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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Law School Bible: Becoming a Post-Recession Lawyer (esp as a minority) In The U.S.

It hurts my heart to know that despite the dire warnings in the field and serious, focused, EXTENSIVE research needed to even know the things I was able to tell this guy who contacted me through Law School MAPS on Facebook...this is his first time being informed of all this.  There is so little help for aspiring lawyers and law students (called 0Ls before first year has started)...and minorities especially have little nuances to the realities of the field of law these days that they are just not being made aware of...to walk around in such a cutthroat arena with no relevant information is like going to fight The 300 Spartans with a blindfold on and no weapon at all: suicide!


HIM:
Thank you for having a presence on Law "MAPS," and offering information with law school admissions. To date, I am strongly considering a Law degree over a PhD and I have lots of questions stemming from maxing the LSAT to passing the bar and gaining employement. I worked as an auditor (internal and financial), served in the military, and really felt the need for a career change this year. Would it be ok to contact you with some law school admission questions? (top 50, insider courses, finances, and clients, etc). Thank you.




ME:
Sure. I should point out in all fairness that I am not an actual law school admit as yet, I've just done a TON of research and asked even more questions of everyone, LSATblog (on fb)'s author, people from my alma mater who went on to law school (including one who went to Harvard Law!), top-law-schools.com...lawschooldiscussion.org...etc. Anna Ivey's blog too. Just a whole lot. So I am pretty confident about being able to advise but always feel free to get confirmation on what I'm saying!

What would you like to know first of all?



And where do you plan to practice law (and therefore live) after graduation? That determines where you should go to school if you are not going to one of the top 5 or 10. Cause law schools are VERRRRY local, so you can't go to school in Cali and want to work in North Carolina...if you always wanted to live in Miami, now's the time, get into UF, FIU or UM for that!




HIM:
Thank you much for the candid reply. My concerns are four fold: (1) how can I get into law school (hopefully with a JD/MBA track) given a 6 month deadline (testing window of June). I intend to self-study for both GMAT and LSAT exams, and then take a review course to refine skills in difficult areas. Thus far, I considered testmasters and Kaplan for the lsat/gmat reviews. given a low GPA (undergrad) I know I have to 710 and 170+ for gmat/lsat scores respectively. (2) given that my chances of getting into a Phd program are greater (reduced costs and gmat 700 only), and that a professor of accounting/tax are viable fields - knowing what you know about Law and employment after passing the bar, how would you fair professorship vs lawyer (any kind)? (3) cost of programs are additional concerns. If accepted by a Phd program, as a minoirity male, the schools and fellowships are almost willing to guarantee a great deal of the expenses. As for Law school, are the stipends, and grants available for miniority men? If so, is it likely to recieve adequate funding (highly competitive vs moderately competetive given a shortage, etc). (4) Along with a Phd comes portabilty (international work), can I achieve the same portability with a US law degree? I want to hit the west african area (early) by 2015-2018 when the south african economy makes its way up the continenant. with a Phd I can teach, with a Law degree (other than tax advisory services, what are good areas to secure employment in a thriving economy (internal law, corp law, etc)? I have a fairly decent accounting, economics, and pubilc administration background, and I am looking for a satisfying job/career that offers a 40-50hr work week and pays the equilvalent of 75+ (I dont mind putting in the trench work (schools, etc)).

I know this is a lot to absorb, but I am serious and have little time to shuffle or seat idle. I do know however that I want to switch career for know and move upwards from accountant/CPA to Professor/Phd and/or Phd/JD (or JD/MBA). I am not getting any younger so I want an excellent start.

Thank you much, I appreciate any and all help you can provide. I know this is a lot; however, I wanted you to get the full picture. Thanks.



ME:
Studying for the LSAT is a full time job. So I recommend doing only one or the other.

People are having hard times getting jobs with just the JD. JD combined with anyone else says to employers you don't know what you want, and at that level of education they want people who are set on being lawyers, not people who are "sitting on the fence".

