starts off that way but most people find it a chore as it goes on.
Most people on here say it is a terrible time to go into academia; that academia is on it's knees. Keep a close eye on recent funding announcements by the government. Basically there is a shift from funding research towards teaching and now knowledge transfer. Tuition fees are going to be dropped to around £7k and I think two year degrees will be adopted within three years by many institutions.
Toyrd · 11/02/2018 10:37
Perhaps look at the Government Legal Department or going in-house as well, or perhaps legal recruitment.
Academic lawyers/University of Law etc teachers seem to be more efficient generally :-) and also have slightly better conditions so your strategy might be fine - but I do think you're taking on an awful lot to buy a house, start a family, finish a PhD and start an academic career all in the next 4-5 years. It's not a fun environment at present for many even if they are ostensibly doing well.
I've worked three weekends in a row and have been marking since 7.30, just taking a short break - not quite law firm conditions of course or with your billable hours culture, but that doesn't make it chocolate and daisies either.
dimples76 · 11/02/2018 21:11
I used to be a solicitor working in a City law firm and I am now an academic. Almost none of the women I trained and who have had children still work in the City. I still work v hard now but it is far more flexible. I often need to work in the evenings (I am also doing a doctorate) but it's never a problem to leave work on time and in general you have far more notice of deadlines rather than clients calling a 6pm demanding things are done before the next morning. I know when I was in practice colleagues who worked part time were frequently contacted on their days off. My contract is 0.8 and on my day off on Wednesdays I completely switch off work and have fun with my son.
Being an academic is definitely not an easy option but for me the stress is far less than the law (and I find it more rewarding).
I have to say though I am not sure I could have combined FT solicitor and PhD
LRDtheFeministDragon · 12/02/2018 15:45
I think it's possible to write a PhD as a hobby, but that's such a small part of what you need to do during the PhD to be vaguely competitive for postdocs afterwards. All the surrounding stuff like going to conferences, writing papers, publishing and teaching would be harder to do 'as a hobby'. No one is going to look twice at a job applicant who has a completed PhD and nothing else.
murmuration · 12/02/2018 16:10
Doing a PhD with the aim of being an academic is a hugely risky strategy - people don't like to admit it (as they like to think their success is just down to their own 'hard work'), but luck plays a huge role in whether you score a position or not. Hard work is a prerequisite, but not a guarantee. I am hugely willing to believe that demands on lawyers are as bad or worse than demands on academics (I have lawyer friends), but there is a lot of pressure and an infinite amount of work to do - that is, you could always be doing more. The decisions aren't what to do, but what to skip. If you have self-control and can handle the guilt of not doing everything, it's brilliant. If you cave to the pressure, you can end up working every waking hour (and nearly losing your family like a friend of mine) and being miserable.
However, with a PhD, you may be highly competitive a solicitor role in professional services within a University (arguing that you understand the academics you'll be working with as you have a PhD...), that might be a better working environment than you have currently. I've actually just met with one of our Uni soliticers in the finance team - she beamed about how great she found the job and how much better it was than her previous work in a firm. And I know several academics who have made the transition over to professional services and are much happier - they keep the uni environment but remove the ridiculous demands of teaching/research/service/outreach that are unattainable within a working week.
TheRagingGirl · 14/02/2018 08:21
My husband works full-time in a kinder industry but cannot give up his job.
Why not? Why is it a given that you'll change careers?
Academic law - as you're a successful practitioner & will then have a PhD - might be a good move, but it's not a given that you'll get an academic job.
But it's not the only alternative .
Linda1981 · 16/02/2018 14:04
Thank you so much for all your kind posts. I went quiet due to running around at the office. All very valid points of view. I love my PhD and simply will see where my career will take me.
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