work one more year or attend law school

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novicejamED
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Joined: Thu May 24, 2018 2:33 pm

Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by novicejamED » Tue May 29, 2018 11:41 am

Hi, All the opinions and recommendations are appreciated. They definitely have given me a lot to think about. It seems that either is likely to work out okay financially though which way chosen may impact lifestyle at least for a while. Lots of food for thought. I would be happy to get more opinions if anyone wishes to share their experieinces including as an attorney.

shawndoggy
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by shawndoggy » Tue May 29, 2018 1:26 pm

This is an enlightening conversation. My own personal take would be to get out of law school debt free if you could... but I didn't go to a T5 law school (haha I didn't even really look at rankings then, but it looks like mine was in the top 40 in the mid 90s). But I did graduate debt free. And I get to live in a small city with a 13 minute commute and made it to my kids extracurriculars, etc.

While the potential for a biglaw partner's salary is certainly enticing, it's not something I'd recommend as a basis to decide whether to go to law school. If you get done and decide you hate the law (or maybe just hate biglaw), it's much harder to walk away if you have a bunch of student debt to work off. <-- but this is conservative advice, not advice for an ambitious risk taker.

On the other hand, if you are very ambitious, self confident, love to work like a dog, enjoy working on very complex matters in a high stakes environment surrounded by the best and the brightest, and don't have a family or other obligations, I can see how biglaw could have its appeal. It wasn't/isn't for me, but there do appear to be people who actually enjoy it.

DCChak
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by DCChak » Tue May 29, 2018 1:58 pm

Don't think I saw anything about the bimodal salary distribution for law students. NALP data for the class of 2014 is here - https://www.nalp.org/class_of_2014_salary_curve

One overview how the distribution has changed over time is here - https://abovethelaw.com/2013/11/dont-yo ... nequality/

Another is here - https://www.biglawinvestor.com/bimodal- ... ion-curve/

Getting into a T5 school will help push you to towards the second, higher mode, but I wouldn't assume the higher mode is automatic, or that you will continue to reap that income smoothly for years after you start. Not quite of 2 years of Biglaw for me ... others stayed longer.

alfaspider
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by alfaspider » Tue May 29, 2018 2:33 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 9:12 am


Choose your career path based on your interests and passions, not what is on a spreadsheet.
Doing this, the finances will work out.
Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. I know plenty of people who have followed their passions and the finances didn't really work out. I suppose it helps to have a passion for something remunerative.

I'd also say that sometimes you don't want to make your passion your work. I say that as a person who has been passionate about a wide variety of hobbies. At times, I have gotten serious enough about them that I seriously considered trying to make them a career. Some, such as skiing, had no realistic way of becoming high-earning. A few, such as computer hardware, even had plausible career paths associated with them. But I am so glad I didn't make any of them into my career. To do so would have almost certainly ruined the passion and left me far worse off financially than I am now.

I don't think that many people are truly deeply passionate about tax law the way people are passionate about art or literature. I'm certainly not. But I like it quite well as a career. It suits my strengths and gives me a sense of satisfaction along with healthy earnings.

Minty
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by Minty » Tue May 29, 2018 4:24 pm

I attended a top 5, and taught at another. My advice is that if you want to be a law professor, go to a top 5. But if the question is practicing law at a big firm or in-house, I'd say you have to think hard about turning down a free ride at a top 10, particularly if it is associated with a fellowship program that gives you special benefits. In terms of waiting a year, the reasonable premise here is that you will be making $180,000 pretty soon, so shouldn't you get to it?
Core Four with nominal bonds and TIPS.

FireProof
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by FireProof » Tue May 29, 2018 4:49 pm

afan wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 9:10 am

Some of the questions should be answerable with data
What proportion of the graduating class at Yale and Harvard end up going to Big Law? That should be known. Add in those who do federal clerkships right out of law school, since I assume any Y or H graduate with a federal clerkship can get a Big Law job if they want one.
Here's the data for Columbia (for Harvard and Yale, it's complicated a bit, because people often have higher ambitions than doc review monkey - BigLaw from Yale is more of an admission of defeat than anything else):

https://www.lstreports.com/schools/columbia/

2017 GRADUATES
% of all 432 2017 grads
Large Firm 79.6%
Small Firm 1.2%
Federal Clerkship 3.5%
Public Service 9%

Presuming that all the people who did public service couldn't get BigLaw is not warranted, but even by your criteria, that's 83.1%.

