Is law school a profitable investment?

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esther0123
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Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby esther0123 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:53 am

I was around this forum for some months, as some of you from LSAT prep discussion group may know. Due to a lack of preparation over the summer, I decided to postpone my writing until 2013 and take a gap year. I'm currently completing my final year in ugrad and with this time at hand, it got me thinking whether law school was really a realistic and practical investment of my time and money.

I find that a lot of law school websites are biased and inflated in their report of employment prospect and average starting salary so I come here to seek honest opinion.

I am 22 years old, have chemistry research experience all throughout undergrad with a thesis in completion. I am a mentor for a youth at risk for almost 3 years (and ongoing) and I too was from a disadvantaged family growing up. I have a 3.9 GPA (and hopefully will be better by the time I graduate) from a top 3 Canadian university.

My grades are good enough to apply to medschool in Canada. While medschool seems to be the more traditional route for someone of my background (BSc Hons), I've always felt that I had a stronger humanities bent -- I didn't really know what I wanted when I graduated highschool --, strong interest in social justice (owing to my personal background), and the prospect of going abroad (US) for law school appeal to me. I felt that JD from a hyper prestigious university (HYS CCN) would grant me further regional/career flexibility that a Canadian JD or MD could not. For instance, once you graduate with an MD, you are unlikely to be qualified for uch else than your specialization (if you have one)... plus, specialist positions in metropolitan areas for MDs are saturated, so most of the newly graduated MD's are either not finding placements or being positioned in rural areas. But despite the lack of mobility, MD market is far more stable than US JD market, from what I gather....

From a rough research I've done on legal market in the States seems like a bit of a disaster, and the only way to survive the storm is to graduate from a very prestigious law school. But even then, the employment prospect is not as glorious as before, and as an international student I imagine my loan repayment programs will be limited. The possibility of graduating with 200 000+ dollars in debt without a high paying job to balance it off within a few years really scare me, and it makes me question whether law school is in fact a good idea for me.

I had the hope of entering into policy or academia, but I realize both are extremely competitive fields that again, place high value on prestige of the school you graduate from.

Having said all this, I was hoping that someone can shed a (hopefully) unbiased view on whether shooting for the very top law schools is a good investment, as opposed to playing safe and trying out for Canadian MD where the job market security is intact.

Thanks in advance!
Last edited by esther0123 on Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:57 am, edited 3 times in total.

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gaud
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby gaud » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:54 am

If I could change it all and go to med school, I would.

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SuperCerealBrah
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby SuperCerealBrah » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:56 am

gaud wrote:If I could change it all and go to med school, I would.


Yea, and I know a bunch of med students, residents and doctors who say the same thing about medicine. OP: If profits, and profits only is truly what you are after, then don't go into a service industry. With that said, the question in law is not whether it is profitable. But rather, whether it is sustainable and non-suicidal.

esther0123
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby esther0123 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:59 am

SuperCerealBrah wrote:
gaud wrote:If I could change it all and go to med school, I would.


Yea, and I know a bunch of med students, residents and doctors who say the same thing about medicine. OP: If profits, and profits only is truly what you are after, then don't go into a service industry.


so the med students don't regret their choice in entering medschool?

and profit is not the only thing I'm after, frankly. I just worry about being knee deep in debt without being able to move up in my career!!

esther0123
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby esther0123 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:00 am

gaud wrote:If I could change it all and go to med school, I would.


Hi, is this true even for the top-ranked law schools as well?

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dextermorgan
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby dextermorgan » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:03 am

IP? Seems like a decent option.

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IAFG
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby IAFG » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:04 am

First of all, gap years are for people who just graduated from high school. What you're doing is getting a job and becoming an adult. Which is a wise choice before committing to a professional degree.

Law school absolutely can be profitable. One of the ways to tilt the odds in your favor is to get high quality work experience that firms will find attractive. But, if you're looking to make money, you will not find your social justice bend satisfied, so you may well have an unrealistic idea of what highly paid legal jobs look like.

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SuperCerealBrah
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby SuperCerealBrah » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:07 am

esther0123 wrote:
SuperCerealBrah wrote:
gaud wrote:If I could change it all and go to med school, I would.


