Author Topic: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?  (Read 4493 times)

Candace

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A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« on: January 18, 2017, 02:25:11 PM »
Hello all,

[TL;DR] My husband-to-be is a smart lawyer who also has a B.S. in chemistry. How can he find clients who will pay him a good rate (or commission) to make use of his unusual combination of skills?

Background -

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm marrying one this Saturday in a very low-cost, fairly Mustachian wedding. We will have six people in our living room with a non-religious officiant. I'm wearing a dress I already have (not a wedding dress obviously). We've both been married before, so I didn't want to make a big fuss. The only reason we're not just having a guy sign the certificate is that DH2B (DH to be) and my parents all wanted to have some kind of ceremony. I rolled my eyes and complied.

I'll do my own hair and makeup. We'll all go out to dinner at a pretty decent restaurant. We got a pretty cake from the supermarket and a $15 cake topper. I'll go get some supermarket flowers, cut them and tie with ribbon, with one held out for my sweetie's lapel. I wrote (mostly plagiarized) a nice ceremony from some Offbeat Bride blog posts and a little poem searching.

The issue-

Now, about after the wedding... DH2B, while a frugal guy, and a very smart lawyer, has not prioritized his own financial security or freedom. He doesn't seem to care about money. He doesn't ask me for any, but he doesn't make any extra for himself either. He falls squarely in the sub-$40k per year range. He made around $36k last year. I'm working part-time on my way to RE. I'm already FI for my own expenses, and am currently working part-time because my employer made me an offer I couldn't resist. My FI is kind of bare-bones. Working part-time for another year or so will be a very comfortable way to get more of a travel budget, if the market holds out. So together, we're all hunky-dory. Looking forward to the rest of our lives.

DH2B is very good about representing his clients, but as far as being the slightest bit aggressive in making money, he's not. He does a combination of 1) 1099 work for a small law firm, 2) representing some small business owners under his own practice, and 3) providing the lowest cost uncontested divorces in Virginia. So his schedule is pretty flexible, since he only goes to the law firm one or two days a week, and is in charge of his own time otherwise. He has court a few times a month. With my part-time schedule, we both love our relative freedom.

The uncontested divorce paperwork is partially automated using software that I wrote for him, and he does everything via E-file, and almost never meets those clients in person. So he makes a little money at that, but not much, because each case has its own overhead in spite of him not spending too much time generating the papers. His clients that he represents himself tend to be small time. His 1099 work he was doing at $50/hr (!), which has been going on since before I met him two and a half years ago. Last year, he had some lumpy expenses, and actually had a negative cash flow year. Normally that doesn't happen, but he failed to plan and save for things he should have seen coming (his daughter's wedding, my engagement ring).

It worries me a little. I have plenty to provide for both of us, but he's a lawyer! He has skills and expertise. I like and admire how he spends a lot of time working with people who are deserving but don't have much money, and I want to support that. But I also would like him to get a few more lucrative cases here and there so he doesn't end up being short.

He and I have an agreement about what each one of us is going to provide over the next year or two, after which hopefully, my stash will grow to the point where it will support more of our vacations and take that part off him without me having to work more. I had a focused talk with him a few days ago about how, in order to fulfill his end of our deal, he will need to start doing a lot more to make more money with the same amount of effort he's been putting forth. Neither of us wants him to take a full-time job at a law firm. We both like the way it is, where we both have the freedom to take a walk in the middle of the day if the weather is nice. Happily, we're both on the same page about him stepping up the dollars per hour, and he's working on a few things toward that.

In particular, I think he should be able to make more because in addition to being a litigator, he has a degree in chemistry and worked as a chemist for many years. Personally, I think he should find a way to target clients for whom this combination of skills would be valuable. He, on the other hand, doesn't seem to grab on to the idea. I think it's only because he doesn't know how to, as I put it, find the sweet spot. He's just not an optimizer in that way. He's used to the kinds of clients he has, and isn't used to figuring out how to get other types. I'm wondering if any of the smart, resourceful folks here might have some ideas for how he could find and cultivate those clients. I think he may want to, if he's presented with good ideas by me. We live near Williamsburg, Virginia, so it's not a big city area.

I have read ReadySetMillionaire's thread http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/job-opportunity-(lawyer)-triple-my-salary-but-long-commute-and-more-hours/ . The chart showing that just as many lawyers make $40k as make $165k was quite illuminating. I also saw how FireAt45 chimed in with his success story. I think DH2B has the potential to make at least $80k a year without any more effort than he's putting in now, if he focuses on getting just a few clients who will be more lucrative.

« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 02:51:14 PM by Candace »

MDM

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2017, 03:30:18 PM »
Congratulations on the wedding and best wishes for the marriage.

The words "patent attorney" come to mind, particularly for chemistry-related patents.  Has that been explored?

Case

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2017, 03:47:58 PM »
Hello all,

[TL;DR] My husband-to-be is a smart lawyer who also has a B.S. in chemistry. How can he find clients who will pay him a good rate (or commission) to make use of his unusual combination of skills?

Background -

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm marrying one this Saturday in a very low-cost, fairly Mustachian wedding. We will have six people in our living room with a non-religious officiant. I'm wearing a dress I already have (not a wedding dress obviously). We've both been married before, so I didn't want to make a big fuss. The only reason we're not just having a guy sign the certificate is that DH2B (DH to be) and my parents all wanted to have some kind of ceremony. I rolled my eyes and complied.

