Engineer considering switching to law - should I do it?

(Study Tips, Dealing With Stress, Maintaining a Social Life, Financial Aid, Internships, Bar Exam, Careers in Law . . . )
User avatar
rayiner
Posts: 6184
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2008 11:43 am

Re: Engineer considering switching to law - should I do it?

Postby rayiner » Sat Jun 23, 2012 11:58 am

crossarmant wrote:
rayiner wrote:If you want a low-stress 9-5, you can have that in engineering, but you'll be making $80k. You can have that in law too, just go work for state government or something.


Except you're more likely to find one of those in engineering and not have to take out $100k+ in student loans or spend more time in school. I think with engineering, you're contributing something to society and you're making solid money with which to start a family and live a genuinely fine life. I think there's too much risk involved in giving up a solid career to pursue law just because you're bored.


$100k or even $200k is not a life-altering amount of money. Not when you make that in a year or two. It's important to consider the debt, but you can't let that completely overshadow all other factors.

It's highly romanticized that engineers are "contributing something to society." As an engineer, you work hard to pad the pockets of wealthy investors, just like you do in law. Hell, I have contributed a lot more to society just in law school doing clinical work than I ever did working as an engineer on defense contracts.

Engineering does let you make solid money and live a fine life. No doubt. But there is a lot more earning potential in law. A fresh hire at Sullivan & Cromwell has a much better chance of making $1m+ as a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell (maybe 3-5%) than a fresh hire at Amazon has of making $1m+ as a successful startup founder (maybe 0.01%). And if you're talking about partnership at some firm somewhere where you'll make more than the $150k you ever will as an engineer, well then that's achievable if you play your cards right. And in the mean time, you'll have an office with a door that closes, a secretary, etc.

People on this board complain endlessly about how firms are too leveraged and partners make too much money off the backs of associates. Even at a leveraged sweatshop like Cravath, 35%+ of the revenue attributable to a mid-level associate will go to his compensation or for overhead like his office, secretary, etc. For a highly productive software engineer, it might be something like 10%. Software companies are phenomenally leveraged, with hundreds of rank-and-file engineers and lower-level managers for every person that owns equity. The nature of law leads to inherently flat hierarchies.

There is a good post on Hacker News today that exemplifies the terrible aspects of engineering that people on TLS usually overlook: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4150569. It's about how Nokia is firing a team they acquired a few years ago because they're switching to Microsoft technologies. The poster argues that:
1) retraining developers in a slightly different technology is untenable, so it makes sense to just get fresh ones;
2) that in any case there are tons of developers on the market versed in the new slightly different technology;
3) blames the engineers at Nokia for not taking responsibility for the direction of the company (a company they have neither equity in nor executive control over).

Perspectives like this typify how executives feel about engineers. Even post Latham/Dewey, lawyers are far better off. Firms recognize that lawyers are intelligent and can adapt to changing law. When they have layoffs, it's because the economy tanks. Engineering companies have regular layoffs even in good times because they see engineers as suitable only for specific technologies. Law firms put a lot of responsibility on associates for the direction of the firm, but even the most highly leveraged firm gives associates a much better shot at equity than an engineer has at a C-suite position at an engineering company. A second or third year at Cravath runs his own (smaller) deals. Outside of the startup space, engineering companies don't let third year engineers come near the client.

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Engineer considering switching to law - should I do it?

Postby CanadianWolf » Sat Jun 23, 2012 12:06 pm

OP: Prepare for & take the LSAT so that your options become better defined. Also, consider sitting for the GMAT to explore additional options.

Law schools tend to buy high LSAT scores, while business schools focus on experience while requiring high GMAT scores.

Not sure that I agree with a comment in this thread which suggests that start-up experience is not sufficient for the most elite MBA schools.

Also, not sure that OP's current situation is as stable or promising as some posters seem to think.

User avatar
jingosaur
Posts: 2225
Joined: Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:33 am

Re: Engineer considering switching to law - should I do it?

Postby jingosaur » Tue Mar 26, 2013 11:11 am

COMMENT DELETED
Last edited by jingosaur on Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Myself
Posts: 1372
Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:36 pm

.

Postby Myself » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:20 pm

.
Last edited by Myself on Tue Nov 19, 2013 11:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
BerkeleyBear
Posts: 257
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:22 pm

Re: Engineer considering switching to law - should I do it?

Postby BerkeleyBear » Thu Mar 28, 2013 12:25 am

ajax adonis wrote:
hpk wrote:Hi everyone. I'm looking for some advice; any thoughts you have would be helpful.

I'm a 26 year old software engineer who's kind of sick of software development. I'm looking for a new challenge and considering a career change to something like IP law (probably patent law). In no particular order, and at the risk of being somewhat less than anonymous, here are some questions I'm grappling with:

1) I currently make $110k with four years of work experience - great money for my age, I know, but engineer/developer salaries tend to start large and plateau fairly quickly. I can reasonably expect to top out at something like $160k without a career change or move into management. So, the question is, would the total cost of law school (tuition plus the opportunity cost of 3 years of missed income) be worth getting onto a new track with a larger income ceiling?

