Perspectives on Law as a Profession

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Lokomani
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Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby Lokomani » Mon Jan 03, 2011 3:35 pm

Great thread starting up over at JDU, some good information on the legal profession . I re-posted the first piece (by AJRESQ):

I was re-reading my Foonberg book this weekend (How to Start and Build a Law Practice). The original preface states "Do not go to law school if your only goal is to make money. Only go if you have a sincere desire to help people. Economic rewards will follow."

I see the question above a lot here and the few times I've posted on TLS. I got into a certain law school, should I go? My answer to that question would be this...

If your goal is only to make a lot of money from a salary, no. I don't care if you get into Harvard or Cooley. The vast majority of people who get into biglaw don't make partner or laid off. Many of my colleagues thought they had won the law school lottery when they made biglaw, only to get laid off. Biglaw is hiring less and less as clients retain smaller firms with lower rates where they're not expected to subsidize the learning experience of first year associates.

If you don't get into biglaw, you will make about $35k - $75k a year doing doc review or working for a small firm, and even these jobs are hard to get.

Just because you went to a T1 or a "good" "reputable" school doesn't guarantee you a legal job. Just because you made biglaw doesn't guarantee you'll stay there forever. You should go to law school because you want to be a lawyer, you know what that entails, and you're willing to sacrifice a bit monetarily to do something you enjoy.

What a law degree and law license gives you is the "right" to start a small business selling legal services. If the idea of growing a small business sounds awful, you will probably not enjoy law.

Law is a profession where you're constantly growing, reevaluating, and learning. There is too much to master the entire field. While I agree with Foonberg on going because you want to help people, my thought would be this -- if you're not the type of person who enjoys constantly learning and developing, do not go into law.

In terms of money, some years are good, some years are slow. To make money in law requires a great deal of personal discipline, innovation, and dedication to "growing" a practice, whether you're at a big firm or small firm. In the long run, no one will hand you a salary because you went to a good school.

Anyway... those are my thoughts. If you want to enter a profession that's interesting and allows for a great deal of personal growth, you will like law. However, you will struggle financially and you have to dedicate yourself to it almost entirely to get really good at it. Not only law and trial, but business and practice management. If this doesn't appeal to you. don't go to law school whether you get into Harvard or Cooley. If this does appeal to you, I don't think it matters that much where you go.

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Big Shrimpin
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby Big Shrimpin » Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:36 pm

Lokomani wrote:"Do not go to law school if your only goal is to make money. Only go if you have a sincere desire to help people. Economic rewards will follow


tl;dr version:

If you really want to make money and just sort of have a sincere desire to help people, then economic rewards will follow.

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bk1
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby bk1 » Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:44 pm

lol at people who become lawyers to "help people."

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Big Shrimpin
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby Big Shrimpin » Mon Jan 03, 2011 6:33 pm

Since major corporations are technically individual entities (just cracked my corporations text for this semester like an hour ago, lol), one should be able to substitute a major corporation for a "person," thereby maintaining the potential for economic rewards, right?

keg411
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby keg411 » Mon Jan 03, 2011 7:31 pm

bk1 wrote:lol at people who become lawyers to "help people."

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hokie
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby hokie » Mon Jan 03, 2011 7:42 pm

bk1 wrote:lol at people who become lawyers to "help people."


help me help you by giving me lots of money to help you with your legal problems :mrgreen:

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Grizz
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby Grizz » Mon Jan 03, 2011 7:50 pm

keg411 wrote:
bk1 wrote:lol at people who become lawyers to "help people."


This.

Unless you consider helping people to be "obtaining favorable results for people who pay you," in which case go with Christ brah.

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Lawquacious
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby Lawquacious » Mon Jan 03, 2011 7:51 pm

Thanks for your post OP. I appreciate your insight, especially since it sounds like you (may) have some actual experience working as an attorney.

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iagolives
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby iagolives » Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:24 pm

rad law wrote:
keg411 wrote:
bk1 wrote:lol at people who become lawyers to "help people."