I'll do my own hair and makeup. We'll all go out to dinner at a pretty decent restaurant. We got a pretty cake from the supermarket and a $15 cake topper. I'll go get some supermarket flowers, cut them and tie with ribbon, with one held out for my sweetie's lapel. I wrote (mostly plagiarized) a nice ceremony from some Offbeat Bride blog posts and a little poem searching.

The issue-

Now, about after the wedding... DH2B, while a frugal guy, and a very smart lawyer, has not prioritized his own financial security or freedom. He doesn't seem to care about money. He doesn't ask me for any, but he doesn't make any extra for himself either. He falls squarely in the sub-$40k per year range. He made around $36k last year. I'm working part-time on my way to RE. I'm already FI for my own expenses, and am currently working part-time because my employer made me an offer I couldn't resist. My FI is kind of bare-bones. Working part-time for another year or so will be a very comfortable way to get more of a travel budget, if the market holds out. So together, we're all hunky-dory. Looking forward to the rest of our lives.

DH2B is very good about representing his clients, but as far as being the slightest bit aggressive in making money, he's not. He does a combination of 1) 1099 work for a small law firm, 2) representing some small business owners under his own practice, and 3) providing the lowest cost uncontested divorces in Virginia. So his schedule is pretty flexible, since he only goes to the law firm one or two days a week, and is in charge of his own time otherwise. He has court a few times a month. With my part-time schedule, we both love our relative freedom.

The uncontested divorce paperwork is partially automated using software that I wrote for him, and he does everything via E-file, and almost never meets those clients in person. So he makes a little money at that, but not much, because each case has its own overhead in spite of him not spending too much time generating the papers. His clients that he represents himself tend to be small time. His 1099 work he was doing at $50/hr (!), which has been going on since before I met him two and a half years ago. Last year, he had some lumpy expenses, and actually had a negative cash flow year. Normally that doesn't happen, but he failed to plan and save for things he should have seen coming (his daughter's wedding, my engagement ring).

It worries me a little. I have plenty to provide for both of us, but he's a lawyer! He has skills and expertise. I like and admire how he spends a lot of time working with people who are deserving but don't have much money, and I want to support that. But I also would like him to get a few more lucrative cases here and there so he doesn't end up being short.

He and I have an agreement about what each one of us is going to provide over the next year or two, after which hopefully, my stash will grow to the point where it will support more of our vacations and take that part off him without me having to work more. I had a focused talk with him a few days ago about how, in order to fulfill his end of our deal, he will need to start doing a lot more to make more money with the same amount of effort he's been putting forth. Neither of us wants him to take a full-time job at a law firm. We both like the way it is, where we both have the freedom to take a walk in the middle of the day if the weather is nice. Happily, we're both on the same page about him stepping up the dollars per hour, and he's working on a few things toward that.

In particular, I think he should be able to make more because in addition to being a litigator, he has a degree in chemistry and worked as a chemist for many years. Personally, I think he should find a way to target clients for whom this combination of skills would be valuable. He, on the other hand, doesn't seem to grab on to the idea. I think it's only because he doesn't know how to, as I put it, find the sweet spot. He's just not an optimizer in that way. He's used to the kinds of clients he has, and isn't used to figuring out how to get other types. I'm wondering if any of the smart, resourceful folks here might have some ideas for how he could find and cultivate those clients. I think he may want to, if he's presented with good ideas by me. We live near Williamsburg, Virginia, so it's not a big city area.

I have read ReadySetMillionaire's thread http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/job-opportunity-(lawyer)-triple-my-salary-but-long-commute-and-more-hours/ . The chart showing that just as many lawyers make $40k as make $165k was quite illuminating. I also saw how FireAt45 chimed in with his success story. I think DH2B has the potential to make at least $80k a year without any more effort than he's putting in now, if he focuses on getting just a few clients who will be more lucrative.

He's a lawyer that's only making $36k/year?????  How is that possible? 

Patent attorneys can take advantage of a chemistry background, but making such a low salary with that type of training throws up some red flags.  If he only makes 36k, I would wonder about his qualifications, competitiveness (it's a very competitive market out there), etc...

Cowardly Toaster

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2017, 03:52:20 PM »
Possibly some sort of environmental mitigation role for a large company that deals with lots of hazardous material? Petroleum companies and chemical manufacturers come to mind.

Obviously these companies want to avoid environmental incidents while navigating complex regulations, so his qualifications might be just the ticket if he markets himself right.

CheapScholar

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2017, 04:07:18 PM »
I'm a JD myself but I never practiced.  Law is tough.  It can be REAL tough, people have no idea.  This country produces twice the number of JDs we need and the overhead costs associated with being a lawyer are crazy (lexis subscription, bar dues, malpractice insurance).

And if you're not a top student from a top school your odds of making big money are slim.  My advice, encourage him to browse on usajobs.gov. They hire lawyers but also hire JDs to fill many jobs.  Good benefits and the pay will be respectable with a JD.  If you're making 36K it's time to get out and do something else maybe. 

mskyle

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2017, 05:34:07 PM »
Yeah, patent or Intellectual Property work for a chemical or drug company seems like a good bet for someone with a chemistry degree. I know multiple biology PhDs who got their JDs paid for by pharma companies.

