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Career change Q

Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2017 11:24 pm
by user69
Hey, currently I do software and by a lot of standards it's a great gig. That being said, I'm bored AF all the time, and I feel my soul gradually dying. I'm very curious if you find the legal field exciting. I am honestly trying to get out from behind my desk as much as possible. Do I have a misunderstanding of the legal profession? It seems fun to argue in court. Likewise most prosecutors and public defenders seem to have tight stories -- I have none from work. Anywho, let me know. I'm happy to elaborate on whatever. Also happy to answer any Qs about the software biz. Thanks!

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2017 11:57 pm
by UVA2B
What kind of legal career are you imagining? You mentioned public defenders and prosecutors, is that the sort of thing that interests you?

Most lawyers will be behind a desk reading dry text to make legal arguments all day, so you're probably not fairly representing what it means to be an attorney based on your preconceived notions of what being an attorney means. Public defenders and prosecutors will spend quite a bit of time in court (most days, for large portions of those days), but it's mostly not like the courtroom drama people see through TV and movies that you're likely basing your perception on.

Don't consider going to law school because it looks kind of fun and because you're bored. Figure out the specific legal career you'd want to pursue, and start figuring out what it will take to get there. There is a great thread on TLS that describes the typical day of various types of attorneys. I've linked it below. Read that, and figure out if any of those descriptions interest you.

http://top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=228583&hilit=Typical+Day

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 12:13 am
by user69
At above poster. In slightly better informed then basing my observations on the TV ;) I'm relatively close with a public defender who at times hates his life and at others enjoys it. He suggested trying to be a prosecutor and maybe a states attorney. I read the specialties I was interested in the thread you listed (namely,ausa and the ada ones). I was mainly curious how often these folks are writing things behind a desk vs actually arguing in court, attempting to make plea deals, meeting with clients or cops etc... I was hoping by for about a 50/50 split. Is this unreasonable? Hopefully this clarifies. As a caveat, I expect you can eventually make 6 figures doing these? The public defender I know doesn't make much and I'd like to be able to provide for my family when that time comes. That being said I'm very ok with taking a pay cut.

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 5:33 am
by cavalier1138
user69 wrote:At above poster. In slightly better informed then basing my observations on the TV ;) I'm relatively close with a public defender who at times hates his life and at others enjoys it. He suggested trying to be a prosecutor and maybe a states attorney. I read the specialties I was interested in the thread you listed (namely,ausa and the ada ones). I was mainly curious how often these folks are writing things behind a desk vs actually arguing in court, attempting to make plea deals, meeting with clients or cops etc... I was hoping by for about a 50/50 split. Is this unreasonable? Hopefully this clarifies. As a caveat, I expect you can eventually make 6 figures doing these? The public defender I know doesn't make much and I'd like to be able to provide for my family when that time comes. That being said I'm very ok with taking a pay cut.


Federal prosecutors tend to have more time spent preparing cases than trying them, but most AUSAs I know say that they're in court every day. I think ADAs likely spend more time in court, especially when starting out. But the trade-off is that (depending on your tastes) federal prosecutors generally get more complex/interesting cases.

An AUSA in most regions will be making six figures after a few years (and if they aren't, it's because they're living in a region with very low cost of living). I don't know how long it takes an ADA to get to the same salary, because states vary widely on that. But generally, states pay a whole lot less than the federal GS scale.

Also, your friend may only be going off the salaries in his district, but prosecutors are not universally better paid than their PD counterparts. There are plenty of cities where starting salaries for the PD office are actually higher than starting salaries for ADAs.

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 7:40 am
by UVA2B
cavalier1138 wrote:
user69 wrote:At above poster. In slightly better informed then basing my observations on the TV ;) I'm relatively close with a public defender who at times hates his life and at others enjoys it. He suggested trying to be a prosecutor and maybe a states attorney. I read the specialties I was interested in the thread you listed (namely,ausa and the ada ones). I was mainly curious how often these folks are writing things behind a desk vs actually arguing in court, attempting to make plea deals, meeting with clients or cops etc... I was hoping by for about a 50/50 split. Is this unreasonable? Hopefully this clarifies. As a caveat, I expect you can eventually make 6 figures doing these? The public defender I know doesn't make much and I'd like to be able to provide for my family when that time comes. That being said I'm very ok with taking a pay cut.


