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Career Change to Law?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I have been seriously considering going to law school. I'm mid-thirties, already have one masters degree, and always test well.

I'm looking to get a sense of my chances at admission and general advice. I am looking to apply in the midwest (WI, MN or IL) or possibly California. Opinions on schools would be appreciated.

I'm also a little concerned with school debt vs. future pay and if my age will have a negative impact in the hiring market. I'll take any other offers of wisdom too.

Thanks.
post #2 of 17
Having a prior career will not impede you in pursuing law or getting hired and it will be a benefit to you because you have some maturity and perspective. It is quite common for lawyers to have had a prior career. If you attend a state school as a resident, the tuition is not too bad. Consider that major firms pay $120k to start and it makes economic sense.

If you have a technical degree, you will be in demand in intellectual property. If it is liberal arts it will help you with writing. Good luck.
post #3 of 17
Yes, if you have an advanced technical degree, I wouldn't worry much about future pay. You should be well indemnified at a patent firm. Just get used to the idea of long hours....but the work is very satisfiying (at least, it is for me...but I'm just a paralegal).
post #4 of 17
There is a wide spectrum in the pay scale and lifestyles. So a lot depends on what you want to do as a lawyer.

If you are seeking the higher paying jobs in the larger firms, you'll need to consider the uncertainties with it -- i.e., partnership elevation etc.

I would strongly urge trying to talk to as many lawyers as you can from whatever legal areas you are considering (e.g., hang your own shingle to large general practice firm etc.)

Your prior work experience will not be a negative.
post #5 of 17
let me tell you, family law is where it's at if you want to make the big bucks
post #6 of 17
As horton points out, there is a wide array of law firms and pay. Keep in mind that the average lawyer makes about $60k per year. Of course, the starting salaries at BigLaw get all the ink.

What do you want to achieve? Are you considering leaving your current profession out of boredom? What are the drivers at play behind your thinking?

Your previous career will not work against you. Whether it helps will depend upon what you ultimately do.

Weigh the lost earning potential in your current career with the cost of going to law school and starting over in a new career. Do you have a wife and kids? Think about how being an associate at BigLaw and the hours that come with that will affect them (if that's what you want to do).

I would posit that your age could play a factor in whether you make partner in a BigLaw firm. You'll be an associate when others in your age bracket are making partner. But of course you could be a stellar associate and wow everyone!

My advice is to think very carefully about this. Again, without knowing what you'd like to get out of it, it's difficult to give advice.

Disclosure: I left a BigLaw firm earlier this year after almost 12 years. It was an interesting ride. Know some brilliant people, worked on some interesting cases. But ultimately, I tired of the grind and no longer practice law.

Hope this helps somewhat....
post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by javyn
let me tell you, family law is where it's at if you want to make the big bucks

Family law? Why? In California, they've made everything formulaeic so that there's not much for the lawyers to dispute. Plus, the clients are so emotional they are constantly griping to the lawyers about everything.
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses so far. I do plan to talk to a number of lawyers already starting this coming week.

My degree is Liberal Arts, but I do have manufacturing experience and have even worked on several patent issues with our corporate attorney. He's also back in town this week and I have a call in to him.

The pay scale variance is one thing I am curious about. I have heard stories of legal grads making as little as mid-40's in Chicago, but wasn't sure how common that was, or if it was an exaggeration to make a point. I've always known that I would need to finish high in my class to do well coming out.

There are several law areas I'm curious about - patent, politics, criminal defense (seen too many movies romanticizing it) and customs/import/export.

Really don't understand the work and lifestyle differences between them (if any). When should I know what I want to focus on? Before starting school, after 1st year?

thanks again.
post #9 of 17
I was being facetious
post #10 of 17
Talk to lawyers who you respect or who are in careers/contexts that you think you're interested in. Ask them about the highs and lows and what daily work is like.

If you test extremely well and can get into a top 20-25 school that will be a big factor in calibrating expectations for future opportunities. If you can get into an elite school all the better. If you can't get into a top school the prospects will change probably dramatically.

Feel free to pm if you like and I can discuss further.

