(Closed) Career Advice: Attorney Bees Please Share Your Wisdom

posted 9 years ago in Legal
Post # 3
900 posts
Busy bee

Law school doesn’t have to cost that much.  Obviously state schools are cheaper, but law schools give away crazy amounts of scholarships and you can even negotiate the cost of tuition if the school really wants you there. 

If you want to do it, you should do it.  I went to law school away from home and halfway through I started dating my fiance who was not a lawyer or student and who lived back home.  The long distance worked for us, I graduated and came home, and now we are both working and are getting married.

Interestingly, when I was in school, the married students did much better than everyone else.  I think they were more focused and had clearer goals and knew that their partners was sacrificing a lot for them to be there.

The one thing you can’t fool yourself about is that it will be easy.  A lot of people say that they are willing to accrue debt because they know that in a few years the degree will pay for itself.  While this is pretty much true, any job that is going to pay you really well is going to ask for your soul in return.  And you might not want to start out your marriage in a job where you work 70 hours a week.  There are, of course, lower paying jobs with normal hours, too.

Post # 4
253 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2009

I’m in law school right now (3L) and I often wish I hadn’t decided to go.  I’ll graduate in May and I’m already terrified about being able to find a job.  Mainly because the market for attorneys is SO BAD right now.  The lower-paying, family-friendly jobs that jocelyn3476 mentioned are often government jobs, which are in such high demand right now that it’s nearly impossible to get one.  A lot of people aim for in-house counsel jobs too, but you usually have to put in your time at a firm before getting a corporate job.  Jobs with normal hours aren’t just there for the taking, at least not in the current economic climate.  Maybe things will be better by the time you would graduate from law school, but I do think that there have been serious and permanent changes to the industry in the past few years.  And you’re right that it’s very, very difficult to take a few years off to raise babies and then get back into the profession — it can be done, but it’s not done very often.

Regarding debt, there are certainly scholarships out there, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a free ride.  I was really lucky to get a full-tuition scholarship at my school (which is why I chose it over “better” schools I got into) but I’m still going to have ~$50K in debt just from living expenses.  If your spouse can support the family on one income and you can get a full-tuition scholarship, it’s possible to get out without debt, but most people are going to rack up at least some loans in order to get through.

If you’ve really thought this through and you really want to be a lawyer (NOT just go to law school), you can definitely make it work…but please don’t go into it thinking that you can mold the profession to work for you.  A few lucky people are able to do that, but for the vast majority of lawyers, you buy into the status quo.  I suppose I’m a little bitter, but basically what I’m saying is to make SURE it’s what you really want before you go.  If you know that it’s right for you, then follow your dreams.

Post # 5
2889 posts
Sugar bee

I’m not a lawyr but I do have an MBA. I seriously considered law school until I realized the reality of the price. I know several people who have law degrees and do not work as lawyers (which does not mean they don’t make good money) and other unemployed lawyers. I also want to prioritize children when I have them. All of these things made me fee that the debt was just not worth it. I took the GMAT instead of the LSAT and got accepted to a one year full time MBA program with a half time assistantship and used student loans to pay the other half of my tuition and suplement living expenses.  After a calendar year, I had about $15,000 debt instead of $50k per year (tuition only) at the law schools I looked at. I’m not sure this is what you wanted to hear but I thought I would share my logic since I feel like I was in a similar decision situation (minus the FI).

Post # 6
14186 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2009

What do you have an undergrad in? Are you currently employed? EVERY company I interviewed for/was interested in has at least somewhat of a tuition payment program. They pay 100% for A’s in classes you take, they reimburse you X dollars a year for tuition, or, like my company, they pay for 100% of tuition but I get stuck with about 10K in taxes. Considering my two degrees are costing my company like 80K, it’s totally worth it for my IE and MBA degrees. An MBA is a good choice b/c it is so versatile. Do some digging–maybe you can find a company that ENCOURAGES its employees to seek higher education and you can tap into that resource.

Post # 7
1064 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2009

You guys both have very good points, but I feel like the bigger issue is that she isn’t supported by her FH, I mean if I had a dream and my Fiance didn’t support it, it would devastate me.

