Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby m458 » Thu Mar 14, 2013 11:06 pm

Thanks, 2steps. You are correct that at this point my mind is about made up (I've been thinking about this for well over a year, and as you know, anyone who's gone through having to study for the LSAT probably has put a great deal of thought into this), but it's still useful to hear opinions.

Interesting to hear about the exit opportunities--did in-house legal departments experience the same kind of shrinking that big law firms did during the recession? The only lawyer I spoke to that was in-house felt that their specific company didn't, but that's obviously just one anecdote.

I've also made sure to check the employment figures. Totally know about the "school-funded" positions; UVA has something like 18% of its students being hired by the school. However that's not the case here. The school has a higher than 50% number on the NLJ 250 rankings which are firm-reported as far as I understand and the other info I'm getting comes from lawschooltransparency.com, which I believe is pulled direclty from the ABA report and is as conservative as possible in showing the employment scores. All schools short of HYS have about 15-20% underemployment/unemployment or more if you take out those "gerrymandered" school-employed folks (Georgetown is the worst of the T-14--if you take out the school-funded positions, you get only 59% of grads working in JD-required jobs).

Thanks for answering the other questions as well--good point about talking with the parents. Maybe I can convince them to let me pay interest to them so i don't feel bad borrowing from them.

Do understand the intent behind all the comments and I certainly appreciate where everyone's coming from.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby m458 » Thu Mar 14, 2013 11:08 pm

campy2010 wrote:I agree to leave your 401k alone if you have access to a 0% loan from family. EXCEPT, that I would use your 2L year to roll over your 401k to a Roth IRA since your income will likely be at an all-time low that year. Good Luck.


Should I leave it in my employer's 401k until then? Or do I roll-over to a traditional IRA and then into the Roth IRA I have during 2L?
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby 2stepsbehind » Thu Mar 14, 2013 11:17 pm

m458 wrote:Thanks, 2steps. You are correct that at this point my mind is about made up (I've been thinking about this for well over a year, and as you know, anyone who's gone through having to study for the LSAT probably has put a great deal of thought into this), but it's still useful to hear opinions.

Interesting to hear about the exit opportunities--did in-house legal departments experience the same kind of shrinking that big law firms did during the recession? The only lawyer I spoke to that was in-house felt that their specific company didn't, but that's obviously just one anecdote.

I've also made sure to check the employment figures. Totally know about the "school-funded" positions; UVA has something like 18% of its students being hired by the school. However that's not the case here. The school has a higher than 50% number on the NLJ 250 rankings which are firm-reported as far as I understand and the other info I'm getting comes from lawschooltransparency.com, which I believe is pulled direclty from the ABA report and is as conservative as possible in showing the employment scores. All schools short of HYS have about 15-20% underemployment/unemployment or more if you take out those "gerrymandered" school-employed folks (Georgetown is the worst of the T-14--if you take out the school-funded positions, you get only 59% of grads working in JD-required jobs).

Thanks for answering the other questions as well--good point about talking with the parents. Maybe I can convince them to let me pay interest to them so i don't feel bad borrowing from them.

Do understand the intent behind all the comments and I certainly appreciate where everyone's coming from.


In-house jobs depend on the particular sector--industries that are doing well may not need to shrink as much and may in fact expand. That said, because of the glut of lawyers in the market, for any one position there will be thousands of well credentialed applicants for that position. Thus the competition for these jobs right now is particularly keen. I mean who wouldn't want better hours/the chance to largely dictate one's schedule/stock options etc.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby MoonOrb » Thu Mar 14, 2013 11:22 pm

If your loan is at 0% from your parents there is hardly any downside to putting as much into a Roth now as you can.

In house jobs are also getting very difficult to get. This is especially true in industries where there is a lot of consolidation. Health care is an industry that comes easily to mind.

Also, many in house jobs require more experience than 3 or 4 years of being an associate. There are, of course, exceptions. But most people I know who moved to in house jobs did so after being senior associates or partners, not after just 3 or 4 years of practice. Maybe things are different if you have Top BigLaw experience. Also, there is wide variation in the quality of in house jobs. The lawyers who left my firm to go in house have had really mixed experiences.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby BillyG » Thu Mar 14, 2013 11:30 pm

OP, sorry to be off topic on this but I had to add my two cents.

I also went to law school and after undergrad it was the last thing I ever thought I would do. But I went with a specific focus - to be a patent lawyer. It sounds like you have a focus and this is as good in career management as it is in investment.

I agree the BigLaw stuff is no fun but it is a good training ground... you will figure out what you enjoy. In school be sure to make the best grades you can and learn what you need to learn and want to learn. Take extra classes pass/fail. You are correct the clinical classes will open doors.

The three years of school is just the beginning of your training and you will have to climb the ladder all over again. But if you enjoy the journey it feels like part of life, not work, but be sure to enjoy life too.

I enjoy what I do but at this point it is more business, but with plenty of technical and legal issues. I get to travel around the world and get involved in fascinating deals with really smart people and cutting edge technology.

There are a lot of ways to slice this but you should know 100% why you are going to law school and have a plan. You can change it later, but have a plan and goals. You are already miles ahead, having worked in a real job before law school. Frankly this should be a requirement -- it would result in happier lawyers and more qualified lawyers. You can always go back and do the old job if law doesn't work out so do keep your debt load low.

I'll try to circle back and answer your real questions later.

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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby campy2010 » Thu Mar 14, 2013 11:59 pm

m458 wrote:
campy2010 wrote:I agree to leave your 401k alone if you have access to a 0% loan from family. EXCEPT, that I would use your 2L year to roll over your 401k to a Roth IRA since your income will likely be at an all-time low that year. Good Luck.


Should I leave it in my employer's 401k until then? Or do I roll-over to a traditional IRA and then into the Roth IRA I have during 2L?


It depends on the quality of your employer's 401k. If you have low cost options, then it might be fine to leave in place. But, if it were me I would rollover the 401k to a rollover IRA at Vanguard (or to whatever company holds your Roth IRA). If nothing else, IMHO, it is easier to manage accounts that are consolidated in one place.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby William4u » Fri Mar 15, 2013 2:31 am

A lot of good advice here. A few thoughts:

1. Lots of T-14 grads who did not graduate in the top 30% of their class are having a very hard time getting jobs. I know a few, and it is very stressful for them to work for less than they made before law school with all those loans. If you are not in the top 30% at the end of your 1L, you are not going to have good options as an 3L. The top 15% grads with Law Review still have some options. The bottom 30% are having horrible times in the market now, even from T-14 schools. Only Harvard and Yale grads transcend these issues.

2. Much of the associate work (e.g., discovery) from 10 years ago is now done by computers and very hard working people in India who do a lot more for a lot less. There are far fewer opportunities to get into law than 10 years ago.

3. The summer internships are key to making contacts and getting some experience, but are much harder to get now.

4. Every lawyer I know that works for big firms hates it. The ones that work for the DA don't hate it, but don't like it either. The ones that seem to like it okay are the naturally entrepreneurial ones that hang up a shingle and take any cases they can get (traffic court, domestic violence). One can make a living doing that, but it isn't glamorous. Plus, not many people are naturally entrepreneurial; hanging up a shingle requires some tenacity and love of hard work.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby stemikger » Fri Mar 15, 2013 2:52 am

William4u wrote:A lot of good advice here. A few thoughts:

1. Lots of T-14 grads who did not graduate in the top 30% of their class are having a very hard time getting jobs. I know a few, and it is very stressful for them to work for less than they made before law school with all those loans. If you are not in the top 30% at the end of your L1, you are not going to have good options as an L3. The top 15% grads with Law Review still have some options. The bottom 30% are having horrible times in the market now, even from T-14 schools. Only Harvard and Yale grads transcend these issues.

