Author Topic: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?  (Read 6557 times)

iwasjustwondering

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 436
Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« on: December 28, 2013, 08:21:50 PM »
Removed because I shared too many personal details.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2013, 08:50:44 PM by iwasjustwondering »

CommonCents

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2385
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2013, 08:41:02 PM »
I've taught as an adjunct before myself.  I understand you (almost) have the qualifications, but are you sure they would hire you as a full-time professor with benefits?  I know several people with great qualifications who haven't been able to get more than adjunct position because more and more colleges are cutting back to cut costs, and moving to adjuncts is an easy way to do that.  They don't have to pay any benefits as long as they keep you under a certain number of courses per year.

I wouldn't make the move also unless you are very sure you have a tuition benefit and that your kids would go to that school.

bogart

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1090
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2013, 08:43:43 PM »

... I do have the qualifications to become a full-time professor (I am all-but-dissertation for my PhD). 


... yeah, me too except the ABD part (I'm done), and I could no more get a tenure-track faculty position at one of the universities in my area than fly to the moon (I could, and indeed, have, in contrast, get an adjunct position in a snap).  Are you sure you can?  This will depend a lot on your field, I'd guess, and a bit on your area.  A really major reason I left the faculty side of academia was my desire to have some control over where I live.


The kids would get free tuition if I did that. 


Free tuition where?  And can they get into those places?  Tuition support varies widely by institution, so it's worth knowing (and thinking through) the answers to those questions.

iwasjustwondering

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 436
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2013, 08:45:31 PM »
Thanks, CC.  I do have the qualifications to be a teaching, or clinical, professor, which is a non-tenure track position where you basically teach full-time and get benefits (including tuition).  It's very much up in the air at this point, because I don't have a f/t job offer in hand, and don't even know if I'll be good at teaching. 

But all other things being equal, and assuming I would get a teaching gig somewhere where my kids would go to school, would this be a good move to make, do you think?

iwasjustwondering

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 436
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2013, 08:48:47 PM »
Bogart, it's free tuition at the university where I would teach.  The school is extremely hard to get into, and it would be quite a bummer to make this move and then find out the kids don't get in. 

bogart

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1090
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2013, 08:57:57 PM »
Bogart, it's free tuition at the university where I would teach.  The school is extremely hard to get into, and it would be quite a bummer to make this move and then find out the kids don't get in.

Not that exciting in my book, for the reason you mention.  If that's the sort of job you want, great (and certainly they have lots to recommend them), but I personally wouldn't make the shift for the tuition benefit given that constraint, no.

CommonCents

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2385
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2013, 09:22:12 PM »
Thanks, CC.  I do have the qualifications to be a teaching, or clinical, professor, which is a non-tenure track position where you basically teach full-time and get benefits (including tuition).  It's very much up in the air at this point, because I don't have a f/t job offer in hand, and don't even know if I'll be good at teaching. 

But all other things being equal, and assuming I would get a teaching gig somewhere where my kids would go to school, would this be a good move to make, do you think?

I get having the qualifications - the issue really is in nailing the job.  I would do it if you wanted to for the job.  I would not do it for college tuition, because there's really too many variables.  If focusing just on the finances, you'd also to calculate how much you'd save with the tuition, compared to your current job, over the years until they reach college age.  You'd also want to consider if you'd want to go back to the original job after and if you could, and if you'd lose out on other benefits like 401k matching, etc.

Also be mindful that just because your hours are good (better than currently), they do still require a lot of research time.

Zamboni

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2868
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2013, 09:26:57 PM »
Quote
So what is the best bet to save the college money over the next few years -- pursue the professorship (which is work I would *much* rather do, and which would allow me to stay closer to my kids and not work so hard) in the hopes of getting them the free tuition, or stay at the current job and save the cash from my bonuses and from becoming more mustachian in my life? 

I'm going to vote for taking a good vacation and then going back to your current job and stashing cash like mad. 

I've been in the private sector and transitioned gradually through a lecture position to a regular-rank position academia.  It is a painful and unlikely process and indeed as difficult as some of the other posters have suggested.  Unless you are in a discipline where a doctorate is not the norm for faculty, then schools with highly selective admissions typically expect faculty candidates to have a doctorate, at least one post-doctoral position under the guidance of notable leaders in their field at very prestigious institutions, (yes, it's that snouty), and a number of publications.  I have all of those things and it still took a decade to get from the instructor/lecturer to the professor track.  This is because the "standards" are considerably relaxed when hiring adjuncts to cover a class here or there, so once you are in that type of job the regular faculty will probably assume you are just not up to snuff even if you are the best thing since sliced bread. 

