Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

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Shmoopy
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Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby Shmoopy » Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:32 am

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typ3
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby typ3 » Mon Dec 24, 2012 6:38 am

If I had to go back I would not choose between law school and actuarial school. I would not go to any college for that matter and I would work immediately outside of school and or get a tech / vocational degree.

FWIW the current litigation I've been working on is for a fire alarm / security alarm low voltage integrator. The lowest salaried employee makes 65k (rural market so the PPP is around 160k NY according to similar NALP tables) and the highest made 254k as a salesman doing box sales, the rest of the salesman made between 90-180k... with 5 weeks paid vacation and paid benefits / phone / computer / auto. None of them have advanced or college degrees except for one engineers\ for more advanced Lenel systems. The owner eats around 10% of the gross revenue with a 6-8% annual growth rate. The best part of the work is that none of it is out-sourceable and it is all mandated by law / building code. Buildings, apartments, schools, hospitals, etc. are required to have fire alarms and they must be tested regularly. Businesses and people always want alarm systems and some sort of visitor management / access control. That's what I would do. I would get into a business that is absolutely mandated by law / laws of physical science and is regulated by certification and building codes. A lot better job security even if some of the work slows down with economic downturns.

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IrwinM.Fletcher
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby IrwinM.Fletcher » Mon Dec 24, 2012 8:13 am

OP you sound pretty informed and well-grounded in your approach. I think either choice will serve you fine.

I applied with a similar strategy a few years ago and am happy with my decision overall. The key is to remain emotionally unattached and make the best financial decision possible at the critical junctures (choosing a school, after 1st semester grades, after OCI, etc.). Good luck to you.

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dingbat
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby dingbat » Mon Dec 24, 2012 9:20 am

I used to work in a field that relied heavily on actuarial stuff and looked into the requirements to become an actuary (not for me)*.

If you can hack the math, become an actuary.
It's boring work, but it's very in-demand. Basically, you need to screw up badly to not get a decent job starting out, and top actuaries can make absolute bank (I'm talking a lot more than $100k). I can see several reasons why it's a growing field. Yes, the work sucks, but, it's as close to a guaranteed paycheck as you can get these days. Not only that, but (dreaming here) if you ever get to work on the cutting edge stuff (yes, there is cutting edge work in the actuarial field) it can be quite creative and interesting. From a technical standpoint, Excel is absolutely required, SQL and VBA might not be (but are definitely helpful). Not only that, there are ibanking opportunities for actuaries as well if you ever want a change of scenery and lifestyle (but you'll need to wait until the economy improves - which is fine as they'll require experience)

For law schools, that GPA almost precludes a full ride -schollies are used to buy scores, and while a high LSAT is worth money, typically both scores need to be above the 75th to get the max. If you don't want to work a lot of hours, then the legal profession isn't for you, because most jobs require a huge chunk of time. Also, reading about the law and taking law classes in college might be entertaining, but that doesn't mean you'll like the practice of law - though someone else could probably tell you more about that than me.

*edit: when I thought about maybe getting certified as an actuary, I found the math requirements (including formulas and samples) online quite easily. Look it up and see if you can follow it and maybe try doing the math.

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Shmoopy
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby Shmoopy » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:51 pm

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dingbat
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby dingbat » Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:04 pm

Once you get used to it, excel is (for the most part) incredibly easy. It's more of an issue that it's pedantic (making sure each reference is correct can be a pain). Even then, I've gotten excel sheets from our actuary where I've seen a dozen ways to improve it, but the only thing that matters is that the math is correct, not that the sheet is efficient.
Seriously, the only thing you need to become good at excel is practice (and learn to use the help function, it's invaluable).

SQL and VBA I can't attest to because I've never tried, but quite often you can kind of pass the buck there to someone more knowledgeable/specialized (e.g. programmer).

If you haven't graduated UG yet and can somehow swing passing at least one of the exams before then, it shouldn't be too hard to find a job here.

