Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Would anyone actually recommend being a lawyer at all?

I've always wanted to be a lawyer, since I was a little kid, boseisaltplace12/05/17
It seems as if you've answered your own question: "The job m toooldtocare12/05/17
No, but grass is always greener can be a real mind fuk. If jd4hire12/05/17
Sure, as long as you go into it eyes wide open with a solid pauperesq12/05/17
This is a solid answer. If I could do it over again, I would kramer71612/05/17
Good answer. Unlike Kramer, I have a teaching degree and hat downwardslope12/07/17
Things have worked out for me professionally. But I was luc shuiz12/05/17
If someone got into Harvard or Yale law school, I'd tell the patenttrollnj12/05/17
yes, love it but I'd have a serious discussion about why dingbat12/05/17
It's not for most people. But I really enjoy it. It's give 2breedbares12/05/17
As long as you did not have to go into debt for law school, trijocker12/05/17
Yes but don't have great expectations to make tons of $ or " porochi12/05/17
Yes, any time someone's tells me they want to go to law scho hairypalms12/06/17
OP wrote "I've always wanted to be a lawyer, since I was a l nighthawk12/06/17
I know some people with really great lawyer jobs. You could fettywap12/06/17
If you have anxiety issues you should avoid law notreallyalawyer12/06/17
I am a freshly barred attorney (less than a year) but worked gatsby12/06/17
OP, if you have two kids, forget going to law school unless hairypalms12/06/17
Most people will say being an attorney sucks because 1)Hours cocolawyer12/06/17
The answer is simple, in large part based on what has been s wearyattorney12/06/17
Go if it's free or on another's dime. I went to a state T isthisit12/06/17
Exactly. It’s not simply about the school (trust that ther cyph3r12/07/17
Unless you are guaranteed a job upon graduation, AND/OR can bittersweet12/06/17
Only 2 types of folks should become a lawyer: 1. The one lifeofleisure12/06/17
Sure I would, but for one reason only. That you sincerely en doctorseuss12/09/17
Yes, I would. I enjoy what I do. Candidly, no paralegal sa lolwutjobs12/10/17
Even for people who don't have overwhelming anxiety, I would notreallyalawyer12/10/17

boseisaltplace (Dec 5, 2017 - 4:53 pm)

I've always wanted to be a lawyer, since I was a little kid, but none of the lawyers I know personally, or any of the Internet Lawyers seem happy about it at all, even those who are mildly successful.

I had lunch with a friend today, a practicing attorney, who told me pretty much out of the blue, for no reason, and in to relation to any other subject, to not take the LSAT at the end of the school year.

I asked why.

She said, "Just don't. Finish your four year, since you're almost done, but don't go to graduate school. Stay a paralegal, get good at it, you'll get to see the court room and read the cases, and write the documents, and you will get to go home at 5 every day and never be forced to miss one of your sons' soccer games.And, you'll get to make decent money without having a 20 year lien on you."

But, as a paralegal, I will never get to talk, I pointed out to her. She said that oral argument isn't all it's made up to be.

She looked so sad, which was uncharacteristic of her, that I ended up agreeing with her.

She has a point. The job market sucks, student loans are killing people, and I'm really in no situation to take 3 years out of my life to go to law school. I have 2 kids I'm raising on my own, there's just no way to work it, now that I really think about it.

I guess I always knew it, but I WANTED to go to law school, so I just figured it I wanted it hard enough, I could do it. Maybe not.

I'm thinking abandoning the whole law school idea and just continuing on as a PL ( just maybe looking to work not in defense.) Knowing what you know now, would you still go to law school and be a lawyer, or not?

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toooldtocare (Dec 5, 2017 - 5:17 pm)

It seems as if you've answered your own question: "The job market sucks..."

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jd4hire (Dec 5, 2017 - 5:11 pm)

No, but grass is always greener can be a real mind fuk. If not practicing law, I don't know what else I'd be doing and whether I'd be making as much money. Given my BA in history, I frankly just don't know whether I would have been able to get a job where I'd make 90k. Then again, I do have a 25 year lien on my earnings and am paying out a solid chunk every month. Who knows what the future holds for my earning potential though. Partners at my firm make anywhere from 175k - 500k, I think. Maybe my mind would change if I reach that status.

If I could reduce my loans or could have gone on a full ride, I would. On the flip side, I really don't like how I spend my time on a daily basis - reports of counsel, billing time in 6 minute increments, dealing with stupid soft tissue injuries, watching attorneys encourage crummy claims to be asserted and receiving settlements for frivolous allegations. Then again, I don't know if I'd like anything else.

