Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

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Finnpower
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Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Finnpower » Thu Mar 12, 2015 6:25 pm

Hey TLS.

I got the feels today about law school. I currently work in the tech industry in sales and I just had a killer month- I made $7000 this month alone, and will probably top 80k this year. I have experienced first hand the cool perks of the tech industry- generous paid time off, food, benefits, everything even though I fell into the tech world almost by accident. A law career is looking worse and worse every day. I have a friend who works in DC big law and is averaging 60-80 hours a week and he absolutely hates his job. Plus if I apply this year I would be pushing 30 by the time I start classes so big law is probably out anyway. I have been thinking about going to law school for the past 5 or so years, but every time I look at Biglaw I want to puke.

However, I have some background in PI work and I loved it. I have worked for several non-profits, and another place that dealt with low income individuals. All my experience is college is oriented that way too. I don't know if its crazy or not, but I sorta have the ambitions of the "save the world" type.

But I got all depressed today when I looked at this:

http://www.law.nyu.edu/careerservices/e ... statistics

Even if I got into a place like NYU and did a median PI type (most likely, even 75th is just 54k) job I would be thousands in debt (maybe 150,000+ in debt)..... but all for what? 3 years of my life gone and to cut my salary in half? I realize no one can answer existential questions like what is more worth it for me- money or making a difference, but looking for some feedback on PI salaries and mid range career outcomes. I am thinking heavily about starting my own non-profit since that math is looking more attractive than law school.

Please help, feeling all weirded out today about possibly abandoning my long term goals.

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#caltrash
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby #caltrash » Thu Mar 12, 2015 6:35 pm

Not all PI gigs are created equal, but you're right, if you're going to go the PI route your goal best not be financial gain. That's just not in the cards. There's a reason that most people on here advocate going with $$$ if you're planning PI; graduating with several hundred thousands of debt is not compatible with that kind of salary. There are options available to ameliorate this, however, both through schools' loan repayment programs and the federal government's PSLF program. Even so, PSLF is a risky move these days, at best amounting to committing to PI/PS work for ten years, at worst the program being cut entirely or bumped to the point where you need to work for 20 years instead to relieve that debt. At the end of the day it comes down to choosing a school that offers both a low, conceivable serviceable debt-load upon graduation, in conjunction with a decent LRAP.

Before you even get there, however, you need to figure out what it is you want to get out of working in public interest. Public interest legal work is an incredibly vast field and, like other areas, difficult to fall into if you don't have a set approach coming in.

As far as starting an NPO... while not impossible, I feel like you're going to run into the same issues above. What will your service area be? How will you generate clients? Do you have significant experience with grant-writing? While starting up, would you be able to juggle fund-raising, repaying your loans, and actual assisting clients? This isn't just something that happens through sheer force of goodwill.

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Finnpower
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Finnpower » Thu Mar 12, 2015 6:50 pm

Long term, I would like to end up in the non-profit world, but I am looking at the two maybe three difficult paths in front of me. 1- start my own NP, 2- do law school enter PI, or even do PI work on the side of my current career.

I worry though about LRAP and PSLF and all that. Even if the best case scenario played out and I got a scholarship to a lower T14, would that be enough for prestigious and high paying PI type jobs? In other words, lets say I turned down a place like NYU in favor of a lower ranked school with scholarship- can you get high paying PI work long term out of a lower T14?

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Tiago Splitter » Thu Mar 12, 2015 7:29 pm

If you want pay you shouldn't go to law school and you definitely shouldn't do PI. If by some chance you actually do have a PI cause you care about that going to law school will help you advance then by all means go to NYU. They'll pay all your debt for you. But as you've probably figured out a lack of debt doesn't mean you'll actually make a lot of money.

Cogburn87
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Cogburn87 » Thu Mar 12, 2015 7:43 pm

Finnpower wrote:would that be enough for prestigious and high paying PI type jobs?

lol

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Finnpower
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Finnpower » Thu Mar 12, 2015 8:00 pm

hey Cogburn don't lol all the way.

