Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

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Bobnoxious
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Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby Bobnoxious » Thu May 17, 2012 8:27 pm

I could use some guidance in two areas, please.

First, a little about me. I'm a 45 year old undergraduate who has worked in a family carpet cleaning business for the past 20+ years, with no insurance, living week to week on about $32k year. I always wanted to practice law whether it was arguing a civil case, a criminal case, or even help small business owners collect on their accounts receivables, so I took the plunge back into college about 3 years ago. I am currently on track to graduate next year with a high grade point average (3.7+) with a double major in Political Science & Philosophy, and am averaging about 160 on practice LSATS. By the time I'm done with the undergraduate and law degrees, even at a local state school (Memphis), I'll be about $100k in debt. However, I fully intend to hang a shingle and start doing collections work for small mom & pop companies across the state who service the multi-family housing (apartment) market for property investment and management firms, as unsecured creditors. I know our small company generates an easy $15k annually for our current attorney and we're small potatoes in a market saturated with small potatoes who need the collections assistance.

Second, I'm confident I'll get admitted to law school but want to maximize my ability to be able to do a few things immediately upon graduation/passing the Bar exam.
1 - Be competent to serve as prosecutor or public defender if the debt load proves too much and I need to serve 10 years in public interest to get out from under it.
2 - Be competent to hang a shingle for small business assistance (organization, contracts, collections)
3 - Be competent to hang a shingle for criminal defense (DUI, for example)
4 - Be competent to hang a shingle for civil litigation (insurance bad faith, for example)

Which brings me to where I need the help.

A - I need a reality check to know if what I'm looking to do is really worth it from a financial standpoint considering the current legal market and economy.

B - Looking at the course offering, I've tentatively selected the courses and semesters that *I THINK* will best serve my end goal of solo practice, and would like advice, comments, and criticisms of what I've selected. I list them below.

Thank you very much for any assistance and guidance.

Bob Huddleston

Year 1 Fall
Civil Procedure I
Property I
Torts I
Legal Methods I
Criminal Law

Year 1 Spring
Civil Procedure II
Property II
Torts II
Legal Methods II
Contracts
Constitutional Law

Year 2 Fall
Business Organizations I
Criminal Procedure I
Civil Procedure III
Trial Advocacy
Evidence

Year 2 Spring
Debtor – Creditor
Criminal Procedure II
Sales
Secured Transactions
Remedies
Professional Responsibility

Year 3 Fall
Criminal Justice Extern.
Civil Rights
Discovery
Legal Argument & Appellate Practice
Litigation Drafting
Administrative Law

Year 3 Spring
Conflicts
Insurance Law
Contract Drafting
General Sessions Litigation Clinic
State Civil Procedure Seminar.
Federal Courts

EdgarWinter
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby EdgarWinter » Thu May 17, 2012 10:34 pm

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Last edited by EdgarWinter on Thu Mar 28, 2013 10:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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DCDuck
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby DCDuck » Thu May 17, 2012 11:00 pm

Don't rely on a law school (any law school, really) to prepare you to open a solo shop right out of law school. Best advice for that is to network first, find a practitioner in the town where you want to go to school, and try to build a relationship that would allow you to shadow him during law school so that you can pick up the ropes of practice.

A big complaint about law school is that it does not really prepare you for the actual practice of law. It would also be hesitant to take out that much loan money for school. Solo practitioners usually don't make much of a profit for several years after opening shop. Most attorneys do not make a ton of money ever, and most that do have put in a long career. You won't have as much time to develop the skill and client base to make a lot of money. You will make more than you do now, probably, but you will also have loan payments and three years of lost income, as well as business expenses if going solo. Lots to think about. Good luck!

BeaverHunter
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby BeaverHunter » Fri May 18, 2012 7:30 am

Bob,

As others have mentioned hanging a shingle fresh out of law school is not viable. I'll add that at your age working 10 years for low pay in public interest may not be the greatest idea either. You should consider a night law program while you work full time. If your state has a public school with one of these programs, tuition may be very affordable and require you to take on minimal, if any debt.

I'm in a part time program. The dual work load sucks but is manageable. Not having to take out a loan is most excellent though.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby CanadianWolf » Fri May 18, 2012 8:22 am

Your plan to open a solo practice (probably at age 50) with substantial student loan debt is a plan for financial disaster. Have you considered opening a debt collection business that does not neccessitate being a lawyer ?
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Fri May 18, 2012 9:07 am, edited 2 times in total.

iiifly
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby iiifly » Fri May 18, 2012 8:33 am

You don't have time to waste paying off debt and delaying any further at your stage.

