Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

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walkerw2
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Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby walkerw2 » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:24 pm

Ok, so I am currently a DNA Analyst. No it is nothing like CSI, it's a billion times less interesting than that. However, I find the best part of my job is going to testify. I love the experience of the courtroom. At the moment I can't leave my job so I need a part time program, and I already have 60k in student loans so I want to not be drowning when I graduate law school. My options are Emory, UGA, or GSU. GSU is the only one that offers part time and the one that is most cost effective. But it is also ranked the lowest of the three at 61st in the nation. My only real option is GSU due to my circumstances, is it worth it?

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JamMasterJ
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby JamMasterJ » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:25 pm

walkerw2 wrote:Ok, so I am currently a DNA Analyst. No it is nothing like CSI, it's a billion times less interesting than that. However, I find the best part of my job is going to testify. I love the experience of the courtroom. At the moment I can't leave my job so I need a part time program, and I already have 60k in student loans so I want to not be drowning when I graduate law school. My options are Emory, UGA, or GSU. GSU is the only one that offers part time and the one that is most cost effective. But it is also ranked the lowest of the three at 61st in the nation. My only real option is GSU due to my circumstances, is it worth it?

how much do you make?

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Grizz
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby Grizz » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:25 pm

What do you want to do w your degree, how much do you make, and how much do you want to make.

walkerw2
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby walkerw2 » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:28 pm

Right now in the mid 40's but the ceiling is at 52k. Not very good. I would like to go into criminal law, however, people keep saying since I have a science degree I could become a patent attorney. I would like to make at least 90k. Also GSU is Georgia State University.

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Grizz
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby Grizz » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:41 pm

walkerw2 wrote:Right now in the mid 40's but the ceiling is at 52k. Not very good. I would like to go into criminal law, however, people keep saying since I have a science degree I could become a patent attorney. I would like to make at least 90k. Also GSU is Georgia State University.

How old are you, what is your degree in, and what other opportunities outside the law are the for people with your background.

walkerw2
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby walkerw2 » Mon Oct 03, 2011 3:01 pm

27, BS in Biology minor Chemistry. MS Forensic Science. There are other forensic jobs but I don't want them. There are other science jobs but are few and far between when it comes to great pay. Phd's of course are making more money but if I go back to school I didn't want it to be in a science.

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Grizz
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby Grizz » Mon Oct 03, 2011 3:15 pm

I'll let someone who knows more about IP speak to that, but as per the latest NLJ250 stats, your chances of hitting a job that pays biglaw money in ATL are like 10% to 15% from State. There aren't a lot of jobs that pay 90. There's a lot of 125k+ (biglaw) and 55k and below to start. A significant portion of the class at GSU will graduate unemployed. If you can do PT and take out zero debt and gun for PD/DA/State AG I could see that being a good fit given your background. Still risky, and you won't touch 90 (at least for a while). If you can take out zero loans to do it, I would go PT. If you don't get a legal job you're right back where you started.

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mrtoren
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby mrtoren » Mon Oct 03, 2011 4:09 pm

Money/job prospects in law are just as bad, if not worse, than where you are right now. ASA/ADA/Prosecutor's starting pay ranges from between $35k and $55k in many states. Of course thats if, and only if, the office is even hiring. Many local governments are on hiring freezes due to economy. Public defenders fall under the same umbrella and private defense attorneys usually need court room experience as one of the previous two before they can get started. Will things be different 3-4 years from now? Maybe, maybe not. There are a lot of jobs in the science industry that pay very well. Unless law is a burning passion...I suggest staying your field.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby vanwinkle » Mon Oct 03, 2011 4:24 pm

walkerw2 wrote:Right now in the mid 40's but the ceiling is at 52k. Not very good. I would like to go into criminal law, however, people keep saying since I have a science degree I could become a patent attorney. I would like to make at least 90k. Also GSU is Georgia State University.

The job market for $100K+ law jobs, especially for new law grads, is extremely small. It's certainly not big enough to absorb all the grads from the T14, let alone people at schools like GSU. People who get top grades in law school can certainly beat the odds and secure one of these jobs, but the odds are greatly stacked against you.

