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Author Topic: When to quit my job for a clerkship  (Read 927 times)

chi2009

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When to quit my job for a clerkship
« on: June 02, 2010, 02:55:25 PM »
Just finished my first year, but have 3 to go since I'm a part-time student.  I have a great job right now that pays really well, plus I make extra money doing independent contract work.  Unfortunately, neither are in the legal field.  I've been looking at clerkships and various positions at local firms, but they only pay a fraction of what I make now.  So the transition is going to be painful.  At what point do I really need to get a law-related job?  I talked to someone who kept her (non-law-related) job and got a part-time clerkship, but I'm not sure how well I could swing a job, a clerkship, and maintain my GPA.  Any thoughts?

Thane Messinger

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Re: When to quit my job for a clerkship
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2010, 05:02:37 AM »
Just finished my first year, but have 3 to go since I'm a part-time student.  I have a great job right now that pays really well, plus I make extra money doing independent contract work.  Unfortunately, neither are in the legal field.  I've been looking at clerkships and various positions at local firms, but they only pay a fraction of what I make now.  So the transition is going to be painful.  At what point do I really need to get a law-related job?  I talked to someone who kept her (non-law-related) job and got a part-time clerkship, but I'm not sure how well I could swing a job, a clerkship, and maintain my GPA.  Any thoughts?

Aloha, Chi -

Much of the answer might depend on those all-important grades.  If sufficiently high, you'll have much more breathing room in terms of moving to a well-paying legal position.  (True, the part-time program might dampen that somewhat.)  On the positive side, this is a good problem, especially now.  And legal employers might well be interested in your non-legal professional skills and knowledge.  (These might not be the conventional big law employers that everyone seems to focus in on, although this too depends on your circumstances rather than a generalized answer.)

Have you a preference in terms of eventual practice?  Have you done much researching or networking (on either the legal or non-legal sides) into those possible offices?

Thane.

chi2009

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Re: When to quit my job for a clerkship
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2010, 12:10:04 PM »
Even though my current job is not law-related, I would think (or hope) that employers would realize that the process of going to law school while also working full time requires superb time management and organization skills.

cooleylawstudent

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Re: When to quit my job for a clerkship
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2010, 05:40:37 PM »
if your grades stay high then keep it, if they start to slip take out student loans.


Thane Messinger

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Re: When to quit my job for a clerkship
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2010, 12:23:55 AM »
Even though my current job is not law-related, I would think (or hope) that employers would realize that the process of going to law school while also working full time requires superb time management and organization skills.

Sadly, even if they did it likely wouldn't compensate entirely for the downsides.  Another aspect: if we're talking a well-paying job, are we also talking a job that takes more than 40 hours per week? 

Thane.

chi2009

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Re: When to quit my job for a clerkship
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2010, 06:17:20 AM »
Even though my current job is not law-related, I would think (or hope) that employers would realize that the process of going to law school while also working full time requires superb time management and organization skills.

Sorry I missed your earlier question - I'm most interested in finance or tax law.  I've done some networking in this area, and my tax prof has offered to give me a research assistantship on an article he's working on.  I know there are some internships with the IRS in town and I've just started looking into those.  I've looked generally at various firm positions, but the compensation for most of them is horrifying.  Alternatively, I could take something similar as an externship and get credit for it instead.

I currently work about 40 hrs/week, with 25 - 30 of those at an office job and 10-15 as an independent contractor.  I have much more flexibility with the latter.  I'm by no means wealthy, but I make a comfortable living with minimal student loans.  The good thing about my office job is that I fulfill a variety of functions, which has broadened my skill set.  It's a fairly small office, and I started out doing mostly PR/marketing and office management.  But because of a series of unforeseen events, including the sudden death of a coworker, I've taken over all the accounting/bookkeeping and the regulatory compliance stuff we have to do for state licensures.  And the company is highly flexible with my schedule.  My grades are fine (top 10%), but not sure how much that will actually matter in this situation.


