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coach39

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39 and considering law school
« on: November 17, 2011, 04:24:57 PM »
I've been a secondary history and government teacher and coach (just about every sport but now only football but really want to go to law school. I have two graduate degrees in educational administration and have decided law school is a much better alternative than going to get a Ph. D. I will have to start part time because I have a family but I worked the entire time I got both of my graduate degrees- I know the course work doesnt compare to law school. I have been in education for 16 years and I am looking at law as something I can do for the rest of my life. I am a crazy, I would love to hear your comments or suggestions. Thank you.

FalconJimmy

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Re: 39 and considering law school
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2011, 04:34:29 PM »
I've been a secondary history and government teacher and coach (just about every sport but now only football but really want to go to law school. I have two graduate degrees in educational administration and have decided law school is a much better alternative than going to get a Ph. D. I will have to start part time because I have a family but I worked the entire time I got both of my graduate degrees- I know the course work doesnt compare to law school. I have been in education for 16 years and I am looking at law as something I can do for the rest of my life. I am a crazy, I would love to hear your comments or suggestions. Thank you.

go for it.  I waited until I was 46 to start.  You're gonna get old with or without a JD.  Your choice.

Hamilton

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Re: 39 and considering law school
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2011, 08:42:18 AM »
I respect Falcon, but have a different opinion on this.  Be realistic about your family needs and financial situation.  I was about the same age and regret doing it for several reasons: (1) entry-level law salary could not compete with my existing professional salary, and (2) the time it took me away from family/kids.  Fortunately I took out no loans and did not have to pay much for school.  If you have kids, think about having them essentially going without a father for 3+ years.  If you are happy with your current job and salary, consider that you will be starting out in a highly competitive field with kids half your age, likely making less than you are now if you can find a job.  Imagine being at the very bottom of the food chain reporting to kids 10 or 15 younger than you.  Also, if you are going to have to pay "full price," ask yourself if paying out $100K over the next 3 years is the wisest thing to do.  Lawyering is very different from coaching/teaching - you may find yourself bored to tears.  If this is a fairly recent itch, I suggest waiting a year before you scratch it, make sure it is TRULY what you want to do and that doing it makes good sense.

Yes, age discrimination is illegal, but unless a candidate is exceptional, I think most firms are going to take the young and hungry over-achieving "kid" out of law school who they can use, abuse, and groom over the middle-age person with experience, opinions, and personal life who might not be interested in working 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, and come back eagerly looking for more.

coach39

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Re: 39 and considering law school
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2011, 05:06:07 PM »
Thanks to all who posted back. I have no doubt I can learn I have taught the US Constitution for 15 years inside and out. The LSAT scares me. Hamilton your post really made me think about the cost. I am not jumping into this blind I am thinking about getting a paraglegal cert and working for some local attorneys to make sure its something I really want to do otherwise I'll go back to looking at a public administration career later. The starting money for lawyers wont be great that kind of scares me too- I am not applying to any big time schools and dont have on plans of moving to a big city, etc. even if I go to law school. I just want to work for a small firm. I've worked long enough in education and with a couple of grad degrees plus coaching- creates about a 85 hour week during season but I am to about 70K which isnt bad. I also work as a sports writer in the off season. I have always wanted to go law school I would have been ready in my 20s as my undergrad would show but I have 3.8 in two grad degrees that I got teaching full time and coaching 2-3 varsity sports. Thank you so much for taking time to read my post and offer advice.

FalconJimmy

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Re: 39 and considering law school
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2011, 05:12:17 PM »
Although I don't necessarily agree with his conclusion, I think Hamilton is 100% on the money and you should consider his perspective carefully.

I don't mean to be glib with my response and I'm in a little different boat than most folks.  I don't "need" this to work out as a career for me.  A lot of outcomes after law school that others would consider a disaster are perfectly fine for me.  For various reasons, the pressures to earn and pay off loans really aren't part of my calculus.  However, they are part of the calculus for most folks.

The one thing I'll throw in, and perhaps even Hamilton will agree with this, is that I have always wanted to be an attorney.  Yeah, that's sorta stupid.  I've also wanted to be a rockstar and if you go far back enough in my past, I wanted to be a kickboxing champ and a thousand other things that just never happened.

This one?  It's within my grasp.  If I got to the end of the road, looked back and never had tried this, I think I'd have a little pang of regret.  I can't ever see myself regretting having a J.D.  No way.  No how.  I might regret aspects of my J.D. (like grades or school, or whatever), but I could never envision regretting having the J.D.

What would your life be without one?  Would you be fine, or would it always sorta bug you? 

Hamilton is right to consider all the circumstances involved. You'd be foolish not to.  I just know that when I was contemplating grad-school, I had to chose between business and law.  Very few of us who chose business ended up as well off in the long run as those who chose law. 

With the way things are going, we'll all die at our desks, anyway.  If you're going to spend that much of your life working would you rather it be as an attorney or doing what you're doing now?  Or heck, you have all sorts of options.  Would you rather it be as a pharmacist?  Engineer?  Physician?  Look at them all.

