Author Topic: Law school?  (Read 1570 times)

norabird

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Law school?
« on: June 27, 2018, 03:10:25 PM »
With the current political landscape I was looking for volunteer opportunities this morning and realized a bunch of the most involved ones were looking for lawyers. I'm not a lawyer (I've always worked on the editorial/rights side in publishing), but it made me think I *could* be one. And now, based purely on that, I'm mulling over law school. I'm thinking of taking the practice LSAT test you can download for free (already printed it) and from there maybe taking the leap to sign up for an LSAT prep class and getting serious about applying.

I have genuinely never considered this an option before in my life, but it's sort of drawing me in as an option I want to pursue. I did work as a paralegal for a big corporate firm my first year of college and know lots of people in the law (my brother is a lawyer, for instance). I did see some peers from my paralegal days really struggle when they finished their law degree during the last recession, and obviously I would prefer not to incur huge amounts of debt. Even though law never really rang my bell previously, I've been exposed to it and I've spent enough time in my current career to know that while I could do it forever if I had my druthers, it's not necessarily my be-all-end-all (I like it a lot, but it doesn't define me as a person).

This probably seems super impulsive (it is!) but while I think about this new idea I'm just looking for stories/feedback from people who went to law school themselves and what their process/trajectory was.

peeps_be_peeping

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2018, 03:33:20 PM »
Don't do it. But if you disregard this advice, read Planet Law School by Atticus Falcon.

norabird

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2018, 03:35:36 PM »
I will check it out! The idea of any further schooling is .... a drag, I just feel like maybe I'm wasting away and not doing enough to achieve the bigger things I want for society.

CNM

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2018, 03:47:48 PM »
I'm a lawyer.  I've been in practice since 2006.  I will say that there is a SUPER HIGH burn out rate in this profession.  I'd say about 1/2 of friends of mine from law school do not practice law in the traditional sense. 

Public interest law, like what you're describing, is no different.  In fact, these types of jobs are often underpaid, which is probably why you're seeing a lot of advertisements, and remarkably difficult to get.  I.e. they want someone who is able to practice independently, meaning an already experienced and trained up attorney, but only pay them entrance-level salaries.  Or these ads are for volunteer law positions as, at least where I live, attorneys are very strongly encouraged/required to do a certain number of volunteer hours a year.

If you can get a law degree for free or for cheap *then* it might be worth it. 

But I'd also consider things you can do to help society- like donating money earned from a job you don't hate.

norabird

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2018, 03:56:43 PM »
Thanks for the input @CNM! I donate money now (probably $300 a month this year, more with some lump donations in there), though I don't really earn enough to consider this a highly efficient way to do good. I also think if I have to take on tons of loans to do it, I will probably forgo the experience.

lexde

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2018, 04:23:08 PM »
@CNM hit the nail on the head. These jobs are all available because they're asking people with 6-figure law school debt to work for $35-40K per year with fringe benefits limited to warm and fuzzy feelings, no health/retirement.

If you want to help, you could do so as a paralegal. Or marketing, or event organizer.

There are thousands of ways to help without going into massive debt and a grueling 3 years + bar exam prep.

Source: Am lawyer. Got super lucky with my firm, still wouldn't do it again. Unless you have a burning desire to be a lawyer, I wouldn't do it.

CNM

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2018, 04:31:15 PM »
Other options: Join, volunteer, or assist in a political campaign or run for office yourself

Paul der Krake

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2018, 05:03:19 PM »
I've toyed with the idea too, but all the lawyers I see in the news seem to have their own lawyers. Everyone in this profession hates to DIY for some reason.

I've also read that you can go for nearly free if you absolutely crush the LSAT. Is that true? Because helping out little guys for 35k/year doesn't sound too bad if it keeps you busy in retirement.

Suit

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2018, 05:07:15 PM »
I would recommend you find lawyers who do the type of work you would want to do and ask them questions about it to see if it's really right for you. As an example, I went to a law school known for environmental law, however once people on that track figured out that it was mostly arguing about administrative issues like rule making a good number fled to other areas of study. What you envision may not be the reality, so be careful. You will also need to have the ability to deal with BS. Egos, ridiculous rules, etc are everywhere in law school and the legal field. Definitely high burn out career and I've thought about leaving the career myself.

peeps_be_peeping

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2018, 05:31:35 PM »
I've toyed with the idea too, but all the lawyers I see in the news seem to have their own lawyers. Everyone in this profession hates to DIY for some reason.

I've also read that you can go for nearly free if you absolutely crush the LSAT. Is that true? Because helping out little guys for 35k/year doesn't sound too bad if it keeps you busy in retirement.