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Lawquacious
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby Lawquacious » Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:32 pm

iagolives wrote:
rad law wrote:
keg411 wrote:
bk1 wrote:lol at people who become lawyers to "help people."


IDK I don't find it so funny that some people want to go into law to help people (such as underprivileged etc). I really doubt that the vast majority of people pursuing law go into it for altruistic reasons, or that such reasons are in any way necessary for going into the profession, but the fact that some people may actually have altruistic motives for going into law doesn't seem ridiculous to me.

rad law wrote:Unless you consider helping people to be "obtaining favorable results for people who pay you," in which case go with Christ brah.


I know your prob just joking around, but this seems to imply a bias toward firm jobs. There are plenty of public service legal positions that some people may have genuine interest in where they really could be of service to others- and where the primary motivation for taking such a job is def not the pay.

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bk1
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby bk1 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:29 pm

Lawquacious wrote:IDK I don't find it so funny that some people want to go into law to help people (such as underprivileged etc). I really doubt that the vast majority of people pursuing law go into it for altruistic reasons, or that such reasons are in any way necessary for going into the profession, but the fact that some people may actually have altruistic motives for going into law doesn't seem ridiculous to me.


The point is that if they genuinely wanted to help people and weren't naive little dipshits they would understand there are a million different ways of helping people that are far better and more useful than becoming a lawyer.

It's like saying I genuinely want to help cure breast cancer so I bought a week's worth of yogurt and sent in the pink foil tops!

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Grizz
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby Grizz » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:38 pm

bk1 wrote:
Lawquacious wrote:IDK I don't find it so funny that some people want to go into law to help people (such as underprivileged etc). I really doubt that the vast majority of people pursuing law go into it for altruistic reasons, or that such reasons are in any way necessary for going into the profession, but the fact that some people may actually have altruistic motives for going into law doesn't seem ridiculous to me.


The point is that if they genuinely wanted to help people and weren't naive little dipshits they would understand there are a million different ways of helping people that are far better and more useful than becoming a lawyer.

It's like saying I genuinely want to help cure breast cancer so I bought a week's worth of yogurt and sent in the pink foil tops!


This.

bdubs
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby bdubs » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:48 pm

..
Last edited by bdubs on Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

AJRESQ
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby AJRESQ » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:17 pm

Hello: I'm glad some of you liked my JDU post. I don't often post here, but what I was trying to say is don't go into law because you think you'll make a lot of money. There are better ways to make money that don't involve student loans, malpractice risks, state bar regulation, etc. Do not go to law school solely for the purpose of biglaw -- most don't get into biglaw. Of those who do, most don't make partner or stay in forever. There is no guarantee you'll get a six figure salary right out of law school, and if you do there is no guarantee you'll hang onto it. Most of my colleagues who started out in biglaw are out of it, many are out of the legal profession entirely. No degree can guarantee you'll make it in biglaw -- not even Harvard. More importantly, no degree will guarantee you'll enjoy the profession.

That said, law can be rewarding if you want a profession where you're constantly challenging yourself and helping people (including corporations) fix their problems. Over the long run, some years you'll make money and some years you won't. You should become a lawyer because you think you'll enjoy the profession, not because you think it's a guaranteed ticket to an upper middle class lifestyle. It's not. It's not even a guarantee for a middle class lifestyle. Right now even the most entry level of jobs are hard to get -- my current law clerk is a licensed attorney. Starting your own practice means you'll struggle financially for a few years and sacrifice financially.

When I hear the question "I got into XYZ School of Law, should I go?" I just don't think that's a fair question. Your law school doesn't dictate nearly as much of your legal career as some might think. It's more of a marathon than a sprint, and just getting into biglaw right out of the gate doesn't mean as much as people think. There are so many different factors that go into whether you'll be a successful attorney, law school being, in the grand scheme of things, a minor one.

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bk1
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby bk1 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:29 pm

AJRESQ wrote:That said, law can be rewarding if you want a profession where you're constantly challenging yourself and helping people (including corporations) fix their problems.