Clean Shaven

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2017, 05:54:24 PM »

tonysemail

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2017, 06:19:49 PM »
Possibly some sort of environmental mitigation role for a large company that deals with lots of hazardous material? Petroleum companies and chemical manufacturers come to mind.

Obviously these companies want to avoid environmental incidents while navigating complex regulations, so his qualifications might be just the ticket if he markets himself right.

that's what came to my mind too.
it's probably biased, but some interesting info here-
http://www.environmentalscience.org/career/environmental-lawyer

Candace

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2017, 07:36:51 PM »

The words "patent attorney" come to mind, particularly for chemistry-related patents.  Has that been explored?
No, it hasn't. Thank you for the idea.


He's a lawyer that's only making $36k/year?????  How is that possible? 

Patent attorneys can take advantage of a chemistry background, but making such a low salary with that type of training throws up some red flags.  If he only makes 36k, I would wonder about his qualifications, competitiveness (it's a very competitive market out there), etc...

He doesn't make a salary. You're right, a salary of $36k would be ridiculous. He has three part-time jobs/side hustle type of things, so it's a bit of a hodge-podge with none of the three things being lucrative. He's a good lawyer who helps a lot of people, and has very competitive instincts when it comes to winning his cases and getting good outcomes. He just isn't focused on making more money than he needs at any given time. I can't explain this, because it's alien to me. He is more focused since our talk the other day, and his actions so far are proving that. I just keep telling myself that he's never not paid his bills, and he's provided what we agreed upon so far, for two and a half years. It's just that this year we're getting married, and even though we're not mixing our finances, well, we'll be married. Also, we've talked about him providing somewhat more this year, in the form of more expensive travel than we've done so far. So... since I've been able to find the sweet spot in my career, I'm hoping I can help him find his.

Possibly some sort of environmental mitigation role for a large company that deals with lots of hazardous material? Petroleum companies and chemical manufacturers come to mind.

Obviously these companies want to avoid environmental incidents while navigating complex regulations, so his qualifications might be just the ticket if he markets himself right.

He has actually won one of these kinds of cases when a company went to a firm he was with, and his knowledge of chemistry won the day.

Now, I'm wondering if there's a way he can effectively find people or local companies who would value his combination of skills, but to use him on particular cases where they need help, i.e. hiring him as an outside lawyer, instead of as an employee. How does one find companies that deal with hazardous chemicals in one's area? I just don't know how to look.

I'm a JD myself but I never practiced.  Law is tough.  It can be REAL tough, people have no idea.  This country produces twice the number of JDs we need and the overhead costs associated with being a lawyer are crazy (lexis subscription, bar dues, malpractice insurance).

And if you're not a top student from a top school your odds of making big money are slim.  My advice, encourage him to browse on usajobs.gov. They hire lawyers but also hire JDs to fill many jobs.  Good benefits and the pay will be respectable with a JD.  If you're making 36K it's time to get out and do something else maybe.

Thanks for your reply. We're also trying to keep him from taking a full-time job, because I am only working part time, and we like the flexibility we both have. I am obviously trying to thread a needle here, so it may be he just has to seek higher-paying clients in the types of law he currently practices (divorce, JD&R, and representing small businesses). One good sign is that he's already modified his agreement with the firm he does the 1099 work for. He'll be taking home more money from that work from now on. And about time, because they were taking advantage of him IMO.

Yeah, patent or Intellectual Property work for a chemical or drug company seems like a good bet for someone with a chemistry degree. I know multiple biology PhDs who got their JDs paid for by pharma companies.

We can look to see if there are chemical or drug companies in our area. It's a small enough market where they could be looking for the occasional consultant.



I love this. We had actually joked about it before.

Possibly some sort of environmental mitigation role for a large company that deals with lots of hazardous material? Petroleum companies and chemical manufacturers come to mind.

Obviously these companies want to avoid environmental incidents while navigating complex regulations, so his qualifications might be just the ticket if he markets himself right.

that's what came to my mind too.
it's probably biased, but some interesting info here-
http://www.environmentalscience.org/career/environmental-lawyer

Thanks, I'll look into it!
« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 07:47:27 PM by Candace »

bugbaby

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2017, 07:42:12 PM »
You say "he doesn't seem to care about money" ... Have you discussed this in depth? Are you on the same page about goals for RE, and most pertinently, is he highly motivated to change his income situation?

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Candace

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2017, 08:03:58 PM »
You say "he doesn't seem to care about money" ... Have you discussed this in depth? Are you on the same page about goals for RE, and most pertinently, is he highly motivated to change his income situation?

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Hi babybug. Thanks for the comment. As good of a match as we are, his ideas about money are the thing I understand about him the least. We have, however, talked about it a lot, because I am trying to understand. About RE, he thinks he'll always work here and there for this or that client, but we both have in mind a future that includes a lot of free time and travel. And because he practices solo, taking on the occasional case won't interfere with any of that except for the occasional court date.

I believe he is highly motivated to improve his income, because since we had the talk, he's been doing some things focused toward a few of the types of more lucrative work we did discuss. He has already revised his agreement with the firm he does 1099 work for, so they'll be paying him more per hour and more of any contingency. He is also looking more seriously into some other things that could net more money for less work, and taking concrete steps. So I'm encouraged.