Theoretically, yes, you can go to law school for free if you have high LSAT score and undergrad GPA. BUT often the way these scholarships work is that in order to keep the scholarship you have to make a certain GPA in law school. The school then grades its classes on a STEEP curve. You don't make the grades and lose the scholarship after one or two semesters. But because you are a high achieving type A person you don't want to quit. Therefore you end up paying full price for the remaining 4-5 semesters. The lower-ranked schools seem to do this as a way to attract higher quality students and boost their rankings.

Law school grades are a crapshoot. There did not seem to be any correlation between effort and output to me. I got an A in a class where I skipped every lecture and read the textbook the week before the exam. I got a B- in a class I worked really hard at. There will always be one or three superstars who ace every course and end up at the top of the class. You might be a superstar! I was not. I got decent grades and did just fine. I also didn't care about law review or a big firm job. For me law school was my path to FIRE though I didn't know it at the time.

LilTazzy

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2018, 05:42:12 PM »
I graduated from law school in 2003 and am still paying off my law school debt. I currently work for a state government with stagnant pay. If I could go back in time, I would not go to law school. My suggestion to you would be to think very carefully about the commitment you are making if you go to law school. It is not only a time commitment, it is also a financial commitment. While some graduates make $100,000+ right out of law school, that is not the majority, so be sure to research the average salaries in the practice areas that you are interested in.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2018, 06:04:09 PM »
I've toyed with the idea too, but all the lawyers I see in the news seem to have their own lawyers. Everyone in this profession hates to DIY for some reason.

I've also read that you can go for nearly free if you absolutely crush the LSAT. Is that true? Because helping out little guys for 35k/year doesn't sound too bad if it keeps you busy in retirement.

Theoretically, yes, you can go to law school for free if you have high LSAT score and undergrad GPA. BUT often the way these scholarships work is that in order to keep the scholarship you have to make a certain GPA in law school. The school then grades its classes on a STEEP curve. You don't make the grades and lose the scholarship after one or two semesters. But because you are a high achieving type A person you don't want to quit. Therefore you end up paying full price for the remaining 4-5 semesters. The lower-ranked schools seem to do this as a way to attract higher quality students and boost their rankings.
Ooooh, sneaky. Thanks for the explanation. I assume you can't threaten to drop out because they don't care about their completion rates?

peeps_be_peeping

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2018, 11:48:12 PM »
I think so. The average LSAT score and GPA must be weighted more than the proportion of students who finish all three years.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2018, 02:34:48 AM »
Don’t do it. Save your soul, bank account and sanity. There are so many other things you can do. You’ll rarely meet a happy Lawyer. They’ve replaced dentists as the profession with the highest suicide rates. Run! Never look back!

Dee18

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2018, 05:56:43 AM »
I have had a wonderful career as a lawyer, but I went to law school many years ago because I was interested in it.  I didn't care about money, lived very frugally during school (that what we did back then, shared a house with five other law students and we cooked every meal at home), so only borrowed tuition. I turned down high paying jobs for one that looked fun, and it was. There were many jobs for young lawyers then, some of which no longer exist because of technology (such as searching through documents in discovery).  I think going to law school is fine if you are doing it because you want to study law.  But that said, I think one can do more good politically now with a great understanding of information and technology.  MonkeyJenga is one example.  One of the original employees of ActBlue (using technology to efficiently raise money for Dems) is another. On the other hand, there are many, many legal jobs that help both groups and individuals and I have found law to be interesting over many years.  If you do decide to go to law school, there are flexible programs now.  Vermont Law school is one of several that has a two year (year round) program.  Law schools will let you attend part time even if they do not advertise it.  You can always take the LSAT.  A high score is a good indicator of how much schools will be willing to discount their tuition for you.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2018, 01:30:55 PM by Dee18 »

norabird

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2018, 06:03:08 AM »
Thanks Dee! Useful info

Case

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2018, 06:11:50 AM »
With the current political landscape I was looking for volunteer opportunities this morning and realized a bunch of the most involved ones were looking for lawyers. I'm not a lawyer (I've always worked on the editorial/rights side in publishing), but it made me think I *could* be one. And now, based purely on that, I'm mulling over law school. I'm thinking of taking the practice LSAT test you can download for free (already printed it) and from there maybe taking the leap to sign up for an LSAT prep class and getting serious about applying.

