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Old 09-26-2007, 04:10 PM   #1
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New Plan - Feedback Welcome!

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately. I still read the board everyday, but had to curb my time spent on the Internet to actually get some things done.

Recently I have been thinking about law school. I would like to get your feedback as to whether it makes sense.

Background: I just turned 30, married, no kids (and no plan for kids for the next 5 years). I currently work at a job that I am marginally satisfied with. Some days it's so bad that I have to come to this board for a little hope. I have been in the exact same job for 7+ years, and am not paid very much considering my experience and a master's degree. I have received no promotion despite repeatedly asking for it. My boss compliments my work all the time but is not interested in my career development. I felt that I was in a mostly comfortable yet dead-end job, and the only way out was to save hard and ER -- in about 12 years according to my spreadsheet. (Yes, you guessed it, I work for the government)

Lately, law school has emerged as a possibility. Law has always interested me, and I would probably be in a sub-area that I'm already familiar with (property and real estate).

I will apply for scholarships and probably won't do it without a tuition waiver. Even with tuition paid, it will still set my finances back quite a bit, because I will not be making nearly anything. The flip side of that is that I can tolerate the thought of retiring later if I'm doing something I enjoy.

Of course there is also the added benefit of a higher income after graduation, I assume, but I'm not counting so much on that.

On a side note, DH works for himself and his income may fluctuate. But even in the worst case scenario, I feel that our current saving and investment (about $100K) will be able to carry us through the next 3 years.

If I do nothing, I can stay in my golden handcuffs for another 12 years and call it quits. If I make a leap of faith, I could be more challenged but potentially more fulfilled in my job. It may delay my ER date by a few years, but I have really no idea because I don't know what kind of job I'll have with a law degree.

What do you think? Am I totally out of my mind?
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Old 09-26-2007, 06:53 PM   #2
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You did not comment on your educational background and experience. Do you have skills that are easily transferable to private industry?


For the option of law school, consider the opportunity cost of switching careers and the break even point. Bottom line, if you are considering investing in yourself, you are likely to be doing it for a reason. More Money! Job satisfaction is important... but assuming you are not mistreated, there is a cost/benefit aspect to consider.


Plus do more research just to ensure it is what you really want to do before you jump.
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Old 09-26-2007, 07:00 PM   #3
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The WSJ Law blog has a thread about law school grads finding jobs, particularly those from 2nd tier schools.

Frankly, I wouldn't do it.

Your boss isn't invested in your career development because if you left s/he would need to fill your position. In a tight labor market that is not a happy prospect. The only person invested in your development is you.

In what series is your position?
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Old 09-26-2007, 08:18 PM   #4
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I would vote for staying where you are and trying to get out in 12 years. 42 is not that old to be retired.

Don't wait for your boss to drive your career opportunties or development take full responsbility for making it happen yourself.

I just wouldn't risk the lost wages, the stress of studying for something that may not offer you anything better.
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Old 09-26-2007, 09:15 PM   #5
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I think you should research it well, and if law school really interests you, go for it. 12 years in your present job will cause brain rot and you will retire grumpy. 30 is very young to give up on any chance of a satisfying career.
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Old 09-26-2007, 11:39 PM   #6
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My current work is for the city government in zoning enforcement. It's not easily transferable to the private sector. I feel that it is very suppressive, since all we do is to regulate or turn down otherwise legitimate requests because they can't meet some trivial standard. If I let it affect me too much, then I become depressed. Often I question why I'm doing it. Meadbh was right--my brain is already rotting.

Thanks for all the advice! I will check out more online info and meet with some lawyers, maybe to job-shadow for a day. I just read the WSJ article on 2nd tier school grads. Good article and nice warning for future students! I certainly do not look forward to $100K of student loans.
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Old 09-27-2007, 04:13 AM   #7
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My current work is for the city government in zoning enforcement. It's not easily transferable to the private sector. I feel that it is very suppressive, since all we do is to regulate or turn down otherwise legitimate requests because they can't meet some trivial standard. If I let it affect me too much, then I become depressed. Often I question why I'm doing it. Meadbh was right--my brain is already rotting.

Thanks for all the advice! I will check out more online info and meet with some lawyers, maybe to job-shadow for a day. I just read the WSJ article on 2nd tier school grads. Good article and nice warning for future students! I certainly do not look forward to $100K of student loans.

