Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

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LeBronBBall
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Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby LeBronBBall » Sat Oct 29, 2011 8:27 pm

These are two career options I am faced with. I recently graduated, this May, from an Ivy undergrad with degree in Economics, but my GPA was pretty bad. (3.2) I couldn't land any finance/ consulting job, likely due to my lackluster GPA and resume/ work experience. I learned the hard way that 'Economics' major isn't the most marketable major out there.

After my unsuccessful run at On-Campus-Recruiting at my college as a senior, I knew that I needed to go to a professional school in order to make myself employable. I literally got over 100 rejections from employers I've applied to since last year, most of whom are in finance, consulting, or other random 'business' jobs like marketing, 'business' analyst jobs, etc.

As a result of my misfortune, I prepped hard for LSAT just because I thought that going to a good law school would help me get a high paying job. I got 172 on LSAT after three months of prep and applied to a bunch of schools. Just recently, I heard back from a lower-tier T14 law school that I got in. But, I didn't get any merit money and if I decide to attend, I will be taking out over 200k in loans, which scares the crap out of me.

As I was prepping for law school apps, I lurked around this forum and came across many posters warning about the danger of going to a law school. Honestly, hearing stories of people from Columbia or NYU not getting BigLaw jobs is really scary. So, I began to ponder on other career possibilities that may give me higher chances of employment while incurring minimal tuition cost or opportunity cost. I found out that I can attend masters of accounting programs near my home, for like 10k tuition a year, for one and half years and get my CPA. Also, I heard from my brother, who is a CPA, that where you go to school for accounting recruitment doesn't matter much, so I can still go to a cheap, low-ranked State school near my home and still end up with Big4 accounting job if I do well enough at the masters program. (like get a GPA of 3.5+, which I feel confident that I will be capable of accomplishing)

Basically, I am really confused as to what course of action I need to take. Should I incur 200k in debt to go to a T14 next year and study law for three years, or should I go to a local State University's maters of accounting program for like 20k, graduate in 1 and half years, and try to get a job as a CPA at Big4 audit. I would really, greatly appreciate any feedback and I would especially appreciate thoughts from those who are familiar with both accounting and law job markets. Also, what are pros and cons of accounting vs. law? Some people tell me accounting jobs are boring as hell, but then again, on this forum, I ran into lots of posters saying that many lawyer jobs are boring, too. I hear from many people that job market for accountants are much better than lawyers and accountants are in big demand, etc. But, I am not sure exactly which path to take, given that I have a chance to go to a T14 law school and still have a decent shot at a BigLaw job, which pays much more than Big4 accounting.
Last edited by LeBronBBall on Sat Oct 29, 2011 8:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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bk1
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby bk1 » Sat Oct 29, 2011 8:30 pm

You are set on becoming either an accountant or a lawyer and yet you're not sure what it would be like be one of them nor which one you would prefer to be... :|

crit_racer
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby crit_racer » Sat Oct 29, 2011 8:37 pm


LeBronBBall
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby LeBronBBall » Sat Oct 29, 2011 8:45 pm

bk1 wrote:You are set on becoming either an accountant or a lawyer and yet you're not sure what it would be like be one of them nor which one you would prefer to be... :|


Honestly, I don't have a clear-cut preference for either profession. I enjoy reading, thinking logically, and writing, but also enjoy working with numbers. So, I guess I can see myself becoming either lawyer or CPA.

I am more worried about making a smart choice, I am pretty risk averse and come from a middle class family where my parents can't pay a dime for my law school. I am interested in maximizing my success rate of getting a decent job with good pay, good work conditions, and decent career upshot.

Btw, do you know anything about the working conditions of BigLaw vs Big4 accounting? (who has it worse..)

LeBronBBall
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby LeBronBBall » Sat Oct 29, 2011 8:48 pm

crit_racer wrote:http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=105891&hilit=Accountant+lawyer

OP, you make me depressed.


Why??