You want to leave the country, law degrees are not the way to do that because every country's laws are different. You COULD find out if there is a program for lawyers from here to take some courses to get certified for laws there, but then there is the competition with people who already are in the system, it's too much risk.

170 and higher is very hard to achieve if you were not cold-testing on the first practice test in the 160s. Most people go up about 10 points or so on the test with practice. So again trying to aim for that requires single focus on LSAT prep only.

I want to go to law school but I had in mind that I would be trying to start my own immigration and family law practice right out of law school (even though I would look for jobs as well)...to be able to do what I want to do with law (which is be able to accept ANY lawyer job and not have debt so high that i must aim for job pay level that simply doesn't exist out there anymore for new grads), I need to attend law school for free. I already have debt from undergrad loans, and a family to care for, and federal loans max out at $18,500 per year...law school easily costs $23,000 or more unless you are instate at a real cheap school or going to Brigham Young's law school (which has Mormon code not everyone likes). So with the terrible employment prospects, I know if I can't go for free or can't go to a top 10 school, I'm not going. Harsh to give up on a dream but there it is.

I took the LSAT and got a low score. Self prep. It was lower than my usual practice scores, and I am bad with figuring out certain wrong answers without feedback from an external source that hasn't already been looking at the material for a while. So this time around I am going for a prep course, and the ones with the highest ratings are Testmasters (although their customer service seems to be leaving people not too happy) and Powerscore. Princeton Review might also have one that's good. Every minority I talked to personally who is a successful lawyer and/or got into a good law school (including one from my alma mater who went to Harvard law) insisted that the prep courses are the best way to get that edge over all the other students, since a lot of them are taking the prep courses. One who didn't take it wishes she had, even though she's a lawyer now. She also admits if it wasn't for her personal connections back in her hometown, she would not have gotten a job when she graduated...and this is from Tulane Law!

Professorships are a good way to go especially as they are PAYING people, especially minorities, to get PhDs. For what you want to do, the PhD/Professorship/International seems the surest bet.

Law should be done to become a lawyer.

Law degrees are barely portable from state to state much less internationally.

Law schools even when they give scholarships you have to watch the terms because there is a huge arbitrary nature to law professor grading and a HUGE curve in first year especially so if it stipulates a certain GPA, don't think it's as easy to get that as back in college...cause the entire YEAR's grades are determined by ONE final exam essay style in each class. No quizzes, no midterms (some professors give sample finals as practice exams midway through the term, but not graded)...you just either absorb all that info with no feedback, or you don't. And first year ranking and grades determine what type of jobs you can get...and before that what school you are at cause top companies paying the most money aren't going far below the T-14... they may hire the top 30% of the Ivy league class and then the top 1% of everyone else's classes... it's very easy to lose that scholarship if it's conditional.

Most lawyers are NOT making the big money we hear about, not at first, and usually not without going out on their own if they are not in a large law firm. One one side of the graph is a big jump where a lot are making less than $50K a year...than the other side of the graph a big spike again where a significant number are making more than $100k... many lawyers are making $20 an hour and some are seeing ads for $10 an hour...even opening one's own business it takes a while and good marketing and business management skills to get clients in the door and get them to actually pay you.


Matter of fact your point about them paying people to get PhDs reminds me that I should research programs where people are paying for Master's...the economy is not such that taking on loans is a good idea if there is a program you want that reduces or cuts out loans completely.

I would say the PhD (in what though?) is better, but you need to research the job prospects here in the U.S. and where you are going for the type of PhD you want.

It's just rough out here trying to figure out the path to the money to make the effort worth it...smh.

Please take a prep course to give yourself the best advantage, be willing to take the test later if you need time to save, and to apply next year for the year after if necessary. I am doing some soulsearching on how I can best make money without taking on additional debt...but i don't have a master's yet although it's not necessary for a phd...



Also, I happened to see from the info part of your profile on here that you have been at several colleges and have been doing dual degrees at all of them. That is why your GPA is low. It does not look good on the resume to be a jack of all trades and master of none.

