CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

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luciditycabbage

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CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby luciditycabbage » Fri Jan 18, 2019 12:41 am

I have to choose between going to CLS tuition-free (and most likely pursuing BigLaw) and paying full price for a master's in Computer Science at Columbia (finish in one year) and shooting for software engineering jobs. Thoughts on long-term career and earnings prospects of the two paths?

I'm also patent bar eligible if that makes any difference.

My current thoughts are: early career BigLaw will make more but I'd run the risk of burning out, and after leaving BigLaw I'd earn less as in-house counsel than I would as a mid-career software engineer. But on the flip side, as a mid-career SE I'd run the risk of not being able to compete with younger, cheaper coders for jobs and promotions. People say work-life in SE is also way better than in law. What do you all think?

kingpin101

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby kingpin101 » Fri Jan 18, 2019 12:58 pm

Sounds like you don't really want to be a lawyer. Or a software engineer for that matter.

Anonguy715

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby Anonguy715 » Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:23 pm

kingpin101 wrote:Sounds like you don't really want to be a lawyer. Or a software engineer for that matter.


I agree with this. CLS on a full ride is an amazing opportunity. I would think that anyone who really wants to be a lawyer would jump on that.

Also, I'm not sure I agree that in-house would have lower earning potential mid-career than a software engineer. Most of my undergrad friends went into EE, CS, or CE (at public ivy); some went to start-ups, some went to major corporations. None of them are even sniffing 200k/yr.

dabigchina

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby dabigchina » Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:24 pm

I have no idea what career prospects are like for a masters in cs from columbia. All I know is i'd probably rather be in cs than law because cs seems to have decent pay and good work life balance.

albanach

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby albanach » Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:48 pm

Anonguy715 wrote:I agree with this. CLS on a full ride is an amazing opportunity. I would think that anyone who really wants to be a lawyer would jump on that.


That's the important bit. Is OP looking to be a lawyer, or just make a lot of money?

Anonguy715 wrote:Also, I'm not sure I agree that in-house would have lower earning potential mid-career than a software engineer. Most of my undergrad friends went into EE, CS, or CE (at public ivy); some went to start-ups, some went to major corporations. None of them are even sniffing 200k/yr.


Plenty of in-house lawyers won't make that much either.

BrainsyK

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby BrainsyK » Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:51 pm

luciditycabbage wrote:I have to choose between going to CLS tuition-free (and most likely pursuing BigLaw) and paying full price for a master's in Computer Science at Columbia (finish in one year) and shooting for software engineering jobs. Thoughts on long-term career and earnings prospects of the two paths?

I'm also patent bar eligible if that makes any difference.

My current thoughts are: early career BigLaw will make more but I'd run the risk of burning out, and after leaving BigLaw I'd earn less as in-house counsel than I would as a mid-career software engineer. But on the flip side, as a mid-career SE I'd run the risk of not being able to compete with younger, cheaper coders for jobs and promotions. People say work-life in SE is also way better than in law. What do you all think?


Because the compensation trajectory is just so different based on how you fare in each industry, I don't think you should even count that as a factor. Either could come out on top. Also, in-house counsels can make $200k in Omaha so while SE working at a company that pays at that level might be stuck in SF/SV and net less. If location matters to you, consider that. I guess lifestyle is the next best factor. That probably leans towards SE. There's also the issue of security. If you go to CLS, biglaw is a done deal. I mean--1L will still be stressful, but you'd have to really, really mess up on both grades and interviewing skills to not get a market-paying biglaw job. While Columbia is an excellent CS school, I don't get the sense that it would come close to automatically guaranteeing you a FAANG position. What if you miss that boat and have to languish as a mid-level engineer at some random company that caps out in the mid-100ks? I'm by no means an expert on this, but if it's something that can happen, that's something to consider.

QContinuum

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby QContinuum » Fri Jan 18, 2019 3:33 pm

CS and law are two extremely different professions. What do you actually want to do?

What did you major in in college? If you were a CS major (presumably, since you've now been admitted to a CS grad program), have you tried working in tech at all? If not, that's what I'd recommend doing. Defer the CLS admission, actually work as a software engineer for a year, and see how you like it.

The general advice on this site is to only attend law school if you have a burning desire to practice law. I'm not detecting that burning desire in you.

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Yugihoe

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby Yugihoe » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:17 pm

From a purely money perspective, make sure you account for opportunity cost of law school in terms of time. Even on a full ride, for instance if you can make 100k doing something non-law, it will still take a few years of big law (which by the way sucks as you know) to "break even." I started law school in 2014 with similar conditions to you while already making close to 100k and I calculate I'll finally come out ahead in 2020 (including all of my my big law comp, bonuses, summer associate $$, etc).

Npret

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby Npret » Fri Jan 18, 2019 6:28 pm

These are two different professions entirely. Decide which career you want not which is cheapest now.
Do some research and see what working as a lawyer entails.

If you can’t decide then go to CS, law will always be there.

239840

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby 239840 » Fri Jan 18, 2019 9:01 pm

You would have to be a lifetime learner to keep up with younger coders probably, but I don't know that that necessarily means you wouldn't be able to get promoted or excel. As others said, you need to be honest with yourself about what you really want to do.

PanjandrumOfReason

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby PanjandrumOfReason » Sat Jan 19, 2019 4:11 pm

Your starting BigLaw salary will be more than your ending software engineering salary unless you get a "unicorn" software outcome. In fact, it is possible that the same would be true of your in-house counsel salary. Also, while you didn't ask, I'd advise that a Master's in CS is not worth the cost and the lost year of potential work experience. The Master's will get you very few jobs that a Bachelor's couldn't get you. In terms of money, I'd say BigLaw > in-house counsel > BS in CS with 1 year experience > MS in CS.

In terms of work-life balance, software >>>>>>>> BigLaw. I don't know how in-house counsel would compare to software in this area.

QContinuum

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby QContinuum » Sat Jan 19, 2019 9:58 pm

PanjandrumOfReason wrote:Your starting BigLaw salary will be more than your ending software engineering salary unless you get a "unicorn" software outcome. In fact, it is possible that the same would be true of your in-house counsel salary. Also, while you didn't ask, I'd advise that a Master's in CS is not worth the cost and the lost year of potential work experience. The Master's will get you very few jobs that a Bachelor's couldn't get you. In terms of money, I'd say BigLaw > in-house counsel > BS in CS with 1 year experience > MS in CS.

In terms of work-life balance, software >>>>>>>> BigLaw. I don't know how in-house counsel would compare to software in this area.

I'm not sure any of the above is true. Top-tier software engineers (FAANG and equivalent) can and do absolutely make BigLaw+ salaries. They also can and do have equally atrocious work-life "balances". Hint: Google didn't install nap pods so their engineers could work fewer hours.

Npret

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Re: CLS tuition-free or pursue a career in CS?

Postby Npret » Sun Jan 20, 2019 12:39 pm

I’m not sure anyone here is qualified to speak to CS salaries or life style.
My only reference is someone who works for Apple in Pittsburgh and just bought a Tesla along with owning a huge house, kid with nanny etc. I know he’s making more than biglaw and his hours aren’t crazy.
I think OP needs to research this career elsewhere.



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