We hired a young guy last year that worked for city government. For what he was doing (his job which was transferable) he was woefully underpaid. He had a Master's, was recognized by his boss as being very competent, etc. Part of the problem was that the city will always under pay. The other part was that people tend to slowly move up in those jobs (i.e., older) and he was a bit young (i.e., it worked against him).

Anyway, we gave him the max increase that we could give (he got a very healthy raise)... and he is still low enough that it will take us several years to catch his salary up to where it should be. (note: many HR depts have rules that cap the raises a person can get during an event... new hire, promotion, raise).

IMHO - If I were you, I would consider moving to private industry. Change careers in that way. Pick a career that can leverage your current educational background and go. My opinion is to move into a career that has a lot of growing opportunity. You have nothing to lose by putting your resume out there.

I do not know anything about where you live... but if you are in a large metro area, you can probably do much better on salary. If you are in a small town... consider relocating to a nearby large city

Another thought: City governments sometimes have a benefit of paying for education at university and colleges. Can you go yo night school and have the city pay? If so, research and pick something and attend night school.
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Old 09-27-2007, 08:36 AM   #8
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Finally, a topic on which I feel qualified to comment.

Goodsense: 18 years ago, I found myself in almost the same position that you are in. I was thirty, married with no kids, working as an engineer. It was a steady job. The pay was decent but not great, although I was almost topped out as far as pay for that position. I had always had an interest in law and decided that I would quit and go to law school.

I learned a few things that the law school admissions office will never tell you. The primary one is that it is a sad but hidden fact that many, many people do not even work as a lawyer after having gone through school. And those that do work as lawyers generally do not make as much as you might expect. Someone referred to the WSJ article this past week. You should definitely read it. Law firms are a) very status conscious and b) tend to let the law schools screen their prospective employees for them. Accordingly, for you to score the big bucks, you generally need to have attended a top law school. Many firms will not interview at schools outside a very narrow range at the top. Second, you need to do very well in school, even in a top law school. Obviously, the higher ranked the school, the deeper into the class the top firms will reach. If you attend a middle ranked school, you will need to be at the very top of your class and on the law review to have a chance.

As you know, law school is expensive. Many, if not most law schools now exceed $30k per year. With your savings and a working husband, you will probably survive economically, especially if you are able to find work as a summer associate. The young wife and I started in roughly the same economic position as you. At the completion of law school three years later, our savings were gone, but I had no student debt.

But even if you can get through school without incurring debt, there is still a steep economic cost to be paid. When you combine the loss of savings spent on tuition with the fact that you will have only minor income for three years, it will take you many, many years to break even economically. I ran a spreadsheet that compared outcomes and found that it took me more than 12 years after law school graduation to break even (and that was a conservative estimate, as I assumed I would never have received another raise as an engineer). If I had stayed where I was, I would probably already be retired, instead of a few years away.

I have generally enjoyed my career as a lawyer (I am in a large NYC firm). But I must tell you that it is not like they show on TV. Most of my time is spent in the office on the computer and the telephone. It is a welcome respite when I actually get to go to court. Many lawyers, particularly real estate lawyers, never go to court. I don't think I could survive this if I didn't make an occasional appearance. 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. That dynamic means that I deal every day with aggressive and paranoid people, who are economically incentivized to act that way. I have noted many changes in my profession over the last 15 years, and I think it has gotten more difficult for young lawyers than when I started. The economic pressures on firms means that we push the new associates very, very hard. Their hours are long and much of what they do is drudge work.

In summary, knowing what I know now, if I were you, I would think long and hard about whether there might be some other way to change your employment position so that you are intellectually challenged and rewarded appropriately.

That said, I do not regret that I went to law school. It was intellectually stimulating and challenging. And after having worked for 8 years, it was like a three-year vacation. But the reality is that was simply taking three years of my retirement early.

Best wishes,

Gumby
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Old 09-27-2007, 08:43 AM   #9
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The WSJ Law blog has a thread about law school grads finding jobs, particularly those from 2nd tier schools.

Frankly, I wouldn't do it.

Your boss isn't invested in your career development because if you left s/he would need to fill your position. In a tight labor market that is not a happy prospect. The only person invested in your development is you.

