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Author Topic: Reality Check - Job Outlook for Older Law School Students  (Read 13160 times)

a_v2.0

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Reality Check - Job Outlook for Older Law School Students
« on: December 26, 2009, 05:22:41 PM »
I recently turned 30 and I'm considering changing careers.  I've worked in advertising since graduating college and although it is an interesting field to be in it is personally unfulfilling. 

If I were to attend law school in Fall 2011 I'd finish by the time I'm 35.  I'll be competing with law school grads who are in their mid 20s.  How badly will my age affect my chances? Lets assume I graduate from a top 30 school in the top 10% of my class.

I know the type of law I choose to pursue will play a major factor.  Ideally I'd like to become an environmental lawyer, either at a non-profit such as the NRDC or at a large firm advising corporations on environmental law.  I'm open to other fields of law as well so if I have a better shot landing a job in another field please let me know.

Greatly appreciate any advice you can give, thank you. 

a_v2.0

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Re: Reality Check - Job Outlook for Older Law School Students
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2009, 01:07:59 AM »
hmm that was disappointing.

mbw

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Re: Reality Check - Job Outlook for Older Law School Students
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2009, 12:21:20 PM »
I don't think anyone really has an idea anymore about what law firms or PI organizations will be seeking in applications after the Great Law Meltdown of 2008-9.

I'll be 47 when I graduate (I'm a 1L at a lower T14) and while I hope my previous work experience, etc., will help, I'm just really glad I'm not paying sticker in a time of such uncertainty.  If you really want a change, and law is the change you want, then go for it.
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Alamo

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Re: Reality Check - Job Outlook for Older Law School Students
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2009, 01:20:21 PM »
I wouldn't do it.

I was 30 when I graduated 7 months ago, so I'm in a slightly different position; I also have a wife & 2 kids now.  But it's a huge gamble for anyone.

One thing to know about public interest jobs is that it may be more difficult to get one straight out of school.  The prototypical career trajectory involves working for a firm for a few years first to pay down loans before transitioning to a non-profit.  You could, conceivably, end up doing option 2, then option 1.

But you're unwise to assume you'll end up in the top 10% of your class at any school.  I believe that hard work can generally get you into the top half or so of your class, but the rest depends upon your law exam-taking abilities, and there's really no way of knowing how you'll do.

I wouldn't even consider it unless you get into USC or better, unless you get a substantial scholarship.

If you're lucky, you could end up timing it perfectly if the market rebounds by 2014.  But the legal field could be permanently shrinking, in which case grads would continue to be in very low demand compared to their supply.

If you're set on a law degree, I know what I say won't stop you, but be very sure it's what you want to do; if you're not, you're highly unlikely to have what it takes to fulfill your plan.

But, I believe your age/experience are a plus.  Not only have you already made your rookie professional mistakes, but you've indicated your dedication to the field by leaving your present career.

Good luck, whatever you do.
I must admit that I may have been infected with society's prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God . . . and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history.  I don't believe such doubts make me a bad Christian.  I believe they make me human . . .

nerfco

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Re: Reality Check - Job Outlook for Older Law School Students
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2009, 04:00:52 PM »
I don't really think your age would be a big factor. I don't know much/anything about public interest positions, but within law firms, non-traditional graduates seem to be given a slight bump for being non-traditional.

That said, I don't like that your OP seems to assume you'll be top 10%. A lot more students expect to be top 10% coming in than actually end up as top 10% at the end.

a_v2.0

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Re: Reality Check - Job Outlook for Older Law School Students
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2009, 05:47:50 PM »
Hey guys - greatly appreciate the responses, this is extremely helpful.  I'm not assuming I'll get into the top 10% or even a top 30 school.  I'm only creating that scenario for the board to judge so I can see what effect being older will have when all the other factors are strong.