2. Much of the associate work (e.g., discovery) from 10 years ago is now done by computers and very hard working people in India who do a lot more for a lot less. There are far fewer opportunities to get into law than 10 years ago.

3. The summer internships are key to making contacts and getting some experience, but are much harder to get now.

4. Every lawyer I know that works for big firms hates it. The ones that work for the DA don't hate it, but don't like it either. The ones that seem to like it okay are the naturally entrepreneurial ones that hang up a shingle and take any cases they can get (traffic court, domestic violence). One can make a living doing that, but it isn't glamorous. Plus, not many people are naturally entrepreneurial; hanging up a shingle requires some tenacity and love of hard work.


Good advice and all true. One more thing I'd like to add which I have some experience in. Even the support staff (i.e. secretaries, word processors, Edgar operators, duplicating, mail room, human resources, etc.) hate working for law firms. It is a soul crunching way to earn a living and there are a million other options for a smart young guy like yourself. The law firm opportunities for lawyers and support staff are on their last legs and it is nothing like it was 15 or 20 years ago.

The firm I work for is one of the best in NYC and they just let half their staff go and many of the young attorneys that weren't here that long. If there was ever a dying profession corporate law is it. Most of the support staff were here 15 to 30 years and they also know this to be true, but due to their age (myself included) they are afraid to make a move and are staying until they get let go. The writing is on the wall (big time).

I hate to tell you not to follow your dream, but the sad truth is the payoff is not there any longer. I recently read where law schools are in panic mode because they know this but will never let new students know this, so hopefully you save yourself from a mountain of debt and a bad career.

I rather see a young guy take a city job where they can get a pension after 20 years and still be young enough to do anything else and have a full pension while earning another one. My brother-in-law retired as a Lieutenant from NYPD at 42 and is now working as a writer and loves his life and his career.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby HardKnocker » Fri Mar 15, 2013 8:28 am

m458 wrote:I know that once I start law school and (hopefully) work in the legal field after graduation, it's very likely I won't get more than a week or two off at a time again until I retire.


This alone would dampen my enthusiasm.

A fascinating discussion by all.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby fakiz » Sat Mar 16, 2013 12:17 am

I found this thread on a law forum that I frequent often (TLS) and after reading through the pages of this thread I felt compelled to comment. To the OP, you have been coy about what law school you're attending and where it falls on the ranks, but once you said good JD/MBA program I am thinking you are either at Harvard/Chicago/Stanford(maybe)/NYU or Penn (these are really the only schools with strong JD/MBA programs). In any event, it is a positive that you are on the upper end of the T-14, but as someone who started law school this past fall (after having taken some time off and saved 10s of thousands of dollars for law school) let me give you some advice:

1) Saving money during law school - in your budget you anticipate earning money during your summers that you will be able to live on. I naively thought I would be able to earn money during my first summer that would contribute to my living expenses for 2L year. Firstly, it's VERY hard to get a 1L high paying (READ: BIGLAW) job because firms have figured out that 1L SA jobs are a waste of their money. A V3 partner at a NY firm plainly told me that 1Ls do not return for their 2L summer/post-law school and the firm has already wasted 30k+ (just on their pay, forget the thousands they spend to entertain summer associates throughout the summer). It is also hard to get a 1L SA job if you are not a URM (underrepresented minority), but even if you are (I am), it's still difficult honestly unless you go to Yale. Yale is the only school where you can literally have anything you want (in terms of firms - Public interest/government jobs are competitive no matter if you go to Yale or not) while doing little to no work since there are no grades at Yale. At every other school, you will have to work and you WILL be stressed to find a paying job while still studying/maintaining your grades. Grades are really important and the last thing you want is to be stressed out with money while in school. I have many international friends and to be honest the ones who are most successful in law school are people who come from wealthy families that will financially support them (with no expectation of money back) while in law school.

2) Another IMPORTANT thing to remember is that MANY MANY MANY MANY MANY paying jobs do not want to have to sponsor you for temporary work for 10-12 weeks over a summer. It's really not worth it for the firm or corporation (especially 1L summer) when there are plenty (and I mean plenty) of U.S. citizens/permanent residents that they can hire instead. I'm not sure what your VISA/work situation is - but I am assuming if you can't get loans as an international student then you are not a permanent resident and will need sponsorship. Thing long and hard about your prospects of making money while in law school if this is the case. Obviously firms hire international students full-time, but don't seem to do it for 1L summer.

3) In terms of law school, I will say this: I am at a top 5 school (YSHCC) and it is cut-throat and competitive. Don't enter law school assuming you will be able to be in the top 15% or top 20% or top 50% - you may have been the smartest person at your hippy Ivy league school (cough Brown cough), but you will soon realize that EVERYONE in law school is smart and EVERYONE in law school wants to work hard. This is moreso at top schools. I've heard from people at lower ranked schools that less people are competitive (and less people are smart) and that smarter people excel there because they are not up against much competition. Please understand that at a T-14 school there will be no slackers, everyone wants to do well. With that being said, at a T-14 school you will MOST likely get a BIGLAW job - especially in NYC. I've heard alot of people say they don't want to live in NY but it is doable and can be financially prudent (let's say if you live in Jersey instead of New York). Having worked in NY and been very familiar with the biglaw market, V100 firms in NY mainly hire from T-14 to T-20 schools (but at the lower schools you have to be top of the class). You will most likely get a biglaw job in NY but don't count on DC/LA/Chicago - these are smaller and harder markets to crack into and many of them want to see concrete ties to the market (do you have family/spouse there). NY is the only market that doesn't ask for ties.

I could go on forever, but I want to say that I don't regret going to law school but I do wish I was more realistic about it. When my friends at Stanford (who worked in government for years) are finding difficulty getting a job - you know it's bad (obviously not everyone but some people are "striking out" as they say).

One more thing! To all the people saying BIGLAW [stinks], it absolutely does and it always will your best bet is to go to the best firm you can (no no you won't get Wachtell) and work hard and create relationships and good exit options for yourself - the chances of making partner are very slim and life as a partner isn't all it's made to be. The work is hard and the hours are still long (just more hours outside of the office instead of plugging away at a computer).
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby NorCalDad » Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:46 am

If you're in the 25% bracket with a mid-40k income after standard deduction and 401k contributions, you're barely in that bracket. I would not contribute more to the Roth but increase your 401k so you remain in the 15% bracket. Then convert to Roth during 2L assuming you have very little income that year.

As for law school, I was in your shoes several years ago and ultimately decided against going because the legal model was just starting to crack and the risks for me were too big, especially since I was older than you and more settled. There are still brief moments when I think it would've been great to be a T-14 law grad. But I can't say that I regret my choice, and certainly not after reading these posts or the many other stories out there. We're not making gobs of money, but we are fortunate to have very good incomes in interesting jobs with hours sane enough that I can tuck my kid in most nights. I understand where you're coming from because I can almost hear myself in your words about why you want to go to law school. Just be sure that there aren't other paths available to get what you want.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby matjen » Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:49 am

fakiz wrote: To the OP, you have been coy about what law school you're attending and where it falls on the ranks, but once you said good JD/MBA program I am thinking you are either at Harvard/Chicago/Stanford(maybe)/NYU or Penn (these are really the only schools with strong JD/MBA programs). In any event, it is a positive that you are on the upper end of the T-14,


I read it the complete opposite. I'm not aware of some significance to Top 14. If someone says they re in the Top 14 then I take that to mean they are at 14 or thereabouts. Agree with everything else though.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby BillyG » Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:12 am

Here's one ranking of law schools:
http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandr ... w-rankings

I missed the JD/MBA part. Are you going for the straight JD or the JD/MBA which would mean 4 years of school and borrowing, not 3?