And in the end, as long as he's paying his bills, his income is not a deal breaker. As a couple, we've got it covered. Happily, I have done what so many around here have done-- built my stash to the point where it can pay all my bills at a 4% withdrawal rate. Since I'm still part-time, hopefully the stash will continue to grow, and I'm happy to share it. Life is too short to keep score, as long as the other party isn't cheating at the game! And though I hope the day is yet far off, I expect to inherit some non-trivial money from my parents someday. All of these things together, plus the fact that I don't think he'd ever allow himself to be a drag on my finances by asking me to support his expenses while he's still working -- he's certainly got more pride than that -- make me relax a bit about it. I might wish he were more like me, but that doesn't usually get one anywhere in a romance or in a marriage. I'd rather be happy about who he is in every other way than try to change who he is in this way.

Laura33

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2017, 08:05:43 PM »
I do environmental law.  The problem with most regulatory compliance work (or IP work, for that matter) is that it is a highly complex, detailed field that generally requires years of supervised work before you're really capable of managing on your own.  And the ways you get that experience generally involve standard work weeks for larger organizations (law firms, corporations, government, NGOs, maybe consultants).  It would be hard to break into that market as a solo, because you're competing with all the big law firms with whole departments dedicated to this stuff. [edit: just saw your follow-up post but don't have time to rewrite so just see below!]

So for him, one option is some version of toxic tort work that he can make a name for himself in.  Property contamination, mold, asbestos, etc.  Plaintiffs' lawyers usually do this kind of work on contingency, so if he can get an in on such a matter, your income can help see him through while he gets the experience and builds a practice. 

I have to ask, though: does he really want to make such a big change in what he does?  Or is he just interested in tweaking things around the edges to make you happy?  The work is totally doable, but there is a huge learning curve, and he will have to devote significant time for a couple of years to really have the skills and the client base.  And when you're in the middle of a case, you may have months where you don't have time to take walks at lunch (and then months where there's no work!).  So, really, this is much more of a long-term plan with short-term pain, instead of a way to increase his income in the short term.

Finally, I also have to say:  people tend to overestimate the need for/value in a science degree in this particular field.  If you want to be a consultant or expert, absolutely.  But I'm an old English major who spent more time with Jane Austen than in the lab in college.  :-)  So I would suggest he look for a particular sub-field that actually uses the specific stuff he studied -- so for ex, if you were in CA, I could point you to Prop 65 work, which focuses on warnings about chemicals in products (whereas remediation work I think is more biology- or geology-based, e.g., impacts of contamination on bugs and critters, assessing plume spread based on groundwater flow and soil permeability, etc.  But even there, that level of detail is usually what the consultants and experts do -- the lawyers just argue about what it all means.  :-)

Ok, I just saw your post that he worked on an environmental case with a firm and found his experience very useful/helpful.  That's awesome, and that's where he starts.  Invite the folks he worked with before to lunch.  Let them know that he is available to consult on an as-needed basis.  Build on that experience to establish his name/experience in that particular area/issue.  Go to Chamber of Commerce meetings, get to know the local businesses -- you'd be surprised how many small companies have things like paint waste or emergency generators or other things that are regulated, but they don't have the resources to keep people on staff.  If he can build an expertise in a specific area, he could provide a real service to these smaller companies who are frequently priced out of the market for quality legal advice.

Feel free to PM me if you want to talk more detail - there are so many sub-fields and sub-issues that it's hard to make sure I'm right on point with his experience.

evensjw

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2017, 09:06:46 PM »
It sounds to me like he is already leading a rich, practically mustachian life:

 - He does work that it sounds like he enjoys (by helping people out) and is good at it.
 - He doesn't work full time (not sure about this but you mention his work is part time/side hustle in nature - it sounds like he has the flexibility to work when he wants, on cases that he chooses to take on).
 - He makes enough money to cover his expenses (ok, his cash flow was negative last year, but this makes me assume he has some kind of cushion to allow for that).

Make sure you have emotionally accepted that his current situation is not 'wrong' or 'bad', but different from your own.  As you mention, you really can't change the way some-one is. 

Best wishes for you wedding. 


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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2017, 09:16:25 PM »
It sounds like he is eligible to take the patent bar. Intellectual Property attorneys are always in huge demand and the barriers to entry are usually much lower than for regular attorney jobs because there aren't enough patent-bar eligible attorneys. I would encourage him to explore patent prosecution jobs (which basically means he would be filling out and defending patent applications for clients) or intellectual property litigation jobs.

Trifele

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2017, 06:19:21 AM »

Invite the folks he worked with before to lunch.  Let them know that he is available to consult on an as-needed basis.  Build on that experience to establish his name/experience in that particular area/issue.  Go to Chamber of Commerce meetings, get to know the local businesses -- you'd be surprised how many small companies have things like paint waste or emergency generators or other things that are regulated, but they don't have the resources to keep people on staff.  If he can build an expertise in a specific area, he could provide a real service to these smaller companies who are frequently priced out of the market for quality legal advice.