While it doesn't necessarily come across in your post, I think that your interpretation of "helping people" is in line with reality, yet markedly different from the average law applicant's view of it.

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Big Shrimpin
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby Big Shrimpin » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:01 pm

.

Voyager
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby Voyager » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:56 pm

AJRESQ wrote:When I hear the question "I got into XYZ School of Law, should I go?" I just don't think that's a fair question. Your law school doesn't dictate nearly as much of your legal career as some might think. It's more of a marathon than a sprint, and just getting into biglaw right out of the gate doesn't mean as much as people think. There are so many different factors that go into whether you'll be a successful attorney, law school being, in the grand scheme of things, a minor one.


you know, I like a lot of what you wrote.

That said, it seems to me that where you went to school does provide more options. Lawyers are prestige whores in a way that no other profession outside of academia (now THAT is a shitty path to go down) is.

I agree that one's life is long and aggressive, clever, confident, hard working people can find interesting paths for themselves, but the fact of the matter is, the dude that went to Harvard Law and/or has top grades will generally have leg up over someone who went to [___] or who is median for his whole career even if he choses to become an ADA or do some other public interest gig or go to a small firm.

In fact, there was an article about this problem 2 years ago. Jobs had dried up by then and the kids tha wanted public interest law jobs were finding that the public interest jobs were being snatched up by the students from better ranked schools/better grades who simply failed in their biglaw search.

Also, people who really wanted public interest got aced out of it by people

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Big Shrimpin
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby Big Shrimpin » Tue Jan 04, 2011 11:48 pm

AJRESQ wrote:. . . and helping people (including corporations) . . . .


(I was right?)

TBF, he/she's got a point somewhere in there. The majority of LS students will never work in a law firm with over 100 attorneys (proxy for 6-figure salary...moreover, almost ALL students from SOME ABA-accredited schools will never start out over 100K...don't have the link for the NALP data, but it's in the ballpark). If you're not going to a top school and all you want is a biglaw/100K+ gig, then you should think long and hard/weigh pros and cons about going (e.g. scholarships, cost of attendance, etc...).

To be sure, many more applicants these days probably have a better perspective on legal hiring because there has been so much more reporting and blogosphere outcry recently. Unfortunately, however, many will succumb to either misinformation or an inadequately formed perspective about LS and legal employment. I went to a non-TLS (taking on tons of debt) with dreams of biglaw, notwithstanding full knowledge that such a decision to matriculate was an extremely risky dice-roll (I'm a colossal idiot).

I got lucky in my job search (and am infinitely thankful), but many did not. I can only imagine the stress, anguish, disappointment, and inadequacy that many feel after missing their biglaw boat/dreams in 2L OCI (for argument's sake, the most probable instance of landing such a gig). I imagine myself in that position, and I would encourage prospective students to seriously consider those ends. Moreover, having a 2L SA gig in NO WAY guarantees a "permanent"...lol...gig these days. I STILL keep reminding myself of what it could be like if/when I get no-offered as motivation to keep working hard. Not a day goes by that I'm not thankful, and I only wish the best to all those who are still looking.

I only ever really post to provide a perspective for future readers and hope that prospective 0Ls might find my perspective helpful. I would, however, implore that prospectives gather many perspectives before making a decision.

Karma, FTW.

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AreJay711
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby AreJay711 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 11:58 pm

Lawquacious wrote:
IDK I don't find it so funny that some people want to go into law to help people (such as underprivileged etc). I really doubt that the vast majority of people pursuing law go into it for altruistic reasons, or that such reasons are in any way necessary for going into the profession, but the fact that some people may actually have altruistic motives for going into law doesn't seem ridiculous to me.


Altruism doesn't exist but rather we just take self-interested or habitual acts to be altruistic.

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NZA
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby NZA » Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:00 am

iagolives wrote:
rad law wrote:
keg411 wrote:
bk1 wrote:lol at people who become lawyers to "help people."