Post # 9
942 posts
Busy bee

I whole-heartedly agree with HL.  You really have to assess whether you want to be a lawyer and practice law not just go to law school.  I waited to go to law school until my daughter was 2 and ended up with a cliche law school divorce and a mountain of student loan debt – and I went to a state school!  If you choose to go to school full-time, the ABA rules prohibit working on the side more than 12 hours per week which necessitated student loans to support myself for living expenses (unless your FH can support you both during this time).  I now have so much debt that I have to keep practicing law to make the kind of money necessary to pay them off (it’s extremely difficult to find work in other areas of employment that pay as well).  I also did a 5 year stint working 80 hours a week at a big law firm (and missed a good chunk of my daughter’s formative years) and was finally able to make the move to an in-house position with somewhat “normal” work hours.  I feel incredibly lucky because I can assure you that such positions are few and highly competitive – particularly in this market.

 Please don’t take it that I’m discouraging you from following your dream.  Just be aware of the realities that go with that dream.  And perhaps that’s just where your FH is coming from – since he’s been down that path.  🙂

Post # 10
4480 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: March 2010 - Calamigos Ranch

Going to law school is probably the worst decision I’ve ever made, and I don’t advise that anyone do it. Are you sure you really want to go, and that you know exactly why you are going?

That doesn’t, of course, excuse your Fiance discouraging you from pursuing your goals. I think you both need to talk about it some more. It’s true that going to law school isn’t practical or a sound investment for most people, but you need to both be on the same page.

Post # 11
14186 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2009

Maybe do a ltitle digging why your Fiance is being discouraging. Usually I find when mine isn’t necessarily supportive, it’s b/c he’s seeing the realistic side of things–iE the debt and the toll it would take on you. We had this discussion when I wanted to go to medical school. He helped me see beyond the “dream” and look to the feasibility of it. It’s not something I could have mentally tackled.

Realistlcaly, when one person decides to pursue a major educational path like this that ultimately ends up affecting BOTH your lives so much, you both have to be on board, no matter how bad *you* want it, he has to be supportive of it, too, and encouraging. After all, since you’re getting married, it’s his life too.

Post # 12
2214 posts
Buzzing bee

I’m in law school now, and if I could go back, there is no way I would do it again.  I also had a lot of undergrad debt, and I paid out-of-state tuition for my first year in law school and got in-state after that, but I will still be in debt $70k just from law school.  I came because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, just that I wanted to stay in school, and I figured that a law degree could always be helpful.  That’s probably true, but it isn’t worth it if you don’t know that you want to be a lawyer.  Since you’re working as a paralegal, I think you have a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into if you decide to become a lawyer (I wish I had).  I would think long and hard about it and make sure it’s absolutely something you want because it’s a huge investment of both time and money.

Now… I think your Fiance not supporting your goals is pretty bad and waiting until after you have children to go to law school is a bad idea, IMO.  I cannot imagine how someone could go to law school AND have children.  I know some people do it, but it must be exhausting.  Law school classes and work are more than a full-time job.  I think you would miss a lot of your children’s lives if you did that, just like you will if you decide to work in BigLaw.  MBAs are expensive as well, so if that’s not something you want to do, then don’t do it.

Good luck with your decision!

Post # 13
54 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: November 2010

You have sit down and realistically reflect on what you want and what you are willing to live with(out).  I went to law school in the evening, while working fulltime with a six month old baby and a 2 1/2 year old at home.  My husband was also going to school at the same time and working.  The one thing that kept us going was the STRONG support system we had in place.  My parents became our surrogates with the kids (they picked and dropped off from daycare, fed them, kept them while we were studying, etc.).  I couldn’t have asked for anything more from my parents – they were simply the best.   While I was studying for the bar, I moved out of my marital home and shipped my kids out of state to my cousin, so that I could have no distractions and focus on my studies.  I love my husband and kids, but I felt that I was doing what was going to be best for me and the family in the long run.   My husband was not happy at the time for me shutting him out or sending the kids away, but with time, he came to realize that I was right.   I have never regretted going to law school or any of the decisions I made regarding law school.  Yes, I missed out on alot of things with hubby and the kids, but I have spent the past 7 years making up.   Life after law school has been great and our standard of living has risen as well.   And of course, I love practicing law everyday.   

During my law school days, my mantra was “sleep is overrated” and I lived that way.  I was also inspired by a church member who was a single parent and attending medical school.  If she could do as a single parent, I had no excuse with a husband and supportive parents.   Even though I am married, any final decisions regarding personal goals of mine are mine and mine alone.  I do consult and involve my husband in the pre-decisional stage of things.  But I am responsible for my happiness and I do not believe in sacrificing personal and career goals because of somebody else’s opinion.   Nevertheless, marriage and couples advice is not a one size fit all situation.  What works for me, might not work for you.  What my spouse is willing to put up with or what risks I am willing to take damn the consequences might not work for you.   You know your situation best.  So any advice you get from strangers on a wedding-related board should be carefully considered because we do not know all the facts and personalities involved.