America is dying for accountants, how are you not making $75k a year in that field already? It says you are in Japan...if you look around on careerbuilder.com and craigslist and linkedin.com, everybody wants accountants with experience. Here in the atlanta area temp agencies could find you something fast.

In the past, basically, trying to study two fields at once has not worked out for you far as grades. Don't do it going forward, focus. Just one.



Read Article on Whether Law School Makes Sense


University of Michigan Law School


HIM:
Thank you much. I really like your responses - in fact, I have never had anyone make this type of analysis. And, your right. I haven't considered my dual efforts as a stumbler to my GPA, and at the time, I focused on increased opportunity through a broader skill set. Although it hurt my grades, I was competitive on the job, however. Nonetheless, you are right on point. As for happyness, I was practicing audit and worked long hours and dealt with co-workers that will put you under the bus and then drive over you to make sure your rolled-on. I know this is not uncommon, however, I am a pretty decent accountant, can get a job making 50+ without much sweat. given my field, its going international - soon, all accounting with be on a global standard once the SEC adopts the international code of financial reporting (bascially it means that companies with begin to take on a global face (not only on a big level, small businesses will report on this same standard). As an auditor, my workload and salary both will increase, and looking ahead, I do not want to be an auditor for the next couple of years to make manager or director ( I think I can always come back to this or perform small jobs on the side as I matriculate).

As for accountant, yes, america is dying for accountants - in fact, at the professor level, they are even lowering their standards to make up for the shortatge of accounting professors (this is due in part of the business students who took an accounting course and said "no way" and went for the business administration degree).

As for the PhD, I would pursue one in accounting (with a focus on leadership, etc). looking ahead, I can teach financial accounting undergraduate courses with my current creditial; however, I want a long-term position and market advantage by developing a seasoned and leading position (top down from law (tax) to industry lead (phd) to expert (CPA)) in a market that links with the U.S. Given you good response, I may have to reconsider. Before your blog, I considered a U.S JD as a global leader (LLM not with standing), and that foreign countries (especially african), especially those who want to do business with the U.S (and convert to international reporting standards) wanted US JDs. And, as for competition, the African to african american education gap is too great to create an overly competitive environment at that level (U.S JD/PhD/CPA). With all things considered, you make an excellent point.

As for the focus in law, accounting and law sometimes go hand-in-hand with respect to tax, compliance, regulations - as for the benefit outweighing the costs (JD vs extra studying when situations arise during a practice (ummm)). Until today, I didn't view having the JD coupled with another designation signalled a Jack of all trades vs broad based knowledge (more for the buck). I considered a JD as a law person and a JD/MBA a law person who knows business because some JDs are political science, history, etc majors who have little business experience or preparation.

As for Japan, yes, its a very competitive market and they actually look for the best of the best (JD/CPA) with a focus on multi-talent and multi-knowledge. I am moving to the U.S with a focus on getting my JD/PhD and then moving to west africa (partial to long term resettle (dna tribal affiliation, etc). And, when I get there, I want to be highly marketable on both sides of the pond (if it doesnt work out, I can return to the US, if things go well, I can excell over there).

going forward, I will take a prep course, maybe two, because I know, given my GPA, I will have to ace it to secure admission.


Also, the idea of phd/jd/mba came to mind when I had a young professor who was a lawyer/economist. He practiced law and taught economics to get the best of both worlds. he held a JD/PhD and pulled two incomes (both pretty decent).

understanding the concerns for costs, I do know that I do not want any debt (and hopefully, I would not have to perform side jobs (small audits, research, etc on the side) that will take away from concentration time.

I guess the reality check you provided was something I needed. I have heard horror stories of folks going through law school just to find-out they do not LIKE law and much worse can not find a high paying dream job and subordinate to just about anything ($100 uncontested divorce cases). In my case, I am more interested in the license (JD/MBA - Bar U.S then another) that comes with providing me with the authority to incorporate international start-ups, consult in certain areas, broker contracts, and provide legal advice to small organizations. Extending from that, teaching as a professor (JD/CPA - should qualify, if not PhD) at a local college or training institue.