The real issue, though, is the debt. If you go to law school, you're looking at around $120-140K in tuition and another $50-60K in COL loans over 3 years. That means you could graduate with as much as $200K in debt. Even if you ended up making twice what you are now, $90K/yr would be too much to qualify for low-income loan repayment programs, and not enough to pay off your debt and still live comfortably.

The following doesn't even count your $60K in current loans, since you'll have to repay them either way:

For example, $180K in loans at 8% interest would require almost $2200/mo. for 10 years. $2200/mo. = $26K/yr. Since you're looking at $26K/yr in additional expenses, if you're making $45K/yr now, you'd need to start making more than $71K ($45K + $26K) when you graduate just to have the same net income you have now. Oh, and you're in a higher tax bracket now, so there's an extra $6K in income tax you'd have to pay... which means you actually need to be making more than $77K ($45K + $26K $6K) just to have the same net income.

Lemme repeat that: You'd need to make at least $77K/yr just to have the same standard of living you do now at $45K/yr.

From GSU, I'd just estimate off-the-cuff that right now, less than 10% of graduates make more than $77K/yr when they graduate. Many won't find work at all, and many will take jobs that start in the $30-60K/yr range because it's what's available to new grads. And the hours will be horrendous; law is a profession where you have a fixed salary and are expected to turn in well over 40 hours a week, every week, no matter how much or how little you're making.

If you want to shift to law, don't do it for the money. In fact, it sounds like what you want to do is build up a few more years of experience and then become a professional expert in your field. Then lawyers will pay you to testify and you'll see the inside of a courtroom more often than most lawyers do.

walkerw2
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby walkerw2 » Mon Oct 03, 2011 4:36 pm

You're right about the debt. Would all this be worth it if I were to get into Emory Law? Was 20th but in two years dropped to 30th. I do agree about the expert idea, I am technically an expert in DNA analysis now, more years will definitely allow me to become an expert witness full time. Great idea.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby vanwinkle » Mon Oct 03, 2011 4:45 pm

walkerw2 wrote:You're right about the debt. Would all this be worth it if I were to get into Emory Law? Was 20th but in two years dropped to 30th. I do agree about the expert idea, I am technically an expert in DNA analysis now, more years will definitely allow me to become an expert witness full time. Great idea.

You need to understand that the legal hiring market is well and truly fucked right now. Law schools graduate around 40,000 new lawyers each year, and the number of jobs available is easily half that or worse (some say much worse). Most of those jobs aren't the glamorous high-pay corporate jobs, they're the ones people have mentioned in the $30-60K/yr range. There are no statistics because schools all claim they have 99% post-employment graduation rates, but people report on sites like TLS how hard it's been to find jobs. Even some people in the T14 are still scrambling for jobs, and not just the people at the bottom of the class. I've known a few different T14 grads with decent grades who graduated jobless and are still looking. At a school like Emory, what most people are fighting for aren't jobs over $90K, most are fighting just to find any job at all.

Plus, I alluded to this earlier, but most practicing lawyers don't get to see the inside of a courtroom very often. If that's the part you enjoy, going into the practice of law is actually a bad idea. Most work is tiring legal research in a library or (more commonly nowadays) spent staring at a computer for hours on end, writing endless motions and briefs, dealing with clients who often have unwinnable or pointless cases, and trying to market yourself or your firm and find more work. Most legal jobs, even for litigators, don't involve that much time in a courtroom.

Invest your time and energy in becoming a full-time expert witness. Make connections to more lawyers, make sure you become known as someone who delivers solid testimony and helps people's cases, and then you'll actually get to do what you really want to do for a living. That's the way to go right now.

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Grizz
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby Grizz » Mon Oct 03, 2011 4:48 pm

walkerw2 wrote:You're right about the debt. Would all this be worth it if I were to get into Emory Law? Was 20th but in two years dropped to 30th. I do agree about the expert idea, I am technically an expert in DNA analysis now, more years will definitely allow me to become an expert witness full time. Great idea.

I wouldn't want to leave Emory with more than $75k ish in the hole, and you aready have $60k in debt. If you got a full ride maybe, but you'd still have to quit your job for marginal increases in job-getting ability even over UGA. At least GSU is cheap and if law doesn't work out, you can keep your current job. But with your debt, and not being able to leave GA, I'm not sure law is the right choice for you really. I agree with Van.