Thane Messinger

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Re: When to quit my job for a clerkship
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2010, 01:48:34 AM »
Chi -

The good news is that this is a good problem.  Yes, by comparison you'll find that summer and part-time jobs pay rather poorly, but I suspect there are opportunities for you that are hidden to the general law student population.  Namely, if you find a firm that has a need at least roughly comparable to your current expertise, you might well be able to match or even surpass your current salary.  Moreover, you might be able to create your own mix of jobs.  Quite a lot on your plate in that case, but it would make the transition easier.

Absent that, at some point the switch will be inevitable, unless you use your JD as a stepping stone within your current line (which is not too uncommon with part-time students, actually).  The good news here is that there doesn't seem to be a pressing need, given your current situation.  Perhaps spending the near term in finding firms with needs in your area (such as, for example, forensic accounting or a million sub-areas in administrative appeals), and seeing if there's any interest. 

You might completely ignore the stated positions, and instead look for the hidden ones.  A bit more work, but much more rewarding, usually.

Thane.

cvtheis

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Re: When to quit my job for a clerkship
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2010, 09:55:26 AM »
My meme is 'question your decision about going to law school.'  It is a brutal market out there for lawyers, especially non-T1s.  If you have a good paying job now, is it in your best interest to risk it, sink yourself into serious debt, and potentially not be able to pay it back?  Just throwing it out there - keep your perspective and think outside of today's box.  You may be a great student at a T1 who dreams of being a lawyer - fair enough, I dont know.  My advice is that if you are not getting scholarships, if you are not at a T1, if it is not your life passion to be a lawyer, and if you are acruing substantial debt to go to law school - do some serious research on job prospects for lawyers and think about the future.

Just finished my first year, but have 3 to go since I'm a part-time student.  I have a great job right now that pays really well, plus I make extra money doing independent contract work.  Unfortunately, neither are in the legal field.  I've been looking at clerkships and various positions at local firms, but they only pay a fraction of what I make now.  So the transition is going to be painful.  At what point do I really need to get a law-related job?  I talked to someone who kept her (non-law-related) job and got a part-time clerkship, but I'm not sure how well I could swing a job, a clerkship, and maintain my GPA.  Any thoughts?

chi2009

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Re: When to quit my job for a clerkship
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2010, 10:26:27 AM »
cvtheis -

I understand where youíre coming from, and all of the concerns you mentioned are precisely why I started law school at the age of 31 instead of 22.  I always wanted to go to law school, but didnít want to incur the debt, especially since I already had undergraduate debt.  So I got a masterís degree (which wasnít worth the money either) and entered the job force.  Yes, I make a comfortable living, but nothing incredibly outstanding.  The idea of incurring much more student loan debt literally keeps me up at night, which is why I am going part-time Ė so I can continue earning an income and only take out minimal loans.  I also have a partial scholarship.  Bottom line, I realized that if I didnít go, I would always regret it, and Iím at the age where I better just do it or forget about it.  I know whatís happened in the job market the past couple years, and I have no illusions about what itís like now.  At the same time, several people who graduated from my school this year do have jobs.  Not the ones in the middle of the class or those who werenít extremely proactive.  I donít think itís easy, but I donít think itís impossible either.  I have good grades and Iím doing everything I can to keep all doors open and maximize my options.  Iíve also connected with some excellent people in the profession who are giving me good advice.  Iím looking into both the public sector to take advantage of the loan forgiveness program and the private sector, and Iím crunching the numbers to see which will be the best road to take.  I know itís all a gamble and Iím praying it pays off.  Itís just something that, after several years of serious research and contemplation, I decided I really wanted to do.

chi2009

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Re: When to quit my job for a clerkship
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2010, 10:36:54 AM »
Thane Ė

As usual, thank you for the advice.  That was kind of my instinct and what I was hoping for, and one of my profs recently told me something very similar.  I was just afraid of taking that too much on faith and then finding out I was completely wrong.  Luckily, I am very interested in tax or finance law, and I'm curious to learn more about administrative law.  I donít think I need to find something immediately, so I donít have to just take the first thing that comes along.  In the meantime, I think there are ways I can leverage my current position and resources, and I have already begun cultivating relationships through school that will help me in the job market.  Hopefully that will give me a leg up when itís time to make the transition.