MBAs are overrated unless you go to a top MBA school. It can be a good combination with a law degree but it probably won't allow you to get a higher salary initially.

I got an MBA but I did it before law school. I got it at night while working full time and the company paid for it. All I had to do was buy books and invest lots and lots of time. When I received the MBA this is what my boss told me:

"oh yeah, I got one of those. The best thing I learned about getting an MBA while working full time was how to manage my time efficiently."

The MBA didn't make any difference in terms of getting law jobs, but I believe it helps me do my job better and more competitively.

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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby Cash » Sat Mar 16, 2013 12:05 pm

2stepsbehind wrote:
aude wrote:I have to interject here as a partner at a mid-sized, well, fairly big, firm. Unlike most of the posters, my work is 100% transactional, not litigation, and I actually really like it after 10+ years. Getting a nice merit scholarship helped with the law school debt part.

You may want to consider the transactional route to avoid burnout. People on both sides of the deal have the same goals (roughly) in mind, and the yelling and screaming is truly a once-a-year exceptional sort of thing. You also have plenty of in-house options if law firm life is not for you. On the minus side, law school does a miserable job of preparing you, since it is so litigation-heavy, so there are a few years of on the job training that would be unthinkable in other professions like medicine.

Over the years, you need to develop your own clients. That way, instead of being dependent on others for work, you will be fairly self-sufficient and control your schedule (subject to client demands, obviously). That is the key to success in this profession/business. In my case, it also gives me the freedom to go to another firm if I so desire rather thay stay somewhere insufferable.

Start with biglaw if you want the big bucks and training, and then consider downshifting a bit.

Like any other line of work, you are largely in control of your long-term career satisfaction. Good luck!


I'm not sure if there is any appreciable difference between the dissatisfaction of transactional v. litigation for biglaw associates, but if there is one, I bet transactional associates hate their job more than litigation associates. In theory, litigation associates are working against a calendar--yes, it might not be their own, but they know they can schedule their vacation after the next brief is filed. In my experience, especially for something like M&A you are always at the mercy of the client. You work yourself up to a frenzy because just before IBanker Fred leaves for his weekend in the Hamptons he calls the office indicating he'd like to be advised on X by Monday morning. Clients call and say they'd like a deal to go through ASAP--you work for days and they can't close. You try to explain what you do at a cocktail party and you can see them politely trying to suppress their yawns.


+1. Currently a midlevel biglaw litigation associate, but know several corporate associates. Aside from having to review and edit mind-numbing corporate filings/contracts every day, corporate associates have very little control over their schedules. If the client suddenly decides it wants to initiate a major deal in two days, then any plans you might have made up until that fateful phone call or e-mail go out the door. With commercial litigation, there are rarely surprises like that. That said, I agree with the corporate attorney earlier who said that transactional work can be appealing at the higher levels. I still prefer litigation though (and am generally content with my firm job).

More on topic, I would recommend reducing your projected living expenses during law school to the absolute minimum. Don't delude yourself into thinking you need a nice apartment so you can focus on your studies. You can study just fine at a less nice apartment or at the library. Don't upgrade your apartment just because you land a nice 2L summer biglaw gig. Don't spend tons on drinking and eating out. There's plenty of free food and alcohol in law school.

The less money you spend during law school, the more freedom you will have after law school.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby market timer » Sat Mar 16, 2013 12:41 pm

I wonder if the people who are so negative on law school are considering the alternative--OP staying with a job paying $40-50K? At least, after going to law school, he has a very good chance to get a job paying close to $200K. He'll quickly realize this is nothing impressive in Manhattan, and the hours suck, but he'll get to spend his time socializing and working with smart and interesting colleagues. If he burns out in 4-5 years, he could easily have paid off his $100K in loans and banked $200-300K. That's not a bad 8-year plan, including the 3 years of law school. If he's lucky, he then moves on to a job with better hours still earning six figures doing interesting work. Really, what's he giving up?
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby NorCalDad » Sat Mar 16, 2013 1:24 pm

market timer wrote:I wonder if the people who are so negative on law school are considering the alternative--OP staying with a job paying $40-50K? At least, after going to law school, he has a very good chance to get a job paying close to $200K. He'll quickly realize this is nothing impressive in Manhattan, and the hours suck, but he'll get to spend his time socializing and working with smart and interesting colleagues. If he burns out in 4-5 years, he could easily have paid off his $100K in loans and banked $200-300K. That's not a bad 8-year plan, including the 3 years of law school. If he's lucky, he then moves on to a job with better hours still earning six figures doing interesting work. Really, what's he giving up?

I agree that he needs to consider what his path looks like without going to law school. He's still young, so I wouldn't dismiss his current job out of hand based on his current salary. If he's in a career track where he can some day earn six figures with meaningful employment, it could be a good path. If he's in a career track where salary levels prevent him from getting what he wants in life, he needs to move on, whether that means law school or some other reinvention.

What people are saying about law school is that the odds are stacked against him getting a $170k job even out of a top school. 10-15 years ago, he might have stood a "very good chance" of getting that job, but now he's got to finish near the top of his class at a high-caliber school. And there are plenty of other occupations where people can socialize and work with smart and interesting colleagues.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby ResNullius » Sat Mar 16, 2013 1:33 pm

The simple fact is that very few law grads get a job that pays even $100K pre year, even after 5 years of experience. Most law grads end up working for the government at some level, earning between $40K and around $90K. Others end up in small firms, where they can earn from little or nothing up to maybe $50K, much more if they are able to build their practice. I don't know the exact stats, but I doubt more than about 10% to 20% of law grads today, who are lucky enough to get a job using their law degree, start at more than around $50K. A very small percentage (maybe 2% or 3%) can and do hit the jackpot, but I sure wouldn't go to law school counting on getting one of those jobs, because you'll have to be in at least the top 10% of your class to have a decent shot at one. It use to be that top 20% would get you a shot, but not much anymore. The value of a law degree has dropped hugely over the past 5 years, at least for the vast majority of law grads.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby William4u » Sat Mar 16, 2013 1:52 pm

This thread should be required reading for anyone considering law school. I am constantly amazed by how accurate and insightful the professionals who post here are.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby am » Sat Mar 16, 2013 1:57 pm

Is this temporary for law degrees? Have there been periods like this in the past where law degrees were not worth it for the majority? Not sure what people are thinking going to mid to lower tier schools taking out 6 figure debt with the current prospects? Not to mention that it seems like even the lucrative jobs are painful and not very fulfilling and not in reach for most. Makes my field of medicine seem like just a good deal even with the long, expensive, painful training and worsening prospects after training.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby Default User BR » Sat Mar 16, 2013 2:35 pm

I will point out that when the thread was restarted the Mod specifically said to help with the actual questions. The OP has made it clear that no "assistance" on the decision to go to law school is needed. This is what got it locked in the first place.


