Hello Law Schoool Discussion Board,
I'm a mechanical engineer in my late 20's whose lost admiration for the once proud proffession. There are many reasons why I'm choosing to walk away from the field, the primary reason being my lacklustre compensation I've been recieiving for the past couple years.
I've been pondering Law School for the past few months and have some questions.
1) Aside from the court room, what other jobs can a lawyer score?
2) I have a background in project managment as well as business managment, can a law degree help me bolster these two career paths?
3) How competative is the education, I'm fairly confident I can get into law school, but what is a typical minimum GPA? I'm sure I can surpass it, but I want to get an idea of how many late nights in the study hall I'm going to endure.
4) If I'm not going to work in the legal system, is a law degree transferable to other countries?
I can relate. I was in your exact same shoes a few years ago. I graduated Arch Engr., worked for an engineering firm for a while, got tired of the insulting cost-of-living increases they kept trying to pass off as "raises" and figured since I had always had a genuine interest in the law why not go to law school right?
Before you run out and register for the LSAT you should be aware of a few things:
#1. The economy SUCKS for lawyers right now. This may change by the time you graduate if you happen to go to law school right now, but caveat emptor
#2. Everybody will automatically tell you that you should do Patent Law because you are an engineer. It is true that only engineers and other select degrees (Chem., Bio, Comp. Sci, etc.) actually qualify to sit for the patent bar, so from that standpoint it seems like the thing to do if you happen to have one of those backgrounds. 2 quick points on patent law:
(i) a common misconception is that you must
take the patent bar in order to do "patent law." Not exactly true. "Patent law" comes in two flavors: Patent Litigation and Patent Prosecution. ANY LAWYER can do Patent Litigation. Largely b/ c litigation (drafting briefs; arguing in court) is litigation, no matter what the subject matter is. Patent Prosecution, on the other hand, does require the Patent Bar. Prosecution is the transactional half of Patent law where you actually take the patent and file it in the USPTO in DC.
(ii) somebody told me this when I was in your shoes but I considered them a Debbie Downer so I didn't listen to them, but as it turns out, they weren't far off the mark: patent prosecution is boooooooooooooor-ing! And I'm an engineer saying this. The litigation side is always exciting b/c litigation tends to keep you on your toes. The transactional side, however, not so much. You basically are drafting patent applications all day long which is basically like drafting C++ computer code.
But of course, if you're interested, you should look into it for yourself. The point of me telling you all of this is so that you don't feel that you have to
take the patent bar in order to do patent law b/c you don't.
To answer your questions:
1) we've touched on this briefly, but law firms are divided into two halves, the litigation side and the transactional side. The litigation people are the ones who go to court. The transactional people never go to court. Instead they do the paperwork side of business deals, mergers & acquisitions, real estate deals, etc. Also outside of the courtroom, lawyers can become in-house corporate counsel to big companies. Or you can take your JD and never practice law at all and instead go into business.
3) How competitive is legal education? COMPETITIVE!!! It's probably one of the most competitive academic environments out there. Let me put it like this, everybody else in your class will be smart so being smart is not enough - you have to beat the curve. And the curve in law school (for most schools which give grades) is a beast. You could literally give an excellent analysis of 90% of the issues on a law school exam and still get a "B" b/c of the curve. What also makes it so competitive is that law school is not like other schools where you can just go and graduate and be ok. You have to actually be in the TOP of your class to secure employment after law school. So everybody in your class will be gunning for the top 10% & law review.
4) Your legal degree will transfer with you anywhere you go just like any other degree. I think what you may be asking about however is the bar license perhaps? With respect to that, other countries have different legal systems and requirements so you'd have to look at each country on a case by case basis.