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So You Want To Be A Lawyer
Old 04-14-2011, 06:52 PM   #1
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So You Want To Be A Lawyer

I'm not a lawyer, but a young relative wants to go to law school. Those on the forum who presently practice law or did practice what are some are the present day realities of going to law school and practicing the profession (pros and cons)....would you do it over again, why or why not ? Please, no lawyer jokes !
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Old 04-14-2011, 07:27 PM   #2
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Old 04-14-2011, 07:45 PM   #3
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I'm not a lawyer, but I occasionally post about them here on this forum.

Every lawyer I meet seems to have the same plan. They all seem to be burnt out and want to bail-out (no pun intended) as soon as possible. They work really long hours to make as much money as possible to get out early to live the good life. There doesn't seem to be much balance there. perhaps my view is a bit distorted, but from what I can see I wouldn't choose that lifestyle for anything.
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Old 04-14-2011, 08:25 PM   #4
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Here are some prior threads on the topic:

Son will be going to Law School-Help!

Observations on the Cost of College
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Old 04-14-2011, 08:31 PM   #5
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I am a lawyer....there I said it. The first step on the road to recovery....

"Being a lawyer" covers a wide range of potential careers - large private practice firms specialising in areas such as litigation, tax, corporate finance etc, sole practitioners focused on family law or real estate, ambulance chasers, working in-house for companies, public prosecuters, judges etc etc. Having some idea about what direction your relative wants to go in would be a useful start.

The comments below are from the perspective of large commercial private practice firms.

The reality of law school is a lot of hard work in a very very competitive environment (no different from a lot of other courses). Getting much sought after summer placements is increasingly critical to getting job offers (especially from the bigger firms).

From my experience (large firm private practice), the reality is that the top graduates from the top law schools will get a lot of offers from law firms. Those who went to less prestigious law schools and/or who got mediocre grades are very unlikely to get any job offers from one of the larger firms. The supply of candidates is simply much bigger than the number of jobs available to expect anything else.

Once employed, the next (economic) reality is that only a minority of those who join a private practice law firm will eventually make partner. Partnership also takes longer to get - 30+ years ago, good lawyers would often make partner before they were 30. These days, we are seeing people being put up for partnership in their mid 30s-early 40s.

Very long working hours are the norm. Being connected by mobile/blackberry 24x7 is the norm.

Bottom line, if becoming a partner at a large firm is your relative's objective, then getting good grades in a highly competitive and well recognised law school + getting summer placements is an essential first step. After that, you face 8-12 years of very long hours over which you have no control with no certainty of making partner. Other career options will open up, especially in-house positions.

For the positives, law is intellectually challenging and you get to work with some very smart and personable people - but you can get that a lot of other places as well.

Financially, many (not all) lawyers do earn high incomes.
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Old 04-14-2011, 08:51 PM   #6
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My nephew graduated from NYU in 2009 and still looking for a job in the field after passing his bar exam. From what I was told, many of his friends are also looking for a job with huge student loan.


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Law school: the big lie Every year tens of thousands of wannabe lawyers enter law school. The majority will be extremely disappointed by their career opportunities.
Thus the title of this essay: law school is a big lie. People enter law school with the idea that a law degree is their ticket to a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle. In fact, just the opposite, law school for most is a ticket to a worse financial state than if they had not attended at all.
This news is hard for people to accept, because “everyone knows” that lawyers make a lot of money. Right? Well look at the salaries for government lawyers in your area. They probably start in the 30s. Why would anyone take a job paying in the 30s if law jobs pay six figures? They wouldn’t. After a decade or more of service to the state, you salary will most likely max out in the five figures. That’s a pretty lousy salary for a job that requires three years of graduate school education. There are plenty of people without any graduate education earning six figures, and they don’t have to pay back the student loans that lawyers have to take out in order to pay for law school. Bill Gates is the richest man in the world and he doesn’t even have an undergraduate degree.
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A retired Canadian law professor claims the current Canadian law school model has turned legal education into "kindergarten for cretins." Robert Martin claims deregulation of law school tuition resulted in schools developing the Wal-Mart Model (presumably meaning law schools are now offering cheap education at a high volume). The McLean's article, which does not link to Martin's original article that was published in the journal, Interchange, does not specify whether Martin believes the legal market is over-saturated as a result, but by stating that law degrees can now be bought by virtually any sucker who will pay the inflated tuition, he is certainly implying just that.
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Old 04-14-2011, 09:38 PM   #7
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My nephew graduated from NYU in 2009 and still looking for a job in the field after passing his bar exam. From what I was told, many of his friends are also looking for a job with huge student loan.
Sadly this is not uncommon in a number of countries. The number of lawyers being churned out by the law schools each year exceeds the number of jobs available.
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Old 04-14-2011, 10:14 PM   #8
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Video: "...except you will have $100k in debt..."