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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby Cash » Sat Mar 16, 2013 3:56 pm

ResNullius wrote:The simple fact is that very few law grads get a job that pays even $100K pre year, even after 5 years of experience. Most law grads end up working for the government at some level, earning between $40K and around $90K. Others end up in small firms, where they can earn from little or nothing up to maybe $50K, much more if they are able to build their practice. I don't know the exact stats, but I doubt more than about 10% to 20% of law grads today, who are lucky enough to get a job using their law degree, start at more than around $50K. A very small percentage (maybe 2% or 3%) can and do hit the jackpot, but I sure wouldn't go to law school counting on getting one of those jobs, because you'll have to be in at least the top 10% of your class to have a decent shot at one. It use to be that top 20% would get you a shot, but not much anymore. The value of a law degree has dropped hugely over the past 5 years, at least for the vast majority of law grads.


You're talking about the bimodal income distribution. NALP helpfully has charts on this going back to the class of 2006: http://www.nalp.org/salarydistrib

Here is the most recent chart, for the class of 2011:

Image
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby ResNullius » Sat Mar 16, 2013 4:33 pm

"CashYou're talking about the bimodal income distribution. NALP helpfully has charts on this going back to the class of 2006: http://www.nalp.org/salarydistrib

Here is the most recent chart, for the class of 2011:

Image

Yes, but only around 18,000 law grads answered this survey. What about the other 40,000 law grads that didn't answer for the same year? Do you think there might be a bias towards those who had decent paying jobs?
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby m458 » Sat Mar 16, 2013 7:15 pm

NorCalDad wrote:
market timer wrote:I wonder if the people who are so negative on law school are considering the alternative--OP staying with a job paying $40-50K? At least, after going to law school, he has a very good chance to get a job paying close to $200K. He'll quickly realize this is nothing impressive in Manhattan, and the hours suck, but he'll get to spend his time socializing and working with smart and interesting colleagues. If he burns out in 4-5 years, he could easily have paid off his $100K in loans and banked $200-300K. That's not a bad 8-year plan, including the 3 years of law school. If he's lucky, he then moves on to a job with better hours still earning six figures doing interesting work. Really, what's he giving up?

I agree that he needs to consider what his path looks like without going to law school. He's still young, so I wouldn't dismiss his current job out of hand based on his current salary. If he's in a career track where he can some day earn six figures with meaningful employment, it could be a good path. If he's in a career track where salary levels prevent him from getting what he wants in life, he needs to move on, whether that means law school or some other reinvention.

What people are saying about law school is that the odds are stacked against him getting a $170k job even out of a top school. 10-15 years ago, he might have stood a "very good chance" of getting that job, but now he's got to finish near the top of his class at a high-caliber school. And there are plenty of other occupations where people can socialize and work with smart and interesting colleagues.


I definitely want to respond to other comments a bit later when I have more time, but I wanted to respond to this and clarify some things.

1. Current career track probably puts me into $50k in a year or two and would likely top out at $70-80k or so by mid-30s early 40s. Certainly not bad by any means and not a salary I'd be unhappy with, but I have found I have little interest in this career and really I took it after undergrad because it's what paid best in a tough economy. I already do work long hours and do a substantial amount of work I have no interest in.

2. I will graduate being at most $45k in debt. I'm frugal enough to know that I could pay this off in less than a year if I got big law, so if I truly hated it the way many here believe I will, I'll have the option to find something else (which I know will pay substantially less) after 2-3 years. I don't think even the strongest of big law critics would say one can't stick with it for 3 years barring another crashing economy. So after these 3 years, I'd have a substantial amount of money saved up and no debt.

3. In regards to likelihood of getting big law and having to finish at the top of my school/10%/whatever--that's not true. A slight bit over 50% of the graduating class ends up at NLJ250 firms (jobs that are either paying the market salary of $160k or close to it depending on the location and size of the firm). This 50% figure has held true for several years now and has increased slightly this year. Essentially, if I graduate top half of my class, big law is an option. Whether I graduate top half and whether I interview well enough to get an offer are other considerations, but graduating at the very top of the class is NOT a requirement to getting big law at the school I'll be attending.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby 2stepsbehind » Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:38 pm

market timer wrote:he'll get to spend his time socializing and working with smart and interesting colleagues.


Me thinks you haven't spent much time with biglaw associates.

market timer wrote: If he's lucky, he then moves on to a job with better hours still earning six figures doing interesting work.


If he's lucky, he might also win the lottery.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby gkaplan » Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:43 pm

This thread once again is degenerating into critiquing the career choice of the original poster, instead of considering the question he asked.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby 2stepsbehind » Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:55 pm

gkaplan wrote:This thread once again is degenerating into critiquing the career choice of the original poster, instead of considering the question he asked.


That is the nature of an online forum. A number of posters (myself included) have answered his primary questions. The OP has asked additional questions or made certain comments that others are responding to and other posters are making comments that other posters are responding to. That is the beauty of the net. I'd say the advice thats been given in this thread is worth a lot more than the OP has paid for. :wink:
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby jodydavis » Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:24 pm

I'd say that, based on the above discussion, the OP has done his homework and is making an informed and carefully-considered decision. That, alone, puts him ahead of most of his future classmates. Well done.

Two key facts in this discussion are: (1) he will be graduating from a top school; and (2) he will be graduating with little if any debt. Those two facts make his decision much less risky. Is there still some risk? Sure - what major career decision entails no risk? But, as Market Timer points out, there is also a potential upside.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby irwinmfletcher » Sun Mar 17, 2013 7:02 am

I think the OP's original question is really irrelevant, which is why so many responses are not addressing it. I don't care if he comes out of law school with $0 debt or $500,000, that is just a minor consideration in what he will be doing the rest of his life, which factors in the millions, not to mention quality of life issues.

I feel compelled to respond as I have been down this path. I didn't go to a T-14 school, but top 30. I finished in the top 5% of my class and got one of the coveted jobs ($125,000 a year in 1999 dollars). I didn't go to law school with any specific plan of what I wanted to do when I got out of it (the first problem). I started in a more litigation based practice, where the hours and schedule were more predictable, but I was bored to death. After six years, I decided to switch to a more deal based practice. Now, the work itself is mildly interesting, but the complete lack of schedule control is a major stressor. And it never, ever ends. Even the head of my group (and the head of every firm I have worked at, including some of the biggest), is subject to the whims of some client.

Every law firm lawyer I have ever met, and this includes some making millions, is someone else's [veiled reference to inappropriate word removed by admin LadyGeek]. Every single one. You have to ask yourself is that what you want to be when you grow up--a highly compensated waiter really.

And truly, lawyers are boring, dreadful people (that is a joke, a quote from "Legally Blonde", but very close to the truth). I could count on 1 hand the number of lawyers who had a life I really admired, and that is after meeting thousands of them.

If you are going to law school with some plan to get out of law, don't go. Your money and time is better spent elsewhere. It is difficult to convey how boring it really is. I would require every prospective law student to intern for 2 years at a law firm before they could even go to law school. That would help them see what they are getting into.

Why not take the money and start a business? You've got 3 years to work on it that you are budgeting for law school, and the payoff is much greater. Even if you do graduate with no debt, you've lost about $150,000 (in lost income at current wages), not to mention the 3 years of your life.