For Chicago, it's even higher at 87.4% (but already we see it's much less corporate, with many more clerkships):
https://www.lstreports.com/schools/chicago/

% of all 214 2017 grads
Large Firm 66.4%
Small Firm 0.5%
Federal Clerkship 21%
Public Service 7.5%

These stats provide no particular proof that ANYONE is shut out of BigLaw, but if they are, it's likely due to their personality, which one is already aware of going into law school, so it doesn't really factor into the risk.

chazas
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by chazas » Tue May 29, 2018 6:01 pm

I’m a partner in a major Biglaw firm with a Wall Street-type practice. I went to a T14 school a million years ago.

My advice is, don’t do it unless you really love law. You will work your ass off for that $180K starting salary, and every year afterwards. My firm requires 2000 billable minimum to get the standard bonus. That’s a lot of nights and weekends.

There are no guarantees. You may not get a dream job even at a T5 school if you don’t interview well. Associates not infrequently flame out, just don’t cut it, and are asked to leave. Partnership is ever harder to gain. And it doesn’t mean all tha much these days anyway, you immediately have a target on your back. New partners generally take home saignificantly less than senior associates, BTW.

If you do it, then don’t turn down a full boat offer at a T10 school. Not worth it.

novicejamED
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by novicejamED » Wed May 30, 2018 11:11 am

That is truly enlightening and disheartening. Thanks or posting.

novicejamED
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by novicejamED » Wed May 30, 2018 11:17 am

Also for those who attended a top 14 would you mind describing the experience you had while attending? e.g. lectures, mentorship collegial atmosphere, etc

afan
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by afan » Wed May 30, 2018 1:36 pm

Another factor would be the percent of top law school grads who end up as Big Law partners. I think this is a pretty low number. The lower it is the less important partner incomes are in this discussion.

My friends tell me that the ability to bring in business is mandatory for becoming and remaining a partner. There are people who are excellent lawyers, anyone would trust them with work in their area, but who don't bring in clients. I am told that such people can have long successful careers but they will not be partners. There is some other term for them. Not temporary people in a weed out process like the typical associate, but not partners either.

My friends also say the the legal business is not nearly as stable as many might imagine. Even big successful firms have turnover. They have financial problems and downsize. Some merge or fold. It could be hard to predict one's future when joining one of these firms.

I have an acquaintance who is a long time partner at a top big law firm. This group was in the legal news for having increased their profits per partner to some truly amazing figure. But they did that by sharply cutting the size of the firm. Lots of associates and some partners we're ushered out. Whole lines of business we're abandoned. The people left standing we're making even more money than they had been before. But there were a lot fewer of them. Strange line of work.
We don't know how to beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis, and we don't know anyone that does know either | --Swedroe | We assume that markets are efficient, that prices are right | --Fama

Biglaw Investor
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by Biglaw Investor » Thu May 31, 2018 3:20 pm

6 dollar ribs wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 2:55 pm
Unless the top 5 school is Yale, you would be a fool to turn down a full ride to a top 10 school. There is almost no difference between Columbia and Duke or Virginia in terms of job prospects, and that small difference is not worth $250k. I regret turning down a slightly lower ranked school for a top 5 law school, even though I got a job at a top firm after graduating.
I agree. OP, if you can get a full ride to a top 10 school then you should almost certainly take it over financing a top 5 school that isn't Yale. Feel free to PM me if you want to discuss more.

DidItMyWay
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by DidItMyWay » Thu May 31, 2018 3:36 pm

chazas wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 6:01 pm
I’m a partner in a major Biglaw firm with a Wall Street-type practice. I went to a T14 school a million years ago.

My advice is, don’t do it unless you really love law. You will work your ass off for that $180K starting salary, and every year afterwards. My firm requires 2000 billable minimum to get the standard bonus. That’s a lot of nights and weekends.

There are no guarantees. You may not get a dream job even at a T5 school if you don’t interview well. Associates not infrequently flame out, just don’t cut it, and are asked to leave. Partnership is ever harder to gain. And it doesn’t mean all tha much these days anyway, you immediately have a target on your back. New partners generally take home saignificantly less than senior associates, BTW.

If you do it, then don’t turn down a full boat offer at a T10 school. Not worth it.
Been there, done that, and got the t-shirt as well many moons ago. I agree with this advice 100%.

DidItMyWay
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by DidItMyWay » Thu May 31, 2018 3:54 pm

novicejamED wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 11:17 am
Also for those who attended a top 14 would you mind describing the experience you had while attending? e.g. lectures, mentorship collegial atmosphere, etc
Everyone is competitive and wants to do well. If you get in with the right group of friends, you can study together, support each other, and keep each other sane.