I will tell you why- I have been doing research on glassdoor and stalking people on LinkedIn. For example someone at the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation makes like 110k, and "cool" PI jobs like the UN have people making about that. Plus there are international non-profits and I have seen some people work at them from JD's from Berkeley/Stanford. But I have a feeling like these are unicorn jobs and the salary numbers I listed out of NYU are discouraging.

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#caltrash
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby #caltrash » Thu Mar 12, 2015 8:11 pm

Probably a unicorn position. The organization you cited currently has two legal positions listed, both seeking 10+ years of experience, primarily in transactional work. It's not a question of what's necessarily a possible outcome, but rather what's realistic.

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Aeon
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Aeon » Fri Mar 13, 2015 12:07 am

It sounds like you want to do PI work but also make a decent salary. This is not likely to happen in law, unless you're willing to work for the federal government. Ultimately, the question you have to ask is: do you want to practice law? Legal PI work is usually very different from non-legal PI work.

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twenty
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby twenty » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:04 am

Keep in mind that you have to forgo three years of income, and (from what I understand) there's really no "backsies" when it comes to getting back into the tech industry from another job.

I dunno. If I were you, I'd take the time and money I would have spent (lost) in law school and work on developing your own non-profit.

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Finnpower
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Finnpower » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:16 am

So as far as I am aware, most government jobs of that nature are extremely hard to get, even harder than well paying PI work. For instance I have read that Yale students are currently the only ones being hired by the State Department, although how to verify that I don't know.

As far as specific career goals, I want to work internationally. I don't want to do biglaw transactional work over seas or environmental law, or even for that matter human rights law (or sports international animal rights law) .

I would prefer to work in international development or maybe a public health role overseas in a policy/advisory role. I realize those goals are kindof vauge and so I am stymied a little.

Like I said I found some people on LinkedIn who look like they took this path, but what specifically about law gives you a boost here? From what I can tell, the upper end of the international PI work is just as prestige obsessed as Biglaw. I haven't seen anybody with less than a degree from HYSCCNB.

Apart from my salary concern is a law degree really the most efficient way to get to my goals?

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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby middlebear » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:22 am

Finnpower wrote:So as far as I am aware, most government jobs of that nature are extremely hard to get, even harder than well paying PI work. For instance I have read that Yale students are currently the only ones being hired by the State Department, although how to verify that I don't know.


Incorrect. But like you say below... it's very prestige/connections-based.

Finnpower wrote:I would prefer to work in international development or maybe a public health role overseas in a policy/advisory role. I realize those goals are kindof vauge and so I am stymied a little.

Like I said I found some people on LinkedIn who look like they took this path, but what specifically about law gives you a boost here? From what I can tell, the upper end of the international PI work is just as prestige obsessed as Biglaw. I haven't seen anybody with less than a degree from HYSCCNB.

Apart from my salary concern is a law degree really the most efficient way to get to my goals?


Do you want to work in the OLA/equivalent at a federal agency? If you want to be their lawyer, then yes to the JD--but it's still prestige-obsessed and difficult to get (State/OLA is my dream unicorn job, so I've spoken with people hired there.) If you want to do actual development or public health work... I'd get a development or public health degree.

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Finnpower
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Finnpower » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:23 am

a little off topic.. but..

also about that point with no "backsies"- my last job I indirectly supervised someone who had a JD degree. At the one he had some tier3/4 degree from the south and was making 14 dollars an hour- he said he felt lucky to have a job.

I also currently work with a guy on my team who got his law degree from the University of Nebraska. He started a law career and worked in a business development/new client role for a PI/bankruptcy firm (shitlaw?) for like 10 years before that collapsed. The tech company took him cause of his sales experience, and he also felt like he was lucky.