For me, I can allocate another 6-8 (3-4 law/business, + 3 - 5 PhD) years to school (fast track), and then its more from the top-end seasoned advise to business types and students. If I can get at leat 5 of the 8 years funded, I will be in a pretty good long-term position.

Also, I know this may come across as unreasonable, but I have worked long hours as an auditor (internal) and I am not impressed - I know where this path will lead and I dont want to live my life that way - Ive been there, interviews, managers, executives and I am not impressed - filled with corporate politics. I do appreciate the money, however. but, I would rather give life a shot else where that offeres just as much pay, more happiness, and less direct work hours (but just as significant). In doing so, I am trying to synthesis my skills and education into a focused point that can provide a maximum return.

Thank you much - What are you thoughts?



Thank you for the article - a real eye opener :( . I had not idea the JDs were struggling this bad..




ME:
Law has bosses that are monstrously stereotypical, unless you going into a field where there is a decent chance of being your own boss with only a year or two experience working for someone else...if the politics is what you running from, law is political workplace on steroids...check the top law school dot com discussion boards under the section for folks already working...draconian bosses especially in corp law and small business (size not clients) lawyers in small towns are the worst...

I wanted law cause ... it's the fastest way to my own business...as you can see i am often seen as a person good for advice and well-researched info...and i been helping people with immigration and family law info and not able to actually make money cause I am not licensed to practice...and i need the JD to do that...if there was some other way to become a licensed counsel other than the hell of law school, i would gladly jump on it.

Law schools, especially the better ones, do not allow ANY first years in the full time programs to work. And after first year they don't want you working more than 20 hours a week.

So don't plan on any side anything when the mountain of homework to read through and notes to take and so on hit you.




Make sure read that article link i posted.

And yes with SO many people out of work, specialists who are specifically trained in the exact requirements of what these hiring managers are looking for, not over, and not under qualified, are who they want. I have heard HR people and temp recruiters say they are simply OVERWHELMED by the amt of responses to a single ad...I interviewed once for a gov't entry level job paying $33k a year, and found out one of my competitors is a guy whose last job was paying $120k a year plus $45k bonus! Now why would a guy whose bonus is more than the new salary want a tiny job like that? Cause he can't find anything else.

It's a seller's market out there for these hiring managers and they can be as picky as they like cause supply grossly outweighs demand.

Triple that reality for the lawyers. There is a need for minority lawyers actually, and for affordable lawyers...but no lawyer can afford to be for the little guy fresh out of law school if he has debt on his plate and no business management skills.

I have a business management undergrad so i have the training (and like doing the research) necessary to run a business...sites like Solosez and google searches on starting your own law practice (and fresh out of school) help me feel like my dream is doable...but you can take business classes as free electives while in law school, no need for the mba...it's going to make you overqualified for a lot of things...

Look at Anna Ivey's blog for more thoughts on that but she use to be a University of Chicago Law recruiter...and she gives it to you straight.

Law in the beginning career years is a stereotype come to life from what i have read, lots of work, and if you don't like the particular branch of law, it's quite dull and boring reading through, for example, a bunch of corporate contracts dotting i's and crossing T's. I like the scavenger hunt (sort of) of getting together all the million things they need for an immigration filing...and i feel very strongly about getting the best for whoever i represent in a divorce or marriage prenup cause i have been sh*tted on by a horrible lawyer when i had to depend on legal aid and they apparently felt me not paying any money means i didn't deserve quality service. Plus I am an immigrant so i have connections to the field as far as ability to identify with the clients and them feeling more connected to me than, say, the typical white american lawyer...i have actually interviewed practicing immigration lawyers and a white lady pointed that out to me as an advantage in getting into the immigrant communities and marketing yourself. So i feel like despite the bad news, my little niche I want is good for me.