I have genuinely never considered this an option before in my life, but it's sort of drawing me in as an option I want to pursue. I did work as a paralegal for a big corporate firm my first year of college and know lots of people in the law (my brother is a lawyer, for instance). I did see some peers from my paralegal days really struggle when they finished their law degree during the last recession, and obviously I would prefer not to incur huge amounts of debt. Even though law never really rang my bell previously, I've been exposed to it and I've spent enough time in my current career to know that while I could do it forever if I had my druthers, it's not necessarily my be-all-end-all (I like it a lot, but it doesn't define me as a person).

This probably seems super impulsive (it is!) but while I think about this new idea I'm just looking for stories/feedback from people who went to law school themselves and what their process/trajectory was.

You want to accumukate expensive law school debt so that you can get a volunteering job?!?  Does not compute!

Keep in mind that law schooll degrees are often of limited value unless you go to a top school.

I would say only go for a law degree if you want to be a lawyer, want to claw your way to the top, are find youself having an extraordinary innate ability for law.


norabird

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2018, 08:46:24 AM »
I want to be more involved in bringing around the world that I want to live in. My current career is lovely but it's not helping anyone, and my volunteering is too sporadic to do much (it is hard to offer something that really makes a difference though I've been involved with some good orgs). I'm not really driven by money.

Krolik

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2018, 08:50:19 AM »
I am not a lawyer but this thread is very interesting.  Good insight into lawyer world.
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/any-lawyer-mustachians-on-here/msg525680/#msg525680

norabird

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2018, 08:51:50 AM »
Oooh thanks @Krolik  !

Yankuba

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2018, 09:14:13 AM »
Most of my colleagues are attorneys. The consensus among them is that the industry has contracted and competition for good jobs is incredibly fierce - including the low paid feel good attorney jobs. And although I work for the government, we get 500 applicants per opening and the people we hire are rock stars - top schools, the best legal extracurricular activities and clerkships, a decade of excellent experience, multiple degrees, etc.  If you can get into a top 10 law school and be in the top half of your class, then you will land on your feet. Otherwise, you will have wasted your time and money. My wife's cousin was a feel good public defender and went back to school to be an English teacher - she burned out. She also made very little money.

Would you consider an MPA? That is the advanced degree that non-profits look for. It's less rigorous, you can do it part time (like me!) and you can get the degree for about $20k. A decent chunk of the students in my program are getting the MPA because they want a career change - they want to move into government or non-profit. Network with the students and professors, hang around the career development center, get yourself an internship and you can get a position with a non-profit that is doing work you believe in. I imagine based on your current career you would be a strong candidate for a communications or development position.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2018, 09:17:27 AM by Yankuba »

norabird

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #21 on: June 28, 2018, 09:30:23 AM »
@Yankuba I think my sister has an MPA! But it doesn't have the same appeal for me somehow.

mozar

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #22 on: June 28, 2018, 10:21:15 AM »
The University of DC has a low cost legal program that is geared towards social justice.

FIFoFum

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Re: Law school?
« Reply #23 on: June 28, 2018, 10:57:48 AM »
Don't do it. Absolutely not. No No No. First, google and read everything on Don't Go to Law School. Now, let's get into your specifics...

Your intentions are good. Your motivation is based on a misperception of the need and what you can bring to the table now and in the future.

Last week, I participated in a webinar/call for attorneys who want to volunteer right now related to asylum seekers and immigration. There were 2500+ registrants. The small, under-funded organizations that address many of the injustices have many people who want to help, and what they most need is:

- MONEY
- People with enough experience to volunteer to organize and manage thousands of OTHER volunteers to best steer people with actual experience and skills toward where they are needed and able to help
- People with language skills to interpret (people forget how much legal work is investigative/fact-finding). This includes Spanish, of course, but currently also includes various indigenous languages from Central America that are not commonly spoken or taught in the USA.

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There is so much advocacy work, policy work, and organizing to be done right now. Most of it does not need a law degree, and that which does frequently needs the JD + other experiences/skill sets.

If there is a specific social justice issue you are passionate about (e.g., anti-racism, housing rights, LGBTQ rights, etc.), there are likely a place you can already go volunteer or work (for low-pay). Even the legal work these organizations need is often not "interesting" or "sexy" - it's just directing people to resources and helping them with forms, documents, and letters. The work I did as a volunteer intern at my local district office (for a state senator) when I was in college is suprisingly similar to what I do volunteering as an attorney serving similar communities.

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Besides costing lots of money, law school is a tremendous outlay of your time and energy. If you take the amount of time you'd be in law school and give it to volunteer or low-pay work, you can probably do a lot more good. During the time you're in law school, you're unlikely to have the energy or ability to do much for others and you'll be taxing your own personal well-being.

Happy to continue this via PM.