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Old 09-27-2007, 10:53 AM   #21
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I used to practice in a large firm and I concur with most what Gumby said.

Economically, with a 12 year time frame right now, you will likely break even sometime around age 42.

I'd say don't do it unless you have a burning desire to practice law (or otherwise use the law degree). It's not much different than any other doctorate -- doctoral degrees are only worth pursuing if you are very interested in the subject (IMHO). There are a lot of other ways to find new careers that don't involve three years of (potentially) expensive and (arguably) difficult schooling.

And others have also mentioned that you're probably looking at 50-60 hour workweeks (or more if you want the big bucks), so the increased pay doesn't really come out to that much more per hour in the end.

For a transfer of skills without law school, have you considered becoming a paralegal working on zoning matters? They can make good money and keep better hours than attorneys.

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Old 09-27-2007, 12:29 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by GoodSense View Post
I just feel that without going to school again, it would be hard to qualify for any professional job that is not currently in my field, unless I start all over again from data entry.
I sorta kinda did what you're thinking about except I was an engineer who got an MBA and am now back doing engineering. If I had to do it over again, I would go find jobs I was interested in doing, and try to get one of them without the degree. If I kept hearing, "We'd love to hire you except we need someone with an MBA" as a constant refrain THEN I'd go get the degree. As it stands now, I may go get a non-engineering job and my MBA will of course be on my resume, but it may very well be that that new job didn't require the degree.

My .02


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Old 09-27-2007, 12:47 PM   #23
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Many (most?) people go to law school as a sort of "default option" because:

(a) their undergraduate degree provides them with no marketable skills, or

(b) because they have no idea "what they want to do when they grow up" and being a lawyer seems kinda cool, or

(c) because they are pressured by their parents to get an advanced degree (any advanced degree), or

(d) they want to continue the student life for 3 more years and delay the nasty, brutish real world as long as possible, and law school seems like a respectable way to do that.

So by default, you have a system primed to result in many unhappy people once reality sets in after graduation. I think that's reason #1 why so many attorneys are miserable. But, of course, there are additional reasons (the crappy work/life balance and general a--hole personality types of so many lawyers are other big reasons).

It doesn't sound like you fall into any of the above categories, but it does sound like you need to give it some more thought.

I'm a recent law school graduate. I started law school at 27 and worked my way through by going to school at night (4 years instead of 3). I didn't sacrifice anything in my career, didn't take on any substantial financial burden to pay for law school (went to a "second tier" school ranked lower than some of the top schools I got into, but one that gave me substantial scholarship money), and continued to work toward my FIRE goals while in school.

The biggest sacrifice I made was in time and effort. I worked hard in school to be near the top of my class - and yeah did the law review thing - and was fortunate enough to get a job at a big law firm that pays big law salaries.

In retrospect, I'm glad I went to law school and I think getting my JD was a positive career advancement move whether I'm practicing law or not. But the work/life balance sucks in most big law firms, and there are many, many miserable lawyers out there. I'm pretty satisfied because the higher salary from just my first year of work as an attorney allowed me to more than recoup my financial investment, so I know I can leave at any time now and I won't be worse off for it.

But frankly, if I had paid full tuition at a top school, and/or had sacrificed 3 years of earning power to go to law school, I would be miserable. It's hard enough starting any new career when you're 31 (in your case it'd be 34) years old and your peers are all 25, but especially law, where it's so competitive and everyone expects you to devote your entire life to work. Not to mention that in your 30s you'll likely start to think of raising a family and will be less willing to be a slave.

If you're unsure whether you really want to work as an attorney but you really think it's something you want to do, then IMO the trick is to hedge your bets and go back to school in a way that will allow you to get the degree and the opportunities it might offer you, while at the same time continuing to work toward FIRE and avoiding getting chained down by law school debt. (Especially given your age and obvious desire to FIRE.)

The most straightforward way I found to do that was to sacrifice my nights/weekends for a few years. It sucked, but I did (mostly) enjoy learning about the law and I'm proud and happy I did it.