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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby utlaw2007 » Mon Dec 31, 2012 11:05 am

While I think you would probably do fine in whatever field you choose provided that you don't go to a law school with suspect employment prospects, I think you should become an actuary. You already have a good handle on it. You seem like you would be pretty adept at it. And it's something in which you can readily make a name for yourself easier than practicing law. So many things have to fall into place for you to excel as a lawyer. If I were you, I'd at least try being an actuary for a bit and see how you like it. And if you don't like it, then you can choose law school. Just make sure that if you still want to go to law school that you do so while your LSAT score still counts. I think you have five years from the date of your LSAT score? I could be wrong, but make sure you know how long it is good for.

I'm a practicing lawyer. I love it. But I am in the minority. I have found several niches that I love practicing and I am exceedingly good at all of them. But that may or may not be true for you. A high LSAT score doesn't even begin to shed light on whether you would be good at practicing law or whether you would like it. The classes in law school are great. I loved them. But practice is very different. Fortunately for me, I love it even more than the classes. But each person is different.
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby utlaw2007 » Mon Dec 31, 2012 11:21 am

I just saw that you won't go to law school unless you get a full ride. Dingbat is right. Your GPA is too low to get a full ride to any good law school. If you decide to go to law school and that school is not a highly ranked law school, go to one that has a good regional reputation in a market that has jobs. Otherwise, you are flushing money down the toilet. I think you should become an actuary. I had a college classmate who wanted to do that. I thought it was as cool back then as I do now. The work may not be fun, but you will seldom be doing fun work if you decide to be a lawyer.

I do like most of the work I do, but I am in a very unique position because I handle all of my litigation and the litigation of others. Like I am 100% responsible for it all. That is very cool, but very rare. And the stakes are always decently high, so that also keeps my interest level high.

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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby Shmoopy » Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:15 pm

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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby utlaw2007 » Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:36 pm

Shmoopy wrote:Thanks ut. I may sound arrogant when I say this, but I think waiting a few years and then reapplying might actually put me in a better position because I think I can do better on the LSAT. I took it about two years ago and have been working part time writing standardized test prep materials since then. I now have a much better appreciation of how much systematic effort needs to go into mastering these things. And with more work experience, hopefully my gap will matter less, though this may be naive since schools care so much about good gpa stats for us news.


The longer your gap is from the time you graduate undergrad to the time you go to law school, the better if your gpa is not absolutely stellar. I can't say this for sure, but that does seem to be the case for higher ranking schools. I can really only vouch for UT. Our class sizes are bigger than every top law school except for Harvard and Georgetown. The way UT admissions sees it, they have enough people with high LSATs and GPA's. So they can afford to make an exception for a student who has other compelling things about his/her application.

This site is crazy about the T-14. But UT Law and Vanderbilt have just as much national clout as Georgetown and a few of the other schools ranked in the lower T-14. People also seem to forget that the majority of UT students are Texas residents so they don't want to leave the state come hell or high water. So our biglaw placement numbers aren't quite as impressive as other schools who have a high percentage of students from all over the country.

I know you don't want biglaw, but biglaw placement is a good indicator of how well the school places grads in lawyer jobs regardless of the size of the firm.

That did not come across as arrogant. And it may not be a bad idea to retake if you are shooting for a full ride to a better school, although there is really not much room for improvement if you already have a 173 LSAT.

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englawyer
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby englawyer » Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:03 pm

financially, there is very little chance that law school would come out ahead of actuarial aside from biglaw. finances are not everything but if that is a big concern for you, you should go actuarial.

take the first two actuarial tests (probability and interest). if you can pass those two chances are you have the quant chops to be successful in the career. i believe the tests only cost like $100 each or something. don't worry about programming...if you got a 173 on the LSAT you will be able to pick it up. that said, i imagine most of the day to day in actuarial is some form of programming so if you hate it that should be a major consideration.

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dingbat
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby dingbat » Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:26 pm

utlaw2007 wrote:This site is crazy about the T-14. But UT Law and Vanderbilt have just as much national clout as Georgetown and a few of the other schools ranked in the lower T-14.