If you don't quite have your PhD and the "normal" faculty in your field do, then they will not hire you for a regular position - ever - and you will always be considered a temporary employee because you are not regular rank.  Now that I have a faculty position and see all of the perks and how the red carpet got rolled out recently, I truly understand what a second-class citizen I was as "teaching staff," which was considered as faculty by the university (sort of) but not by my department or colleagues.

What I'm saying in a somewhat brutal way is to not abandon your day job just yet.  You have a great salary and need to save a much as you can.  You are talking about taking more than a 50% pay cut, which is often what happens when people move from the private sector to academia (it's what I did), but you are not talking about moving into a position that has any sort of job security or clear career trajectory. 

It sounds to me like you need a more flexible schedule for family care and more time off.  Academia can get you both of those things.  It very well might improve your quality of life.  You might also be able to get some of those things in your current job if you think creatively and talk to your boss about the situation. 

The move you are considering probably won't make it easier to pay for college for your kids.  For one thing, your earning power will take a nose dive.  Also, are you sure that tuition will be free?  Where I work now, a private school, outsiders probably have the impression that it is free for us to send our kids to school where we work, but in fact it costs about $30K per year out of pocket per student for us (the institution foots the bill for about $35K out of a ~$65K total annual expense for tuition/fees/room/board.)  At the big state school where I used to work, absolutely no tuition or education assistance benefit was provided for dependents.

iwasjustwondering

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 436
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2013, 09:47:02 PM »
This is great advice, thanks everyone.  Zamboni, my education is in liberal arts, but the field where I work now is only tangentially related to that education, and qualifies me to teach my particular area of business.  So I'd be teaching in the business school.  They seem to value my kind of work experience.   

The school where I'll be teaching treats adjuncts and clinical professors well.  The tuition benefit for f/t faculty is for tuition only, not room and board.  I'm not terribly interested in climbing any sort of academic ladder, just in making a living at a job I like, sending my kids to college, and having more free time with which to live my happy life.  I really don't think I would care if the tenured faculty looked down on me, but vanity is a fickle thing. 

Overall, I do think it will be much easier to save the college money by staying at my current job.  The travel is a problem, though.  I'm due to go to Asia in late spring, and I simply don't know who is going to be able to watch my kids.  If I don't go, and I think not going is the likeliest scenario at this point, that may become an issue for my employer. 








« Last Edit: December 28, 2013, 09:54:00 PM by iwasjustwondering »

Zamboni

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2868
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2013, 10:21:46 PM »
You are right:  business schools are the most likely to value actual job experience over academic pedigree.  That is definitely in your favor.

We are in similar situations with our families and I've also had quandaries when traveling (even in academia you end up traveling to conferences.)  Some things to think about:  do you have a situation where a regular caretaker (babysitter, after school counselor, etc.) can do some overnights at your house?  Can the children join you for even part of the trip, perhaps with a twenty-something person to help them site see?  If it's more than a week, then finding family to help or having them come with you for at least part of it seem the best choices.  My colleague did this when she went to engineering conferences:  just took her child and hired a college student to join them and babysit/go see sites/etc.  You do make a lot of money. Ask your boss if they can help you with these costs.  I never had the guts to ask, but in the past 5 years there has been a woman who works where I used to work and she has asked and it's always been approved.  I feel like a sucker now for always footing those child care costs when I had to travel myself.

Something to keep in mind if you do go the academic route:  climbing the ladder is one thing, keeping your job if the economy has another hiccup is another.  Unfortunately some of my "teaching only" colleagues got sacked in 2009 or 2010.  Look for tenure track if you're thinking full time.

iwasjustwondering

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 436
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2013, 07:09:58 AM »
I don't think my company would pay for childcare on the trips.  They frown on bringing kids on these things.  The Asia thing would be better in the summer, because I would consider bringing them.  As it is right now, I don't see how I can pull them out of school.  I could afford to bring the kids and a babysitter, but it's a lot of money to spend when I have so little in college savings for them.  In a couple of years, they'd be able to come with me and sightsee on their own.  I tend to be in meetings from 8-6, then do a business dinner, then work till midnight or so from my room on these trips.  So they'd see much less of me than they do when we're all at home.

For the past few years they've been staying with my parents, but unfortunately my parents are getting to the point where they can't handle the driving required to get my kids to school from their house.

I'll see how this class goes, and if I can't save up at least a year of college for each kid this year, based on this salary that is so much higher than I ever expected I'd make, then there's no hope for us.  Once I have at least a year of tuition/room and board banked for each kid, I'll be able to relax a little.  Once again, thanks.