But I'm also glad that I'm on track for FIRE just the same as I would have been without law school, because frankly, although I'm not lazy, working because I have to work just sucks, no matter the job.

Feel free to pm me if you have any specific questions. Good luck with your decision.
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Old 09-27-2007, 12:52 PM   #24
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I would look around at City Planning departments to see if there is a job you wish you had. Find out what it takes to do that job and consider how you could get there.

As I look around at Cities today it seems to me that water and sewerage management will be major issues. There are planning, as well as engineering and plant operations elements in those departments.

The best thing you can do for your mental health is to follow the advice my Mother gave me: Every job can be awful at times, there are always trade-offs. If the job is more bad than rewarding the process of plotting your exit makes the day-to-day bearable.
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Old 09-27-2007, 02:29 PM   #25
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I've been a lawyer for over five years now. It's not as bad as a lot of people make it out to be, but I have to admit that's not exactly saying much. There are trade-offs with every job. The law just happens to come with some very significant negatives. I won't bother listing all the positives and negatives for you, as I'm sure you can do that yourself.

For me the law has been great. I was near the top of my class at a very inexpensive law school near the bottom of the first tier. I got lots of great job offers. I work pretty much 9-6 (though admittedly my billables are a little too low this year), and make a six-figure salary as a civil litigator. I feel my job is pretty secure, and I like my firm, my practice areas, and my fellow lawyers. The worst thing about being a civil litigator is too much of the work requires me to be stressed out about very tedious, uninteresting minutae. Sometimes I'm stressed about truly significant things, but if you're a lawyer, you need to be able to handle being stressed about really boring nitpicky details that could conceivably be very important, but almost certainly will not be important.

In my experience, just about anybody can be a lawyer. But doing well in law school and passing the bar exam are only the beginning of a very difficult and time consuming career. It really takes a lot of very hard work to be a successful lawyer. It's a rewarding career, but there are easier ways to make a living if you're just looking for a well-paying job.

Anyway, that's my take on it. Good luck.
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Old 09-27-2007, 04:38 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post

And another sad fact is that this is often a zero sum game; in order for me to succeed at my job and prosper, I must make some other lawyer fail at her job.
I work as a paralegal for a Family Law Appellate Attorney who also handles "high end" complicated divorces often including such things as division of businesses. There is a fastasy among Family Law attorneys that they work together and believe me, compared to say, litigators, this is true. Also, since the trial courts are overburdened with cases, many people hire private judges which are hand-picked by mutual agreement of the attorneys. All and all this can be a relatively pleasant process; and much of what I do is abstract, not emotional. I know and adore many of the opposition attorneys. (It was a very different game when I worked in litigation!)

Anyway, the point of this is that many of the opposition FL firms hire people right out of law school; I have followed the careers of many of them who are doing very well (here in the San Francisco bay area). Some start their own firms and either do well or fail, mostly they do well....
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:29 PM   #27
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I guess I'm brought down to earth a little more now. It's another bad day at w*rk so I know for sure I need to get out of there. I like challenges but don't think 60-80 hour work week is for me. Paralegal sounds interesting to me, along with some of the other options.

I wouldn't know what I'd do without this board. Thanks so much, everyone.
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Old 09-28-2007, 07:54 AM   #28
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masterblaster - lusitan's post pretty nicely sums it up. Yeah, there are plenty of miserable attorneys but there are plenty of people miserable in any job you can think of. also, some of us really like it and are happy doing it. The more i talk to my friends back home the more i miss it.
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Old 09-30-2007, 02:30 PM   #29
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Ive had the same exact debate recently. I work as an engineer for the Army in a field thats less than interesting on a day to day basis (RAM). Law School was an option for me, but decided on an MBA as it was more applicable to general professional development instead of development along a specific career path.

I got a promotion recently (to GS13), but still not certain that federal service is where my long term career should be.

Keep us informed of thoughts or decisions you make. Im interested in seeing where you go as it may help me overcome some of my own inertia.

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