Quite simply, in Boglehead terms, I think law school is just a terrible investment.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby Cash » Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:46 am

Well, before this thread gets locked again, I think I'll add a bit of positivity. The OP is going to a t14 law school and believes that s/he will more likely than not be able to land a biglaw job. Law firms are still hiring, so it's certainly not impossible, esp. from an upper t14 school (i.e., hopefully not Georgetown, but the 50% stat makes me wonder). Assuming the OP lands a biglaw job and graduates with $45k in debt, then it's certainly possible to pay that off during the first year and then sock away a good bit of money after that. Even people who hate biglaw can stick around for a few years, and if the OP likes it (it's possible...I still generally like my biglaw job 4 years in), s/he might have a solid 6-7 years before being pushed out. By that point, the OP should have a nice little nest egg in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and will be well on his/her way to financial security. Assuming s/he can transition to a job paying six figures, the OP will continue to be able to save money while having a comfortable life and could probably retire early or do something else completely outside of the law if s/he wants to.

So I'm not as pessimistic as others and wish the OP well. Law school can be a good decision as long as you go to a top school, minimize debt, and are aware of the risks and turnover (and general discontent, as evidenced by this thread). The practice of law can also be quite interesting. My clients are facing incredibly complex legal problems, and I'm working with some incredibly smart people to solve them. Sure, doc review can be drudgery, but it's necessary, and for better or worse, we now have lots of contact attys and technology to take the first cut so that the associates primarily look at the relevant documents that survive. The rest isn't so bad...legal research can be both fun and frustrating, but I find myself doing less of that these days. I generally enjoy drafting motions and briefs, conducting depositions, writing mean letters to the other side, etc. I've actually been to trial a few times. Exhausting, but fun (even though I was mainly in support roles, I got to argue a few motions and examine a few witnesses). I have a couple of pro bono cases that I enjoy and provide me with practical experience (including trials that I handled from start to finish). So overall, I'm satisfied. But I don't need my work to have a greater meaning. I just need it to be interesting and pay well. If you need your job to define you, and you want that definition to be "doing good," then law firm life will probably disappoint you. And nothing I have said applies to corporate work. I probably would have quit by now if I were a corporate associate...but that's just me....
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby 2stepsbehind » Sun Mar 17, 2013 9:53 am

And before this thread get locked again, I'd ask the OP to promise to update us in 3, 5, and 7 years.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby Valuethinker » Sun Mar 17, 2013 11:41 am

m458 wrote:Thanks, 2steps. You are correct that at this point my mind is about made up (I've been thinking about this for well over a year, and as you know, anyone who's gone through having to study for the LSAT probably has put a great deal of thought into this), but it's still useful to hear opinions.

Interesting to hear about the exit opportunities--did in-house legal departments experience the same kind of shrinking that big law firms did during the recession? The only lawyer I spoke to that was in-house felt that their specific company didn't, but that's obviously just one anecdote.


Just about every company has made cuts in any overhead they can. Law is a staff function in a corporate, not a line job. So there will have been cuts.

The real worry for lawyers is outsourcing to places like India. Seeing a lot of that in London. The Magic Circle are creating legal support centres in India. Indian lawyers are easily requalified as UK solicitors.

*that* is the danger. It's a moving target. There is a lot of mundane work that lawyers do for say $400/hr that can be done by a brighter, harder working person in India (remember, there are 1 billion Indians), for $50/ hour. And after that, there are other ex British colonies like Nigeria, South Africa, Bangladesh,Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Zimbabwe-- there is a huge and motivated labour pool out there that speaks English and can be educated to a high standard. With modern technology, they are as if they are in the next office (although time zone remains an obstacle).

The other threat is stuff like Autonomy-HP. A lot of the document review/ searching the archives can be automated. A lot of unemployed lawyers are, as I understand it, doing that kind of work on a day rate. The technology is just getting better for searches of unstructured data.

I think law is an interesting and good education (without having been to law school). But it might not be the ticket to the gravy train that it used to be. And it will be very hard work even if it is.

If you are doing a quality MBA/ Law degree then that may increase your post graduation opportunities (one reservation is the year you graduate: you only get one good shot at a 'golden' job with a big law firm, the next year they will take next year's graduates-- and you might be 'out of step'?).

As I say, the happiest lawyers I know seem to have carved out niches. IP law (if they have a technical background). One guy who does quite complex banking work (eg restructuring complex securitization structures). Tax. One woman founded an employment law firm. You have to differentiate yourself and identify your comparative advantage.


Do understand the intent behind all the comments and I certainly appreciate where everyone's coming from.


the world is just a different place than when we graduated, 20, 30 years ago. I turned down law school then, and have always wondered. But I know plenty of unhappy lawyers (and some very happy ones). You need, as in most fields, to be a bit entrepreneurial.

Fundamentally there are no sure bets on careers any more. You will likely change direction, fundamentally, either within the law or outside of it, more than once. That's the nature of the world of work now.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby Valuethinker » Sun Mar 17, 2013 11:48 am

am wrote:Is this temporary for law degrees? Have there been periods like this in the past where law degrees were not worth it for the majority? Not sure what people are thinking going to mid to lower tier schools taking out 6 figure debt with the current prospects? Not to mention that it seems like even the lucrative jobs are painful and not very fulfilling and not in reach for most. Makes my field of medicine seem like just a good deal even with the long, expensive, painful training and worsening prospects after training.


the hiring market for lawyers in highly cyclical. The early 80s was bad, so was the early 90s (at least in Canada). People who had they graduated 2 years earlier or later would have been snapped up by leading law firms, had to take jobs in mid sized firms (which then often merged, people lost their jobs).

Academic success gets you into a firm but it's no guarantee of career success-- you have to be good at firm politics, good with clients, good at finding business, good at covering your whatever.. it's a long road to partner, fraught with many perils.

The data from Stanford U Business School grads who go into investment banking (a very similar market in its cyclicality) shows that the impact on annual income is still in the data, 20 years later. When you graduate makes a huge difference to your career. (and since they are almost all 25-28, what year you chose to be born).

A deeper underlying trend is what is happening to law and law firms. Outsourcing to India etc. is growing. Automation is stripping away the kind of hours intensive billing work that juniors used to do. Clients are much more savvy about padding of hours and costs generally. Financial services firms, the biggest consumers of legal services, have less demand, as they are trying to cut costs. Was it JP Morgan had 20k people just dealing with bad mortgages? When they have resolved that, those people go, and with it the legal work required.

Law firms have gone broke, and the way they parcel out the goodies is changing. I think the industry is probably in something of a structural downturn (not as bad as investment banking, but with similar characteristics). The threat from outsourcing is probably the greatest one to the career of a young lawyer (that and new technology).
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby Valuethinker » Sun Mar 17, 2013 11:49 am

jodydavis wrote:I'd say that, based on the above discussion, the OP has done his homework and is making an informed and carefully-considered decision. That, alone, puts him ahead of most of his future classmates. Well done.

Two key facts in this discussion are: (1) he will be graduating from a top school; and (2) he will be graduating with little if any debt. Those two facts make his decision much less risky. Is there still some risk? Sure - what major career decision entails no risk? But, as Market Timer points out, there is also a potential upside.