I will tell you this, both my siblings are physicians and I have some jealousy. My sister in law is a physician and she generally hates it. My brother in law sells commercial insurance and makes about the same as his surgeon wife. He has tons of flexibility, enjoys what he does, and makes good money.

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pauperesq (Dec 5, 2017 - 5:21 pm)

Sure, as long as you go into it eyes wide open with a solid understanding of what the ACTUAL practice of law entails and get into a good school with minimal or no debt.

The problem with many people is that law school is a fallback option after they discover their liberal arts degree won't land them a high paying job right out of undergrad. Too many people end up in law school for the wrong reasons. I know plenty of lawyers who hate every minute of their practice. Not a single one really wanted to be a lawyer, they just thought it was a gateway to fortunes or felt they had no other viable options.

Being a professional means you may have to sacrifice your personal time. This isn't unique to lawyers. You know who else has to occasionally miss their kid's soccer game? Doctors. Engineers. Business execs. Bankers. Accountants. Etc.

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kramer716 (Dec 5, 2017 - 7:15 pm)

This is a solid answer. If I could do it over again, I would have gone back to school and earned my teaching degree, and then find a job teaching history anywhere in this beautiful country of ours.

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downwardslope (Dec 7, 2017 - 9:19 am)

Good answer. Unlike Kramer, I have a teaching degree and hated it. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I hated every second of that job. I liked the kids, but the rest of it was nonsense. I don’t mind being a lawyer but dislike the debt. If you can go with no debt and know what you are getting into (I did) it is not a bad choice.

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shuiz (Dec 5, 2017 - 7:14 pm)

Things have worked out for me professionally. But I was lucky to transfer into something better.

If I could have known that everything would work out and not have had to worry about student loans, landing a job, or that I would eventually be able to get out of practice, I think I might have enjoyed both law school and the years I worked as a PD a lot more.

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patenttrollnj (Dec 5, 2017 - 8:19 pm)

If someone got into Harvard or Yale law school, I'd tell them to go.

Otherwise, it would have to be a very specific circumstance. I'd never make any broad generalizations about whether going is good or bad (other than if you got into Harvard or Yale).

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dingbat (Dec 5, 2017 - 8:39 pm)

yes, love it

but I'd have a serious discussion about why the person wants to become an attorney, and to make sure that expectations are reasonable.

generally speaking, the people I went to law school with who were paralegals before tended to do quite well job-wise, and generally were happier with their decision overall

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2breedbares (Dec 5, 2017 - 8:44 pm)

It's not for most people. But I really enjoy it. It's given me the opportunity to give back, make an okay salary (the benefits of which are limited due to the massive debt I paid back), and have a good work life balance (which is rare in the law, I know). And studying/practicing law has definitely made me more intellectually curious as a person overall.

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trijocker (Dec 5, 2017 - 8:59 pm)

As long as you did not have to go into debt for law school, yes
So for example, friends that went to low cost state law schools or someone rich enough that their family could pay for a private law school.
Otherwise, no the stress of paying the law school education off is not worth it.

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porochi (Dec 5, 2017 - 9:37 pm)

Yes but don't have great expectations to make tons of $ or "change the world." I've worked for the govt. my entire career so don't make a lot of $ but I've had an interesting and varied career- prosecutor, civil litigator, JAG in the Army Reserve, even a stint as an immigration officer. I've tried cases in federal, state and military courts. I don't plan to retire anytime soon and hope to work well into my 70's if health permits. But I graduated LS in 1993 with $35,000 in student loans too, so I could afford to repay my loans on a govt. salary and didn't feel crushed by debt. That made for a happier life. My law degree definitely paid for itself. If I had graduated LS in the last 5 or 10 years, I might be singing a different tune.

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hairypalms (Dec 6, 2017 - 12:47 pm)

Yes, any time someone's tells me they want to go to law school to "change the world," that person should NOT be going to law school, except if they get into HYS, then then could presumably find such a Save the Whales gig that pays the bills.

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nighthawk (Dec 6, 2017 - 9:01 am)

OP wrote "I've always wanted to be a lawyer, since I was a little kid"

You need to develop your thinking and make decisions based on being an adult, not a child. Not to say that you should not go to law school; just make the decision based on your adult self, not the child voice inside you.

I tell people who ask to research the reality of being a lawyer and whether it works for you. If you think that it works for you then I strongly encourage those people to go to law school. If you watched LA Law or law and order as a teenager and therefore want to go law school then you may be making a big mistake.