The funny thing is the origin of the T14 concept as well - that's how many law schools fit on the first page of the article of the first ranking.

Even within the T14 schools are regional and the T14 is not interchangeable. If someone wants to end up in California, Berkeley is a better option than NYU; to end up in Los Angeles, USLA and USC are better options than Virginia or Northwestern, and for Texas, very few schools are a better option than UT. Same with Vanderbilt in Tennessee.

However, if someone is "Biglaw or bust", well, because a huge chunk of those jobs are in regions serviced by T14 schools, those schools tend to have the best placement records - NY (Columbia, NYU, Cornell), Chicago (UChi, NU, Mich), DC (Georgetown, Duke, UVA), those schools tend to be overrepresented for further discussion (Note that Los Angeles should be up there as well. That market is served by Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA and USC).

Dallas and Houston have become very large legal markets, so I don't know why UT doesn't place better than it does

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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby utlaw2007 » Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:43 pm

dingbat wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:This site is crazy about the T-14. But UT Law and Vanderbilt have just as much national clout as Georgetown and a few of the other schools ranked in the lower T-14.

The funny thing is the origin of the T14 concept as well - that's how many law schools fit on the first page of the article of the first ranking.

Even within the T14 schools are regional and the T14 is not interchangeable. If someone wants to end up in California, Berkeley is a better option than NYU; to end up in Los Angeles, USLA and USC are better options than Virginia or Northwestern, and for Texas, very few schools are a better option than UT. Same with Vanderbilt in Tennessee.

However, if someone is "Biglaw or bust", well, because a huge chunk of those jobs are in regions serviced by T14 schools, those schools tend to have the best placement records - NY (Columbia, NYU, Cornell), Chicago (UChi, NU, Mich), DC (Georgetown, Duke, UVA), those schools tend to be overrepresented for further discussion (Note that Los Angeles should be up there as well. That market is served by Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA and USC).

Dallas and Houston have become very large legal markets, so I don't know why UT doesn't place better than it does


I think it is because the cost of living in Texas is so cheap. So many UT grads would rather work at firms that are smaller than biglaw firms. The firms are not small by any means. They have office sizes of about 80 to 100 lawyers, but they only have one or two locations so they aren't technically biglaw. Still others prefer to work in offices that have like 30 attorneys. For example, I had a classmate who was offered a biglaw position with Baker Botts, a large firm based out of Texas. However, she chose to work with a firm located in Austin that was smaller. There was a significant pay difference, but she was still making over six figures and did not have to worry about being a slave among slave drivers at Baker Botts. This was common place at UT.

Plus, our school has large class sizes. So there are only so many spots that are available at large law firms. Given that the majority of the firms that come to our OCI are from out of the state, we have national clout. Our Supreme Court clerk placement is equal to that of Duke and Northwestern, and outpaces that of Penn and Cornell. But basically, while there is out of state interest in UT Law grads, there is little out of state movement among UT Law grads. 65% of us are Texas residents and many of us would rather take a very small firm job in Texas than a biglaw job out of state. That's exactly how I was. I was not going to leave the state for any reason. I had a good friend that was a classmate who was the same way. He actually worked for three years at a very small firm in Texas. He put in his time and just recently got an IP litigation boutique firm job with a firm in Austin that hires many of their lawyers from the T6. UT Law is as low as they go, I believe.

