Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

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RadHomie

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Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby RadHomie » Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:47 pm

Hey all,

Currently working as a Chief Data Scientist/ Director of Analytics with the US Gov in the National Security space, making ~$250k.

I am now at a professional crossroads where I would like to eventually enter more policy oriented roles, rather than the analytical ones I’ve been in. Knowing my educational background lacks the policy world pedigree (shitty online school from when I was in the Army), I applied to several schools - and was accepted to several T14, and eventually settled on one that I liked, where I have deferred admission until next fall.

As I’m evaluating the road ahead - I’m trying to loosely budget out what to do financially with my longer term assets (my real estate, mainly), and just generally trying to get a good grip on what kind of market treatment I’d get post-graduation.

Anyways, let’s say I end up interviewing at one of the DC firms that has a prominent national security law practice, would my 10+ years of work experience in that niche arena be worth a higher salary? Or is it the same across the board for all new grads?

If there is a bargaining process for those of us with significant experience in a field, what does that look like? Do biglaw firms generally seek that out - or would I have to find them? Is the value placed on the work experience itself, or the professional network that is brought with it? All or none of the above?


—————-
Separately, since a total of 4 years of school is free thanks to the GI bill, does adding top tier MBA add earning potential or change this calculus?

2013

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby 2013 » Thu Oct 11, 2018 6:07 pm

Do you have a book of business? If not, you’ll have to start as a first year most likely. However, security law is a big thing now, so maybe you’ll get some bump.

There are plenty of former scientists with PhDs that have to start as first years
Last edited by QContinuum on Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Outed for anon abuse.

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 11, 2018 7:26 pm

Just curious as to why you chose law school instead of business school, which seems to be more in line with your stated purpose. Additionally, you'd be looking at costs and expenses and opportunity costs of 2 years instead of 3.

I had 10+ years of relevant experience when I went to law school... had to start at the bottom of the scale just like any other first year when I started. You might have more leeway to negotiate if you go to specialized firms (just an assumption as I have no actual experience with this), but otherwise, I'd say your prior experience will have no impact whatsoever on your earning power at the start.

JohnnieSockran

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby JohnnieSockran » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Just curious as to why you chose law school instead of business school, which seems to be more in line with your stated purpose. Additionally, you'd be looking at costs and expenses and opportunity costs of 2 years instead of 3.

I had 10+ years of relevant experience when I went to law school... had to start at the bottom of the scale just like any other first year when I started. You might have more leeway to negotiate if you go to specialized firms (just an assumption as I have no actual experience with this), but otherwise, I'd say your prior experience will have no impact whatsoever on your earning power at the start.


And to piggyback on this...a first year associate makes $205k (if you hit your bonus). A 3rd year makes $270k (again, assuming bonus). But, your expenses are most likely much higher, since you'll be paying off law school debt. So, not only will you lose 3 years of earning $250k/year, but you'll also rack up significant debt, and it'll take at least 3 years to get back to the income level you're currently at.

To me, law school wouldn't be worth it at this point, considering that most graduates don't work in biglaw, and the ones that do often don't make it past 3-5 years. So, that is a long way to say that there may be other better ways of achieving your goals (like an MBA, or are there policy graduate programs?).

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:57 pm

Since you updated your OP, I'll also update my initial response. For the jobs that do require or prefer MBA's, your relevant prior work experience will generally have a significant impact on your starting salary out of business school. I know this from personal experience. Yes, I had an MBA and worked for awhile in a different career prior to going to law school. But then, I had always wanted to be a lawyer, whereas in your case it looks like you don't actually want to be a lawyer (now as a mid/senior I sometimes ask myself why and what was I thinking) -- you just want to get that pedigree on your resume.

Based on your stated goals and current situation, I suggest that you really think very long about whether going to law school is a good option for you. Even if tuition will be free in any event, you'll still incur cost of living and other expenses, plus you'd be foregoing an extra year of earnings. Additionally, as the poster above noted, it will take you 2-3 years to get back to your current income level.

I would suggest doing an executive or fully-employed MBA program to the extent there is a school near your area that would concurrently give you the pedigree you seek. That way you get to have your cake and eat it, too. If that's not an option and the option is between full-time B-school and full-time law school, I'd go with B-school (again, based on your stated goals and current situation).

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 11, 2018 9:11 pm

RadHomie wrote:Hey all,

Currently working as a Chief Data Scientist/ Director of Analytics with the US Gov in the National Security space, making ~$250k.

I am now at a professional crossroads where I would like to eventually enter more policy oriented roles, rather than the analytical ones I’ve been in. Knowing my educational background lacks the policy world pedigree (shitty online school from when I was in the Army), I applied to several schools - and was accepted to several T14, and eventually settled on one that I liked, where I have deferred admission until next fall.

As I’m evaluating the road ahead - I’m trying to loosely budget out what to do financially with my longer term assets (my real estate, mainly), and just generally trying to get a good grip on what kind of market treatment I’d get post-graduation.

Anyways, let’s say I end up interviewing at one of the DC firms that has a prominent national security law practice, would my 10+ years of work experience in that niche arena be worth a higher salary? Or is it the same across the board for all new grads?

If there is a bargaining process for those of us with significant experience in a field, what does that look like? Do biglaw firms generally seek that out - or would I have to find them? Is the value placed on the work experience itself, or the professional network that is brought with it? All or none of the above?


—————-
Separately, since a total of 4 years of school is free thanks to the GI bill, does adding top tier MBA add earning potential or change this calculus?