Go with the most economical law school choice. State School or Scholarship $$$.

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Hippononymous
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby Hippononymous » Fri May 18, 2012 8:39 am

Bob,

I think the naysayers on here aren't unfounded in what they're saying, but I also think that hanging a shingle is a lot like starting a small business (I mean, it IS starting a small business). If you have experience running a business, and if you have professional contacts in the market you want to work in (do you clean carpets for businesses?), then you certainly have a leg up on anyone else looking to start cold.

Hanging a shingle CAN be done. There are plenty of alums of my law school who went into solo practice immediately upon graduation and have done fine for themselves. What you need to realize, though, is that law school will not prepare you to do this. You need to be proactive in learning what you need to do to get started. Malpractice insurance, etc. Your coursework won't teach you any of that.

If you take this route, I'd highly recommend that you join the ABA Solo Practice division. You'll get emails roughly every week. Read them thoroughly. You'll pick a lot of stuff up that way. They also have networking events. These will be CRUCIAL, as you will need people you can call for advice as you get started.

Best of luck.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby CanadianWolf » Fri May 18, 2012 8:55 am

@Hippo: Do you realize that OP will be about 50 years old & probably $100,000 in debt from law school & undergraduate school when seeking loans for office space, office equipment & living expenses ?

OP: How do you plan to get through both undergraduate school & law school with only $100,000 of student loan debt if you are currently broke & living week-to-week on $32,000 per year with no benefits ? I think that your estimates for the total cost-of-attendance for 3 years of law school are too low. ABA rules prohibit full-time employment while in law school as a full-time law student.

Are you assuming that you'll get/earn a full tuition scholarship to law school so that your living expenses & undergraduate debt are likely to be $100,000 ?

Have you considered becoming a paralegal ? Less debt, no overhead expenses & steady income.

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twenty
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby twenty » Fri May 18, 2012 12:35 pm

I am currently on track to graduate next year with a high grade point average (3.7+) with a double major in Political Science & Philosophy, and am averaging about 160 on practice LSATS. By the time I'm done with the undergraduate and law degrees, even at a local state school (Memphis), I'll be about $100k in debt.


At this point in your life, you're probably best off not taking on any debt. Get your LSAT up to 166-170, and you're looking at lots of scholarship money at regional schools. (Mississippi, Memphis, maybe even WUSTL if they throw lots of money at you.)

I honestly wouldn't even recommend Virginia/Duke at sticker at this point. 300k plus in debt to work long hours in biglaw... you may as well clean carpets.

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kalvano
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby kalvano » Fri May 18, 2012 1:14 pm

If your intention is to hang out a shingle, then lower-ranked schools will prepare you better for that. They tend to take a practical approach to teaching law. A good LSAT and you can go for close to, if not entirely, free.

Bobnoxious
Posts: 157
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby Bobnoxious » Fri May 18, 2012 2:12 pm

Thanks for the responses; even the naysayers. I'm already $25k upside down on my mortgage because of the blow I took about 3 years ago, and I'll have a total of about $35k debt for the undergrad. If I'm lucky I can add another 10 points to the LSAT, come in at close to 170 and get a free ride so the debt would be capped. I could theoretically move in with family in either Indianapolis, Albuquerque, or move in with close friends in Little Rock, or Oxford, MS. - So I'm not entirely tied to just one law school. Thank goodness my wife taught herself enough to land an almost-decent job in IT. Heck, as a 2 pack a day smoker for the past 25 years I'll probably get diagnosed and die of lung cancer halfway through law school anyway, and my questions will all be moot.

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twenty
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby twenty » Fri May 18, 2012 4:42 pm

The good news is, student loans are discharged on death!

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rinkrat19
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby rinkrat19 » Fri May 18, 2012 4:51 pm

You could save yourself $300/mo by quitting smoking.

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JCFindley
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Re: Broke 45 year old working stiff needs advice...

Postby JCFindley » Fri May 18, 2012 6:39 pm

Ambitious...... And good for you!

Personally, one of the biggest draws LS has is getting me a piece of paper where I can hang my own shingle..... I plan on working for someone else for a while before I do that but that is the end game objective.

I will graduate around the same age you will. That isn't a lot of career time left but it is something I always wanted to do and I am going to do it. The reality check for me comes with starting a business. It takes a while before a business gets profitable so minimizing your debt will be critical. You seem to have a good grip on how to go to some local schools without incuring a lot of debt. If you can get a 170 Little Rock and Ole Miss would be options that would allow you to stay close to home and work with contacts you already have and likely be full rides between the GPA and a high LSAT.

Best of luck.

JC




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