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Law School Admissions / Re: Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« on: January 12, 2009, 02:17:02 PM »
FYI interesting study ranking paralegal assistants as being a better job than an attorney or a federal judge!

Paralegals Outrank Lawyers on Best Jobs List
Posted Jan 8, 2009, 10:01 am CST   

By Debra Cassens Weiss

Much is made of the fact that federal judges must make substantial financial sacrifices when they leave private law practice.

But the editors of a new best jobs list believe it’s better to be a federal judge, and better still to be a paralegal assistant. Lawyers were ranked 82nd on the list of best jobs by the new job site Federal judges were 69th on the list and paralegal assistants 17th, just below meteorologists and medical laboratory technicians.

Lawyers and stockbrokers, ranked 84th, both did poorly, and the reason is stress, the editors say. “Attorneys and stockbrokers may earn considerably more than bookbinders or telephone repair technicians [ranked 83rd and 81st respectively], but these high-powered careers are hurt by anxiety, as both rank among the 20 most stressful jobs on our list.”

The list puts annual income at $109, 207 for lawyers, at $152,027 for federal judges and at $46,155 for paralegals. The figures were derived by combining midlevel income with income growth potential. Besides income and stress, the rankings considered job environment, employment outlook and physical demands, according to a Wall Street Journal story profiling the list’s top job: mathematician.

The top 10 jobs on the list are:

Software engineer
Computer systems analyst
Industrial designer
The worst job on the list is lumberjack.


Dear Astarael:

You're going to kick-ass in your career girlfriend, you're clearly hard-working and have a GPA that many of the lawyers and judges I know who went to the top law schools would die for. Plus, you seem like a kind person. 

I went to a top law school, even though I did not have the best grades - they weren't nearly as good as yours. I was a business major, which has absolutely no relevance to what I'm doing now.  (I'm a type of a low level judge and hear juvenile criminal matters). I had very good work experience, and many extra-curricular activities.   Most of the past 18 years have been spent in the courtroom, but remember not all law consists of litigation.  There are transactional lawyers who advise corporations/ businesses, help make deals so they don't have to go to court!  One of my friends is an in-house lawyer for a record company;  she handled a lot of their contracts and was involved in the deal making the record company made with the artists. The point is, if you aren't the type of person who is gifted in argumentation that's okay - there are many areas of the law where arguing in court isn't necessary.   

Even if you want to be a litigator, and don't feel comfortable public speaking that's okay.  I heard that the fear of public speaking was ranked higher than death.  I think being shot was third, or was it being set on fire....Anyway, I was never a stellar public speaker, not even now, but you get better and better as you do it. 

Being a hard-worker is much more important than natural talent - you might need that if you want to be a singer or basketball player perhaps, but not in the law.

I'm not sure how getting a girlfriend, porn and mj will help you in law school.  (My own relationship suffered in law school - he was more of a source of distraction; having porn (at least kiddie porn on one's home computer) got one Orange County judge kicked off the bench; and utilizing illegal substances will preclude you from employment with the DA, or U.S. Attorney.  You could still work at the public defender's office though).

I'd like to echo thorc954's most wonderful advice: "oh, and another piece of advice, lawyers/law students are generally condescending jerks"

Good luck to you. 

Law School Admissions / Re: Should I look into a career in law?
« on: January 04, 2009, 02:43:58 PM »

The legal field is still very lucrative.  First year's salaries at the big law firms are approximately $160,000.  But, in order for the firm to pay those salaries, they expect a lot in terms of billable hours. A lawyer friend of mine who is a partner in a larger law firm (he specializes in corporate law) makes about $800,000 or more. When he first started he worked so hard, and grew so tired that sometimes he couldn't remember how he got home at night. Big firm practice is only available to those who went to the top law schools however.  Getting into a top law school is another huge challenge.