Federal prosecutors tend to have more time spent preparing cases than trying them, but most AUSAs I know say that they're in court every day. I think ADAs likely spend more time in court, especially when starting out. But the trade-off is that (depending on your tastes) federal prosecutors generally get more complex/interesting cases.

An AUSA in most regions will be making six figures after a few years (and if they aren't, it's because they're living in a region with very low cost of living). I don't know how long it takes an ADA to get to the same salary, because states vary widely on that. But generally, states pay a whole lot less than the federal GS scale.

Also, your friend may only be going off the salaries in his district, but prosecutors are not universally better paid than their PD counterparts. There are plenty of cities where starting salaries for the PD office are actually higher than starting salaries for ADAs.


There is also an important discussion here on difficulty getting the different positions. Federal prosecutors, AUSAs, etc., particularly in competitive areas, can be so difficult to get as to make them unrealistic to plan/gun for. But the question of difficulty in getting into the job need not be asked/answered yet since this is a hypothetical change of career.

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Fri Jun 30, 2017 8:36 am
by elendinel
There are also non-profits on the civil side that would be in court a lot, too (particularly when it comes to family law). But they're non-profits, so I don't know how long it takes to rake in 6 figures.

There are a lot of legal fields where knowing software is valuable, and they all have their pros/cons. I would say I got away from my desk more in law than I did as a SWE, but this is a bad reason to go into the law, IMO. You should be able to identify something specific to the practice of law that you like before spending the time/money/energy switching careers. Feel free to PM me if you want.

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:12 pm
by martindu
Hi OP. I am have been in law practice for some time, including internships. Now I am thinking of switching to CS by getting a second degree. My goal is to become a software engineer. Could you elaborate on your experience as a SWE? It seems to me Tech industry is more interesting and creative, somewhat similar to your view of the legal profession. What's really like out there? I'd like to hear your thoughts. Thanks.

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:10 am
by jbagelboy
Do NOT go to law school. You will find yourself back in CS five years down the road after you've graduated from LS and hated some firm. Law school would be one of the worst options for you.

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 7:55 am
by martindu
elendinel wrote:There are also non-profits on the civil side that would be in court a lot, too (particularly when it comes to family law). But they're non-profits, so I don't know how long it takes to rake in 6 figures.

There are a lot of legal fields where knowing software is valuable, and they all have their pros/cons. I would say I got away from my desk more in law than I did as a SWE, but this is a bad reason to go into the law, IMO. You should be able to identify something specific to the practice of law that you like before spending the time/money/energy switching careers. Feel free to PM me if you want.


Hello. I'm thinking of a reverse move from law to SWE, in part because I thought SWE would be more creative and is more close to launching a startup in the future. How do you see the main hurdles of making such move and what do you think of SWE as a career? Thanks!

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:27 pm
by elendinel
martindu wrote:
elendinel wrote:There are also non-profits on the civil side that would be in court a lot, too (particularly when it comes to family law). But they're non-profits, so I don't know how long it takes to rake in 6 figures.

There are a lot of legal fields where knowing software is valuable, and they all have their pros/cons. I would say I got away from my desk more in law than I did as a SWE, but this is a bad reason to go into the law, IMO. You should be able to identify something specific to the practice of law that you like before spending the time/money/energy switching careers. Feel free to PM me if you want.


Hello. I'm thinking of a reverse move from law to SWE, in part because I thought SWE would be more creative and is more close to launching a startup in the future. How do you see the main hurdles of making such move and what do you think of SWE as a career? Thanks!