Best of luck.
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreyFlannelMan
As horton points out, there is a wide array of law firms and pay. Keep in mind that the average lawyer makes about $60k per year. Of course, the starting salaries at BigLaw get all the ink.

What do you want to achieve? Are you considering leaving your current profession out of boredom? What are the drivers at play behind your thinking?

Boredom and lack of opportunity are causing the career rethink. Law mostly because everyone I know thinks that I would be a good lawyer. When I ran in a group with a number of then law students, we always got on well intellectually. Several told me then that I should consider the field. I'm very analytical in temperament and generally interested in legal questions. I also have good speaking and presentation skills.


Quote:
Originally Posted by GreyFlannelMan
Your previous career will not work against you. Whether it helps will depend upon what you ultimately do.

Weigh the lost earning potential in your current career with the cost of going to law school and starting over in a new career. Do you have a wife and kids? Think about how being an associate at BigLaw and the hours that come with that will affect them (if that's what you want to do).

I would posit that your age could play a factor in whether you make partner in a BigLaw firm. You'll be an associate when others in your age bracket are making partner. But of course you could be a stellar associate and wow everyone!

My advice is to think very carefully about this. Again, without knowing what you'd like to get out of it, it's difficult to give advice.

Disclosure: I left a BigLaw firm earlier this year after almost 12 years. It was an interesting ride. Know some brilliant people, worked on some interesting cases. But ultimately, I tired of the grind and no longer practice law.

Hope this helps somewhat....

It does help, thank you.
post #12 of 17
Some lawyers love their career, some hate it. There are many firms that are "old school" with closed minds and people who take themselves very seriously. That would make me miserable but it obviously suits some. These firms do things like insurance defense work or ERISA or real estate. The male partners refer to themselves as "Mr." The women wear serious suits and ruffled white shirts and pearls. Diplomas are framed on the office wall, apparently to remove any doubt about whether the occupant graduated or not. This type of lawyer leads a life of memos to the file, confirming letters, timesheets and conference calls. They must suck up to the managing partner, kiss the client's @ss, and take out their frustrations on associates. You might want to avoid these places as if infected by the plague.
post #13 of 17
Make sure you aren't changing careers just because you think the grass is greener on the other side. Lawyers have very high rates of career dissatisfaction. There a lots of lawyers, chasing not enough work. The guys making the big bucks work ridiculously long hours. It ain't glamourous like in the movies.

Unlike, say a CPA or a dentist, you can't count on repeat business from your clients because they often go years without needing legal help. So you are always in client acquisition mode (unless you work for the government or in-house at a corporation).

It ain't all it's cracked up to be. Think hard before you switch.
post #14 of 17
I'm in Bankruptcy and went to law school when I was 40 competing w/ intelligent kids around 25. Hardest academic experience in my life. And, I loved it.

Very difficult to get a job, though. Finally got consistent work. In BK, I've worked with the world's largest creditor, the IRS, for a BK judge, for Ch 7 trustees, and for other creditors. I now work for debtors and I find it more rewarding helping them in their times of financial woes (and many have other issues that got them there, such as divorce). And, even though the new law is ridiculous, there is more than one way to "skin the cat" that Congress gave us.
post #15 of 17
Well, since you mentioned Wisconsin (ahem...), I'll note that if you attend law school in my state, you don't have to take the bar upon graduation. If you have any questions about U of Wisconsin, just PM me. I finished there in May, 2004.

Quote:
Originally Posted by coatandthai
Some lawyers love their career, some hate it. There are many firms that are "old school" with closed minds and people who take themselves very seriously. That would make me miserable but it obviously suits some. These firms do things like insurance defense work or ERISA or real estate. The male partners refer to themselves as "Mr." The women wear serious suits and ruffled white shirts and pearls. Diplomas are framed on the office wall, apparently to remove any doubt about whether the occupant graduated or not. This type of lawyer leads a life of memos to the file, confirming letters, timesheets and conference calls. They must suck up to the managing partner, kiss the client's @ss, and take out their frustrations on associates. You might want to avoid these places as if infected by the plague.

Hey, do I know you? That sounds like my day. (And, yes, I'm a dissatisfied lawyer, which is why I'll be going back to school...again...next year. Hopefully.)
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