There are many satisfying careers in say government, public interest, as well as in-house lawyers that pay less but have regular hours
.  I worked as a public interest lawyer for about ten years, I was paid about $65,000-70,000 which at the time in the 1990's was horrible compared to the law firms, but pretty good for a public interest job.  Jobs such as clerking for a Federal judge pay horribly and have long hours, but landing such a job is hugely prestigious and will open doors for you galore.

I've been out of law school 18 plus years, have a semi-distinguished and prestigious career, have regular hours and only make about $140,000.  But I love my job. 
My sister is a lawyer.  She says she wishes she had the desire to help people like I do, but its the money that she wants so she can have a decent quality of life.  She has a kid and a house, and I don't.  I don't fault her for it, and sometimes I am a little jealous of her nice house and the comfortable life she has with her cute, well-dressed little boy.   

You have to figure out who you are, what motivates you and what you want out of life.
  I heard this quote recently in a movie: "A life devoted to helping others is the only life worth living."  I think this is true, for me. 

I love the law, and going to law school was one of the best things I've done in my life. But it was also one of the most difficult and loneliest experiences in my life.

I sense you could get what you want by going to Business school, majoring in something like accounting.   That's practical - this is what my father wanted me to do! And far less expensive than law school.  Law school is so hard, expensive, and stressful.  It doesn't seem like the best idea for someone who isn't at least fairly passionate about the law. My friend went to law school to please her parents.  Five years, and $80,000 law school debt later, she was so unhappy in the law, she left legal practice.  She still was stuck with the debt.  It's more than 15 years later and I think she still is trying to pay off that debt.

On a positive note you don't have to decide this now.  Just try to get good grades, and eventually you'll hopefully stumble upon something that resonates in you.  I didn't get a sense of who I was and where I wanted to go until I was an old fogey of almost 30.  My journey was a longer and bumpier road than many, but I still got there eventually - the journey was very interesting ... it just goes to show it's never too late if you're open to learning and occasionally stumbling.

Good luck.   

Law School Admissions / Re: History Undergrad Major...and more
« on: January 04, 2009, 01:16:33 PM »

I recently spoke on a panel to high school students .... there were a number of very highly successful individuals from different disciplines, not just law.
A lot of themes, ideas shared at that program are very similar to the suggestions of UPGRADE and CABRA . . .There is wonderful advice here.

It's great that while you are in high school you are looking ahead to your future.  Still, one thing I want to impress on you is that there is so much opportunity and time for you still to work your way to where you want to be.  Goodness, for many of us, being in the work force can span more than 40 years!  And switching careers is common;  I recall reading somewhere that most switch careers more than three times in their lives.  Most of my classmates have moved from firm to firm, some have left the law.  I've stayed in the same area for approximately 18 years, which is rare I know.  The thing is, what you decide to do now is not set in stone.  You can adjust, or totally change the direction you are going.  There is nothing wrong with that.

Most of us didn't start at the top;  we had to claw and fight our way there! Many of us weren't even sure of where we wanted to go, and who we were -- we had to experiment and try to figure that out.

The undergraduate majors of those I went to law school with were from every discipline. There may have been a handful more English majors. I agree with what the others have said about finding an area you are truly interested in;  simply because you are more likely to do better and get good grades. You'll need good grades to get into the better schools. The harsh reality is that going to a good university for your undergraduate work, as well as an upper-tier law school opens many more doors for you than going to lesser known schools.  I originally went to a law school back east which was a fine school, but the law firm that I clerked for my second summer of law school suggested that I transfer to a more prestigious law school in the area. I did transfer to the upper-tier law school.  I believe the name of the school was a big factor in my hiring at the next firm where I applied (it wasn't my grades!).  I teach at a small progressive law school now part-time; the same school that Mayor of LA Antonio Villaragiosa went to.  My students have soul - they want to get into the law for the right reasons, they love the law, and are a joy to teach.  Still, I see them struggling to get that first job, and work in a big law firm is not a realistic possibility for them.  Law school is extremely difficult no matter where you go, as well as landing that first law job - you might as well try to go to one that will give you more options in the future.

