As I've said on many other threads, the work of a lawyer is unpredictable. Saying you want to be a lawyer is like saying you want to work in a science field. There are wildly different work environments, workloads, types of work, and fields of law that you might end up dealing with.
I try to dissuade people from going to law school to practice a very specific type of law in a specific type of firm. For example, if you said, "I want to go dominate law school, and do Mergers and Acquisitions for an international firm," I'd tell you that your chances are worse than playing roulette. You are unique, however. If you really want to be a solo practitioner, you can do it with a law degree. If that's your dream, there's really no other way to do it.
One word of caution, however. I don't know you, and I have now way to determine what your skill set is. I will say that business management skills are important for a solo, but they are nowhere near as important as networking and marketing skills. A new firm, especially one run by a baby lawyer, lives or dies depending on whether the lawyer can make quality contacts and find paying clients. Such abilities are far more important than the ability to create a positive client experience, the ability to balance books, or the ability to manage support staff.
If you are sure you have rent-free space, and you are sure you would enjoy the awful grind that is solo practice, then your question comes down to math. (Obviously, if you are only concerned with chasing your passion, the math won't matter)
If you have 60,000 in debt, your annual loan payments will be approximately $4992 per year for 25 years. As a result, your financial decision comes down to whether your average salary will be $5000 more as a lawyer per year than it would be as something else.
The statistics out there are really bad. (And cost of living in Manhattan is brutal) But you don't see a lot of statistics for average salaries 10 years after law school. It's my impression that lawyers still do quite well as opposed to bankers, managers, marketers, and the average salesperson. If you can survive the first five years, I believe it would probably be a great financial investment, even though the market sucks. That said, it takes a special person to survive five years as a solo.
What kind of law would you like to practice? Are you cut out for the grind that is family law or criminal law in the most competitive market on earth? Do you have the education to take the patent bar? Do you have the education and smarts to do estate planning and tax? Why would someone trust you with their business, when there will be countless attorneys out there with a similar billing rate and more experience? How many solo practitioners have you sat down with? (They tend to be a social bunch, and they tend to be very honest with how things are going).
Excellent post Jack24, and you pose some great questions.
I quoted you above just for reference, I want to be sure to answer everything. Before I do that, let me give you an idea of what I'm going through.
I am in the real estate business, we have a residential building in Manhattan, run it with my mother and it makes good money, about 220k a year we do ok. Whether I go to law school or not, the building will be there, it will no doubt be the money maker for years to come while I get my footing in law, if I can get into law school. My job is not hard, I run things on my phone and computer, but I don't feel challenged, I feel like I have a lot more to offer than writing emails in my underwear and making a good living at it. I have a side business as well which will also stay around if I go to law school.
Can I make 5k a year in law? Probably, I just saved a bundle on car insurance, from $500 to $100 by dropping one of my vehicles from full coverage to liability only and that will save me 4800 a year by itself. If nothing else I just made my law school payments for a few years after graduation. My other option would be to get my certification and become a grammar school teacher, as bad as the legal profession is now, it can't be worse than an elementary school history teacher. Plus, everything sucks now, we're in a economic slump, my guess is, once everything else picks up, so will the legal field.
What kind of law am I interested in? For a while I thought about 2nd amendment law. Very useful in NYC, esp. since only one lawyer in NYC does that exclusively, and NYC also has some of the worst gun laws in the nation. Pistol permits applications are up and it is a long, hard and tricky process.
In addition to that, perhaps immigration law? My property is in East Harlem and with new immigration laws coming down the pipe, and a large Latin American community, it might be lucrative, esp. since I speak Spanish, (I'm Hispanic myself) and my name is very very well known in the area. Not only because of my own business dealings but my father spent 40+ years in the area, built a serious reputation as a great and honest businessman, and that can take me far.
The office space is on a busy street in Manhattan, and would be 100% free as we own it and can not use it for any other purpose except an office for the use of building owner according to the zoning laws.
Landlord tenant law might work too, I have spent YEARS in this business and have been in and out of housi g court and know the system pretty well already. One landlord tenant lawyer I dealt with charged $300 an hour, lived in the Hamptons and had a brownstone on East 74th street. That is ALL he did.
Also, on a side note, I don't live in Manhattan, the property we own is there, but we live outside the city and the house is nearly paid off.
I wouldn't mind being that guy with the office, the guy with the respect of the neighborhood, nada good, if not great living. I would love to be like my dad in that respect. He wasn't a lawyer,he was an insurance broker/driving school instructor/income tax preparer/livery cab base owner, I would love to bethe next Generation of X's ( using X to keep anonymity, I'm not related to Malcolm) in East Harlem running a business that makes money but also takes care of the community.
Patent law? No, I have. A degree in history, and almost no science credits in UG. Criminal? Not really interested, but possible. Tax and estate planning is an idea, but don't you need to be a CPA as well? Family law might work esp. In that area.