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Finnpower
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Finnpower » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:30 am

So I feel like this is weird, but I don't actually want to do direct international development or public health work. I would rather work in a consulting type role. Maybe I am grasping at straws again here, but the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation folks seem to do this type of work in their legal department. I am sure their are other foundations that have legal departments or hire people with JD's but I am just trying to get a sense of the realities of how to get a job at a place like that. I feel like its pretty specific, so just googling it has only gotten me so far.

I mean OLA/State would be sweet, but the competition sounds fierce, maybe even more fierce than what I just described.

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Aeon
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Aeon » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:32 am

Finnpower wrote:I would prefer to work in international development or maybe a public health role overseas in a policy/advisory role. I realize those goals are kindof vauge and so I am stymied a little.

Like I said I found some people on LinkedIn who look like they took this path, but what specifically about law gives you a boost here? From what I can tell, the upper end of the international PI work is just as prestige obsessed as Biglaw. I haven't seen anybody with less than a degree from HYSCCNB.

Apart from my salary concern is a law degree really the most efficient way to get to my goals?


Either those people had some connection to those fields outside of law, or the degree gave them an entryway to those positions, and they branched out from there. But those are the so-called "unicorn" jobs, difficult to get into even with a degree from a top school.

If you're interested in public health, policy, etc., I don't think that law is the most efficient way to get to your goals. An MPP or MPH would be a better choice, if you're looking to work for an established organization. If you have the entrepreneurial spark, you could start your own, but I needn't say how much of a commitment that would be.

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Finnpower
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Finnpower » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:34 am

middlebear wrote: If you want to be their lawyer, then yes to the JD--but it's still prestige-obsessed and difficult to get (State/OLA is my dream unicorn job, so I've spoken with people hired there.) If you want to do actual development or public health work... I'd get a development or public health degree.


Also middlebear, do you feel like law school is worth it even if you don't achieve your goals? Because from where I am looking, if I don't achieve mine I am potentially looking at a worse career path than the one I am on now. I just don't have very many "safety" career paths that I think would be worth it for me.

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Aeon
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Aeon » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:38 am

Finnpower wrote:So I feel like this is weird, but I don't actually want to do direct international development or public health work. I would rather work in a consulting type role. Maybe I am grasping at straws again here, but the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation folks seem to do this type of work in their legal department. I am sure their are other foundations that have legal departments or hire people with JD's but I am just trying to get a sense of the realities of how to get a job at a place like that. I feel like its pretty specific, so just googling it has only gotten me so far.


The odds of getting a job like that are, frankly, astronomical. And although the legal department might do some consulting, a good portion of their time is devoted to legal issues. Also, organizations like the Gates Foundation usually only hire lawyers with many years of experience, so you'd have to spend years working in a legal job before having a chance.

Finnpower wrote:Also middlebear, do you feel like law school is worth it even if you don't achieve your goals? Because from where I am looking, if I don't achieve mine I am potentially looking at a worse career path than the one I am on now. I just don't have very many "safety" career paths that I think would be worth it for me.


There is a myth that a J.D. gives you a lot of flexibility, etc. In practice, a law degree qualifies one to be a lawyer. Though some people with law degrees go on to do exciting non-legal work, that is very rare. Don't go to law school if you don't want to be a lawyer.

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Finnpower
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Finnpower » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:40 am

Aeon wrote:Either those people had some connection to those fields outside of law, or the degree gave them an entryway to those positions, and they branched out from there. But those are the so-called "unicorn" jobs, difficult to get into even with a degree from a top school.


I mean yeah... that end result is what I want. And I feel like I want a law centered career around those areas, its just that my career now is good so I don't want to throw away what I have if I will only be happy getting that unicorn. So I want to study law but...

Kinda reminds me of that TLC song "Don't go chasing waterfalls".

oh also edit: yeah every time I hear a Dean say you can do anything with a law degree I feel upset, even though ironically I want a flavor of that very statement.

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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Username123 » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:45 am

Slightly off topic...

How did you fall into the tech world on accident? I'd be glad to fall into a world where I'm making 80K.