If your grades aren't very good now, go to a city college where tuition is very low and you can save money.  You'll need to KICK BUTT there, and then transfer to a good school.  Two of my good friends went to Santa Monica City College, and then transferred to UC Berkely and UC Davis. One left law, was a journalist for the LA Times for a bit and is now working for National Public Radio.

Ah, which leads me to another important point touched on by the others: An ability to write is important. Do well in your English and composition classes.  You'll need to write many essays - to get into law school, for law school exams, and the bar examination.

Grades and LSAT are the primary factors the law schools consider, true.  BUT they aren't the only considerations. THANK GOODNESS! My grades and LSAT score were far from impressive, but I was able to distinguish myself by the extracurricular activities I was involved in. You may want to consider school government, school newspaper, Forensics / debate team, volunteer work. 

My acceptance letter into law school mentioned something about the diversity of my experience.  I had interned at several businesses while I was in college, and had a glowing letter of recommendation from a prior boss.  Later in law school I was an intern for several non-profits as well as for a Federal judge. I had a substantial amount of experience that other recent law school graduates didn't have.  I still involve myself in extra curricular activities, causes that I am passionate about.  I've not only found my involvement satisfying in these organizations, but I've met a number of wonderful people who have gone out of their way to assist me in my own career. Through these contacts I have been asked to speak to many groups, and write for different publications. More importantly, I've made many life long friends.

Mentorship is important
.  I agree with what has been said about getting to know your professors so that you will feel comfortable asking for a reference letter from them. Finding a mentor, especially one who is doing what you want to do would be great. My own mentors have had a tremendous impact on my career.  I've worked closely with lawyers / judges for several years, some jerks, and some that love the law and are a credit to the administration of justice.  Because I knew lawyers, it was easier to envision where the law could land me (as well as what type of lawyer I didn't want to be).

A law degree is a wonderful background for a career in politics, as it is for other careers.  I've had the honor of meeting many politicians over the last few years...and some fit the stereotype of being in politics for the power, money and their own ego...Still,  I've also met many who truly cared about their community and were doing some very good things. I can think of three off hand who are very influential, courageous and respected CA politicians, who went out of their way to help me, when I couldn't do anything to help them.  (Two of the three who immediately sprang to mind went to law school - one I believe went to Berkeley and one to UCLA).  There are good politicians and bad ones, just as their are good and bad lawyers.  It is wrong to over generalize and say that politics is not a noble profession, because it definitely can be, as can the law. 

Good luck to you.   


Law School Admissions / Re: Paralegal vs. Lawyer
« on: January 04, 2009, 09:49:18 AM »

Many, many years ago I was a legal assistant / paralegal at an extremely prestigious law firm.  At that time I was an undergrad at USC, majoring in business administration and worked part-time.  My work as a paralegal brought in good money, but my recollection of that time was that I considered it just as a way to make some money.  I didn't consider it to be a long term thing, and this is probably because the attorneys unfortunately treated me harshly and disrespectfully.

I also noted that there were few women lawyers, and no minority lawyers.  (I'm an Asian woman).

I felt that having a law degree, would help with giving me added credibility.  A paralegal / legal assistant works just as hard, has tons of stress as a lawyer, but it was clear to me is considered a lesser valued member. 

Law school was expensive, and my relationship suffered.  Law school, if you really put yourself into it, is a lonely experience.

But worth it.

I'm now a type of a judge in Los Angeles hearing juvenile criminal cases.  Prior to becoming a juvenile judge, I represented children in child abuse matters.  I made about $70,000 as an attorney, and now I make about $130,000....this is not very much considered to what first year lawyers make in big firms. It is extremely stressful.

However, I love this job where I feel I can make a difference in some lives.  For me, the opportunity to help people and make a difference was worth the struggles.

Good luck to you.

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