2) Would any IP/patent attorneys be able to talk about the variety of their work and quality of life? I've heard two very different stories about patent law: that it's mind-numbingly dull work, consisting of endless patent applications and not much else, and that it's a highly engaging environment, requiring constant learning and lots of new challenges. Anyone care to offer their opinions?

3) I'm married, no kids, and just bought a house in a large Midwestern city a couple years ago. There are no T14 schools in my state, but one T20 and a couple other lower tier schools. It would be convenient to not have to sell the house and move to a T14 school, but if going to anything else is a waste of time and money, I'm willing to bite the bullet. I have a 3.36 GPA from UMich (BS Electrical Engineering) and got a 170 on the first LSAT practice test I took with no preparation. So I'm confident I can get a great LSAT score, but not so happy about my undergrad GPA. Would shooting for a T14 school be reasonable? Would going to my local T20 state school be a waste?

4) How are IP/patent law job prospects in the Midwest? Would I have to move to one of the coasts in order to actually find an interesting and high-paying job?

Sorry for the deluge of questions; as you can tell, I'm very early in the process of getting my shit together.

Thanks!


If you really really really want to go to law school, then make sure to go into something that requires you to have an Engineering degree (e.g., IP). And if you do go to law school, only go part-time. That way, you can still be in your job and still have it if the law school thing doesn't work out. Find a law school that is reasonable and lets you do part-time and that allows you to work. You'll be busy and you may not have time for family, but that's what I recommend.

But honestly, I wouldn't ever ever go to law school unless you can do the above.

By the way, it's people like you (who make 110K/year, at a steady job) who make me shake my head. You have everything, and you're willing to throw it all away to go into a field with no certainty of success or pay increase? Plus the loans? Have you not read the news? Have you not read the blog posts? Law school is not worth it right now.

If you really want a challenge, why not try to get your Masters? Or your PhD? Or hell, even get an MBA and try to get into management at your job. Why law school? I don't get it.

I know many more successful and happy engineers with good work-life balance than I do lawyers. The only lawyers I see with happiness and work-life balance work in the public or nonprofit sectors.

:lol: OP hasn't posted on TLS in a long time.

hurldes
Posts: 138
Joined: Wed Dec 01, 2010 3:32 pm

Re: Engineer considering switching to law - should I do it?

Postby hurldes » Fri Mar 29, 2013 11:26 am

crossarmant wrote:
hpk wrote:Hi everyone. I'm looking for some advice; any thoughts you have would be helpful.

I'm a 26 year old software engineer who's kind of sick of software development. I'm looking for a new challenge and considering a career change to something like IP law (probably patent law). In no particular order, and at the risk of being somewhat less than anonymous, here are some questions I'm grappling with:


1) I currently make $110k with four years of work experience - great money for my age, I know, but engineer/developer salaries tend to start large and plateau fairly quickly. [s]I can reasonably expect to top out at something like $160k without a career change or move into management. So, the question is, would the total cost of law school (tuition plus the opportunity cost of 3 years of missed income) be worth getting onto a new track with a larger income ceiling?

2) Would any IP/patent attorneys be able to talk about the variety of their work and quality of life? I've heard two very different stories about patent law: that it's mind-numbingly dull work, consisting of endless patent applications and not much else, and that it's a highly engaging environment, requiring constant learning and lots of new challenges. Anyone care to offer their opinions?

3) I'm married, no kids, and just bought a house in a large Midwestern city a couple years ago. There are no T14 schools in my state, but one T20 and a couple other lower tier schools. It would be convenient to not have to sell the house and move to a T14 school, but if going to anything else is a waste of time and money, I'm willing to bite the bullet. I have a 3.36 GPA from UMich (BS Electrical Engineering) and got a 170 on the first LSAT practice test I took with no preparation. So I'm confident I can get a great LSAT score, but not so happy about my undergrad GPA. Would shooting for a T14 school be reasonable? Would going to my local T20 state school be a waste?

4) How are IP/patent law job prospects in the Midwest? Would I have to move to one of the coasts in order to actually find an interesting and high-paying job?

Sorry for the deluge of questions; as you can tell, I'm very early in the process of getting my shit together.

Thanks!


--ImageRemoved--

In all seriousness, do not go to law school, you have a great thing going. Chances are you won't like BigLaw either. You're married, own a home, and make a great living as it is (more than most attorneys).

Don't go.


I have to disagree... with a BS in EE, a 3.3 undergrad gpa, and a 170+ on the LSAT, I'd say you have a great shot at biglaw. As in, go to a T20, get in the top 50%, and you'll get several biglaw offers, starting at $160k. A lot of the posters don't realize how valuable an EE degree is.




Return to “Forum for Law School Students”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: AZ123, Exabot [Bot], gooserpunk, mudiverse, ramadar and 8 guests