In what series is your position?
Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers - WSJ.com

For anybody else interested
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Old 09-27-2007, 08:57 AM   #10
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I worked 20 years for government. For me it was a job I really enjoyed Air Force Pilot. So how does this relate to you. When I retired from the Air Force the check they send me each month gave me options to do what ever I wanted. While not totally FI I could take the jobs I liked. Age 42 is not to old to get a law degree, and if you are FI at time your vocation becomes your advocation.
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:18 AM   #11
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Another thing to consider is that lawyers tend to work a whole lot more hours than gov't workers. You may end up liking the work better, but ~40 hrs definitely beats ~60 in my book.
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:21 AM   #12
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Good point Bots. I leave home at 6:30 am and return at 8:30 pm -- on a good day. And the young associates at my firm work even longer.
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:33 AM   #13
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DH is a young associate at a DC law firm, where the hours are less demanding than the firms in New York. He typically leaves at 8:15 and comes home at 7:00, with a 30 minute commute each way. Not too bad for a lawyer.
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:48 AM   #14
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OK… I hate to chime in without an introduction, but here’s my .02 anyway.

You have mentioned that you may have kids in 5 yrs or so… If kids are definitely in your future, I think you should add one more consideration to your list – what type of job you want to hold 4-8 years from now?

I have 2 small kids at home, and from personal (working parent, not lawyer) experience, I can tell you that being a rookie associate while trying to get pregnant of with an infant at home would be the last place I would want to be. Try to envision this new law career (think working 60-100 hrs per week) while having morning sickness, trying to take a decent maternity leave or having to stay home with a sick child. Does it still look like a dream?

You should follow your heart, but if you do not like current job, perhaps a simple job change would solve all of your problems.
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Old 09-27-2007, 10:03 AM   #15
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My wife is a secretary for a law firm and she's watched several young lawyers come and go. The things I've noticed is that after law school they would get hired by her law firm with a yearly salary and that's it. They don't get part of any big settlements until they make partner which takes a long time. In the beginning years they are basically paralegals and do all the crap work for the partners. It takes quite a few years before they are actually reaping the benefits. Cletis
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Old 09-27-2007, 10:14 AM   #16
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In the beginning years they are basically paralegals and do all the crap work for the partners. It takes quite a few years before they are actually reaping the benefits.
That situation where the young-uns do basic tasks isn't unique to the Law profession. Pretty much every career will start you out slow and then gradually add responsibility. They then watch that you can indeed handle it. The monetary compensation usually follows the responsibility.

That's just the way it is.
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Old 09-27-2007, 10:29 AM   #17
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As a relatively recent law school grad - and someone who switched careers to do it - i have to caution you not to do this unless you are absolutely sure you want to be a lawyer, that you love the things a lawyer does and there is no other way to do what you want to do without a law degree. for example, there is a lot within the world of real estate and property management that you can do without a law degree, so if you plan to stay in that field anyway, you don't need the degree.

i don't regret my degree and if i were still in the USA i would be practicing law (not for 6 figures though!) but you need to know all the things the law school recruiters will not tell you.
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Old 09-27-2007, 10:44 AM   #18
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I would vote for staying where you are and trying to get out in 12 years. 42 is not that old to be retired.

Don't wait for your boss to drive your career opportunties or development take full responsbility for making it happen yourself.

I just wouldn't risk the lost wages, the stress of studying for something that may not offer you anything better.
12 years is "not long", and you could probably apply for different government jobs in the meantime.

In year 9 or 10, look to do law school part time, then retire first time at 42 and possibly do legal work part time in retirement.
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Old 09-27-2007, 11:14 AM   #19
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As a relatively recent law school grad - and someone who switched careers to do it - i have to caution you not to do this unless you are absolutely sure you want to be a lawyer, that you love the things a lawyer does
<Sorry Martha if this is too opinionated, it's nothing personal>

So here is my observation. Every lawyer that I have ever met hates their job and their life. They all have this mentality that they have to hunker down now, feel the pain, and make as much money as possible so that they can then retire and only then enjoy life. They often get caught up in this work/consume upscale-lifestyle trap. Maybe my observation is full of beans. I just have met too many discontented lawyers.
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Wow! Lots of good advice
Old 09-27-2007, 11:20 AM   #20
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Wow! Lots of good advice

...and many aspects I have not fully thought through. I definitely need a change to save my sanity. What form it takes is the question. 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 was also a realtor for 3 years. It was a good experience but I don't think I could do it full time for the emotional drains.

Lots to think about...
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