So much of our biglaw placement has to do with our grads preferring to stay in Texas. If that means taking a smaller law firm job, so be it. That can be done because our cost of living is so low. We have a big law school. So we place huge numbers of grads in biglaw jobs across Texas. Some of our market rate paying firms have NOTHING BUT TEXAS grads. But there just aren't enough biglaw jobs in Texas for us to place larger numbers as a percentage. A smaller percentage of grads at UT Law in biglaw is still a large number of graduates because we have a bigger school. But biglaw is also not the choice of many since our cost of living will allow for us to take smaller firm jobs that don't work you so hard and they let you do more meaningful work much, much earlier.
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby dingbat » Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:51 pm

^I figured that was what it was, but didn't know for sure, so I kept my mouth shut

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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby utlaw2007 » Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:08 pm

Even within the T14 schools are regional and the T14 is not interchangeable. If someone wants to end up in California, Berkeley is a better option than NYU; to end up in Los Angeles, USLA and USC are better options than Virginia or Northwestern, and for Texas, very few schools are a better option than UT. Same with Vanderbilt in Tennessee.


This.

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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby alpa chino » Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:29 pm

OP, I was a math major too, and like you focused more on the abstract (functional analysis, topology, etc.) than the practical/marketable branches of applied math. So when I graduated, my decision was also basically lawyer vs. actuary.

FWIW, I chose law school (T14 @ sticker price), have Biglaw lined up, and still wish that I had gone the route of actuary. Even with the optimal outcome of securing Biglaw, you may only last a couple of years at your firm and then really have to hustle to find lower-paying legal work. I've seen this happen to quite a few of my friends, and once the big-firm money goes away the question becomes how much do you truly enjoy the law? In my case, it's not as much as I enjoyed math. I'd be much happier even tutoring math for a living than being a lawyer. But when you take on huge debt there's really no turning back. I really underestimated the freedom of being debt-free.

Plus, don't underestimate your skill set; you're good with numbers, and your philosophy GPA and LSAT also indicate that you have good verbal reasoning. Look for a career that maximizes your skills; all your quantitative ability is effectively wasted as an attorney.

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Shmoopy
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby Shmoopy » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:19 pm

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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby dingbat » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:22 pm

Shmoopy wrote:The more I think about it, the more actuary seems like the better choice.

It just seems like STEM makes for a better career choice because math skills are less common and generally more valuable to corporations than verbal skills are.

And there aren't any of those pesky ethical considerations to worry about

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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby Shmoopy » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:44 pm

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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby mommalee » Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:29 pm

My mum is an actuary and has been for the past 26 years. She has worked in reinsurance and I know that her company frequently hires interns for the summers. They make quite a bit of money starting >60K but my mother has mentioned that generally these folks (new ppl at her office) have 5+ exams under their belts when they are hired. Although it is not necessary to have anything other than a Bach, there are many ppl who go to grad school and get applied math degrees. I know my mom likes (usually) her job. But she works long hours and has for much of my life, but she does get paid well.

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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby ksllaw » Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:23 pm

Shmoopy wrote:Hi Everyone,

Con Actuary
-Even though I majored in math in college and do a lot of math-related work currently, I am a little worried that I might not have the number-crunching ability to cut it. I focused on proofs in college, not applied math.
-I really don't like computer programming and kind of suck at it. I can do Excel, but SQL, VBA, etc. are extremely intimidating to me.
-0 relevant experience.



I would think that your proof-based math background (esp., given it's an Ivy math degree) would make the applied math stuff easier (which is mostly plug-and-chug and pattern recognition after a certain point, no?).

Have you also looked at becoming an accountant?

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dingbat
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby dingbat » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:13 pm

ksllaw wrote:
Shmoopy wrote:Hi Everyone,

Con Actuary
-Even though I majored in math in college and do a lot of math-related work currently, I am a little worried that I might not have the number-crunching ability to cut it. I focused on proofs in college, not applied math.
-I really don't like computer programming and kind of suck at it. I can do Excel, but SQL, VBA, etc. are extremely intimidating to me.
-0 relevant experience.



I would think that your proof-based math background (esp., given it's an Ivy math degree) would make the applied math stuff easier (which is mostly plug-and-chug and pattern recognition after a certain point, no?).

Have you also looked at becoming an accountant?

It's a lot less proof and a lot more statistics.
Accounting is more about being systemic and pedantic

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Shmoopy
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Re: Advice re LS vs Actuary (from scratch)

Postby Shmoopy » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:43 pm

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