In the earlier thread on the job market, a couple of commenters asked for a separate discussion of options that PhD students might consider as they confront a job market that may be unusually austere. I am opening comments here for questions and discussion. A couple of readers did e-mail to ask about law school and the job market for new lawyers. Students trained in philosophy tend to do well in law school, since the main analytical skill that is central to most law classes--dissecting arguments and responding to them, thinking about hypothetical cases, etc.--are ones that philosophy hones particulary well. There are, it should be emphasized, big differences as well. Most importantly, arguments from authority are not fallacious, but central to legal argument. And thus the boundaries of any argument are set by the authorities at hand: the legislative materials, the prior cases, and so on. In addition, of course, many of the issues are fairly banal by comparison to what we might argue about in philosophy, though some areas of law (criminal law, torts) are a rich repository of problems familiar to those who work in normative ethics.
There has been a significant contraction in the job market for new lawyers, but nothing like what we have seen on the academic job market, and the effect of the contraction is extremely pedigree-sensitive (law being much more pedigree-sensitive than philosophy). The vast majority of graduates of the very top law schools (Yale, Harvard, Chicago, Stanford, Columbia most clearly) still have good opportunities. So do most of the graduates of NYU, Michigan, Virginia, Berkeley, Northwestern, Cornell, Texas, Duke, Vanderbilt and so on. I will say that it pays currently to go to a smaller law school than a larger one (ceteris paribus of course) given the contraction in hiring, for a simple reason: the leading law firms are still hiring students fresh out of law school, but they are hiring fewer of them; at the same time, they all like to have at least one or two grads from the leading law schools, to keep the connections fresh, to benefit from word of mouth, and so on. So if Skadden Arps (a leading and very large law firm) is now hiring, say, 100 new attorneys, instead of 200, but still wants to have at least 1 or 2 grads from each top school, and there are 200 students (mor or less) in each class at Yale and Chicago and Stanford, and 450 at NYU and 550 at Harvard, and every other major firm is acting similarly, well, you can do the math.
I am happy to answer other questions about law school in the comments. And please do not take the thread as confined to law school as an alternative. Please cast the net widely, and feel free to post advice and ideas as well as questions. (I will permit anonymous posts as the norm here, since I understand that current PhD students do not wish to advertise their concerns about having to leave the profession. I will still moderate for content and relevance.)