This is wrong, unless we are talking 8-10 years ago, it is actually worse, it is fairly common to have more debt than this, especially counting any past debt from undergrad. My roommate had $170k of debt by the time he graduated. A few, hard to enter, types of law can handle a normal law school debt-load fairly easily, most types of law, however, cannot. After many years, some types of law often, but certainly no where near always, pay off, but in the meantime, the stress and the workload are higher than normal.
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Old 04-14-2011, 10:49 PM   #9
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Anyone notice that the young lady in the blue sweater has fangs? She might make a good lawyer after all.

Ha
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Old 04-14-2011, 11:17 PM   #10
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I am in law school right now but I don't think my experience or situation is typical (luckily )

I'm on a scholarship from work and will graduate with zero debt. And I have a budding land-lording business on the side and some savings. I love my classes and the reading assignments, I find them stimulating and engaging. Most people seem to think law school is a grind. I think it's a pleasure. It's just interesting reading and conversation followed by somewhat intense exams, but those are only for a couple of weeks twice a year, so big deal. It's far less work than my undergrad degree was.

My real estate investing on the side is doing so well I probably won't bother looking for a job when I graduate next year. But I am looking forward to having a very part-time solo practice, maybe doing $5k-$20k of legal work a year.

I am in no way envious of my classmates who are all clawing for the top spot in class, sweating through exams hoping they'll eek out a 1% higher score than the guy beside them so they can eventually land one of those coveted big law jobs, work 90 hours a week for 10 years, eventually pay-off their $170k+ of debt and finally, when they're 38, be able to afford that BMW they've had their eye on since they took the LSAT.
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Old 04-14-2011, 11:51 PM   #11
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Traineeinvestor's comments are very accurate.

I am also a lawyer. I did not work in a large firm environment. I went to a good law school and made good grades but that wasn't my interest. I've spent most of my career in firms between about 20 and 40 lawyers.

On the positive side I was able to use my mind to do work that well suited to my abilities. I was also well paid.

On the other hand. The hours are brutal (and one reason I opted to work in somewhat smaller firms was to have a better work/life balance). As an attorney at the firms I was with I never had a set amount of vacation I could take. When I was young I thought it was cool that I could theoretically take 3 weeks of vacation during a year when friends at other jobs could take 2 weeks. But...that is only on the surface.

When I married my husband I discovered a different world out there (he was not a lawyer). When he took a vacation it was, well, time off. For me it was not unusual that I would bill 10 to 20 hours during a week of vacation. But it wasn't just that. I was expected to bill X hours during the year. I could take as much vacation as I wanted...so long as I billed X hours. So, every hour that I took off was essentially an hour that had to be made up. I finally realized that lawyers in private practice don't really have vacation or sick time. When I took off time for surgery, well, I still had to later make that time up.

Many of my coworkers never saw their young children awake except maybe on Sunday. They left for work and came home too late. I remember interviewing a young lawyer once who was leaving a large law firm. His expected billable hours in a year were something like 2200. We was really busy that year and billed 2400 and was glad when the year was over. But then they said that since he had done so well at billing 2400 hours that was his new goal for the next year. He protested wanting to spend more time with his family. He was bluntly told that the firm has to come before his family (hence the reason he was wanting to go to a more family friendly firm).

If I could do it over again I would never be a lawyer. It is intellectually stimulating and the money is good but the price you pay for it is too high. I do know people who feel differently and are real workaholics and they would think I'm nuts to say this.
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Old 04-15-2011, 10:26 AM   #12
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I'm not a lawyer, but I occasionally post about them here on this forum.

Every lawyer I meet seems to have the same plan. They all seem to be burnt out and want to bail-out (no pun intended) as soon as possible. They work really long hours to make as much money as possible to get out early to live the good life. There doesn't seem to be much balance there. perhaps my view is a bit distorted, but from what I can see I wouldn't choose that lifestyle for anything.
Sounds like my wife's brother.