I'm happy to answer these questions, but before I do:

1) Any job is what you make of it. You can just as easily create a legal startup of some sort/get involved in startups as a lawyer (or as almost anything else) as you can as a SWE; it's all a matter of how much work or research you put into the options you have. Same with the creativity thing; there are ways to be creative in the law, just like there are plenty of SWE jobs that are anything but creative (the OP in this very thread was trying to flee the field because (s)he was "bored AF all the time and ... [felt his/her] soul gradually dying," as one example). I think you're unnecessarily limiting your options if you categorize either field (or really any field) with such broad/vague descriptors.

2) The fact that you use those broad/vague descriptors, and that you kind of ask in a general sense "what do you think of ___ as a career" rather than having specific questions, gives me the impression you're maybe not very familiar with SWE except for maybe seeing secondhand what some of your old classmates have done/seeing articles on the internet, and maybe aren't very familiar with the legal field outside your current job/practice area, which is somewhat of a red flag to me when it comes to switching jobs.

If you have more specific reasons why you're thinking of making the switch to SWE instead of any other career (like, just as an example, "I've done coding in my spare time and enjoy it more than anything I do at work"), then ignore all this and feel free to let me know (here or in a PM) if you have specific questions about SWEs/making the transition. But if you don't, then instead I'd recommend taking a few steps back to actually do some research on SWEs, and also even on what lawyers outside your firm/practice group do, and then come back with specific questions once you've done more research and have a better sense of what you're potentially getting into. I can help you figure out what skills you need to be attractive to software startups, and I can help you figure out if some specific preconception you have of SWE is right/wrong, but I can't really help you figure out whether or not being a SWE would truly be the best move for you if you don't have a more specific idea as to what you're looking for.

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:20 pm
by Subban_Fan
user69 wrote:Hey, currently I do software and by a lot of standards it's a great gig. That being said, I'm bored AF all the time, and I feel my soul gradually dying. I'm very curious if you find the legal field exciting. I am honestly trying to get out from behind my desk as much as possible. Do I have a misunderstanding of the legal profession? It seems fun to argue in court. Likewise most prosecutors and public defenders seem to have tight stories -- I have none from work. Anywho, let me know. I'm happy to elaborate on whatever. Also happy to answer any Qs about the software biz. Thanks!


I came out of the software industry. I also wanted to get out from behind a desk because I was bored everyday.

Litigation and being court can be very interesting -- way more interesting than the day to day I had in the tech industry. Plus, you don't have to be a top-notch lawyer to be a prosecutor or public defender or to do family law (they go to court a lot). Whereas you tend to have to be an elite programmer to do interesting work and whiteboard interviews every time you want to switch out companies.

The problem is law school. You don't really get to do much advocacy stuff until after your first year. And the rest of it was extremely boring (way less interesting than a computer science, programming or applied math class). You might be stuck taking a lot of classes you have very little interest in. Even advocacy classes may tend to involve a decent amount of writing, so it depends if you like writing/research. Of course, you'll meet people who will say the opposite, that they enjoyed law school and dislike work more.

I didn't like the tech industry despite the high pay, great stock bonuses, and ridiculous benefits. But I also hated law school even more (I definitely would have rather been in a stats class or python class). I think you should talk to as many Prosecutors and Public Defenders as you can in person, get their perspective. A prosecutor in federal court will have a different perspective than one doing misdemeanors in county court. A prosecutor in a big city could have a very different experience than one in a smaller suburb.

Make a decision based on your restricted stock units and vesting schedule. Night school might be a good option so you wouldn't have to give that up. So if you aren't enjoying it, you can always leave and not give up your job and RSUs.

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Mon Nov 20, 2017 11:45 pm
by user69
martindu wrote:Hi OP. I am have been in law practice for some time, including internships. Now I am thinking of switching to CS by getting a second degree. My goal is to become a software engineer. Could you elaborate on your experience as a SWE? It seems to me Tech industry is more interesting and creative, somewhat similar to your view of the legal profession. What's really like out there? I'd like to hear your thoughts. Thanks.