+1

You can't legislate for the future, but you can:

- minimize debt

- get as academically recognized a placing as you can, knowing that the higher ranked schools and the higher ranked students do better in finding the critical first job
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby ChrisC » Sun Mar 17, 2013 1:39 pm

m458 wrote: 3. In regards to likelihood of getting big law and having to finish at the top of my school/10%/whatever--that's not true. A slight bit over 50% of the graduating class ends up at NLJ250 firms (jobs that are either paying the market salary of $160k or close to it depending on the location and size of the firm). This 50% figure has held true for several years now and has increased slightly this year. Essentially, if I graduate top half of my class, big law is an option. Whether I graduate top half and whether I interview well enough to get an offer are other considerations, but graduating at the very top of the class is NOT a requirement to getting big law at the school I'll be attending.


Hmmmm, I'd like to see this NLJ250 article you referenced. Might be outdated and does not appear consonant with the anecdotal information I've observed. I've been a lawyer for 35 years, with exposure to all types of practices based on the collective experiences of my spouse and myself. I also have a daughter, a current 3L at a law school consistently rated the 7-9 best in the country. Both my wife and I graduated from a top 5 or 6 law school (it moved up a bit after we left). For the past few years, my work mainly involves professional development and training for lawyers in my organization, and I frequently have the benefit of listening to the views of law professors at some of the top law schools who work alongside me in developing professional development content for my lawyers, the views of directors of talent management and development at Big Law Firms, and the views of NALP professionals. On a personal note, my wife and I actually counselled our daughter against pursuing a law career -- we felt her talents could be put to better use in a different career which would provide her with less stress and more enjoyment. She went to law school anyway; and we knew that once she decided to incurr $190K in debt over 3 years, there was only one career path for her to practice for the next several years after she graduates -- and, of course, law firms wine and dine and pay summer associates into delusion so the choice becomes even more settled for most folks.

From what I see, the market last year (2012) for starting salaries at NYC or DC big law firms was $165K. The rates for 2013 haven't been set for many law firms, including the one my daughter will be starting in October. A few take-aways from my connections: law schools do play a lot of placement number games (just like a lot of undergraduate schools) and I doubt that 50 percent of graduates from a top 14 law school are finding jobs in big law firms. I don't think 50 percent of recent graduates of Georgetown or U of Texas are finding such jobs. The job market has become incredibly tight and shrunk a lot with the law industry recession of 2008-2011, with its current overhang and with the wave of new attorney types at law firms displacing alot of entry level associate positions. So, I do think you need to graduate high in your class at your top 14 law school to interview at most big law firms.

Good luck.
Last edited by ChrisC on Sun Mar 17, 2013 4:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby bsteiner » Sun Mar 17, 2013 1:51 pm

m458 wrote:Once I quit, what should I do with the 401k? I will most likely have no income for all of 2014, so I believe it would make sense to convert it to a ROTH IRA next year


A time when you have little or no income is a good time to consider a Roth conversion.

Valuethinker wrote:As I say, the happiest lawyers I know seem to have carved out niches. IP law (if they have a technical background). One guy who does quite complex banking work (eg restructuring complex securitization structures). Tax. One woman founded an employment law firm. You have to differentiate yourself and identify your comparative advantage.


I agree as to the niches.

I've been a lawyer for 36 years, practicing in the areas of tax and trusts and estates, and I've enjoyed my work. I also speak and write extensively, which I also enjoy.

Best of luck to you.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby blevine » Sun Mar 17, 2013 2:11 pm

My wife is an attorney. I have less education and make far more money working less hours.
Don't know how anyone tolerates that profession.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby blinx77 » Sun Mar 17, 2013 3:12 pm

I never thought I would end up defending law school, but in the OP's unique circumstance, I think it is warranted. There seems to be four major reasons for misery among young lawyers:

1) Graduating with lots of debt (regardless of employment outcomes);
2) Graduating with no real legal job (regardless of debt);
3) Having unrealistic expectations (i.e., "I want to practice international environmental law"); and
4) That the first few years of being an associate are very unpleasant, particularly at large law firms.

I can personally vouch for #4. I am an associate at a biglaw firm that is ranked very highly for the quality of the associate experience, and I and most of my friends find it very tough. It says a lot how so many of my friends are thrilled when they can go from being a fourth-year associate making $210k base and probably $25k bonus to making $140k in-house. I can only imagine what it is like at biglaw firms that are known for poor associate experiences. That being said, after graduating with no debt, practicing for several years, and saving and investing like a good boglehead, I have quite a bit of money socked away. I choose to go in every week and tough it out because I am building valuable skills and experience, but I know that if I chose to I could walk out the door, even without a job in hand, and be fine. I could travel the world for a year and think about life and come back and hang a shingle or switch careers and still be fine. I am there by choice, not because I am trapped, and that makes a big difference. OP, given your unique circumstances, if you work hard you can likely put yourself in the same position in six or seven years. It is a hard road to walk, but you already know that. And your downside risk is limited because if push comes to shove you could pay off your expected debt load with even a low paying job.

To respond to the poster that said lawyers are glorified waiters, I would respond that almost everyone who is employed needs to serve someone. Waiters serve patrons, doctors serve patients, lawyers serve clients, bankers serve clients, private equity managers and serve endowment and pension funds. I will say that serving demanding clients and partners 60+ hours a week and being always on call during your limited free time is exhausting, but that is a choice that those of us in "biglaw" make. If you don't have tons of student debt or an outsize mortgage, you can unmake that choice at any time by moving to a less intense law firm, joining a company or the government or even hanging a shingle and leaving some money (OK, often a great deal of money) off the table. But big paychecks generally require big hours and big stress, in law or elsewhere. One could argue that those on Wall Street can make far more money with the same hours, but the OP did not ask about the ROI of investment banking vs. law, s/he asked generally about taking an almost full ride to go to a top law school. (I would also debate the hours point. Lawyers generally have peaks and valleys, while the investment bankers I know literally work around the clock.)

My one strong word of caution is that you need to do more diligence about legal practice areas. First, your day-to-day life will vary tremendously based on your practice area. Divorce lawyers need to deal with a lot of conflict. M&A lawyers need to handle long periods of little sleep and extreme stress followed by periods of no work. M&A can be a great practice, but it can break you if you don't go in with eyes wide open and you buckle under the pressure. If you want to spend your days sitting quietly in your office thinking about statutory interpretation and other arcane concepts, become a regulatory lawyer. Different firms have different specialties, so don't just blindly choose the highest ranked firm and then blindly pick their biggest or busiest practice area. You may have more "prestige" that way, but the guy that picks his career wisely will make far more in the long run than the guy that chases prestige for a few years and then flips out and decides to go bake cupcakes or become a dog walker. Second, your practice area will greatly affect your career trajectory. If you do mutual fund regulatory work, for example, after a few years of biglaw you are almost guaranteed a high paying in-house job with reasonable hours doing important but what seems like pretty boring work, but it will be difficult to switch if you decide you don't like preparing SEC filings that few people will ever read for the rest of your life. If you choose M&A, your exit options will be more varied and interesting but will probably pay less and be a little harder to nab, and your experience as an associate will likely be extremely unpleasant. As a word to the wise, the job market for general commercial litigators (often called "complex business litigation" in biglaw) and to a lesser extent securities litigators is very rough and will likely remain so for the forseeable future. If you go down that path, be prepared for the possibility that you will be pushed out somewhere along the way with no options other than working the same hours at another law firm for a lot less money or hanging a shingle. You will also not get much trial experience in biglaw, and in my opinion being a senior biglaw litigation associate with no trial experience, no clients and little or no partnership prospects is not a good place to be, so you better save your money and have a backup plan. On the other hand, if you want the real "prestige" lawyer jobs (i.e., DOJ, AUSA, federal judge), that's the path if you are willing to take the risk and make the sacrifices (and have glittering credentials).

