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Author Topic: Does school rank matter for an aspiring Estate Planner  (Read 1688 times)

ptoomey

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Does school rank matter for an aspiring Estate Planner
« on: November 23, 2009, 06:13:22 PM »
Hi Everyone,

My interest in the law is specifically in Estate Planning. I'm wondering whether it's important
to go to a top law school, given that my goal is to initially work for a small firm doing Estate
Planning, and then eventually go off on my own.

I'm sure it's always better to have a top school on your resume, but does anyone know of anyone
who went into Estate Planning right out of law school? Were they at the top of the class? Good
school?

If I end up getting serious about this, I'll obviously try to get accepted to the best schools
possible. But as a career changer with a very specific goal that has nothing to do with corporate
law, I'd be happy to let all you young hot shots fight it out at all those super stressful schools,
for those big law positions.

At the same time, I don't want to put all that effort in and have a mediocre school on my resume,
if it's going to affect my chances of finding a job in Estate Planning. Does Anyone know what the
job outlook is for Estate Planning, and how much competition there is for the jobs?

One other question - does anyone know of any schools that have a strong concentration in Estate
Planning? I'm looking for schools in the New York area and in Phoenix.

Thanks,
ptoomey




Ninja1

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Re: Does school rank matter for an aspiring Estate Planner
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2009, 06:11:04 PM »
*Tag to see what everyone has to say since I also find estate planning interesting.

As far as the job outlook, as long as people keep dying, there will always be work.

Miami has an estate planning LLM, http://www.law.miami.edu/estateplanning/index.php, and they seem like the only one, so they'd probably be worth looking at.
I'mma stay bumpin' till I bump my head on my tomb.

big - fat - box

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Re: Does school rank matter for an aspiring Estate Planner
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2009, 08:13:49 PM »
For estate planning, there are two ways to get into it:

1) You're from a small town, you're very well connected, you have lawyers in your family and know lots of lawyers at small firms. Based on family connections, you have a job waiting for you somewhere when you get out. You go to a local school, rank of school and grades doesn't matter much, if at all.

2) You go to a top school or a strong regional school and get very high grades to land at a big firm or a large regional firm. You probably take a bunch of tax and estate planning related courses in law school. You get hired at a big firm. Out of sheer luck, they need someone to work in this area, so you get placed in the practice group.

Any other way into this field is probably going to require a ton of legwork on your part. You'll need to network very heavily early on (like starting during 1L over winter break) and will need to go to a school that has a decent rep very close to where you want to work. You'll need to find a small firm that will take you on as an unpaid intern or hourly law clerk while you are in law school.

The LLM from Miami is probably a waste of time.


ptoomey

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Re: Does school rank matter for an aspiring Estate Planner
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2009, 04:55:59 AM »
Ninja1,

Thanks for the info on Miami. That probably means they have a decent number of electives in Estate Planning in the JD progran. It seems to vary quite a bit. I'll take a look at the program. Thanks.

Also, I'll make sure I post whatever I learn outside of LSD. I have a telephone call scheduled with an Estate Planning attorney who agreed to talk to me and answer some of my questions.


ptoomey

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Re: Does school rank matter for an aspiring Estate Planner
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2009, 05:24:26 AM »
big-fat-box,

Thanks for all the info. Sounds bleak.

Are you still in law school or working in the field already?

Do have an interest in Estate Planning or do you know about the prospects from others who have tried to get into it?

It sounds like the picture you're painting might be worse than trying to get a corporate law position in a big firm. Is that true? Is there just a short supply of jobs in Estate Planning? That doesn't surprise me too much, but I would have thought there would be a fairly low number of people coming out of school with an interest in Estate Planning too. I figured most people interested in law would find Estate Planning a bit dry.

One thing that does worry me about the demand for Estate Planning is the changes that are likely to be enacted by Congress by the end of the year. It's sounding like the Estate Tax exemption amount is going to stay at $3.5 Million. That doesn't leave too many people who will need Estate Planning. I also read the other day that all the bills currently in Congress have a provision that will allow a spouse to inherit their deceased spouse's unused Estate Tax exemption. That makes the picture even uglier.

Even with all of that, I'd still love to do it, because I love the stuff. I haven't even taken the LSAT yet though, so I guess one step at a time.

Thanks for all the info.

LooneyBin

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Re: Does school rank matter for an aspiring Estate Planner
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2009, 02:29:09 PM »
Hey ptoomey,
I really don't think its as necessary to go to a top law school for estate planning as, let's say, it would be for corporate law. My good friend from college is acutally a 3L at Texas Tech Law School and they have a wonderful program on Estate Planning. Plus, I think they have the only law journal devoted to estate planning. I am also taking Wills, Trusts and Estates this semester and I know that estate planners and elder law lawyers have not been affected by the bad economy as much as other lawyers (or so my prof tells us).
Cuse Law '08-'09
Penn State Law '11

big - fat - box

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Re: Does school rank matter for an aspiring Estate Planner
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2009, 09:23:07 PM »
Are you still in law school or working in the field already?