This.  Lawyer here.  I started as a litigator and ended up going in house at a company due to some connections/relationships I made in just this way.  If your husband is willing to consider full time work instead of consulting, an in-house position may be the "sweet spot" he is looking for.  The hours are typically kinder than what is required at most law firms, and personally I found my in-house work more interesting and more satisfying than law firm work.  And no timekeeping, which is huge.  Overall a much better work-life balance. There is an old saying among lawyers that "if you go in-house, you get to keep your spouse."  :)
« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 07:11:51 AM by Trifele »

Iplawyer

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2017, 06:58:32 AM »
Yeah, patent or Intellectual Property work for a chemical or drug company seems like a good bet for someone with a chemistry degree. I know multiple biology PhDs who got their JDs paid for by pharma companies.

In chemistry you pretty much have to have a PhD to work in patent law.  And you don't go to a big company until you've paid dues at a firm unless you were already at the company and they sent you to law school.  For somebody in this position - unless he has LOTS of experience in Chemistry - he isn't likely to get a patent job at a big firm.  Furthermore - he doesn't appear to be licensed at the Patent and Trademark Office - another "bar" exam, but with only a 24% pass rate.  I think you'll find with further study that those that pass had an expensive course to help them pass.  Furthermore - patent litigation is very specialized and federal court law.  It is extremely different than state court, it is even different than other federal court practices.  Unless he took patent law and federal courts in law school - he won't even understand it.


And - you read the charts wrong.  First they are "reported income" figures - and big law firms pretty much force lawyers to respond to these surveys.  More lawyers by a long shot make way under $100K than those making over $100K. Making over $100K is the exception.  Very few lawyers do it.  To make "brass ring" salaries you must start at a large law firm and pay the "brass ring" price.  There are thousands of attorney's with technical degrees that want these jobs and only a few of the jobs.  They are all much greater than full time.  This does not sound like an option for your situation.  Further - you don't live in a big law market.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 07:09:44 AM by Iplawyer »

Iplawyer

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2017, 07:05:43 AM »
It sounds like he is eligible to take the patent bar. Intellectual Property attorneys are always in huge demand and the barriers to entry are usually much lower than for regular attorney jobs because there aren't enough patent-bar eligible attorneys. I would encourage him to explore patent prosecution jobs (which basically means he would be filling out and defending patent applications for clients) or intellectual property litigation jobs.

This is a myth.

First - there is no such thing as "filling out" a patent application.  Patent applications must be drafted by the attorney from start to finish.  There is no form to "fill out."  They are quite technically complicated and must teach a person of ordinary skill in the art how to practice the invention.  Then there are the claims - which have rigorous and strict formality rules that must be followed.   And the figures are no piece of cake either. You pretty much need a lot of training to do this very specialized area of law.

Second - there is no requirement to pass the patent bar to be a patent litigator.  But to be hired in a patent litigation role you must have done the same thing all other litigators to be at big law firms do - go to a top law school and graduate in the top of your class.  It is also a specialized area of law - many times with complicated local rules - and it is all in federal courts.

Third - there are many more people with technical backgrounds wanting to do both patent prosecution and patent litigation than jobs available. 
« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 09:33:40 AM by Iplawyer »

Candace

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2017, 08:30:56 AM »
I do environmental law.  The problem with most regulatory compliance work (or IP work, for that matter) is that it is a highly complex, detailed field that generally requires years of supervised work before you're really capable of managing on your own.  And the ways you get that experience generally involve standard work weeks for larger organizations (law firms, corporations, government, NGOs, maybe consultants).  It would be hard to break into that market as a solo, because you're competing with all the big law firms with whole departments dedicated to this stuff. [edit: just saw your follow-up post but don't have time to rewrite so just see below!]

So for him, one option is some version of toxic tort work that he can make a name for himself in.  Property contamination, mold, asbestos, etc.  Plaintiffs' lawyers usually do this kind of work on contingency, so if he can get an in on such a matter, your income can help see him through while he gets the experience and builds a practice. 

I have to ask, though: does he really want to make such a big change in what he does?  Or is he just interested in tweaking things around the edges to make you happy?  The work is totally doable, but there is a huge learning curve, and he will have to devote significant time for a couple of years to really have the skills and the client base.  And when you're in the middle of a case, you may have months where you don't have time to take walks at lunch (and then months where there's no work!).  So, really, this is much more of a long-term plan with short-term pain, instead of a way to increase his income in the short term.

Finally, I also have to say:  people tend to overestimate the need for/value in a science degree in this particular field.  If you want to be a consultant or expert, absolutely.  But I'm an old English major who spent more time with Jane Austen than in the lab in college.  :-)  So I would suggest he look for a particular sub-field that actually uses the specific stuff he studied -- so for ex, if you were in CA, I could point you to Prop 65 work, which focuses on warnings about chemicals in products (whereas remediation work I think is more biology- or geology-based, e.g., impacts of contamination on bugs and critters, assessing plume spread based on groundwater flow and soil permeability, etc.  But even there, that level of detail is usually what the consultants and experts do -- the lawyers just argue about what it all means.  :-)

Ok, I just saw your post that he worked on an environmental case with a firm and found his experience very useful/helpful.  That's awesome, and that's where he starts.  Invite the folks he worked with before to lunch.  Let them know that he is available to consult on an as-needed basis.  Build on that experience to establish his name/experience in that particular area/issue.  Go to Chamber of Commerce meetings, get to know the local businesses -- you'd be surprised how many small companies have things like paint waste or emergency generators or other things that are regulated, but they don't have the resources to keep people on staff.  If he can build an expertise in a specific area, he could provide a real service to these smaller companies who are frequently priced out of the market for quality legal advice.

