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I’m a jobless 3L with waning hope (shocking). I want to practice patent law in some capacity, but I majored in mathematics and only gained patent bar eligibility through an 8 hour engineering exam last April. Apparently I’m not a hedonist these days. Anyway, by the time I got my passing results on the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering exam), the summer Chicago Patent Firm Festival application deadline had lapsed.
I’m now considering going back to school to get a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. Do you think it would injure my (non-existent) law career to take a couple years away from the law in order to educate myself further in eventual pursuit of patent aspirations?? (And to give myself a back up career, let’s be serious).
– Patently Nerdy
Dear Patently Nerdy,
I stared at the sentence “Apparently I’m not a hedonist these days,” wondering what that meant and if it was final confirmation that I had lost cognitive abilities after the concussion, but I concluded that that sentence makes no sense and that you were trying to say “I’m a glutton for punishment.”
Let’s move on, quickly…
The Chicago Patent Firm Festival sounds like it ranks somewhere below Mole Day (October 23, mark your calendars), and just because the party’s over doesn’t mean you can’t apply to those firms. But that just sounds like an excuse for what is really a much larger issue.
Sounds like you’re terrified of facing the real world and all the uncertainty (and possible unemployment) it brings, and instead seek refuge in another degree. People who rack up degrees don’t want to deal with the real world. Degrees are like a drug addiction, only worse because they’re more expensive. My sister once dated a guy who, at age 30, had just started his first job after being in school for a JD/MBA and a master’s in some throwaway subject and when she was annoyed because he didn’t call for a third date, I had to break it to her that people who get three degrees for no ostensible reason do not have the capacity to love and might try to do things like take the bus on dates.
I don’t know what mechanical engineers do besides play with Micro Machines and fix the internet, but I’m guessing that the master’s degree program does not have something akin to the law school conveyor belt where you just stand in place while employers throw interviews and jobs at you. At the end of that program, you may face the exact same unemployment dilemma that you do now, and will you solve it by diving right back for another degree? Sorry to say, in the real world and in T20+ schools, you have to put your back into getting a job and keeping it. Now’s a good time to see what that feels like.
I have to totally agree with Marin on this point, which is too bad because as you know I hate doing what the little thin girl tells me to do. But it’s unavoidable based on this question. Putting extra letters behind your name looks like an obvious attempt to avoid having to suck it up and take whatever low-paying, unrewarding job you can scrounge up in this terrible economy.
Really, this goes directly to my general issue about the reasons people attend law school in the first place. Post-graduate degrees should be taken on an “absolutely need to have basis.” If you identify a job — a specific real world job, not a general career — and the post graduate degree is the only thing holding you back, then fine. Go for it and get some more education. But if you just can’t think of anything better to do and you are hoping that somehow, some way, another degree will help you out, then it’s really silly to go to grad school. Wait, figure out your life. Then go.
And since you’ve already been to law school, you should know this better than most. Dear God, you just pissed three years and who knows how much money down the drain. How in God’s name can you be so eager to potentially do it again? Talk about throwing good money after bad — you should consider converting whatever you are planning on spending for your master’s degree into pennies, and then tossing them into a fountain one by one.
Look, after I left my firm, a bunch of people told me that I should go to journalism school. And I’m sure if I did go to journalism school I’d make fewer typos and piss off fewer people. But it sounded insane to me to sign up for another post-graduate degree having just essentially immolated the first one.
Knock wood, that decision seems to be paying off, and it was a really easy decision to make. How did I do it? How did I stand up against the pressure from friends and family to get another degree based on a wing and a prayer? I looked at myself in the mirror and asked, “Can you learn, at all, from your stupid mistakes?”
Yes, I can. I did. And you should too. Get a job. Then, if later in your career you feel like a master’s in whatever is going to be the last thing you need to make your life better, fork over the money to get additional education. It’s really that simple.
– Classic blogger with no formal training who old media types would like to see murdered.
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