I am in my final year of law school.


Quote
Do have an interest in Estate Planning or do you know about the prospects from others who have tried to get into it?

No personal interest. I know a guy who fell into category 1) who was able to work in estate planning out of law school. I've also met a few big firm lawyers who fell into category 2).


Quote
It sounds like the picture you're painting might be worse than trying to get a corporate law position in a big firm. Is that true?

Well, it depends how you look at it. You're comparing apples and oranges here. Big firms focus on certain schools and students who got certain grades from those schools. Niche areas like estate planning require that you network your tail off, or be very well connected (see 1) in my previous post) in order to get the job you want. ANY legal job outside the traditional top school OCI route will require a lot of legwork on your part. That isn't specific to estate planning. There just aren't enough legal jobs to go around for the 40,000 law students law schools pump out every year. Some people find jobs out of sheer luck, but most do not.


Quote
Is there just a short supply of jobs in Estate Planning? That doesn't surprise me too much, but I would have thought there would be a fairly low number of people coming out of school with an interest in Estate Planning too. I figured most people interested in law would find Estate Planning a bit dry.

You're right that most law students aren't interested in estate planning.

There aren't that many jobs because the lawyers who work in this area, like a lot of attorneys, tend to have long careers. When they retire, the clients or the children of those clients aren't going to go to someone unknown that just set up shop. They will go to someone the attorney recommends. And small firms that do this type of work, when they need to hire, can afford to be picky about who they hire. That's why connections and networking are so important.


Good luck talking to the attorney. Don't forget to ask him to give you the names and contact information of other attorneys that might be able to speak with you.

Ninja1

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Re: Does school rank matter for an aspiring Estate Planner
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2009, 08:53:27 PM »
...

One thing that does worry me about the demand for Estate Planning is the changes that are likely to be enacted by Congress by the end of the year. It's sounding like the Estate Tax exemption amount is going to stay at $3.5 Million. That doesn't leave too many people who will need Estate Planning. I also read the other day that all the bills currently in Congress have a provision that will allow a spouse to inherit their deceased spouse's unused Estate Tax exemption. That makes the picture even uglier.

...

Don't worry about the estate tax exemption, taxes are just one part of the estate planning picture. The main point of estate planning is to try to eliminate any uncertainties about what will happen to someone's estate after they die. People generally want to make sure their family and friends get squared away and their final affairs are wrapped up to their satisfaction when they die, and that's where you, aspiring estate planner, come into the mix.

It really is true that everyone, regardless of wealth, should have at least a will. If you don't have a will, you no longer get to dictate what happens to your estate when you die and instead are subjected to the default rules setup by the state for handling intestacy. Without a will, your estate is subject to what the state thinks you (as a general person, not you personally) would most probably want, instead of what you actually want. Say you want to leave your boat to your brother when you die, a bank account to a friend, a car to your grandparents, some property to a nephew, and maybe setup a charitable trust to send kids from your high school to college or something. You're going to need a will to accomplish all of those things, because some of those people (the friend in particular) are never going to inherit anything through intestacy, others (actually, all the rest) are probably going to be shutout, depending on your state and if you have any heirs or a surviving spouse, and things like testamentary trusts just plain don't happen without a will (as implied by the name). But with a will, you can do all of those things and more.

So yeah, long story short, don't worry about the estate tax, there are still countless other reasons for people to need a good estate planner.
I'mma stay bumpin' till I bump my head on my tomb.

ptoomey

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Re: Does school rank matter for an aspiring Estate Planner
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2009, 03:50:51 AM »
LooneyBin,

Thanks for the info. I wish there were a school with a program like that in NY. They have 4 electives in Estate Planning/Elder Law/Estate Administration. Some of the schools I've looked at have only one. I found some great links through the Texas Tech site too. Here are a couple:

a blog about Estate Tax reform:
http://mhs.typepad.com/threepointfive-45/

The Texas Tech Estate Planning Journal:
http://estatelawjournal.org/

the only other Estate Planning journal besides the Texas Tech journal:
http://www.naepc.org/journal/

That's encouraging that the Estate Planners haven't been as hard hit. I hope it
stays that way.

ptoomey

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Re: Does school rank matter for an aspiring Estate Planner
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2009, 04:05:23 AM »
big-fat-box,

Thanks for all the feedback. I definitely don't fall into category 1 and category 2 sounds like a crap shoot.

I'll have to network, but it's a little scary heading down that long road without any guarantees. I'm going to talk to as many attorneys working in the field as possible, and I probably won't enroll unless I get a pretty good feeling that prospects could be good upon graduation.

Thanks for all the info and good luck in your final year and job search.