I glanced through that thread, but didn't get the answer I want re: should I go to T14 law on sticker or local state U's masters of accounting program. The reason I am so confused about my choice is because while I realize T14 is a great opportunity, it doesn't guarantee me a high-paying lawyer job and it costs too much, while masters of accounting doesn't cost nearly as much.

hawkeye22
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby hawkeye22 » Sat Oct 29, 2011 8:56 pm

Apply to Vandy
Get substantial scholarship
???
Profit

bdubs
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby bdubs » Sat Oct 29, 2011 8:58 pm

Economics is probably one of the more desirable liberal arts degrees, but because you did poorly and apparently didn't do anything else to differentiate yourself you're floundering in the job market. More education will buy you time to repair your crappy positioning, but it won't guarantee you a job if you don't step up your game.

Bottom line: if you're lazy, become a CPA. If you're ready to take another shot at things, and you actually want to be a lawyer, then go to law school.

You will probably not get any merit money in the T14 with that GPA.

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birdlaw117
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby birdlaw117 » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:03 pm

In my experience, Big 4 recruiting is weighted more heavily on the UG students. A lot of students will then get a MAcc but have their job lined up prior to starting the MAcc program. In my program there were 19 students and 17 of them had Big 4 jobs lined up beforehand (the other two, of which I was one, weren't looking for a Big 4 position). It certainly isn't impossible or even incredibly unlikely to get a Big 4 job after your MAcc, but it isn't guaranteed either. Oh, and passing the CPA exam is no cakewalk either.

In reality, the deciding factor should be what you want to do more.

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birdlaw117
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby birdlaw117 » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:07 pm

LeBronBBall wrote:
Btw, do you know anything about the working conditions of BigLaw vs Big4 accounting? (who has it worse..)

Biglaw is more hours generally. Big 4 tax might be more in the spring. Big 4 audit is a little more spread out throughout the year. But on the average I think biglaw has it the worst. Though, they are compensated quite nicely for it.

MrAnon
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby MrAnon » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:22 pm

I would say keep applying to jobs now and go for accounting. The bottom line is that nothing is worse than law school if you are unsure of the choice.

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Kabuo
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby Kabuo » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:23 pm

hawkeye22 wrote:Apply to Vandy
Get substantial scholarship
???
Profit


3.2/172 is by no means even a lock for admission at Vandy. They actually have some GPA standards.

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Kabuo
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby Kabuo » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:24 pm

And I would do accounting.

LeBronBBall
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby LeBronBBall » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:35 pm

bdubs wrote:Economics is probably one of the more desirable liberal arts degrees, but because you did poorly and apparently didn't do anything else to differentiate yourself you're floundering in the job market. More education will buy you time to repair your crappy positioning, but it won't guarantee you a job if you don't step up your game.

Bottom line: if you're lazy, become a CPA. If you're ready to take another shot at things, and you actually want to be a lawyer, then go to law school.

You will probably not get any merit money in the T14 with that GPA.


Thanks for your feedback. Yeah, I am in a very crappy situation now. Could you specify what you mean by 'step up your game'? Do you mean I need to work harder, or are there other things I need to be doing to improve my marketability to employers.

I don't think I am a lazy person. I absolutely worked my butt off at my college but the harsh, cold truth was that I was not as good as 90% of other kids at my college in terms of intellectual horsepower and drive.

I went to UPenn's Wharton School, and graduated with Economics major and finance concentration. Back when I was in high school, everyone told me that going to Wharton would set me up for a high paying finance job so I went to Wharton even if it costed me 100k more to attend than my State flagship. The curves there were brutal, especially in upper Econ/ finance courses, and I barely managed to get 3.2 GPA by graduation even if I was valedictorian from my high school. (my GPA was 3.1 when I was interviewing with companies my senior year)

Also, Wharton was an insanely competitive place. Like half the kids there had investment banking or consulting internship experiences even before college. Right now, as an unemployed recent graduate looking to repair my confidence, courage, and marketability of getting a decent employment, I am not sure which path (law vs. accounting) I need to pursue.

My hunch is that the masters of accounting program at my State school won't be as competitive as T14 law school, and kids at T14 law school, I suspect, may be as intelligent and as fiercely competitive as my Wharton classmates. In that case, I might not do well at all and still walk away with no decent job with a ton of debt, and this exact scenario is my biggest fear with going with law school.

LeBronBBall
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby LeBronBBall » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:42 pm

Kabuo wrote:And I would do accounting.