Hey! Former Army guy here. I applaud your willingness to expand your horizons and I think you should go to law school. But I think you should keep realistic expectations about national security law. It is a very niche area and difficult to get into. I think your background gives you a better shot than most. But I was essentially laughed at when I approached nat sec people (I was an Armor officer and speak an impacted language. So I'm not totally clueless in nat sec). I guess the problem is that a lot of attorneys in the nat sec space have a hard time seeing how your non-legal nat sec background relates. Again, though, I think you have a better shot than most.

As far as pay, I think you're going to take a hit and, possibly, work longer hours. If you go big law you'll start at the bottom salary (180-190k). I don't see a way around this. Biglaw cares little about your prior work experience. You'd probably be better off looking for a boutique firm that specializes in nat sec (I don't even know if biglaw does nat sec?)

Obviously, you'll have a leg up applying to DOJ Nat sec division, CIA counsel or Treasury. But you'll probably take a pay cut there too.

johndhi

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby johndhi » Fri Oct 12, 2018 11:53 am

I recommend you try to talk to the hiring managers of the jobs you're interested in securing and ask them for their views. This sounds like a situation where you could get your employer to pay for you to get your law degree part-time while continuing to work for them and transitioning into more of a policy role. Much better that way than jumping into the deep end with all the people vying for biglaw. I wouldn't be surprised if a biglaw firm would be interested in hiring you as an expert/contractor and that you could get some experience that way, either without the law degree or while working on it.

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Oct 12, 2018 2:44 pm

As someone who just accepted a 2L SA offer in an area of law where I have three years of relevant past experience, it was washed away when I received my offer. And there wasn't any budging by the firm because the salary is set at the regional level for all incoming SA's. The same will be true if I get a full-time offer and accept. However, I was told that if I use those previous skills and show what I can do, future work opportunities and bonuses will reflect that.

Dnl2111

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby Dnl2111 » Sat Oct 13, 2018 6:53 am

RadHomie wrote:Hey all,

Currently working as a Chief Data Scientist/ Director of Analytics with the US Gov in the National Security space, making ~$250k.

I am now at a professional crossroads where I would like to eventually enter more policy oriented roles, rather than the analytical ones I’ve been in. Knowing my educational background lacks the policy world pedigree (shitty online school from when I was in the Army), I applied to several schools - and was accepted to several T14, and eventually settled on one that I liked, where I have deferred admission until next fall.

As I’m evaluating the road ahead - I’m trying to loosely budget out what to do financially with my longer term assets (my real estate, mainly), and just generally trying to get a good grip on what kind of market treatment I’d get post-graduation.

Anyways, let’s say I end up interviewing at one of the DC firms that has a prominent national security law practice, would my 10+ years of work experience in that niche arena be worth a higher salary? Or is it the same across the board for all new grads?

If there is a bargaining process for those of us with significant experience in a field, what does that look like? Do biglaw firms generally seek that out - or would I have to find them? Is the value placed on the work experience itself, or the professional network that is brought with it? All or none of the above?


—————-
Separately, since a total of 4 years of school is free thanks to the GI bill, does adding top tier MBA add earning potential or change this calculus?


I had no idea government jobs pulled down that kind of money. :shock: As to your question, I’d agree with other posters that first year salaries for big law firms (and, to a lesser extent, I would imagine) at not-big law firms. I’d bet good money that boutique firms would see greater value in your past experience than a big law firm would, simply because smaller organizations of any kind tend to have greater flexibility.
Last edited by QContinuum on Mon Oct 15, 2018 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Outed for anon abuse.

timbs4339

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby timbs4339 » Sat Oct 13, 2018 11:59 am

I suggest that you reach out and network with people in the types of jobs you’d be interested in working in. Biglaw firms have really rigid hiring processes and salary/bonus scales. I know people who have run successful businesses (and who hired biglaw firms to do their legal work) who when they entered the biglaw rat race were asked to start over as first years. I know this must sound odd but it’s a really heirarchical system and the work you are doing as a lawyer is so specialized that they can’t justify giving you a pay bump or class year bump when you join.

Smaller/boutique firms have much more flexibility in hiring, but there are less jobs. You should also look into the types of consulting/lobbying/policy shops that you would typically exit into from your current poisition and see how they would view the law degree without significant practice experience.
Last edited by QContinuum on Mon Oct 15, 2018 2:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Outed for anon abuse.

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Oct 14, 2018 1:05 pm

One thing to keep in mind is that any kind of class year bump does not necessarily benefit you in the long run. We have a few folks at my firm who got a bump in salary/class year for MBAs, but the reality is that even as “fifth” years they often do not perform at the same level as true fifth years. If you are going in-house they will be looking at your years of experience, not class year within your firm, when making hiring decisions.

That said, extra cash is extra cash, especially if you are not planning to be at a firm long term. And you could probably negotiate a hair-cut further down the line if you feel you are lacking the experience needed to perform at your class year (more likely to be an issue as you transition to a senior associate role).

Npret

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby Npret » Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:45 pm

Why do you want or need law school?
No matter where you start you are going to be at square one doing basic scut work like all the other first years. All salary is lock step at big firms for good reason, almost everyone is expendable or replaceable and the partners can do the work themselves. Unless you have your own clients, you’re going to make the same as everyone else.
I’m not sure why you want to go this direction.
It seems like a step backwards and a waste of time for you.

Npret

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Re: Does prior work experience translate to $$$?

Postby Npret » Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:As someone who just accepted a 2L SA offer in an area of law where I have three years of relevant past experience, it was washed away when I received my offer. And there wasn't any budging by the firm because the salary is set at the regional level for all incoming SA's. The same will be true if I get a full-time offer and accept. However, I was told that if I use those previous skills and show what I can do, future work opportunities and bonuses will reflect that.

During your SA I suggest you discretely look into whether anyone has ever received a larger bonus based on previous experience in the area, and talk with them. My experience is that if you don’t have clients, the amount you get paid is the same as everyone else.



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