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Samara
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby Samara » Tue Oct 04, 2011 5:44 pm

This is exactly how these threads should go. Kudos to the OP, Grizz and Vanwinkle.

LawSchoolChampion
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby LawSchoolChampion » Sun Oct 09, 2011 9:30 am

walkerw2 wrote:You're right about the debt. Would all this be worth it if I were to get into Emory Law? Was 20th but in two years dropped to 30th. I do agree about the expert idea, I am technically an expert in DNA analysis now, more years will definitely allow me to become an expert witness full time. Great idea.



If that's the path you want to take it would not hurt you to seek a doctorate in some type of advanced DNA forensics. I only say this because "Dr." beats "Mr." 9 out of 10 times - it's a marketing principle.

I cannot say that not having a doctorate will hurt you as a professional witness, but if you got a doctorate in some type of advanced DNA forensics (something that you could use to nullify DNA evidence), you would get to use your degree in forensics and apply it to a criminal defense setting, in a courtroom, more often than any lawyer ever would.

Just a suggestion. :)

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mrtoren
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby mrtoren » Sun Oct 09, 2011 8:39 pm

LawSchoolChampion wrote:
walkerw2 wrote:You're right about the debt. Would all this be worth it if I were to get into Emory Law? Was 20th but in two years dropped to 30th. I do agree about the expert idea, I am technically an expert in DNA analysis now, more years will definitely allow me to become an expert witness full time. Great idea.



If that's the path you want to take it would not hurt you to seek a doctorate in some type of advanced DNA forensics. I only say this because "Dr." beats "Mr." 9 out of 10 times - it's a marketing principle.

I cannot say that not having a doctorate will hurt you as a professional witness, but if you got a doctorate in some type of advanced DNA forensics (something that you could use to nullify DNA evidence), you would get to use your degree in forensics and apply it to a criminal defense setting, in a courtroom, more often than any lawyer ever would.

Just a suggestion. :)

Agreed. Doctorates are also usually much cheaper than J.D.'s. On a totally unrelated side note, our state's attorney's office is constantly battling a self-made expert on DUI cases now. The guy apparently got his schooling, has made a claim that portable police breathalyzers are inaccurate, has backed it up with some shoddy science, and is making a fortune. Many DUI attorneys hire the guy hoping to put even an ounce of doubt into the minds of the jurors. It usually doesn't work, but the guy gets his paycheck regardless. So experts are definitely becoming a more vital player in trials and there's a lot of money to be made depending on how well you perform. Diversify yourself if you go that route. The more areas you can testify about, the more time you can spend in court, and the more money you'll make.

walkerw2
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby walkerw2 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:06 pm

In the forensic DNA field there are already a couple of big names that do most of the expert defense testimony. You wouldn't testify for the prosecution because obviously state analyst would be the ones testifying. The problem is in order to get to the level of these elite few as someone pointed out, a doctorate would be needed, which I stated before I don't want to do and the thought of it makes me sick. Also to be honest most DNA cases tend to be cut and dry, only a few new experimental procedures are facing a challenge. So there is no need for an opposing view point most of the time. It's not like firearms or trace evidence where its not really science. It's based in facts that really can't be argued with some exceptions of course. This route just doesn't seem a likely one. I am still contemplating the decision. Thanks for all the suggestions.

walkerw2
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby walkerw2 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:08 pm

On a side note, I went to testify yesterday and I have to say I will never ceased to be amazed at lawyers total lack of understanding of forensic evidence and the horrendous questions they ask about it. Baffles my mind.

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Bosque
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Re: Forensic Scientist turned Law Student?

Postby Bosque » Fri Oct 14, 2011 1:31 am

walkerw2 wrote:On a side note, I went to testify yesterday and I have to say I will never ceased to be amazed at lawyers total lack of understanding of forensic evidence and the horrendous questions they ask about it. Baffles my mind.


Are you sure they really don't understand? Because if these are questions on the stand, I am willing to be they were for the jury's benefit, not the lawyer.




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