MKinVA

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 326
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2013, 07:33:57 AM »
Please check out all the options for college before making changes in your life that you might otherwise not make. For instance, there is a program that if you work for a governmental agency or nonprofit, your student loans are paid off in full after working for them for ten years. You pay a certain percentage of income during the ten years, but after that you are Scott free. Makes me feel like an idiot for saving like a dog for college if either one of mine ends up working for the Feds!

There are other programs and loans forgiveness that might come into play. One that we got in on at a good time was the college prepay program (virginia). We paid around 32 thousand up front for two prepay accounts when the kids were in grade school. The prepay pays all tuition and mandatory fees for any state school for four years undergrad. That has worked out to be about one and a half years for each of them! The other half, room and board, etc., we pay as we go and have smaller student loans.

Maybe you can make an appointment with a financial counselor who specializes in college funding just so you know all the options.

CommonCents

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2385
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2013, 08:35:47 AM »
For the past few years they've been staying with my parents, but unfortunately my parents are getting to the point where they can't handle the driving required to get my kids to school from their house.

Oh this is much easier to solve.  Ever seen Valentine's Day?  The high schooler babysits the kid, driving him places, but he stays with the grandparents while the mom is deployed.  Hire someone to drive him.  Perhaps see if you can get a carpool going so that an adult drives him in the morning and in the afternoon, the high schooler does the driving.  It's probably much cheaper to hire a babysitter for a few hours a day than to try to take them out of school to travel with you.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8885
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2013, 08:42:29 AM »
Quote
I'm due to go to Asia in late spring, and I simply don't know who is going to be able to watch my kids.

A few options:
Really good friends of your kids - see if they are willing to take your kids for the length of the trip
Really good friends of yours, live in  your house with them
Nanny

I have a friend who is a single mom of two kids.  They aren't school aged yet.  But she travels all over - Europe, Asia, you name it - and has to find childcare for her children.  She does this with her current childcare, friends, paid  nannies.

If you don't have this kind of "village" yet, then find one.  Our neighbors have become our close friends.  When we had to go out of town for our younger son's surgery, my old son stayed with them.  When they travel, we often watch their dogs.  We are about ready to start trading child care on the weekends so we can get weekends away.

You can "trade" child care or just simply pay them.  Think outside the box too - it may be your kids friends.  It may be a single friend or coworker who is good with kids.  It may be the grandma down the street.  It may be that home childcare provider.  It may be a part time nanny.  It may be a college student who babysits and would love to live in your house and watch your kids in exchange for doing laundry.

Also, I went to a private university that was hard to get into and gave free tuition to children of parents who worked there.  One of my friend's dads was in the robotics department.

But that only helps if you get in, and if your children want to go there.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2013, 08:45:03 AM by mm1970 »

Daleth

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1205
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2013, 09:07:49 AM »
Thanks, CC.  I do have the qualifications to be a teaching, or clinical, professor, which is a non-tenure track position where you basically teach full-time and get benefits (including tuition).  It's very much up in the air at this point, because I don't have a f/t job offer in hand, and don't even know if I'll be good at teaching. 

But all other things being equal, and assuming I would get a teaching gig somewhere where my kids would go to school, would this be a good move to make, do you think?

The academic job market is a strange beast. What field are you in? It's very hard to get anything other than an adjunct position in, say, English (unless you have a PhD in composition and rhetoric, in which case it's... not quite as hard). On the other hand, it's easier if your degree is in a STEM field (sci, tech, engineering, math). To get advice on preparing your CV and cover letter, and for preparing for any interviews if you're so fortunate as to get one, I don't think there is any better advice than this: go to the forums at the Chronicle for Higher Education (www.chronicle.com/forums) and ask for advice there.

**Edited to add**: I saw this thread only after you removed your first post, so I didn't know until reading through most of it that you don't have a PhD. That makes things very very difficult. If the school you're interested in posts bios of its faculty and staff, look at people with a similar job to what you're interested in and see if they all have PhD's. If so, you're pretty much out of the running.

And in any case I agree with the posters who said it would be easier to stash the cash away at your current job, and find creative childcare/driving the kids around solutions. To my mind the other problem with free tuition is not just that your kids might not get in, but that your kids might not want to go there--they might prefer doing whatever they can (scholarships, work, loans) to get the hell outta Dodge and leave home for college. Some colleges with free tuition are part of a reciprocal system where other colleges (generally in the same state) will extend free tuition to kids from your college and vice versa, but I don't know how common that is and it still makes the kids stay close to home, which they might not want to do.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2013, 09:13:22 AM by Daleth »

totoro

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2154
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2013, 09:36:36 AM »
Hi iwasjustwondering.