The lawyers who complain all day are not the only ones who work in the industry, though they make a lot of noise. Many people enjoy the challenge and use their skills to solve problems or clinch deals. Just because you do not hear from them does not mean that they do not exist. Then again, this is JDU, the mouthpiece for the disgruntled.

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fettywap (Dec 6, 2017 - 10:07 am)

I know some people with really great lawyer jobs. You could be one of those people if you really wanted to be. That's not where most lawyers end up though.

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notreallyalawyer (Dec 6, 2017 - 10:18 am)

If you have anxiety issues you should avoid law

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gatsby (Dec 6, 2017 - 12:00 pm)

I am a freshly barred attorney (less than a year) but worked in the same firm throughout law school and have a pretty good grasp of this little niche of law. Obviously I don't have the experience of many jobs or types of law to give a broad answer, but I can say that I regret law school wholeheartedly. I truly believe you should only take this job like you should take a medical doctor degree. That is, if you have a real passion for the work as a whole. Many people look at it as prestigious, high paying, respected, and challenging. It can be, but not for several (many?) years, unless you are top 3% at a top school.

I think many people's responses focus on the student loans, and they are correct. If you absolutely love your job, then the money is not a big deal. If you're just trying to have a decent career and more or less enjoy what you do, then $1500-2500/month in loan payments for 20-25 years is hard to swallow. Even if you make $100k within a few years, and work about 50-55 hours (a pretty good schedule for that pay), then you are still making a pretty low salary if you consider that to pay $2000/month for loans, which is net pay, you're talking about making $3000/month gross (give or take) to pay it. So, that $100k at 55 hours a week, less the $3000/month ($36k/year) is about $22.60/hour. You could get that with a lot less 'prestigious' degrees.

Again, this is only looking at the salary and loans. If you love being a lawyer, then that is not a big deal and you'll love life. The issue is, there are not that many jobs. There is a reason that many on here are giddy with excitement every time those SSA and BVA attorney advisor jobs get posted (I'm in that boat, too!). They are boring, mundane work with stressful production schedules (from what I read), but they pay well, give federal benefits, and you're eligible for PSLF in 10 years (let's hope that stays around).

As a more positive spin, you really do learn a lot in law school. It may take a semester or two, but eventually it "clicks" and you have this moment that you realize you were thinking about law all wrong. You start to think like a lawyer and it is rewarding. You learn a lot about your own talents and abilities and how to manage time and your personal life. I was a decent B+ student and still had a personal life (though truncated). You meet some great, intelligent, driven people and you do grow a new respect for the field that most of us have been taught our whole lives is full of cheats and liars and evil people.

Definitely only do it if you think you can handle the debt and the job that you'll be getting. Don't assume that you were an A+ student in undergrad and so you'll do almost as well in law school. The grading is vastly different than anyone I talked to was used to seeing. It is pretty disheartening to spend 15-20 hours studying for an exam, on top of doing every assignment and case and then still getting a C-. Where else can a 46% be a B+ but in another class a 92% is a C-. Curved grading is...unique.

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hairypalms (Dec 6, 2017 - 12:42 pm)

OP, if you have two kids, forget going to law school unless you have a husband/wife that has a stable job. With tuition at an all time high (and increasing every year), you will put your family at risk from a financial standpoint. Law is a rich man's game now. You need to have sufficient funding, whether from parents or otherwise, to weather the storm of what will inevitably be unemployment/underemployment. Law jobs are very unstable, particularly law firms where you would most likely start. There is no longer any upside. I graduated in the early 00's when tuition at my school was about $20,000 per year. My law school now charges close to $50K per year. The job market is in the tank, has been for a number of years now and most experts believe that it will not turn around any time soon due to increasing influence of Legal Zoom, document review technologies, and outsourcing to India, etc. If you are older and/or a woman, then you have even bigger hurdles to overcome. I hate to sound like a chauvinist, but law is a man's profession. That is not to say that I haven't met a number of women in my career that are good attorneys, just that there are significantly fewer of them. I don't make the rules of the legal profession, but there they are, whether you want to believe it or not. I would recommend finding another profession, medicine, even as a physician's assistant would be more rewarding and likely more remunerative as well.

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cocolawyer (Dec 6, 2017 - 12:49 pm)

Most people will say being an attorney sucks because 1)Hours are pretty crappy, 2)Pay compared to hours worked is pretty crappy, 3) stress is unbearable, 4)conflict is always present, and 5) debt to assume this prestigious career is life destroying.