Everyone is smart. I always felt like everyone was smarter than me. Most of them probably were, but I held my own by putting in the time/work.

You will spend A LOT of time outside of class reading and preparing for class. Some professors lecture and some use the Socratic method.

The first year is the most difficult.

Law school is stressful, but if you love what you are learning, it can be very rewarding.

Theoretical
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by Theoretical » Sat Jun 02, 2018 6:58 pm

What are the conditions to KEEP the full ride scholarships at the T10 law schools? I've seen both kinds in the local law schools, some where you have to screw up to lose it (keep a B average at a school with a B+ curve) and others where it's insanely hard to keep and where even bad luck can cost you (be in the top 1/3 after the first year and a C+ curve).

The legal market is not in the calamitous state it was when I was in school (not a top 10) - '08-'12 - but it's still not even close to its heyday in the early '00s or the 1990s.

Top 10 vs. Top 5 is a real difference, but instead of a no-brainer, it's a closer call.

AerialWombat
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by AerialWombat » Sat Jun 02, 2018 7:19 pm

I always like to encourage people to challenge normal thinking about career paths. Consider the end result you are actually after, and ask whether law school is actually necessary.

If your dream in life is 100 hour workweeks and partner in Big Law, then do what you gotta do.

If the dream is something else, is there an alternative path?

I’m in private practice in a niche area of administrative tax law. I am not a lawyer, did not go to law school, nor am I a CPA (engineering degree, actually). Income is low six figures, and I work well under 40 hours per week.

Very few people woukd want to deal with the part of the IRS that I do, but I love it. If it was somebody’s dream, they could get licensed to do what I do in a couple months, for under $1,000. Notice I said licensed, not competent.

So “begin with the end in mind”.

Hunky-dory
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by Hunky-dory » Sun Jun 03, 2018 9:08 am

If you want to do gov't work, clerk, teach or be a federal judge there may be an advantage if you go to T5. If you want to shoot for "Big Law" partnership, it probably won't make much of a difference if you go T5 or another T14. I agree with what chazas posted. I am a junior partner at a large non-NY based firm and have worked with dozens of junior associates through the years, almost all of which went to finest schools. I am generalizing but I would say at least 1/3 of associates never "get it" and the other 1/3 are capable but do not want to make all the sacrifices required by the job. For example, one of my more senior partners landed a new client recently and personally billed about 40 hours over Sat, Sun and Monday of Memorial Day Weekend and ended the week with an all-nighter to get a deal closed. Young associates see that and rightfully ask if that is how they want to spend their 40s. The success of the other 1/3 are subject to chance but at the end of the day whether you went T14 or T5 won't matter as much as your network (potential clients and clients), reputation for legal work, area of focus, health of firm and economy. For all these reasons I think no one should go to any law school with the plans of being a partner in a large firm as it sets you up for false expectations and potential to feel law school was a huge mistake.

coachd50
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by coachd50 » Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:13 am

novicejamED wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 11:41 am
Hi, All the opinions and recommendations are appreciated. They definitely have given me a lot to think about. It seems that either is likely to work out okay financially though which way chosen may impact lifestyle at least for a while. Lots of food for thought. I would be happy to get more opinions if anyone wishes to share their experieinces including as an attorney.

OP Why do you want to go to Law School?

I have read many posts here, but only one brought up the most important factor, NOT ALL DECISIONS IN LIFE SHOULD BE MADE FROM STRICTLY A FINANCIAL VIEWPOINT.

Now, the specifics of this question, yes..that should be one. But (and perhaps this is just me) I get a tone from this thread of making decisions to chase $$$$ down the road (Big Law Partner) without ever considering the importance of living in the moment. Will you enjoy your life pursuing that? I know this isn't the best metric to use to measure a life, but if you were hit by a bus crossing the street to the office on the day you were going to be promoted to Big Law partner (or whatever)... would it have been worth it?

novicejamED
Posts: 10
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Re: work one more year or attend law school

Post by novicejamED » Sun Jun 03, 2018 1:12 pm

I am not planning to practice law solely for money. My posts are to gather opinions get advice and increase my knowledge to ensure a good decision is made by me in the end. My time is almost up to decide and I am still undecided still hoping for more sage advice so hopefully something written will give me an aha moment. Let me just say my goal is not partner but at the outset neither is $50k per year
I’ve had a lot of great advice and garnered and learned a lot in the posts. It seems like either decision has its pros and cons and would be okay in the end

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