Could you please explain why? I am looking to hear others' perspectives and their thoughts.

bdubs
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby bdubs » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:46 pm

Consider looking at employers who don't have big names. A lot of great businesses would probably be happy to hire a kid with a Wharton degree if they were personable and didn't come off as entitled. By no means are you limited to accounting or law.

Law school, at a T14, is very, very competitive. If you didn't end up doing that well in a competitive environment in undergrad, maybe you shouldn't repeat the same mistake. Granted, you are competing in a very different field in law school and you may do better.

Was it the subject matter that you struggled with, or just the general rigor of a competitive environment?

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Kabuo
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby Kabuo » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:51 pm

LeBronBBall wrote:
Kabuo wrote:And I would do accounting.


Could you please explain why? I am looking to hear others' perspectives and their thoughts.


First, see bdubs' post right above mine, which is pretty on point. Going with your dichotomy though, what's the rush for law? This doesn't have to be an either or. Your LSAT is good for 5 years. In 4 years, if you hate being an accountant, or if you never even landed the job but still got your CPA or something, you can still go to law school. Plus, if you did land the job, well then you have good WE too and NU is way in play. Just no rush. And LS is very, very competitive, so if you don't like competition, that's another good reason to go the CPA route.

LeBronBBall
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby LeBronBBall » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:51 pm

birdlaw117 wrote:In my experience, Big 4 recruiting is weighted more heavily on the UG students. A lot of students will then get a MAcc but have their job lined up prior to starting the MAcc program. In my program there were 19 students and 17 of them had Big 4 jobs lined up beforehand (the other two, of which I was one, weren't looking for a Big 4 position). It certainly isn't impossible or even incredibly unlikely to get a Big 4 job after your MAcc, but it isn't guaranteed either. Oh, and passing the CPA exam is no cakewalk either.

In reality, the deciding factor should be what you want to do more.


Thanks for your answer. Is there a way I can find out which MAcc programs have strong Big4 recruiting, and would give me chance to get access to recruiters via on-campus-interviews? I obviously don't want to end up at a program in which recruiting is weak and filled with kids with offers from Big4 already.

Also, will my bad GPA from college hold me back for Big4 interviews at MAcc, or can I just show accounting employers GPA I would get from my MAcc program without showing them my college GPA? Lastly, could you please tell me what jobs I could get as a CPA, with MAcc degree and good GPA, in case I strike out on Big4 accounting? (Like, do I get recruiting from non-Big4 accounting firms or other in-house positions at corporations at MAcc programs?)

Did your program give you access to Big4 interviews? Also, do you think my brother is correct in saying that prestige of school you attend doesn't matter for accounting jobs? For instance, I am interested in working in NYC, Chicago (my hometown), or San Fran, and do you have programs/ schools that you would recommend?

Thanks.

LeBronBBall
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby LeBronBBall » Sat Oct 29, 2011 10:11 pm

bdubs wrote:Consider looking at employers who don't have big names. A lot of great businesses would probably be happy to hire a kid with a Wharton degree if they were personable and didn't come off as entitled. By no means are you limited to accounting or law.

Law school, at a T14, is very, very competitive. If you didn't end up doing that well in a competitive environment in undergrad, maybe you shouldn't repeat the same mistake. Granted, you are competing in a very different field in law school and you may do better.

Was it the subject matter that you struggled with, or just the general rigor of a competitive environment?



I applied to lots of jobs that are no where close to Goldman IBD or McKinsey Consulting in prestige or pay. Still, I didn't get any offers for the kind of employment I would consider. I would be happy with a job that is business related, like 'business' analyst job, which pays me 45+, benefits, and most importantly, one that would give me career trajectory. The only offers I got so far are dead-end jobs, in which I can't build much marketable skills and have limited opportunities. I applied to shit tons of no-name, third tier boutique consulting and finance firms, and all rejections so far.

I thought that Wharton degree would help me get a decent gig, but I know several classmates who are job-less, also. I mean, I could get like sales job if I wanted to, but, I don't really want to do that kind of work. (I feel like I am wasting my potential if I take jobs like that) Honestly, I am beginning to think that outside of high finance, Wharton degree doesn't do me much good. I realized employers outside of On-Campus-Interviews at college would rather hire a State school grad with relevant work experience and skills to the job over me, who lack full time work experience...