I came across your post after the details had been deleted so forgive me if what I say misses the mark a bit.

My comments are:

1.  What do you really want your life to look like now and in the future?  There is a balance between present living and future proofing.  I've found a vision board to be a helpful way to focus life energy.

2.  I gather your current job is high paying but requires travel.  I too had this situation when my kids were younger.  I did a combination of things including:  hiring family members to live with us, hiring university students to help, bringing my mom to stay when I had to go away, trading care with friends, and taking the kids and a caregiver with me.   I found caregivers through ads up at the university and on craigslist.   The effort you need to put in to create a good situation is significant, but is well worth it.  Once you have the system that particular stress resolves.  If you are a single parent and your house works for this I would also consider inviting another single parent to live with you and provide back-up care, meals and house-cleaning in exchange for room/board and perhaps a small wage. 

3.  I gather you are considering switching to be a prof at a lower wage for lifestyle benefits and possible future tuition benefits for your kids.  If you are sure that this is a viable option (ie. you could get hired), I would do a detailed seven-year plan comparing the pros and cons of this change vs. staying where you are (and any other options).  You should account for the actual time spent at both jobs and calculate the true after-tax and after expenses wage and projected savings.  Don't forget things like childcare costs (after tax), travel expense benefits and miles, etc.  After that, consider how both options match to your vision board ie. what you ideally want your life to be like.  Consider stress, time with kids, social life and other goals.

Please feel free to pm me if you would like feedback on options you are considering.

iwasjustwondering

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 436
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2013, 10:38:19 AM »
To answer some of your questions: The head of the dept. where I'll be teaching has no PhD, nor does my friend who teaches as a clinical professor there.  It's in the business school, we teach the kids to perform certain business tasks.  Having done it in the real world makes a big difference.  I'm definitely not out of the running.  In fact, I had an interview at the local state university, and they offered me an adjunct role, and asked if I would consider becoming a full-time professor, at some point, as well.  That job would pay less, but would give me a tuition benefit at any of the state schools in our network.  I know people who made very good money who left the corporate world to take low-level jobs at the state school just for the tuition benefit.

I don't have time for a seven-year plan, as my older kid will be ready for college in 4.5 years.  So that alone probably makes this less feasible. 

I do have a village, but I think my village is getting tired of helping me out, sadly.  I have been a bit too overwhelmed to be a good villager lately.   

I do like the idea of having the kids stay at my parents' and then hiring a driver to get them to school.  My parents won't stay at my house (where the kids could catch the school bus), because they really like their own beds, and their own medicines all lined up in their own medicine cabinet.  My dad will be insulted if I hire a driver, but what can you do.


totoro

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2154
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2013, 02:42:54 PM »
Yes, I missed your details so I'm not on the mark.

You have 4.5 years before the first child goes to college?  That might actually tip the scales towards taking a job that will provide tuition as you have less time to save.  I would still do the analysis, just shorten the window.  That, along with a vision board, might point you one way or the other - or another direction altogether.

Feeling overwhelmed is no fun.  Your health is pretty important for your children and your own sake.  I remember feeling overwhelmed when I first started at a law firm with two small kids... took me one year to quit and start my own practice.  I earned the same, but just worked twenty hours a week from home with almost no overhead.  I still work less than twenty hours per week eight years later.

Do you have this option in your field?  Switch to being a consultant rather than employee AND start teaching some courses as an adjunct?  Maybe switch to half-time employee and start teaching?  I understand that the travel required in your field might make this difficult, but perhaps there is a way to schedule trips and classes so that you only teach one day per week and can travel the other days when need be?

Is there a win:win here?  What are the numbers for you and your employer under both circumstances?  For example, would the university connection bring any benefit to your current employer ie. could they be part of a research project that raises their profile and gets you published?  Could you employer be involved in a student work program with the university?  Could students do research projects that would help your employer in some way?

Could you do specific trips that others in your office don't want to do?  Can you specialize in one type of transaction?  Is there a niche somewhere that would bring your hours down and allow you to teach PT leading to FT when your eldest is of age?

If your employer is not open to this, who is your employer's competition?  Could you approach them confidentially and run a business plan to employ you on your terms by them?  Do you bring contacts with you?  What is your economic value to an employer?  Run the numbers based on what you produce now... make a spreadsheet.  Working for a company is not the only aspect of life that benefits from a business-like approach - put the same effort into creating the life you want.