What you want you can get done as a tax accountant and PhD's professor...matter of fact tax accountants are taking away some tax law work from lawyers...

research "attorney" on the US Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook (google) and it will tell you where the competition comes from...

If you wanted to be any kind of lawyer except corporate, as a minority (and the one they are having the HARDEST time getting enough of, the black male), you are in demand as a law student...so it's not getting in somewhere you need to worry about, it's what happens to you after you get out...and some law schools accept a bunch of people knowing some of them will not make it out alive and with a JD...so schools that have failure rates in the double digits are to be avoided at all costs if you are not well above their median incoming scores and GPA...

The LSAC.org has that kind of data.

I had to research from the word of mouth on reality from other students on discussion boards...from calling up lawyers in the fields I wish to work in here in my area and going down a list of questions with them...from LSAC articles and the ABA school guide and search results...from google...from Anna Ivey...from the comments in response to articles from current practicing lawyers...from Solosez...from the ABA website...and yes the annual law school rankings, cause everyone says they don't matter but they sure do...

I mean the info we need, no school is telling us the truth plain and straight it takes all kind of digging to get the full picture.

If I got hired for corporate law I wouldn't turn it down since I am not one of the women that is forced to take time off to have babies, and can work straight through to retirement actually once hired, and have a business background...it just isn't my main focus cause I want to work for myself...if corporate law was all i wanted, I wouldn't bother going to law school unless I got into a top 10 school...Howard also gets the big companies recruiting and my godbrother got hired by Cravath from there...but again, it's the top 1% of non top schools that get that winning lottery ticket, and as he said, he "absolutely CRUSHED his exams to the ground!" So he had stellar grades at the end of his first year...95% of the class will not have that...

President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama; both Harvard Law graduates

Check out PhD Project (google) and see what talking to a black PhD holder in your field can tell you.





Another point is, out in the more rural areas where there is the greatest need for, say, solo practitioners of all kinds...there is racism so that gap is not the best for a minority to fill unless they grew up there...cause if people don't like you on a personal basic level, no matter what they say to have manners and be PC they won't pay you money to rep them.

Even if a company out there is hiring, while I personally wouldn't care, a lot of blacks do care about not having enough, or any, blacks available to date and form a future with out in the sticks...so companies in those places would love to diversify but can't cause the quality of life and networking in and out of work for minorities in those areas is just not good. It's not as simple as seeing a need and filling it...

But the 75k jobs fresh out of law are going extinct from what I have seen...this recession hit law the hardest. You either making pretty much peanuts or the big bucks...the in between is most likely for people who go out on their own a couple years down the line...but the longer you are in the field, and doing your job well, and getting in new clients all the time (making it rain, rainmaker), the more your income goes up...

Call up tax lawyers in the areas you want to live in in the U.S. and ask them how their particular field looks now and for the next decade maybe, and their suggestion as to whether they would recommend the field, how they suggest a law student set themselves up to get a good job in tax law fresh out of school, and the ACTUAL pay range in THEIR AREA for NEW JD GRADS. Cause NOTHING on the internet gives the right answer, ANYwhere...they give the average...and that is from the peanuts to the pot of gold on the other side of the graph...no reality from region to region and that matters a lot.




And keep in mind you can always research the option to take your existing U.S. degree TO the African country you want, study in their tax programs there, and then if it doesn't work out, take the courses here to transfer the accounting certs over...since it's the U.S. dying for accountants they will make more room to get your qualification in under the U.S. standards umbrella than the other way around, I am thinking. Of course, I don't know what the hiring climate is like over on that side of the world for accountants. But the U.S. is begging, borrowing, and stealing nurses from the Caribbean, Africa, and wherever else they can get their hands on them...so the same principle applies to H1B visas for engineering etc. and to any other high demand field with a shortage of U.S. supply, at least from my logic...


Summary of What You Must Think About When Considering Law School and Lawyering




See also my blog post on University of La Verne Law School's 5-Year Plan to Finance Your Legal Education

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