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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby middlebear » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:47 am

Finnpower wrote:
middlebear wrote: If you want to be their lawyer, then yes to the JD--but it's still prestige-obsessed and difficult to get (State/OLA is my dream unicorn job, so I've spoken with people hired there.) If you want to do actual development or public health work... I'd get a development or public health degree.


Also middlebear, do you feel like law school is worth it even if you don't achieve your goals? Because from where I am looking, if I don't achieve mine I am potentially looking at a worse career path than the one I am on now. I just don't have very many "safety" career paths that I think would be worth it for me.


I think it is, as long as you have backup goals/plans/ideas/whatever that are realistic with that JD--if you fall short, you still land among the lawyers sort of thing. I know for me, that means the realistic acknowledgment that if I don't get the Fed positions I'm gunning for (whether State or another agency), being willing to jump into other PS/PI work (a low-paying "safety" but a path I think I'd still be happy in). If you come to the conclusion you're interested only in career paths that are a much longer shot with the JD, and don't really have a safety net you'd be happy with for the three years and opportunity cost of getting the law degree, then it might not be.

I guess ultimately, you have to weigh your contentedness with the path you're on now, or potential paths you could have moving forward sans law school, against your realistic odds of finding work you want with the JD/acceptable backup options. That's really a personal calculus you can only make after you've really thought about what you want and researched your options.

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Finnpower
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Finnpower » Fri Mar 13, 2015 2:00 am

oh - how I fell into the tech industry. Well in college I worked a couple of part time sales jobs all the way through and did well. Then job I had before this I was leading an outbound calling team for that PI type org. It was basically sales. I have noticed that lots of jobs in healthcare/education are this way- there aren't strictly sales per se, but in function they are the same thing. I had a buddy since middle school that worked at the tech company so he asked me to interview.

But yeah, I doubled my salary this past year... which was like wow. I think the easiest way to break into the tech industry is actually through a sales type role. I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and noticed that is true of other people as well.

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Finnpower
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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby Finnpower » Fri Mar 13, 2015 2:05 am

middlebear wrote:
Finnpower wrote:
middlebear wrote: If you want to be their lawyer, then yes to the JD--but it's still prestige-obsessed and difficult to get (State/OLA is my dream unicorn job, so I've spoken with people hired there.) If you want to do actual development or public health work... I'd get a development or public health degree.


Also middlebear, do you feel like law school is worth it even if you don't achieve your goals? Because from where I am looking, if I don't achieve mine I am potentially looking at a worse career path than the one I am on now. I just don't have very many "safety" career paths that I think would be worth it for me.


I think it is, as long as you have backup goals/plans/ideas/whatever that are realistic with that JD--if you fall short, you still land among the lawyers sort of thing. I know for me, that means the realistic acknowledgment that if I don't get the Fed positions I'm gunning for (whether State or another agency), being willing to jump into other PS/PI work (a low-paying "safety" but a path I think I'd still be happy in). If you come to the conclusion you're interested only in career paths that are a much longer shot with the JD, and don't really have a safety net you'd be happy with for the three years and opportunity cost of getting the law degree, then it might not be.

I guess ultimately, you have to weigh your contentedness with the path you're on now, or potential paths you could have moving forward sans law school, against your realistic odds of finding work you want with the JD/acceptable backup options. That's really a personal calculus you can only make after you've really thought about what you want and researched your options.


Hey thanks for this advice. At my last job I actually spent some time talking to government lawyers who worked for a rather non glorious branch of the federal government. They seemed to be okay with their jobs, although they had to deal with crazy wait times, inefficient government processes. It didn't seem a terrible way to live one's life, although honestly it seemed a little boring- they never seemed super engaged with their jobs. TBH I think I could "settle" for something like that although it obviously doesn't seem ideal.

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Re: Is it even worth it? (PI salary)

Postby worldtraveler » Sun Mar 15, 2015 6:27 am

Don't go to law school.




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