The problem I had at Wharton was mainly harsh curves. Most tests were near impossible and many of finals had average grade of 40%, which would get curved to a B in the end. I was literally shocked that in Financial Economics Theory Analysis course, I got 20% on the final. (but, somehow I got C in the class after curve) I found that getting A's in most courses were very hard, and I was just not smart enough to crack many of the exams that asked me to apply knowledge and stretch it to the level I wasn't comfortable with.

Also, I am not the best student with math. I got destroyed in Econometrics, Statistics, and Multivariable Calculus courses, among many others. Although I suck at math, I heard that accounting courses don't really ask you to have math capability above Pre-Calculus, which is encouraging to me.

I am just scared that there are people from Columbia or NYU Law, who are very smart folks obviously, that end up unemployed with tons of debt. I have 35k in loans from college already, and it really sucks. 200k in loan + no BigLaw job, I would probably commit suicide.

That is why I am considering accounting, because it isn't that hard and I heard job outlooks in accounting are much better than anything else. But, I can't really verify the truth of this speculation since I haven't gone through this thing myself just yet.

LeBronBBall
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby LeBronBBall » Sat Oct 29, 2011 10:24 pm

Kabuo wrote:
LeBronBBall wrote:
Kabuo wrote:And I would do accounting.


Could you please explain why? I am looking to hear others' perspectives and their thoughts.


First, see bdubs' post right above mine, which is pretty on point. Going with your dichotomy though, what's the rush for law? This doesn't have to be an either or. Your LSAT is good for 5 years. In 4 years, if you hate being an accountant, or if you never even landed the job but still got your CPA or something, you can still go to law school. Plus, if you did land the job, well then you have good WE too and NU is way in play. Just no rush. And LS is very, very competitive, so if you don't like competition, that's another good reason to go the CPA route.


Right now, I feel like an absolute failure for not having a respectable corporate job. Some of the classmates from my college, when I see them on facebook, make me depressed when they post pictures of their office buildings of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. I feel like a complete loser compared to them, who I took many of courses together and played basketball with.

Basically, I figured that I need to go to a professional school next year so that I can work on rebuilding myself quick and position myself to get a good job. I really hate being unemployed and feeling unproductive, living in my parents' basement.

That said, the idea of CPA as a career didn't really cross my mind until this very week, when I began to think that going with law is a pretty risky proposition. I used to think that going to a T14 law would secure me a BigLaw job, but, from my experience of not being able to get a good job out of Wharton, and reading what many of posters wrote on this forum, I know that this really isn't the case.

So, I just want to make my mind soon and go all-out for that option, and try hard to land a respectable job in either field.

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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby birdlaw117 » Sun Oct 30, 2011 12:49 am

LeBronBBall wrote:
birdlaw117 wrote:In my experience, Big 4 recruiting is weighted more heavily on the UG students. A lot of students will then get a MAcc but have their job lined up prior to starting the MAcc program. In my program there were 19 students and 17 of them had Big 4 jobs lined up beforehand (the other two, of which I was one, weren't looking for a Big 4 position). It certainly isn't impossible or even incredibly unlikely to get a Big 4 job after your MAcc, but it isn't guaranteed either. Oh, and passing the CPA exam is no cakewalk either.

In reality, the deciding factor should be what you want to do more.


Thanks for your answer. Is there a way I can find out which MAcc programs have strong Big4 recruiting, and would give me chance to get access to recruiters via on-campus-interviews? I obviously don't want to end up at a program in which recruiting is weak and filled with kids with offers from Big4 already.

Also, will my bad GPA from college hold me back for Big4 interviews at MAcc, or can I just show accounting employers GPA I would get from my MAcc program without showing them my college GPA? Lastly, could you please tell me what jobs I could get as a CPA, with MAcc degree and good GPA, in case I strike out on Big4 accounting? (Like, do I get recruiting from non-Big4 accounting firms or other in-house positions at corporations at MAcc programs?)

Did your program give you access to Big4 interviews? Also, do you think my brother is correct in saying that prestige of school you attend doesn't matter for accounting jobs? For instance, I am interested in working in NYC, Chicago (my hometown), or San Fran, and do you have programs/ schools that you would recommend?

Thanks.