Hey, sorry, been away for a bit. First, a coding boot camp may be a good option for you, it’s cheaper and faster than going back to university. It is hard to land some tech jobs with just that on your resume, but after a few years in industry people won’t really care. My experience, sure, I work at a well known company on a pretty high visibility project. I’m currently in a quasi-leadership role. Meaning, I set direction for the team, outline projects for others to work on, help connect people to possibly helpful things, and coordinate a bit with the higher ups. I am also responsible for actual engineering work as well. The sub field of Cs I work in is machine learning. Hours are very good (35 hours a week) to not so good (60-70) depending on what’s going on. Typically it’s around 50, so very manageable. Hours a very flexible depending on how many meetings you have, I tend to have a lot, but this is by choice as I like talking to people and being involved in different things. I know many engineers who are very heads down and do quite well here as well. No office is a downer. 3 free meals a day is awesome. For my first year and a half ish I was mainly focused on finishing tasks / projects and now have gotten more responsibility. The work itself is fine. It is not that creative to be honest, though I don’t find Cs research to be all that creative either. The job has gotten better as of late now that I get to design more (systems that is) but can still be very tedious at times. All and all good gig. I would say that if you like working by yourself it is hard to beat a tech job these days. Pay is very good right off the bat (I make a bit over 200k a year all in, which is astronomical to me). The part of the job that is hard is how solitary it can be at times, and how disconnected you are from the end user of your product. I’ve tried to view my job as a compounding factor (ie you save people 5 min a day, for like a shit ton of people over a year, that’s a shit ton of time). I tend to really struggle with this and I very much enjoy being directly involved with one person.I think I’d find it more meaningful to put a murderer away, or save an innocent man, rather enabling communication, saving millions of people time, allowing others to find things at a whim etc... It is hard for me to see that, especially when you always work within a team. Hopefully this helps, I’m not sure I illustrated my last point all to well. All in all I think it’s a great gig for the right kind of person, but I’m not sure if that person is me.

Re: Career change Q

Posted: Mon Nov 20, 2017 11:50 pm
by user69
Subban_Fan wrote:
user69 wrote:Hey, currently I do software and by a lot of standards it's a great gig. That being said, I'm bored AF all the time, and I feel my soul gradually dying. I'm very curious if you find the legal field exciting. I am honestly trying to get out from behind my desk as much as possible. Do I have a misunderstanding of the legal profession? It seems fun to argue in court. Likewise most prosecutors and public defenders seem to have tight stories -- I have none from work. Anywho, let me know. I'm happy to elaborate on whatever. Also happy to answer any Qs about the software biz. Thanks!


I came out of the software industry. I also wanted to get out from behind a desk because I was bored everyday.

Litigation and being court can be very interesting -- way more interesting than the day to day I had in the tech industry. Plus, you don't have to be a top-notch lawyer to be a prosecutor or public defender or to do family law (they go to court a lot). Whereas you tend to have to be an elite programmer to do interesting work and whiteboard interviews every time you want to switch out companies.

The problem is law school. You don't really get to do much advocacy stuff until after your first year. And the rest of it was extremely boring (way less interesting than a computer science, programming or applied math class). You might be stuck taking a lot of classes you have very little interest in. Even advocacy classes may tend to involve a decent amount of writing, so it depends if you like writing/research. Of course, you'll meet people who will say the opposite, that they enjoyed law school and dislike work more.

I didn't like the tech industry despite the high pay, great stock bonuses, and ridiculous benefits. But I also hated law school even more (I definitely would have rather been in a stats class or python class). I think you should talk to as many Prosecutors and Public Defenders as you can in person, get their perspective. A prosecutor in federal court will have a different perspective than one doing misdemeanors in county court. A prosecutor in a big city could have a very different experience than one in a smaller suburb.

Make a decision based on your restricted stock units and vesting schedule. Night school might be a good option so you wouldn't have to give that up. So if you aren't enjoying it, you can always leave and not give up your job and RSUs.



This was a great reply, and I will definitely consider night school. I’m glad to hear you enjoy being in the courtroom, and this was very reassuring to hear. I fully expect to hate law school, I’ve hated school at virtually every level, so I’d be shocked if this changed. I guess you never know though... Thanks again!