Just my 2 cents.


Post # 14
302 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2009

I wouldn’t be so hard on your Fiance.  I think the fact that he works at a BIGLAW firm really affects his position.  It really, really is a lot of debt to take on, so I think you have to be absolutely sure that is what you want long term. Especially if you plan to try and stay home for a few years or work on reduced hours.

I see so many two-lawyer couples at firms, where the wife eventually goes part-time or just stops working.  They still have that two-lawyer debt to deal with.  

Also, the market just sucks right now.  I wouldn’t go to law school right now if someone paid me.  Do you ever read the blog above the law? Check out the recruiting and lay-off stats. So depressing. 

Oh, I also think you would be fine going to get an MBA with your legal experience.  I don’t think you would need to change fields.

Hang in there!

Post # 15
5494 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: August 2011

I’m a fairly newbie lawyer and i have to say, going to law school and becoming a lawyer was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I went to a private school where the tuition was around 35K per year.  Yes I have debt but I also make enough money to pay that off.  The monthly payments are really not a huge burden, (there are tons of different payment plans to fit everyone’ needs).  My FH has a masters in finance and an MBA and my starting salary at a SMALL firm is significantly larger than his at a huge worldwide company after 3 years of work.  It’s not just about the money.  I TRULY enjoy practicing law and getting to use my skills.  You have to ask yourself if you truly love law and the practice of law or weather you want to do this just for the money.  If you don’tlove it, it won’t be worth it for you. 

Also, I would NOT wait until you have kids.  the people in our program who had kids either dropped out or did poorly because of so many commitments in their life.  If you are determined to do this, look into schools with night programs that allow you to do part time school and work and finish in 4 years.

As for your Fiance telling you what he wants regarding your career, I would be REALLY upset by that.  If you have asperations that involve a successful career, (in any field), and staying hope with your kids is not something you want, then he really does not have a right to tell you otherwise.  My mom is a VERY successful business woman and never stayed home with me and my siblings.  Yet we never ever felt neglected or cheated by the fact that she had a job that required a lot of her time.  She was/is always there for us.  She was at the football games and the ballet recitals, she was there to do homework with us, etc.  We had nannys pick us up from school and do housework but I really don’t think that’s what makes a good parent.  On the other hand, FH’s mom was a full time stay at home mom and she admits that she basically waisted her life and wishes she could do it over.  He constantly tells me that she was always sad and lonely being at home and as a result, her relationship with the kids suffered.  take what you will from this.  bottom line, do what will make YOU happy, not what someone else’s “vision” for you is.

Post # 16
1011 posts
Bumble bee

I think if I did it again, I wouldn’t have gone to law school.  I had no debt from going to law school–I went to a state school and worked for a year as a paralegal to save enough for tuition/books for the first year.  Of course, I have to reveal that my parents helped by providing a place for me to live and the basic utilities and insurance for my car (and would occassionally help with food expenses).  I ended up with the job I thought I wanted when I was in law school.  It was fine, but not fabulous.  I think I would have been better suited for another career.  That being said, I’ve been working since 1990 as an attorney.  And since 2000, I’ve also been a part time student, having completed 2 master’s degrees – one in Biblical studies and one in public health (now I’m working on another degree in graphic arts).

One of the paralegals who worked here went back to school to finish her ugrad & is a 2L now.  It’s funny, but she’s followed much of my advice and remembered what I’ve suggested to her.  One big thing I reminded her is that if she gets pregnant, she can balance school & a baby.  I won’t be easy, but she can do it as long as she lets the school know and as long as her husband supports her emotionally as he as been doing.  Some of my classmates (remember, I graduated years ago), were able to take time off from their big law firm jobs to have their kids.  In fact, one is a partner at a major firm, has 2 teenagers and a toddler.  Firms have made big accomodations–it gives them the edge.  Gone are the days from the 90s where the ideal attorney was a divorced man (so he had financial obligations, but no “home obligations” allowing him to work the long hours).

The key is:  will you resent your FH if you follow his advice and not your dream?  There’s more to life than just making money.  I can guarantee if you hate what you’re doing, you will still not have the income he’s thinking about.  You also have to think about what might happen if he’s not there to provide financial support (suppose he becomes disabled or some other thing–not a pleasant though and not that I’m wishing it on you, but a consideration).

But, back to the what I do–I actually do very little litigation these days (even though that’s what I thought I’d do).  I enjoyed my other degrees and the work that comes with them much more.  That being said, I do use all that I’ve learned from all my degrees.

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