I am 5 years as of this month an attorney. I have had a six figure salary for probably the past 2-3 years. I now work for the government so this analogy will not necessarily apply to me. It did when I was in the private sector.

When I was in the private sector (made the change earlier this year) I made an average of $12,000.00 gross per month. A good income. I took home about 7k...again not bad. Now here is the rub. My student loan payments were about $1,200.00 per month...over a 20 year payment. So that really took my take home to like 5800. Again not horrific but there are several jobs that will pay you relatively the same take home pay. Those jobs get paid about 35 hour and work 40 hours per week. Well I worked about 60 hours per week. Thus it brings my hourly rate down to close to 22 dollars an hour. Well that is not great at all considering you have a JD. Now the stress in those jobs are non-existent. The stress in your job is horrific. When you look at it in real world viewpoint being an attorney makes no economic sense. To make matters worse, the non-attorney got to start their career 3 years earlier then you. 3 years of contribution to retirement. 3 years to save for a down payment to a home.

For a law degree to have an economic value you would literally have to make around 18,000.00 per month, which statistics show only the top 5% of lawyers ever reach. Those top 5% of lawyers live in high COL areas where Janitors in some instances can make 10-15k a year. So for 5% of lawyers it will make economic sense, if you are not in a high COL area. For everyone else it will not. Sounds like a bad deal, because it is.

This of course is not to mention the diminution of value to your quality of life. Vacations are far and in between. Weekends often are consumed with work. You get home to see your family at 7:30 to 8:30 at night. The kids and wife already had dinner. The kid is getting ready for bed. The Wife is taking a shower and you are alone sitting at the table eating cold leftovers from the dinner.

I do not see why anyone would want to be a lawyer.

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wearyattorney (Dec 6, 2017 - 4:46 pm)

The answer is simple, in large part based on what has been said in this thread. It’s a two step inquiry. Are you (your parents) rich? If yes, then there’s the next inquiry, does prestige mean a tremendous amount to you? If yes, then you can go.

If you aren’t rich, you can’t go. “Can’t” doesn’t mean you will be physically barred from attending, “can’t” means the probability of severe harm is extremely high and the probability of succes is extremely low, so low that if you are inclined to take a big change, take a chance on something where it will actually be fun to try and ultimately lose.

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isthisit (Dec 6, 2017 - 4:59 pm)

Go if it's free or on another's dime.

I went to a state T2 on family money so I had a good time and incurred no debt.

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cyph3r (Dec 7, 2017 - 8:16 am)

Exactly. It’s not simply about the school (trust that there are plenty of Harvard and Yale Law grads wondering how to pay their loans), it’s about the cost. If it’s free, or minimal cost, and the desire and will is there, go. The equalizer is passing the state bar and admissions standards; thereafter, every law grad gets the same title: attorney. Note of caution: It’s three years of no earned income and a potential bad job market upon graduation.

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bittersweet (Dec 6, 2017 - 6:45 pm)

Unless you are guaranteed a job upon graduation, AND/OR can go for free, it's probably not worth it.

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lifeofleisure (Dec 6, 2017 - 7:57 pm)

Only 2 types of folks should become a lawyer:

1. The ones who have a deep, deep-seated desire to become an attorney and have the personality traits/skills necessary to excel there.
2. The ones who come from wealth and understand the need to have a lawyer in that kind of family (and its business). A law degree will pay for itself for those fortunate enough to be in this category.

Everyone else is in denial about how they made the wrong choice, and will make excuses ad nauseum (as evidenced in many of these threads) about their hopeless situation.

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doctorseuss (Dec 9, 2017 - 11:40 pm)

Sure I would, but for one reason only. That you sincerely enjoy the law. If you're going for the money or the prestige or to change the world. then no.

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lolwutjobs (Dec 10, 2017 - 1:10 pm)

Yes, I would. I enjoy what I do. Candidly, no paralegal salary would ever come close to providing me with the lifestyle my family currently enjoys. In fact, given my skill set, I do not believe any other career would come close to providing me with this type of lifestyle and enjoyment.

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notreallyalawyer (Dec 10, 2017 - 1:24 pm)

Even for people who don't have overwhelming anxiety, I would tell them to not go to law school unless they already had some marketable skill/degree. At least you have that to fall back onto. Whereas if you go straight from college, with a worthless degree, you have nothing to fall back onto, and you are screwed, like I am.

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