However, I wouldn't let age be a determining factor.  Every time I thought I was "too old" for something, just a few years later, I realized how stupid it was to think that way.

justanothersucker

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Re: 39 and considering law school
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2011, 08:23:33 PM »
Age is not the big of a deal, but the fact that you view it as an alternative to a phD. That part is worth focusing on.
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I've been a secondary history and government teacher and coach (just about every sport but now only football but really want to go to law school. I have two graduate degrees in educational administration and have decided law school is a much better alternative than going to get a Ph. D. I will have to start part time because I have a family but I worked the entire time I got both of my graduate degrees- I know the course work doesnt compare to law school. I have been in education for 16 years and I am looking at law as something I can do for the rest of my life. I am a crazy, I would love to hear your comments or suggestions. Thank you.

coach39

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Re: 39 and considering law school
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2011, 11:43:29 AM »
Thanks again to those who posted back. I do appreciate it. I started out as Pre-law major in my undergrad but ended up getting a history degree and started teaching and coaching and kept looking at law school but was always consumed with what I was doing at the time. I am still investigating it and considering everything very carefully. I taught and coached a young man who worked extremely hard in the classroom and athletics that graduated from Stanford and UMichigan law school and he told me the reality for someone my age and not going to a top tier law school was massive debt and once you pass the bar if you could find a job you would only start at 50K. I think I knew that all a long though talking to him just confirmed it. I will continue to investigate and in the mean time will try to some interning in some firms. Thank you again for taking time to read my post I am certainly grateful for your honest candor.

FalconJimmy

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Re: 39 and considering law school
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2011, 01:33:23 PM »
Thanks again to those who posted back. I do appreciate it. I started out as Pre-law major in my undergrad but ended up getting a history degree and started teaching and coaching and kept looking at law school but was always consumed with what I was doing at the time. I am still investigating it and considering everything very carefully. I taught and coached a young man who worked extremely hard in the classroom and athletics that graduated from Stanford and UMichigan law school and he told me the reality for someone my age and not going to a top tier law school was massive debt and once you pass the bar if you could find a job you would only start at 50K.

I think there's merit to what he's saying but remember this:  those of us in the 4th tier can only guess at what it's like in the first tier.  Frankly, those in the first tier are at the same disadvantage when it comes to us.

I remember a friend of mine who went to CWRU and later worked for Jones Day.  All during law school she'd say, "if you're not going to a school like CWRU or better, you can't work biglaw."  When she started at Jones Day?  After a year or so, we were talking about it and she had done a complete 180.  She said people were working there from CSU, from Akron, etc.  She even hinted that she might have some regret about going into the debt required to go to CWRU.

The reality is that for a guy going to a truly T14 school, it's just not the same dynamic.  They would turn their noses up at opportunities that we'd think are awesome.  For instance, an 80,000 offer with a mid-sized firm?  They'd crap their pants and vomit all over the offer letter.  They'd be offended that a mid-sized firm would even THINK that they would work there for such paltry wages.

However, a top 10%er from a school like Wayne State?  That offer looks damned fine.  Especially after a few years when they're well into the six figures, that student loan debt doesn't look so insurmountable anymore. 

I do think that if you want to go to a T4 and do average or worse, you will have to make your own opportunities.  That's the biggest difference, I think.  Average grads from U of M have a hell of a lot of doors open to them.  Average grads from Akron and CSU?  Maybe not so much.  There are still jobs, but like your friend said, they may only pay $40-60K.

The wildcard in all this is that you can go into practice for yourself.  When you bill $150 an hour or more, it doesn't take Stephen Hawking's math skills to realize you can make real money.  So, maybe you only make $50K for a few years, but after a while, you open up your own labor, family or criminal defense firm and now you're billing 20 hours a week, paying $50K overhead, and making $100,000 for your troubles... at 20 hours a week.

I do think your friend's advice is sound in this regard:  HIS future and YOUR future are not likely to be the same thing.  If he graduates top 1/3, he probably has a shot at a biglaw job.  If you graduate #1 in your class, you MIGHT have a shot at a biglaw job coming out of a T4.  However, if you graduate top 10%, your chances of getting a good offer from a midsized firm are not that bad.

If you graduate in the bottom of the class?  It's a tough row to hoe, no doubt, but it can be done. 

Step back and ask yourself this question:  what is it you want to do with your life?  If you like teaching, for god's sake keep teaching.  No offense, but teachers are some of the whineyest bastards on the planet.  If you can spend a day with a teacher without hearing the word "underpaid" it's a miracle.  However, with enough seniority, you're gonna be pulling down 60 or 70K, eventually.  For working 9 months out of the year with civil-service style holidasy off, that's good pay, especially since most teachers don't have to pay their fair share into social security and get seriously good benefits.  Teachers should stop whining and just ask themselves if they like to teach.  If they like to teach, the pay is reasonable for what they do.

(By the way, your friend's comment about "if you pass the bar", typically the T4s do pretty darned well on bar passage rates.  Like 100% and usually over 90%.  Frankly, a lot of top tier schools have lower bar passage rates than some of the T4s.)

I think I knew that all a long though talking to him just confirmed it. I will continue to investigate and in the mean time will try to some interning in some firms. Thank you again for taking time to read my post I am certainly grateful for your honest candor.

Why not just try a part-time program and try one semester?  You'll learn more in 1 week in law school than you'll learn in 3 years of just asking around.  Likewise, you'll learn more in 1 week in actual practice than you'll learn in 3 years of law school.  No offense and it's never too late, but seriously, you don't want to **** around too long before pulling the trigger on this.

justanothersucker

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Re: 39 and considering law school
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2011, 02:37:30 PM »
I think that he wants a PhD to get promoted at work and the Dr. title.

Many Profs (even at public schools) do that, and it seems to work well for them.

Having the JD title in theory would work just as well, even more so if running for an elected educational office.

Think about how many politicians went to lawschool. Many who never even practiced in court.

jonlevy

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Re: 39 and considering law school
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2011, 05:42:49 PM »
A PhD will be much better than a JD unless you want to practice law. A JD requires no dissertation and is not afforded the same respect in academia as a PhD. An EdD. might be even easier to obtain and afford the same status.