Feel free to PM me if you want to talk more detail - there are so many sub-fields and sub-issues that it's hard to make sure I'm right on point with his experience.

Bold emphasis mine.

You hit it right on the head. He's interested in making more money (hooray), but not necessarily in changing what he does as much as this would require. Thank you for your detailed response. I know writing these takes time, and I truly appreciate it.

There have been so many great responses to this thread. Again, this community has provided valuable education and the benefit of your real world experiences. Obviously what he does to increase his dollars per hours worked ratio is ultimately up to him, not to me. I was just wondering whether there was some targeted way of finding local clients that could find his combination of skills valuable. It sounds like he may be better off just being more picky about the types of stuff he does within his current areas of practice. If things go in the market as they have in the past several decades, neither of us will have to work much longer to be able to enjoy the lifestyle we are aiming at. We'll both probably take a few projects here and there when they come our way and sound interesting.

goatmom

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2017, 08:38:59 AM »
My brother is a chemical engineer/patent attorney.  He did not graduate from a top law school.  He always tell me he would never be hired now it has gotten so competitive. He works for a firm in D.C.  The hours are soul sucking.  The money is fabulous. 

Candace

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2017, 08:45:32 AM »
It sounds to me like he is already leading a rich, practically mustachian life:

 - He does work that it sounds like he enjoys (by helping people out) and is good at it.
 - He doesn't work full time (not sure about this but you mention his work is part time/side hustle in nature - it sounds like he has the flexibility to work when he wants, on cases that he chooses to take on).
 - He makes enough money to cover his expenses (ok, his cash flow was negative last year, but this makes me assume he has some kind of cushion to allow for that).

Make sure you have emotionally accepted that his current situation is not 'wrong' or 'bad', but different from your own.  As you mention, you really can't change the way some-one is. 

Best wishes for you wedding.

Thank you for your perceptive reply. It's all true. My younger, more intense and judgemental self would have looked down on the path he's chosen. My 50-year-old self is flummoxed, but accepting, while watchful. I'm also supporting both in terms of planning for our future with the money I've stashed, and in writing some automation software for his more repetitive work.  As for being mustachian, he is in some important ways. He doesn't buy anything for himself. He wears clothes until they literally come apart at the seams. He doesn't own an overcoat or gloves, and just practices voluntary discomfort when it's cold. (He does have a winter coat but nothing to wear over a suit, which he wears a few times a week.) When he moved in with me, everything he owned fit in his Elantra. He only spends money on his bills and on things we do together. And so on. He's incredibly good-natured, almost always happy, fun to be around, fit and handsome, supportive, consistent in his work habits, does lots of work around and on the house, etc. etc. Can you tell I'm in love?

So all in all, I'm grateful for his outstanding qualities and willing to accommodate his less than aggressive pursuit of money. That part seems to be my role. It won't mean I won't give him a push when I think he could use it, but as long as he's making "enough" and not being lazy (I've never seen him be lazy), it's all good.

Candace

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #20 on: January 19, 2017, 08:52:01 AM »
Yeah, patent or Intellectual Property work for a chemical or drug company seems like a good bet for someone with a chemistry degree. I know multiple biology PhDs who got their JDs paid for by pharma companies.

In chemistry you pretty much have to have a PhD to work in patent law.  And you don't go to a big company until you've paid dues at a firm unless you were already at the company and they sent you to law school.  For somebody in this position - unless he has LOTS of experience in Chemistry - he isn't likely to get a patent job at a big firm.  Furthermore - he doesn't appear to be licensed at the Patent and Trademark Office - another "bar" exam, but with only a 24% pass rate.  I think you'll find with further study that those that pass had an expensive course to help them pass.  Furthermore - patent litigation is very specialized and federal court law.  It is extremely different than state court, it is even different than other federal court practices.  Unless he took patent law and federal courts in law school - he won't even understand it.


And - you read the charts wrong.  First they are "reported income" figures - and big law firms pretty much force lawyers to respond to these surveys.  More lawyers by a long shot make way under $100K than those making over $100K. Making over $100K is the exception.  Very few lawyers do it.  To make "brass ring" salaries you must start at a large law firm and pay the "brass ring" price.  There are thousands of attorney's with technical degrees that want these jobs and only a few of the jobs.  They are all much greater than full time.  This does not sound like an option for your situation.  Further - you don't live in a big law market.

The past few weeks of paying attention to the lawyer-related threads on here have been hugely educational for me. I now know that his level of income is not that uncommon.

Here's a question: for the work he does for the law firm, I know they charge at least some of their clients $300/hr for his time. What's a reasonable amount for him to get from that? Also, if there is contingency, what part of that is reasonable for him to expect to take home? I would assume he would either get contingency or hourly pay, but not both.

My brother is a chemical engineer/patent attorney.  He did not graduate from a top law school.  He always tell me he would never be hired now it has gotten so competitive. He works for a firm in D.C.  The hours are soul sucking.  The money is fabulous.