Alamo - in your job search have you found that there isn't any bias against older applicants?  I'm trying gauge how an older applicant is seen by a firm.  Lets forget the non-profits for a minute, if I'm applying to a large corporate law firm you are saying its likely they'll look at my age as a plus?  I know very little about the culture in law firms but my assumption would be that they favor younger applicants because they can focus on working 80 hour weeks without thinking about a wife and kids. 

Nerfco - same question, in your experience at law firms you've seen the firm look favorably upon older applicants?  Is it to meet a quota of non-traditional hires? 

nerfco

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Re: Reality Check - Job Outlook for Older Law School Students
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2009, 07:09:47 PM »
Nerfco - same question, in your experience at law firms you've seen the firm look favorably upon older applicants?  Is it to meet a quota of non-traditional hires? 

No, not at all. It is more that non-trads are much more likely to be successful employees, as they have a longer employment history, rather than immature kids whose only job was working part-time at Subway one summer.

Alamo

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Re: Reality Check - Job Outlook for Older Law School Students
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2009, 09:21:22 PM »
Hey guys - greatly appreciate the responses, this is extremely helpful.  I'm not assuming I'll get into the top 10% or even a top 30 school.  I'm only creating that scenario for the board to judge so I can see what effect being older will have when all the other factors are strong.

Alamo - in your job search have you found that there isn't any bias against older applicants?  I'm trying gauge how an older applicant is seen by a firm.  Lets forget the non-profits for a minute, if I'm applying to a large corporate law firm you are saying its likely they'll look at my age as a plus?  I know very little about the culture in law firms but my assumption would be that they favor younger applicants because they can focus on working 80 hour weeks without thinking about a wife and kids. 

Nerfco - same question, in your experience at law firms you've seen the firm look favorably upon older applicants?  Is it to meet a quota of non-traditional hires? 

All I can say is that in both law firm and clerkship interviewing, I feel like I got better interviews than I would have with the same stats and no work experience.  I also talked freely about having a child (I only had one at the time) during all of my interviews; perhaps it cost me an offer or two, but many (if not most) of the people with whom I interviewed had children.  It's just something that professionals are likely to do, and it's taken as a proxy, accurately or not, for maturity.

Now, if you were 50, it might not work so well.  But at 35, you'd have (hypothetically) 30 years to give a firm.  You will understand that you may be taking orders from a senior associate 5 years younger than you, and you'll be mature enough not to let that bother you. 

And, as far as firms looking for young whipper-snappers to work those 80-hour weeks, perhaps some firms do, but I think most firms realize that a person a few years older is more likely to have developed a professional work ethic (as opposed to just an academic work ethic--and they're very different), and is also likely to know what he is getting into. 

One thing I should have mentioned last time--I'm not sure how easy it will be for you to do environmental law, particularly in this economy.  You may be better positioned to try and focus on something like, I don't know, maybe trademark infringement, that would leverage your advertising experience, if you would find that more fulfilling than what you would currently do.

Also, you can assume/not assume various factors, but you should strongly consider the possibility that, if you are not accepted into a highly ranked school, you may not do get the grades necessary to realize your vision.  I cannot emphasize enough that it is a significant risk--it may be worth it to you, but know what you're getting into.
I must admit that I may have been infected with society's prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God . . . and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history.  I don't believe such doubts make me a bad Christian.  I believe they make me human . . .

torij1066

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Re: Reality Check - Job Outlook for Older Law School Students
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2010, 06:35:49 PM »
I am an older student with a child and it seems easier when you go back, you usually have more motivation thant the younger students. Go for it, do not worry about the younger competition.

TruffleMomma

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Re: Reality Check - Job Outlook for Older Law School Students
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2010, 12:22:05 AM »
I am NOT in the top of my class and at over 40, I have firms offering me summer positions. I have not had to look. Then again, I am not taking any of them because I want to take summer school and finish earlier.

Your value comes with your experiences and with the assumed difficulties you will experience as an older law student. But lest you think you are ancient or something... our class average this year was at 29. We have a half dozen over 45 just in my section. the other section has someone over 60.

All job prospects are tough... may as well be doing what you want to do!