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Career Change to Law? - Page 2

post #16 of 17
For budgeting purposes, you should not plan on making $120,000 a year unless you get into one of the top schools. And not even then.

Criminal defense attys often start as asst prosecutors, you're talking $35,000-$45,000/yr in the Midwest ( I have no idea about California). On the law firm side, I would say the average starting salary in an average Midwestern city (not Chicago) would be $45-55,000 at a 10-20 atty firm. This week's Lawyers Weekly lists 8 openings, all require 3 years experience (one pays the grand sum of $40,000 to start!).

In my experience, my age WAS held against me (I was 32) by the top firms. They wanted 25 year-olds without kids. Two recruiters were blunt to the point of stupidity in that regard.

If I were interviewing you, I'd probe deeply into why you changed careers, what your expectations are, whether you are fully committed to live the associate lifestyle. Few 35-year-olds are. I think that partners would rather manage a bunch of 20-somethings whom they can push around than someone who has been in the workforce for a decade.

No offense, but your liberal arts background is typical, and there's lots of competition there. In my experience no one will care that you have a masters unless it's in a specialty like nursing, engineering, etc., and then it matters a lot.

I would do it all over again, but I am the only one in my group of law school friends who would do so.

Edit: your post made me think of something interesting. At roughly the 10-year point after passing the bar, here's what my group of law school friends earn (some are very accurate, some are educated guesses):

NLRB lawyer: about 90,000
Senior associate/litigation defense (slip and fall): 65,000
Asst State Atty Gen: $70,000
Deputy court clerk: about 60,000
Asst prof: $50,000
Wills and trusts junior partner: about $85,000
Wills and trust associate: about $60,000
Business formation junior partner: 85-90,000
Claims adjuster: maybe 80,000? (he was an adjuster for years before law school and never could get a job at a firm)
Unsuccessful solo practitioner: $50,000
Congressional aide: maybe $40,000
General litigator defense: 55-65,000
Worked at a 3-person plaintiff's firm, then went into a school administration M.Ed. program.
Worked at a big firm for a year, then went to journalism school.
2 of them flunked the bar, and don't practice.
Maybe 3-4 are full partners at bigger firms, earning over $150,000/year.

Med Mal defense partner on fast track: 90,000-110,000
Junior partner/litigation defense (construction): 85-95,000
Successful solo practitioner, business law: over 200,000

The last three have worked over 70/hours a week for ten years. They do not see their spouses. They have "parenting time" where daddy takes them to the health club once or twice a month. They work, and work, and work. They also have developed a niche and a client base. I have long since given up trying to be their friends, because they don't do anything except work, talk about work, and vacation in the Carribbean.

Obviously, I didn't go to Harvard, but I think the above results are typical of what you'd find from an average law school in the Midwest. No one is starving, many have great lifestyles, some do fascinating work, some do boring, mind-numbing work. Some love what they do, others love the money. Tough to generalize.
post #17 of 17
This has been a very interesting thread. And it reminded me that back in 1999 I spoke with the man who was then the chair of the admissions committee at NYU Law. He told me outright that my additional education (PhD in Econ) would be a strike AGAINST me in the application process.

He had a very good reason for this--he said that in his (and the committee's) experience people with advanced degrees end up either at the top of their class or the bottom. At the top because they've learned very well how to learn in general. At the bottom because they learned very well how to learn in a very specific way that is not suitable to law school.

Further, he said the advanced degree would not help me overcome a mediocre undergraduate gpa (approx 3.0 on a 4-pt scale) from a school that they wouldn't consider "top tier". All those year's later and my slack-ass attitude hits me in the face.

For what it's worth, I guess...

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