:oops:

EDIT: Blushing because I am one of those people. I think lawyers can make significant and positive impacts on the lives of individuals.

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iagolives
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby iagolives » Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:07 am

NZA wrote:
iagolives wrote:
rad law wrote:
keg411 wrote:lol at people who become lawyers to "help people."

:oops:

EDIT: Blushing because I am one of those people. I think lawyers can make significant and positive impacts on the lives of individuals.


I mean, I think they can and I was one of those people once but I think that the way law schools/the legal profession form us that it gets pretty beaten out of us. Also, I think that it is good advice to people thinking of law school to come up with something more specific than "helping people." I think people with a specific PI goal/sets of experiences might get them through law school without becoming jaded more than just a general wide-eyed sense. Looking back, though, I guess my quad-posting of that statement was a bit flip. I'm not there anymore, NZA, but I do respect you for sticking it out.

AJRESQ
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby AJRESQ » Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:44 am

Look, regardless of where and what you practice, you have to enjoy the practice of law on some level, otherwise you're going to be unhappy. I think what people lose sight of both here and on JDU (and it's difficult not to) is the fact that your legal career will most likely span 30 - 40 years, and it will encompass a great deal of time in those years. If you view the practice of law as being entirely about money, you're not going to like it, and you're not going to enjoy your life.

That isn't to say law can't be lucrative -- it can be -- it's just all that lucrative all the time, especially compared to the level of commitment. Trust me on this. Law is just too time intensive. Do you want to devote almost all of your time to something you hate?

Let me try and put this into context: when you've put in your 50+ hours for the week, will you be okay then spending all weekend prepping for trial on a Monday morning? Will you mind having to stay in a hotel for a week, away from your family, missing all the other stuff going on? Does it bother you to spend all weekend brushing up on your contract drafting, or trial techniques, instead of playing video games? Do you mind taking client calls in the off hours, or calls from partners during family events or vacations? How about spending a late night at the office to e-file something at 11:59am, and then having to be at a hearing at 9:00am the next morning in a county two hours away? Do you mind constantly getting home after the gym is closed and having to muster up the energy just to get on the treadmill for a half hour? Will you mind when your husband / wife wants you to come watch TV with them that you're on the phone or on your computer? Will they mind? When you're coming home late all the time, will you wonder what your husband / wife has been up to? As you're falling asleep, suddenly you wonder if that Complaint went out, and if it didn't, you missed the statute and now you can't sleep... will that bother you over a period of time? These are just some of the personal and family sacrifices we make.

You will miss a lot of family events, holidays, and spend a lot of late nights and early mornings working. You will not be able to sleep sometimes because you're worried you missed a deadline, forgot to ask a question in a deposition, or your secretary might have forgotten to calendar a hearing you had no idea about. If you don't enjoy law, the stress, combined with the time commitment, it will get old real fast.

Candidly, the stress of law school, college, the LSAT, or the bar exam is a joke compared to the actual practice. If you do bad on a test or turn something in late, you get a bad grade and life goes on. However, if you screw up a client's case / miss a deadline, you could be sued for malpractice and lose your law license. And anyone who googles you will know. You can't just give up or quit without breaching an ethical duty to your clients. This isn't like your old job where you could just say 'screw it'.

Anyway... enjoy what you do, hopefully make some cash doing it, but know what you're getting into. I hope you enjoy it; I do. What I'm trying to say is the profession is too time intensive and too stressful if all you're interested in is making money. You have to enjoy it, as you're going to sacrifice quite a bit for it.

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Kohinoor
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Re: Perspectives on Law as a Profession

Postby Kohinoor » Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:57 pm

NZA wrote: :oops:

EDIT: Blushing because I am one of those people. I think lawyers can make significant and positive impacts on the lives of individuals.
High school guidance counselors have vastly more significant and positive impacts on the lives of more individuals and don't need to pass the bar or worry about malpractice. The hours are better, the investment costs are minimal by comparison, and the clients couldn't be more appreciative. So, y'know, think about it.




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