For what it's worth, I chose real estate. I like drafting contracts and working with business people, and I expect I'll enjoy negotiating (although I unfortunately still don't get to to do too much of that yet), and while biglaw real estate transactions are intense, there isn't the same edge as there is in M&A. Commercial real estate lawyers have better in-house options than some groups like litigation and bankruptcy but worse options than others like M&A, securities or employment law. Real estate lawyers also have the option to join or start a small firm and serve local clients and investors (not too many mom and pop companies looking for advice on derivatives regulation), and it is easier to make a mid-career jump from lawyer to the business or investment side in commercial real estate than almost any other legal field. I know a few successful older attorneys that have significant real estate investments and a part time practice for some stable income, and they all seem to love their jobs. But getting to that position takes hard word, risk and luck. In the meantime, biglaw brings me money, contacts, experience and a great line on the resume. It's very hard, but for me it's worth it.

The oracle at Delphi said "know thyself," and the advice is as true now as ever. The sooner you decide what you want out of your law degree and understand what it will take to get you there and the risks if you don't succeed, the sooner you can start working concretely towards your future. Go to law school because you have a plan, and do not go if you do not have one.

I would be wary of the JD/MBA unless your parents have a lot of extra cash around and are happy to spend it. Extra time, extra money. I would choose what you want to do, pick the degree to get you there and then go out and do it. And for people other than the OP who are deciding on law school and do not have the T14 admission or the scholarship, stay away. $200k debt and no job is not a fun place to be.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby fakiz » Sun Mar 17, 2013 3:57 pm

@ Blinkz

Thank you for providing your detailed reply! Although I had alot of harsh (however true) things to say about law school in my previous post - I agree that there are many benefits to get to going to law school and working in BIGLAW. I plan to work in BIGLAW after graduation and I get annoyed hearing many of my YHSCCN (Yale/Harvard/Stanford/Columbia/Chicago/NYU) classmates talk about how BIGLAW sucks and they are going to go save the world by working as an international human rights lawyer. Honestly, is that even a job? People just need to be realistic. It is very hard to get a job saving the world after law school and even if you do many of the top schools (like YHSCCN) have loan repayment programs for those going to work in public interest/government jobs where they will be making 30-70k a year.

BIGLAW can be exciting and exhilarating and provide a lot of opportunities as long as you open yourself open to it. If you are someone who values work/life balance or has other quims about being anything other than the bottom-of-the-totem-pole then BIGLAW is not for you. Working in BIGLAW is a very humbling experience where you have to take orders from others for most (all) of your career (even in the coveted partner position).

Hang in there OP and other prospectives. If anyone is considering law school and is going to a T-14 school (not Georgetown though because the numbers there are very disappointing and bleak) feel free to PM me. I am at one of the schools listed above.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby market timer » Sun Mar 17, 2013 4:02 pm

blinx77 wrote:To respond to the poster that said lawyers are glorified waiters, I would respond that almost everyone who is employed needs to serve someone.

Great post--this line is especially important.
"I fancy that over-confidence seldom does any great harm except when, as, and if, it beguiles its victims into debt." -Irving Fisher
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby irwinmfletcher » Sun Mar 17, 2013 4:32 pm

"To respond to the poster that said lawyers are glorified waiters, I would respond that almost everyone who is employed needs to serve someone."

Sort of raises the question though doesn't it?

We all need an income. The question is really whether being a lawyer, taking all things into account, is a good way (or the optimal way) to go about it.

The question is not "how can I make money doing nothing". Adding value is a very important skill that everyone should shoot for, no matter what they do.

I merely say that there are much better ways to earn a buck, and to have a lot more fun doing it.

But to each their own.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby Cash » Sun Mar 17, 2013 4:32 pm

blinx77 wrote:As a word to the wise, the job market for general commercial litigators (often called "complex business litigation" in biglaw) and to a lesser extent securities litigators is very rough and will likely remain so for the forseeable future. If you go down that path, be prepared for the possibility that you will be pushed out somewhere along the way with no options other than working the same hours at another law firm for a lot less money or hanging a shingle. You will also not get much trial experience in biglaw, and in my opinion being a senior biglaw litigation associate with no trial experience, no clients and little or no partnership prospects is not a good place to be, so you better save your money and have a backup plan.


This is probably market-dependent. In NYC, possibly true. In DC, definitely not. Lots of in-house and gov't opportunities for commercial litigators. Frankly, I'm surprised to hear that you think the exit opportunities for real estate lawyers are numerous. You guys took a major beating during the downturn. Glad to hear things are looking up.

On the other hand, if you want the real "prestige" lawyer jobs (i.e., DOJ, AUSA, federal judge), that's the path if you are willing to take the risk and make the sacrifices (and have glittering credentials).


True.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby BillyG » Sun Mar 17, 2013 4:36 pm

OP, it does sound like you've done your due diligence. Kudos to you for controlling the direction of your career.

You already understand the usefulness of using generalized statistics to make career choices. The statistics are informative but not dispositive. Digging deeper you see that "it depends" on the school, on your grades, on your debt, etc.

As a Boglehead, do have a plan for practicing as a specific type of lawyer. By all means get a broad legal education but focus on the practice area you want to build, and then read and learn all you can about it. Focus on the career prospects for that type of lawyer, the lifestyle, and the rewards and risks. For me it was IP and patent law. For you it may be something different. Then follow that path through law school. Subscribe to the blogs and ABA publications that specialize in this area and start networking.

Some of the trust & estates and tax lawyers I know are very happy. They have decent schedules and they work with people who are successful and dealing with "positive" issues. I used to think that stuff is boring but you are dealing with wealth accumulation and protection. Many of these people are able to start their own practices. Here, a tax LLM may do more than an MBA...

Law is a licensed profession and this does offer some career protection if you pick the right area and pay your dues -- not as much as in the past, but it helps.

Good luck to you!

Billy



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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby blinx77 » Sun Mar 17, 2013 5:02 pm

Cash wrote:
blinx77 wrote:As a word to the wise, the job market for general commercial litigators (often called "complex business litigation" in biglaw) and to a lesser extent securities litigators is very rough and will likely remain so for the forseeable future. If you go down that path, be prepared for the possibility that you will be pushed out somewhere along the way with no options other than working the same hours at another law firm for a lot less money or hanging a shingle. You will also not get much trial experience in biglaw, and in my opinion being a senior biglaw litigation associate with no trial experience, no clients and little or no partnership prospects is not a good place to be, so you better save your money and have a backup plan.


This is probably market-dependent. In NYC, possibly true. In DC, definitely not. Lots of in-house and gov't opportunities for commercial litigators. Frankly, I'm surprised to hear that you think the exit opportunities for real estate lawyers are numerous. You guys took a major beating during the downturn. Glad to hear things are looking up.


My assessment is likely market / firm / class year dependent. There was definitely a bloodbath in the real estate market for many years, but as a result there aren't too many midlevel real estate associates who have been busy bees the whole time and gotten significant experience. I won't say we've completely worked through the oversupply where I live, but it's definitely better.

