A recent philosophy graduate gave me permission to share his questions, which might be of interest to others:
I am currently deciding between graduate school in philosophy (I graduated in honors philosophy from [school name omitted] in 2015) and law school. In the long run I am considering whether to pursue philosophical or legal academia. I have benefitted greatly from your advice to prospective philosophy graduate students and prospective law school students with philosophical interests on Leiter Reports. Since I have a couple of questions that as far as I can see have not been directly discussed in a Leiter Report blog post I thought I would email them to you in case you have the time to answer them.
1. My primary area of philosophical interest is political philosophy. In the spirit of your post on the difference between the study of political philosophy in political science and philosophy departments, I am wondering about the difference between working in political philosophy in a law school or in a philosophy department. What would you say are the most significant differences that someone considering both options should take into account?
2. a. If one were to plan on obtaining a philosophy PhD and a JD separately in order to pursue legal academia, is there a significant difference academically in doing one of them first? For instance, would there be a significant impact on one's study of the subjects themselves? on job market chances?
b. If there is, is one course of study preferable? In other words, is it more beneficial to come to the study of law with significant training in relevant philosophical areas (political, moral, epistemology), or to come to the study of philosophy with philosophical questions arising from one’s study of law?
Here are my answers:
1. At many good law schools (see this section of the PGR), there are serious opportunities to study political philosophy, but even at the best law schools, given that most of your studies will not be philosophy-related, you can't get adequate training to do professional work. At best, you can acquire competence with themes, authors, and arguments, but you won't emerge as a political philosopher with a JD only.
2a. I've known students who have done it in both directions, and had good success at it. PhD programs seem, in recent years, to be keen to admit those with a good JD record, but those who come to the JD with a PhD in philosophy already have a set of intellectual and disciplinary skills that can help them thrive and do quite well in law school.
2b. I don't think there's a one approach fits all answer to this question. But I'm opening comments for thoughts from other readers.