I'm hoping to hear back from you about being less overwhelmed in the near future :)

iwasjustwondering

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 436
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2013, 04:48:58 PM »
Hey Totoro, thanks for the kind words and for the ideas.  I have been a consultant.  I did it for seven years, very part-time, while my kids were young.  When they were 7 and 5 I separated from my ex-husband, needed health insurance and a serious income, and started working full-time.  I miss being freelance.  I could do it again.  I've been putting out feelers, actually, and have had some interest but no actual assignments.  If I can get someone to open up a serious purchase order for me, say for $100,000, I would quit in a heartbeat and go back to consulting, but do it in a much more aggressive way, marketing myself more and trying to line up more clients.

That's my ideal life, really: consulting, teaching, writing, being more available to my kids. 

I actually interviewed for a job job at my company's main competitor in the fall.  My company is five miles from home, and this competitor is two miles from home.  So for that reason alone, I was excited.  :).  But the job was wayyy too much for me -- it would have involved lots of travel to India and China, and being responsible for my discipline for a $4 billion division.  Sounded like a huge hassle, really, and the pay increase would have been only incremental.  Oh, and also, I didn't get the job.  So the point was moot.

I'll see how the adjunct thing goes, and then process everything from there.  Honestly, I'm extremely lucky to have the dilemma I'm facing here.  I realize that. 

totoro

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2154
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2013, 07:23:55 PM »
Yes, you are lucky to have these options, but you also have a lot of pressure.  I often think the most privileged people I know are parent(s) who are able to stay at home with their children FT.

I'm in Canada so health care and tuition are quite different.  From what I can understand though, there are options for private health care coverage for self-employed or retired people in the US?  MMM has this and has an article on it.  If your children do not have special medical needs this might be a solution if you become self-employed.

I agree that being responsible for a 4 billion dollar division with frequent travel to India and China does sound like a hassle and not particularly suitable if you are the primary caregiver for your children.  However, if, as you have already identified, consulting/teaching/writing is your ideal life, what is really stopping you?  Be prepared to do what it takes to have what you want.

Identify what you need to do and go for it.  For example, figure out what it will take to go from interest to actual assignments in your company or the competitors.  Is there anyone with the lifestyle you want to have that you could connect with?

iwasjustwondering

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 436
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #20 on: December 30, 2013, 10:42:50 AM »
Hi Totoro, yes that is what I need to do, be prepared to do what it takes to have the life I want.  What's stopping me is fear, fear that the clients and their money will dry up, that one day I won't have the money to pay the mortgage.  I also worry a little about what people will think.  "She had such a great job and was providing for her kids, but she selfishly threw it away."  I am in a serious relationship, and we are talking getting married eventually, and I also don't want him to think I'm planning on relying on him financially.  I'm not.

I am also afraid that I will look back and wish I'd had the courage to do what I wanted with my life.  So I will probably just go for it.  I won't just outright quit, but I will press my contacts so that one of them will give and come up with a PO for 2014.  It can be done -- you can't swing a cat in my company without hitting a dozen $100K  consultants.

I do need to stay to collect my 2014 bonuses, because they're worth pretty good money this year.  I've earned them, and then some.  Last one is in late April.

totoro

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2154
Re: Become a professor to finance college for my 2 kids?
« Reply #21 on: December 30, 2013, 01:36:35 PM »
Those are all normal fears. 

Thing I've found is that the fear is greater than the reality most of the time - maybe all the time?  I mean, we are all on a one way trip here and there aren't any redos.  That doesn't mean you should not plan for the worst case scenario (ie. have some savings), just don't get stuck in the fear.

I would think that most people are not going to say that you had a great job and threw it all away.  Kids are only young for a limited period of time and that is when they need you.  People with kids recognize this and value it pretty highly even if it is not part of the career track in the workplace.  I would be envious of this move myself if I had kids and had to work FT with little control over my schedule.  The truth is that the work world is changing and what is admired is changing - autonomy and freedom and time with family are highly valued by many - much more than money.  After all, what is the true value of an income?  Definitely not your gross salary because of tax/expenses/stress etc. 

My advice is to start networking like a fiend. When I started on my own I put time into publishing a few articles, speaking at conferences and attending other conferences.  Works well and once you have a PO or whatever your contract is it usually leads to more work if you are good at what you do.  I no longer attend conferences because I don't want more work.

My biggest takeaway from my experience is make sure you understand what is possible and don't just follow what other contractors are doing.  By this I mean identify the areas of change in your field that create efficiencies and win:win for you and your clients.  In my case, this was reducing overhead and using technology.  I developed a model that no-one else was using where I live, but it is now being used by several law firms  - some copied me and others developed it on their own because it makes sense.

I'm pretty sure you can come up with a good plan if you spend the time and energy on this.  Totally worth the upfront energy.