Also, my point about litigation was more related to whether it was worth it to stick it out as an associate in biglaw for the long haul. It's widely agreed that biglaw is the best training ground for transactional associates. For litigation, however, there are lots of midlaw firms that take smaller cases, hire junior biglaw litigation associates and actually let them go to court. At some point, those firms might be a better option than sticking it out at a biglaw and ending up ten years out of law school with no trial experience and trying to compete with midlaw associates and junior partners that have far more courtroom experience. This advice may not apply for biglaw trial boutiques like Susman Godfrey, Boies Schiller or Quinn Emmanuel, but for your generic V50 general commercial litigation associate, I don't think it's far off the mark.

The point isn't necessarily that one practice area is good and one bad, but just that they are all very different and lead to different long-term opportunities. It's important for 0Ls to think critically about that as they plan their futures.
Last edited by blinx77 on Sun Mar 17, 2013 7:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby grabiner » Sun Mar 17, 2013 6:56 pm

bsteiner wrote:
m458 wrote:Once I quit, what should I do with the 401k? I will most likely have no income for all of 2014, so I believe it would make sense to convert it to a ROTH IRA next year


A time when you have little or no income is a good time to consider a Roth conversion.[/quote]

And the Lifetime Learning Credit might even wipe out your tax bill on the IRA conversions. Here's an old thread which discussed this possibility:

IRA strategy for going back to school mid-career
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby am » Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:23 pm

Keep reading so much negative about law school in the WSJ. This weekend read an article that stated that a law school would be a good way for Bernie to start these days. Read how NU is reducing class size since quality of applicants is down so much. The plight of graduates from unaccredited schools and it goes on and on. And on here the great majority are extremely negative about their experiences. Not sure why people are still going into law? Is there not an easier way to make a decent living with a better lifestyle and less loans?
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby LadyGeek » Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:39 pm

Remember that we need to stay focused on the OP's questions. This not a general discussion.
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby m458 » Sun Mar 17, 2013 9:13 pm

LadyGeek wrote:Remember that we need to stay focused on the OP's questions. This not a general discussion.


Hey, LadyGeek--I've generally gotten an answer for my main questions. I actually am enjoying this discussion about people's experiences and most importantly the practice areas. I know it's not so much a portfolio/investment thread anymore at this point, but I'd like to keep hearing people's opinions. Is that okay or does the thread need to be moved to another board on the site?

Thanks, grabiner for that link!

Just wanted to make it clear, I'm not doing a JD/MBA. I was just making a point about some of the graduating class at this school (and at this point, I might as well just point it out--the school is Northwestern) ending up in business-related jobs and not legal jobs by choice.

Definitely leaning towards the corporate side. As of right now, licensing/copyright, labor/benefits, and real estate are the areas that I think I am most interested in. Will obviously have to learn more about each and I'll see if any new areas pop up in school that draw my interest or once I start doin summer work, but going in this is what I'm focused on. Funny I keep hearing this about tax and estates; I'll certainly have to explore that.

Thanks, blinx, for the description of practice areas. I've heard M&A can be the most grueling since it's so deal-driven and things can pop-up on a Friday afternoon that take all weekend and ruin any plans you have after a whole day of previously doing nothing. What do you see as your next step coming out of real estate--staying within law or jumping over to business side?

bsteiner wrote:
I've been a lawyer for 36 years, practicing in the areas of tax and trusts and estates, and I've enjoyed my work. I also speak and write extensively, which I also enjoy.

Best of luck to you.


Could you elaborate on what the day-to-day and overall larger picture in terms of projects/assignments are in a tax area? I have accounting friends that do audits and don't enjoy it, but I'm guessing at a firm you're taking on a more advisory role?

ChrisC wrote:Hmmmm, I'd like to see this NLJ250 article you referenced. Might be outdated and does not appear consonant with the anecdotal information I've observed. I've been a lawyer for 35 years, with exposure to all types of practices based on the collective experiences of my spouse and myself. I also have a daughter, a current 3L at a law school consistently rated the 7-9 best in the country. Both my wife and I graduated from a top 5 or 6 law school (it moved up a bit after we left). For the past few years, my work mainly involves professional development and training for lawyers in my organization, and I frequently have the benefit of listening to the views of law professors at some of the top law schools who work alongside me in developing professional development content for my lawyers, the views of directors of talent management and development at Big Law Firms, and the views of NALP professionals. On a personal note, my wife and I actually counselled our daughter against pursuing a law career -- we felt her talents could be put to better use in a different career which would provide her with less stress and more enjoyment. She went to law school anyway; and we knew that once she decided to incurr $190K in debt over 3 years, there was only one career path for her to practice for the next several years after she graduates -- and, of course, law firms wine and dine and pay summer associates into delusion so the choice becomes even more settled for most folks.

From what I see, the market last year (2012) for starting salaries at NYC or DC big law firms was $165K. The rates for 2013 haven't been set for many law firms, including the one my daughter will be starting in October. A few take-aways from my connections: law schools do play a lot of placement number games (just like a lot of undergraduate schools) and I doubt that 50 percent of graduates from a top 14 law school are finding jobs in big law firms. I don't think 50 percent of recent graduates of Georgetown or U of Texas are finding such jobs. The job market has become incredibly tight and shrunk a lot with the law industry recession of 2008-2011, with its current overhang and with the wave of new attorney types at law firms displacing alot of entry level associate positions. So, I do think you need to graduate high in your class at your top 14 law school to interview at most big law firms.

Good luck.


Here is the article: http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNL ... 0217210416

And this is the first year they've done it, but they even broke down the number of graduates from each school that ended up at specific firms here:
http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNL ... 0127225923

As you'll see, NU is 5th with 51% of the class ending up @ an NLJ250 firm. Definitely not outdated as the numbers just came out, and I have a hard time believing these numbers are overly positive as they're firm-reported and schools don't have a way of fudging them. If anything, it's been pointed out that these numbers might be a bit lower than the actual picture as some firms underreport and a couple fairly large firms with large associate classes did not respond.

You're certainly right about Georgetown and U of Texas, and even some within the T-14 have really taken a hit with big firm hiring (Michigan gets a lot of flak over on some of the law school message boards).

2stepsbehind wrote:And before this thread get locked again, I'd ask the OP to promise to update us in 3, 5, and 7 years.


I certainly will!
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Re: Quitting job and starting law school in the Fall - help!

Postby LadyGeek » Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:13 pm

m458 wrote:
LadyGeek wrote:Remember that we need to stay focused on the OP's questions. This not a general discussion.

Hey, LadyGeek--I've generally gotten an answer for my main questions. I actually am enjoying this discussion about people's experiences and most importantly the practice areas. I know it's not so much a portfolio/investment thread anymore at this point, but I'd like to keep hearing people's opinions. Is that okay or does the thread need to be moved to another board on the site?

Remember the purpose here (from Forum Policy):
This subforum is for all questions about your (or your friend's or family's) actual investments or investment planning.

Your original question contained both investing and career choices, so it was better to leave it here. Since you have the answer to your investing questions, there's nothing more to discuss. Career questions should be continued (at your discretion) in the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum, which is intended for employment issues (See: Forum Policy)

Personal Finance

This subforum is for personal financial issues that don't involve investments. Examples of acceptable topics are:

... - employment issues ...

Note that topics must be directly connected to your (or your friend's or family's) financial life. General comments or complaints about these topics will be locked or removed.

Note is that comments cannot be general - it has to be focused on your personal career. For clarification, refer to A reminder that non-investing general comment threads are OT

Let's lock this thread at this point, as there are no further investing comments. Threads are normally kept open, but I don't see how the thread can remain focused on investing. I'll be happy to reopen it upon the OP's request, especially to hear what progress has been made.
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