Yep, that's not something I think he'd pursue, and neither would I want him to.

Malum Prohibitum

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #21 on: January 19, 2017, 08:53:28 AM »
but he's a lawyer!
  If I had a nickel for every time I have heard that . . .
Quote
I have read ReadySetMillionaire's thread http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/job-opportunity-(lawyer)-triple-my-salary-but-long-commute-and-more-hours/ . The chart showing that just as many lawyers make $40k as make $165k was quite illuminating.
  That's not really what the chart showed.  It showed that a whole bunch of lawyers cluster around that $40k income, a very few make the $165k income, and nobody makes just a $100k income.

It's an inverted bell.  It's a U.  This is important, because obviously, an "average" salary report is going to say something like, lawyers on average make $100k.  The problem with that statement is that it may be true, but it misrepresents the truth.  The chart shows more of the reality of the situation, and your relative odds are higher of being at the low end (which is the only place anything looking like a "bell" appears).

Quote
I also saw how FireAt45 chimed in with his success story. I think DH2B has the potential to make at least $80k a year without any more effort than he's putting in now, if he focuses on getting just a few clients who will be more lucrative.
  FireBy35 is in a group of less than 1% of attorneys.  Obviously, he did it, so it is possible, but he may have a unique set of circumstances and personality that may or may not apply to your husband.  For one thing, you posted above that he did not seem really interested in making changes to boost his income.  That alone tells me he and FireBy35 are very different people.  This is what you wrote:
Quote
You hit it right on the head. He's interested in making more money (hooray), but not necessarily in changing what he does as much as this would require.

Also, he makes his money mainly on plaintiff's personally injury work.  I have done a few of those.  The work is relatively easy, the income generated good compared to the effort, and I was able to figure out the "legal" and practical aspects of it with hours of study.   I have not, however, figured out a way to keep those cases (good ones) reliably coming in the door.  FireBy35 has, and that makes all the difference in the world.

The short answer is that your DH2B is going to need to make some changes. 

I would push him toward the patent bar, too, if he is smart enough to pass it.  There is big law patent practice, and boutique patent practice.  Are you willing to relocate?  If he passes the patent bar, had good grades in law school, and is willing to move practically anywhere to land a job in IP work, I think the odds of a six figure offer are high.

IPLawyer may disagree with me, and she is on the inside of that practice.

If he is just not interested in changes, though, he is going to remain stuck in a rut.  Isn't that the same with any profession?
« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 09:01:40 AM by Malum Prohibitum »

Candace

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #22 on: January 19, 2017, 09:28:23 AM »
but he's a lawyer!
  If I had a nickel for every time I have heard that . . .
Quote
I have read ReadySetMillionaire's thread http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/job-opportunity-(lawyer)-triple-my-salary-but-long-commute-and-more-hours/ . The chart showing that just as many lawyers make $40k as make $165k was quite illuminating.
  That's not really what the chart showed.  It showed that a whole bunch of lawyers cluster around that $40k income, a very few make the $165k income, and nobody makes just a $100k income.

It's an inverted bell.  It's a U.  This is important, because obviously, an "average" salary report is going to say something like, lawyers on average make $100k.  The problem with that statement is that it may be true, but it misrepresents the truth.  The chart shows more of the reality of the situation, and your relative odds are higher of being at the low end (which is the only place anything looking like a "bell" appears).

Quote
I also saw how FireAt45 chimed in with his success story. I think DH2B has the potential to make at least $80k a year without any more effort than he's putting in now, if he focuses on getting just a few clients who will be more lucrative.
  FireBy35 is in a group of less than 1% of attorneys.  Obviously, he did it, so it is possible, but he may have a unique set of circumstances and personality that may or may not apply to your husband.  For one thing, you posted above that he did not seem really interested in making changes to boost his income.  That alone tells me he and FireBy35 are very different people.  This is what you wrote:
Quote
You hit it right on the head. He's interested in making more money (hooray), but not necessarily in changing what he does as much as this would require.

Also, he makes his money mainly on plaintiff's personally injury work.  I have done a few of those.  The work is relatively easy, the income generated good compared to the effort, and I was able to figure out the "legal" and practical aspects of it with hours of study.   I have not, however, figured out a way to keep those cases (good ones) reliably coming in the door.  FireBy35 has, and that makes all the difference in the world.

The short answer is that your DH2B is going to need to make some changes. 

I would push him toward the patent bar, too, if he is smart enough to pass it.  There is big law patent practice, and boutique patent practice.  Are you willing to relocate?  If he passes the patent bar, had good grades in law school, and is willing to move practically anywhere to land a job in IP work, I think the odds of a six figure offer are high.

IPLawyer may disagree with me, and she is on the inside of that practice.

If he is just not interested in changes, though, he is going to remain stuck in a rut.  Isn't that the same with any profession?

Whoops. When I said "as much as this would require", by 'this' I meant the steps Laura33 had outlined. I didn't mean 'this' as in making more money. My bad.

I think he's just going to "tweak around the edges", as Laura33 also wrote. I believe this will be enough to increase his earnings by "enough". We're not willing to relocate, at least not for his work. We may move at some point, but not for work reasons. At this point in his career (he's 55), he is not likely to take the patent bar and pay dues. We're more at the stage where he only needs to make $10k - $20k more a year for a couple of years. I think if he does a little more 1099 work at a better rate (which he's already negotiated, at least partly), and perhaps finds a few better clients outside of his own per year, that will do the trick. He can probably do that without too much effort. 