PM'd

bdubs
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby bdubs » Sun Oct 30, 2011 2:50 pm

I feel for you. I know that the job market for fresh undergrads is really tough right now. I actually did interviews at Penn/Wharton for my consulting firm and the competition there was pretty fierce. I would suggest working on your interviewing skills and using the Penn alumni network. The best way to get a job right now is to be proactive and not just apply to open, posted positions. At some point though you should probably just take your best available option and keep looking for something better.

IMO, it sounds like law school is not a good option for you. I can't speak to the value of a masters in accounting, but I can say that those firms are looking for pretty much the same things that all of the other firms out there are looking for. Most of my friends who wound up at the big 4 didn't even wind up getting masters degrees.

LeBronBBall
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby LeBronBBall » Sun Oct 30, 2011 7:24 pm

bdubs wrote:I feel for you. I know that the job market for fresh undergrads is really tough right now. I actually did interviews at Penn/Wharton for my consulting firm and the competition there was pretty fierce. I would suggest working on your interviewing skills and using the Penn alumni network. The best way to get a job right now is to be proactive and not just apply to open, posted positions. At some point though you should probably just take your best available option and keep looking for something better.

IMO, it sounds like law school is not a good option for you. I can't speak to the value of a masters in accounting, but I can say that those firms are looking for pretty much the same things that all of the other firms out there are looking for. Most of my friends who wound up at the big 4 didn't even wind up getting masters degrees.


The reason I am considering masters of accounting is that I did not major in accounting in college. I took only one intro accounting course in college and I need to go to master's program if I actually want to become a CPA. When I was in college, I had my sight on high finance or consulting, just like the rest of my classmates. Now that my original plan didn't work out, I am looking at plan B, which I believe is either law or accounting. Also, my guess is that getting Big4 accounting is no where as difficult or competitive as getting a job in high finance or consulting.

By the way, since you go to Northwestern Law, what percentage of kids there get BigLaw jobs? I am asking this because while I am not going to NU (didn't apply there), it may give me a rough idea of what 'success' rate of attaining a good job is out of the T14 law school I got into. (they both are ranked similar)

Since you mentioned that you worked in consulting and interviewed at Wharton, I think you know why I may be in this situation now... My GPA was pretty bad and I got dinged by most consulting firms at OCR even before having first round interviews. I really think my GPA screwed me over. Btw, what was the minimum GPA your consulting firm considered competitive for giving interviews or hiring, for Wharton students?

Also, could you please elaborate on why you think law school is a not a good option to pursue given my circumstances? Thank you.

bdubs
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby bdubs » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:10 pm

I would guess that your lack of substantive internships hurt you as much, or more than, your GPA in the job search overall. However, all of the consulting firms I know of have GPA floors around 3.5 or so.

At Northwestern about 2/3 of the class gets a job at a reasonably large law firm (not all paying 160,000 though). However, full freight tuition, plus living expenses for 3 years is going to run you well over $200,000. The 1/3 of the class who don't get a job are essentially screwed.

Law school is not a great thing to go through if you're just looking for a job that pays well. It's not a degree with a lot of general relevance, so it's only good for doing one thing practicing law. Unless you know you want to be a lawyer because it's the kind of work you're interested in, I wouldn't do it.

indo
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby indo » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:40 pm

You should not go to law school period. If you want to be CPA get an undergraduate degree in accounting.
Go back to school get that accounting degree. Its cheaper than law school. Sudy hard an gets all As in accounting classes.
Once you get the high grade in accounting stress that grade in your resume.

You are not a failure but you need to get self confident and believe in yourself. I think by getting a bachelor degree in accounting and do well you will be fine.

Transferthrowaway
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Re: Becoming a lawyer vs becoming a CPA

Postby Transferthrowaway » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:54 pm

Haven't read most of this thread, so I apologize if this has been covered already. I was an accounting UG who decided to go to law school.

1) MAcc Programs can be very expensive. I know Michigan's is something in the realm of $70k. Granted, this is less than 3 years of law school, but $70k for an outside shot at a job that pays $55k/year isn't so appealing.
2) Most entry level Big4 auditors, even if they've done a MAcc, have secured their full-time employment during UG.
3) Auditing sucks. Seriously. The hours are terrible and you do the most menial shit sometimes. One of my good friends does audit at a big 4 in NYC. He is literally working until 1-2 in the morning every night to be taking home $65k/year in NYC.




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