All the long hours, stress and lack of exercise are also resulting in some serious health problems these last couple of years. (he's 48). I know he'd love to RE but he is still a long way off that.
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Old 04-15-2011, 10:51 AM   #13
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Sounds like my wife's brother.

All the long hours, stress and lack of exercise are also resulting in some serious health problems these last couple of years. (he's 48). I know he'd love to RE but he is still a long way off that.
The lawyers I know get caught up in the lifestyle trap. To show their peer and theirs friends how successful they are they drive the imported luxury cars, live in the big house, eat at the gourmet restaurants, and take far-away exotic vacations.

So to live that life means they won't be financially independent as a young (or middle-aged) person. That lifestyle dictates working long and hard until you are really old. They make good money but spend much of it.

They should take a lesson from this forum.... Live inexpensively, save your money, avoid all the lifestyle nonsense, and be happy.
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Old 04-15-2011, 11:00 AM   #14
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The lawyers I know get caught up in the lifestyle trap. To show their peers and theirs friends how successful they are they drive the imported luxury cars, live in the big house, eat at the gourmet restaurants, and take far-away exotic vacations.

So to live that life means they won't be financially independent as a young (or middle-aged) person. That lifestyle dictates working long and hard until you are really old. They make good money but spend much of it.
Sounds my BIL alright. He is a really nice guy and isn't all that flashy, and lives within his means - only debt these days is a reasonable mortgage, but he likes his "well above average" lifestyle so needs a lot of money to retire in that lifestyle he has become accustomed to.
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Old 04-15-2011, 11:09 AM   #15
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Sounds my BIL alright. He is a really nice guy and isn't all that flashy, and lives within his means - only debt these days is a reasonable mortgage, but he likes his "well above average" lifestyle so needs a lot of money to retire in that lifestyle he has become accustomed to.
Until just a few years ago I well just assumed that. I had very inflated ideas of how much was needed to retire because I assumed needing a high income during retirement.

Then, at some point in really thinking about it I realized that if we adjusted our lifestyle that we really didn't need much more than we had from DH's pension lumpsum, our 401ks and SS.

We asked ourselves if we preferred to work full time for another 5 years (him) or longer (me) or if we would be willing to live an average lifestyle and retire earlier. We decided that an average lifestyle would be fine.
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Old 04-15-2011, 11:18 AM   #16
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Until just a few years ago I well just assumed that. I had very inflated ideas of how much was needed to retire because I assumed needing a high income during retirement.

Then, at some point in really thinking about it I realized that if we adjusted our lifestyle that we really didn't need much more than we had from DH's pension lumpsum, our 401ks and SS.

We asked ourselves if we preferred to work full time for another 5 years (him) or longer (me) or if we would be willing to live an average lifestyle and retire earlier. We decided that an average lifestyle would be fine.
BIL is definitely coming around to that way of thinking. He's told me recently that he now wants to get the mortgage paid off and seriously consider retiring within the next 10 years. Time will tell, but he has always been good at contributing to a private pension so it is certainly well within his ability to do so.
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Old 04-15-2011, 02:29 PM   #17
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When I was 18 I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, but I did know one thing -- I didn't want to spend my life in a cubicle and/or office. Well, I didn't follow my own advice. I ended up in law school. Worked for the Government for 30+ years. Spend all my time cooped up in an office, sometimes with a window, sometimes without. My work was, for the most part, tedious and dull. Occasionally, I felt that I did something worthwhile, but most of the time I felt I was simply a cog in a VERY large machine . . . one that I had absolutely no control over. Too much paperwork, too much arguing over things that didn't really matter, too many mind-numbing meetings, too much time wasted cleaning up messes made by others, too much seeing the worst side of others. Too many outcomes controlled by politics rather than the rule of law. Would I chose law again? No. Law is like many other professions, it's great to be the lead dog, but the view sucks for the rest of the pack. Thank God LBYM comes naturally to me and offers a way out.
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Old 04-16-2011, 01:30 AM   #18
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Anyone notice that the young lady in the blue sweater has fangs? She might make a good lawyer after all.

Ha
That was the first thing I noticed about her. The thought of a vampire with blood-sucking fangs came to mind.
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