Cowardly Toaster

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #23 on: January 19, 2017, 09:45:44 AM »
As far as getting a job with one of the big boy chemical related companies, he'll probably get the best job at a big corporate office. So while many hazardous chemicals are used in all parts the country, the heavy duty regulatory compliance jobs and big money will come from things like Dow corporate offices, refineries, Halliburton, etc.

Not to be sound like a life coach, but your husband sounds like a really well rounded guy. I bet if he just started talking to people and exploring different jobs, he could get himself into a high paying job that he liked, with the catch that the job he finds may have nothing to do with either lawyering or chemistry.

Cowardly Toaster

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #24 on: January 19, 2017, 09:51:25 AM »
And I see you are in Hampton Roads VA?

There is a huge Navy presence there. Navy presence = many hazardous chemicals (nukes, paint, bunker fuel, ammo etc) = many Military Industrial Complex service contractors to provide and service said chemicals = jobs = $$$

Just a thought

SweetTPi

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #25 on: January 19, 2017, 02:50:49 PM »
Invite the folks he worked with before to lunch.  Let them know that he is available to consult on an as-needed basis.  Build on that experience to establish his name/experience in that particular area/issue.  Go to Chamber of Commerce meetings, get to know the local businesses -- you'd be surprised how many small companies have things like paint waste or emergency generators or other things that are regulated, but they don't have the resources to keep people on staff.  If he can build an expertise in a specific area, he could provide a real service to these smaller companies who are frequently priced out of the market for quality legal advice.

This, as someone who once was in charge of the environmental compliance docs for a small rural plant.  I was not trained in any way for legal or enviro work, and yet was reading and interpreting the Federal Registrar to keep the plant legal.  That is not an easy read.  Someone is always going to need help in figuring out what and how to report, what regulations they need to follow, and what new regulations are coming into effect at the state and national level.  At companies, a lot of times someone basically says "why can't we do this instead of that?" and someone needs to be there to look at the regulations.

TrulyStashin

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Re: A lawyer who is also a chemist. How to capitalize?
« Reply #26 on: January 19, 2017, 06:22:27 PM »
I do environmental law.  The problem with most regulatory compliance work (or IP work, for that matter) is that it is a highly complex, detailed field that generally requires years of supervised work before you're really capable of managing on your own.  And the ways you get that experience generally involve standard work weeks for larger organizations (law firms, corporations, government, NGOs, maybe consultants).  It would be hard to break into that market as a solo, because you're competing with all the big law firms with whole departments dedicated to this stuff. [edit: just saw your follow-up post but don't have time to rewrite so just see below!]

So for him, one option is some version of toxic tort work that he can make a name for himself in.  Property contamination, mold, asbestos, etc.  Plaintiffs' lawyers usually do this kind of work on contingency, so if he can get an in on such a matter, your income can help see him through while he gets the experience and builds a practice. 

I have to ask, though: does he really want to make such a big change in what he does?  Or is he just interested in tweaking things around the edges to make you happy?  The work is totally doable, but there is a huge learning curve, and he will have to devote significant time for a couple of years to really have the skills and the client base.  And when you're in the middle of a case, you may have months where you don't have time to take walks at lunch (and then months where there's no work!).  So, really, this is much more of a long-term plan with short-term pain, instead of a way to increase his income in the short term.

Finally, I also have to say:  people tend to overestimate the need for/value in a science degree in this particular field.  If you want to be a consultant or expert, absolutely.  But I'm an old English major who spent more time with Jane Austen than in the lab in college.  :-)  So I would suggest he look for a particular sub-field that actually uses the specific stuff he studied -- so for ex, if you were in CA, I could point you to Prop 65 work, which focuses on warnings about chemicals in products (whereas remediation work I think is more biology- or geology-based, e.g., impacts of contamination on bugs and critters, assessing plume spread based on groundwater flow and soil permeability, etc.  But even there, that level of detail is usually what the consultants and experts do -- the lawyers just argue about what it all means.  :-)

Ok, I just saw your post that he worked on an environmental case with a firm and found his experience very useful/helpful.  That's awesome, and that's where he starts.  Invite the folks he worked with before to lunch.  Let them know that he is available to consult on an as-needed basis.  Build on that experience to establish his name/experience in that particular area/issue.  Go to Chamber of Commerce meetings, get to know the local businesses -- you'd be surprised how many small companies have things like paint waste or emergency generators or other things that are regulated, but they don't have the resources to keep people on staff.  If he can build an expertise in a specific area, he could provide a real service to these smaller companies who are frequently priced out of the market for quality legal advice.

Feel free to PM me if you want to talk more detail - there are so many sub-fields and sub-issues that it's hard to make sure I'm right on point with his experience.

+1   Environmental and IP law are usually practiced in BigLaw firms or, after years in BigLaw, a lawyer breaks free and goes solo.  Even if he finds other venues in which to do this kind of legal work, he will need to be driven.  It will take extensive networking/ hustle, study, and trial-and-error to build a credible practice in either of these fields.  Does this fit his personality?