Yea, and I know a bunch of med students, residents and doctors who say the same thing about medicine. OP: If profits, and profits only is truly what you are after, then don't go into a service industry.


so the med students don't regret their choice in entering medschool?

and profit is not the only thing I'm after, frankly. I just worry about being knee deep in debt without being able to move up in my career!!


Oh no, I think you misunderstood me. Sorry. What I mean is that the people in medicine that I know (including residents, doctors, students and family members) have said to stay away from medicine just as gaud has said he would rather have not done law. In other words, they persuade people away from medicine. My uncle spent almost his entire life persuading his sons not to go into medicine lol

Your second paragraph is spot on. When you think of pure profit, I don't even know if Harvard really makes sense. However, the question is on sustainability of the decision for what you want to do, imo. Rayiner has some pretty in depth insight with regards to this on the site. He has some great break downs I think for t14 schools. Also, imo, I think you probably need to peruse Law School Transparency and look at employment outcomes and debt and see what you can realistically pay off and what you are realistically comfortable with risking.

Jimbo_Jones
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby Jimbo_Jones » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:07 am

Engineers I know say "Don't go into engineering, your job will just get outsourced to India or China"
Doctors I know say "Don't go into medicine, it will be 10+ years before you start making good money and all your patients will try and sue you"
MBA's I know say "Don't go into business, you'll be a dime a dozen manager at a McDonald's and have your life sucked away"
Lawyers I know say "Don't go into law, there are no jobs and the hours will suck your life away"

You want to play it safe and make a profit? Become a nurse and then go into some type of specialization (nurse mid-wife, nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner). Especially if you're male. Great base pay, paid overtime and holiday pay, excellent mobility. Then you can travel all over the world promoting the development of health care in disadvantaged countries.

florida1949
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby florida1949 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 4:27 pm

some law schools are profitable investments, if you can get into one with good employment outcomes and secure some sort of scholarship it's likely to be profitable.

you should check out Don't Go to Law School Unless.

http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Law-School-U ... B009D13IA6

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yuzu
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby yuzu » Sat Nov 10, 2012 4:52 pm

I'm at a top law school and wouldn't have gone to med school, but that's because I don't think I'd enjoy the practice of medicine, not because of economic considerations. (Plus, I've never taken organic chemistry.) The real question should be what will you enjoy doing, not what is most profitable. (And both lawyers and doctors can have a very wide range of salaries.)

It sounds like you may be in a good position to get need-based grants at many of the top schools, so I'm not sure you'd end up with $200k in debt. If you go to HYSCCN, you will probably get a $160k biglaw job if you want one. Also, since job interviews happen just before your second year, you could theoretically cut your losses after a year if you strike out of OCI. Finally, most loan repayment programs won't be limited to US citizens; I think the bigger issue would be getting visa sponsorship for a US public interest position if you decide not to do biglaw. (The easier path would be to do biglaw for several years to get a green card and pay off loans, then go to lower-paying public interest work if that is where your interests lie.)

My doctor friends tell me I should subsidize their research projects once I'm a "rich lawyer" (yet they will make more money than I will for the foreseeable future). My lawyer friends try and deter those who want to go to law school. I think the grass is always greener on the other side.

A JD doesn't give you much regional/career flexibility. You are stuck practicing US law, most smaller cities have very insular legal job markets, and most of the positions are in New York. You'll have few opportunities to return to Canada (although it's not impossible). It is difficult for lawyers to switch practice areas. MDs, unlike lawyers, can practice their specialty even in places like Haiti - that's an incredible level of mobility.

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AreJay711
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby AreJay711 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:02 pm

If you are interested in policy or academia, law school probably isn't a good idea. It is really expensive and you can do something else -- either work directly for a policy organization and /or get a PhD -- to promote that career in a much more targeted and cost effective way. I'd also caution that law school isn't really that much like the humanities.

If you want to make the Benjamins find something you like doing and start your own business it it after you get a few years experience.

uvabro
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby uvabro » Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:11 pm

There's actually a high rate of doctors that struggle financially, but I think they're generally people who go to shity schools in the caribbean that don't get residency, and socially inept doctors who start their own practice with no business sense. The key advantage to medicine is that you could hang out your own shingles right when you become doctor if you know how to run a small shop, and can become well liked in a small town. you get better at age, but you aren't substantially likely to fuck up as a 1st year doctor and diagnose a kid with cancer when they have chicken pox. i'd imagine most lawyers might file the wrong papers, etc.

