To Go To Law School or Not (Engineer w/ 4 Years Experience?)

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
zimmejs
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:49 am

To Go To Law School or Not (Engineer w/ 4 Years Experience?)

Postby zimmejs » Wed May 02, 2012 9:02 pm

Here's my situation. I work as an engineer for a construction company and have been doing so for about 4.5 years now ever since I graduated undergrad. I have thought about going to law school and trying to practice construction law but am really having a hard time weighing the pros & cons and am looking for any advice that could help in making my decision. Here's some more background info.

I am 27 now (single, no kids) and am applying for schools to start in Fall 2013. I am currently signed up for June and October '12 LSATS. Testing around 150 on practice tests with a few months of casual studying (I also work +/- 50 hours a week so there just aren't enough hours in the day to devote to studying, even when I do get off work I can only focus and be productive for so long before I start to get off track). Anyway, my ultimate goal is to work in either DC or NYC. Having spent time in both I can see myself living in either one. I am stuck in Georgia right now, and due to the uncertainty with my job, am forced to relocate every 2-3 years (some places are much better than others obviously). I would like to attend school either around DC or a state school in Georgia (state school purely for financial reasons). I have saved enough that I could pay for 1, maybe 2 years on my own, but that would completely deplete my savings. I have never worked in a law office but have always been a strong writer, and enjoy dealing with contracts (a large part of my everyday job). Obviously, I am hesitant to make such a big comittment without knowing exactly what I am getting myself into. I have talked to some people in the field, and I pretty much hear the pros and cons, but ultimately "it's your decision".

Pros -
1. Would work in a field that would challenge me to think more (in other words, I enjoy being around educated people, which right now I am not).
2. Would give me a broad range of experience to fall back on (I feel like even if I am not able to get a job in law upon graduation I will be able to use my previous work experience to find [i]something[i].
3. Would give me a much better chance of ending up in either DC or NYC, which is where I ultimately want to spend my working years.

Cons -
1. Not 100% sure I will enjoy practicing law.
2. Financial concern. I have no debt right now and have to consider where I will be in 3 years if I have to take out student loans in lieu of continuing to save for 3 more years.
3. Poor/uncertain job market. This is my main concern, especially with the number of grads who will be entering the workforce in the next 3 years.

So...with all that info, what are the realities I am facing?

Any and all help would be greatly appreciated.

treeey86
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:26 pm

Re: To Go To Law School or Not (Engineer w/ 4 Years Experience?)

Postby treeey86 » Wed May 02, 2012 10:45 pm

Here are the questions you should be asking yourself:

(1) Do you want to do patent prosecution or patent litigation? Lawyers with engineering degrees can prosecute patents. Patent litigation departments like having lawyers with an engineering background (although it is not a necessity).

If the answer is yes, law school will be MUCH easier for you, and so will job prospects. So long as you do decently well ( think top third) at a T1 you can get a lot of job opportunities in patent law following graduation. It is the one area of law that seems to be shielded from the economy because of the stringent qualifications lawyers need to practice.

(2) Can you handle working more than 50+ hours a week in a stressful environment? Regardless of what field of law you go to you likely will be working more than 50+ hours a week, especially if you go the big firm route. Patent prosecutors might have it easier in terms of working in stressful working environments.

--------

DC and NYC are both big markets to break into. To stand out you need connections or be able to practice patent prosecution ( which you could with your engineering background).

If you don't know if you will like practicing law, you need to determine that before you step foot in a class. Go ahead take the LSAT and send out apps if you can afford it, but if there is any doubt prior to matriculation you probably should not go.

And please go research patent prosecution and see if that is something you would like to do. If so, it pays good money, and hours are generally better than most other practices, there are WAY more jobs/firms hiring.

Also look into what a patent agent does. You don't need to have a JD to do that. Again the money is good. You can even start up your own firm with a few years experience and some reliable clients and avoid the whole 3 years of law school + debt.

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

Re: To Go To Law School or Not (Engineer w/ 4 Years Experience?)

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed May 02, 2012 11:03 pm

Take the LSAT to see what your reasonable expectations should be regarding law school options & scholarships. You'll need to break out of the 150s to be able to seriously consider law school, in my opinion. The University of Georgia, for example, probably requires a 164 or higher to be a competitive applicant. Check lawschoolnumbers.com.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Wed May 02, 2012 11:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

berkeleykel06
Posts: 292
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 3:39 am

Re: To Go To Law School or Not (Engineer w/ 4 Years Experience?)

Postby berkeleykel06 » Wed May 02, 2012 11:04 pm

treeey86 wrote:
DC and NYC are both big markets to break into. To stand out you need connections or be able to practice patent prosecution ( which you could with your engineering background).


What? NYC is the easiest market to break into. You don't need connections/ties. DC is harder, but only because of more competition for less jobs, not because of a need of connections.

OP, what is your undergrad GPA? Your practice LSAT scores are really low, so you have to make it a priority to bring that up. There is no point in going to law school with an LSAT in the 150s.

What type of engineering degree do you have? Although you didn't mention a desire to do IP, having IP as a back up option would significantly increase your job prospects. But this depends on what type of engineering degree you have, as some types are much more desirable than others.

Repartee16
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:00 am

Re: To Go To Law School or Not (Engineer w/ 4 Years Experience?)

Postby Repartee16 » Thu May 03, 2012 12:39 pm

This is also relevant to my interests.

It sounds like OP might be like me, and have a Civil Engineering degree. Civil Engineers qualify to sit for the patent bar, but are not nearly as desirable as Electrical or Computer Science.

How much does undergrad weigh in at when an employer is looking through your file? Does the law school gpa outweigh the ugpa or vice versa?

I'm curious because my ugpa is sub 3.0

zimmejs
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:49 am

Re: To Go To Law School or Not (Engineer w/ 4 Years Experience?)

Postby zimmejs » Thu May 03, 2012 7:12 pm

Thanks for the input everyone. My degree is in Construction Engineering (also called Construction Management, Construction Science, Architectural Engineering, etc. at other schools).




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