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cinephile
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby cinephile » Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:13 pm

Spend a few years working to figure out what you do and don't like in a position. Don't rush into graduate school of any kind.

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somewhatwayward
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby somewhatwayward » Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:16 pm

esther0123 wrote:...I felt that JD from a hyper prestigious university (HYS CCN)....


Where is BW? He always swoops in to tell prospective students that HYS>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> CCN

wanted more sideways carets but they were running off the page....wouldn't want to underestimate the difference between HYS and CCN

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bizzybone1313
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby bizzybone1313 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:21 pm

somewhatwayward wrote:
esther0123 wrote:...I felt that JD from a hyper prestigious university (HYS CCN)....


Where is BW? He always swoops in to tell prospective students that HYS>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> CCN


It goes like this: HYSC (the first C)>>>CN. There-- I fixed it.

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dingbat
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby dingbat » Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:58 pm

The quick answer is that some law schools are a great investment and others not so much.
However, there is a caveat. If you strike out, you're fucked.

I performed detailed financial analysis on a number of schools and the average expected return at, say, Penn, is phenomenal. The problem is, you have to be willing to take the risk. I'm not going to look up my old calculations, but, let's say that at the school you choose, there's a 50% chance of getting biglaw, a 30% chance of doing so-so, and a 20% chance of striking out, does it matter how good the returns are, if you're one of the 20% who never recoup the investment?

uvabro
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby uvabro » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:07 pm

dingbat wrote:The quick answer is that some law schools are a great investment and others not so much.
However, there is a caveat. If you strike out, you're fucked.

I performed detailed financial analysis on a number of schools and the average expected return at, say, Penn, is phenomenal. The problem is, you have to be willing to take the risk. I'm not going to look up my old calculations, but, let's say that at the school you choose, there's a 50% chance of getting biglaw, a 30% chance of doing so-so, and a 20% chance of striking out, does it matter how good the returns are, if you're one of the 20% who never recoup the investment?

I'd take an 80% bet on that. Unless you're born into it, getting ahead always comes with some risk.

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Broseidon
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby Broseidon » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:09 pm

Major in Finance/Economics/Business/Accounting/etc>>>Work for 3-5 years>>>Get MBA>>>Profit

uvabro
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby uvabro » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:17 pm

Broseidon wrote:Major in Finance/Economics/Business/Accounting/etc>>>Work for 3-5 years>>>Get MBA>>>Profit

certainly would be less work.

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JCFindley
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby JCFindley » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:20 pm

Profitable return on your investment? HA! I would be better off playing blackjack in AC!

I am here because I really want to be a lawyer. As a return for an investment there are FAR better ways to do it.

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Broseidon
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby Broseidon » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:21 pm

uvabro wrote:
Broseidon wrote:Major in Finance/Economics/Business/Accounting/etc>>>Work for 3-5 years>>>Get MBA>>>Profit

certainly would be less work.

It's really the only education path that actually teaches you how to make money. Law and medicine try to minimize it (which is probably the right move, considering the nature of the professions).

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dingbat
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby dingbat » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:21 pm

JCFindley wrote:Profitable return on your investment? HA! I would be better off playing blackjack in AC!

I am here because I really want to be a lawyer. As a return for an investment there are FAR better ways to do it.

Investing in death tends to do very well. Other than that, I know very few investments that are as good as a top law school

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Broseidon
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby Broseidon » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:23 pm

dingbat wrote:
JCFindley wrote:Profitable return on your investment? HA! I would be better off playing blackjack in AC!

I am here because I really want to be a lawyer. As a return for an investment there are FAR better ways to do it.

Investing in death tends to do very well. Other than that, I know very few investments that are as good as a top law school

Driving schools?

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JCFindley
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Re: Is law school a profitable investment?

Postby JCFindley » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:25 pm

dingbat wrote:
JCFindley wrote:Profitable return on your investment? HA! I would be better off playing blackjack in AC!

I am here because I really want to be a lawyer. As a return for an investment there are FAR better ways to do it.

Investing in death tends to do very well. Other than that, I know very few investments that are as good as a top law school


If by top LS you mean YHS, probably. Any other LS at sticker, may or may not be a good investment.




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