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Older students and law school

MSAMM70MSAMM70 Posts: 4Registered User New Member
edited June 2010 in Law School
I am close to 40 and thinking of returning to school. I have spent the last 10 or so years thinking I should have gone to law school, and I am tired of thinking it. That said, I have no clue how law schools and law students feel about older students.

Is pursuing this worth my time? Here are a few bits of info on me:

- BA from state school w/ double major in Political Science and Communication -- GPA, 3.34 -- many extracurricular activites (student government, honoraries, etc.)
- MA from state school (a different state) in Political Communication -- GPA, 3.83 -- decent amount of extracurricular activities
- 13 years working in public service -- primarily in state government but also for non-profits -- also serve as adjunct for 2 local universities -- a lot of community and volunteer work
- LSAT of 159, taken 2 years ago (didn't study)

I can't get anyone to tell me if I should pursue this or let it drop. I have thought about taking the LSAT again but haven't decided.

Having lived life on a public employee's salary for some time, I am not wealthy. If I were to do this I would need financial assistance -- but, man, 40 seems pretty old to be racking up insane student loan debt. Do older students even get considered for scholarships and grants?

I would appreciate any feedback, about older students in law school generally and about my case specifically.

Post edited by MSAMM70 on

Replies to: Older students and law school

  • GreybeardGreybeard Posts: 2,355Registered User Senior Member
    The odds are good that after factoring in the cost of tuition, and the opportunity costs involved with giving up your current career to attend law school, your estate will be smaller when you are sixty-five years old if you to to law school than it will be it you don't.

    That doesn't mean you shouldn't go to law school. Most of us have made some decisions along that way that involved sacrificing wealth for personal satisfaction.

    But if you're thinking about law school with the hope that doing so will substantially increase your lifetime earning potential, that's probably not a very likely outcome.

    Several of my classmates were in their late thirties when I attended law school, and one was closer to 50 when she started law school. She told me a couple of years after graduation that she was making about the same money that she would have been making had she remained a teacher.

    I didn't ask her whether she regreted her decision to attend law school, but I had the sense that she did regret it. (Further background - tuition at my alma mater for three years of law school in those days was less than $3,500 for three years, and she had a scholarship.)
  • PrecognitionPrecognition Posts: 150Registered User Junior Member
    Definitely retake the LSAT and this time study and prepare well for it.

    My two cents is you're going to be admitted to a T50 law school and have a starting salary of $80,000.
  • MSAMM70MSAMM70 Posts: 4Registered User New Member
    If I go back to school, it won't be to get rich. I am limited in what I can do in public service without a JD. I am not happy with where I am in my career and would hope that a JD would open doors.
  • GreybeardGreybeard Posts: 2,355Registered User Senior Member
    According to this chart, salaries of $80,00 a year are exceedingly uncommon among recent law graduates: Empirical Legal Studies: Distribution of 2006 Starting Salaries: Best Graphic Chart of the Year

    I understand that it's illegal to discriminate against people based based on their age if they're older than 40. I'm also sure that I have experienced such discrimination myself. But it's difficult to prove that such discrimination has occurred.

    My own empirical observations of the legal market has led me to conclude that there's a widespread prejudice in the legal field against candidates who earn their law degrees at a relatively advanced age.
  • GreybeardGreybeard Posts: 2,355Registered User Senior Member

    My last post was in response to Precognition's post, not your second post.

    If your goal is to find more meaningful work, and you accept that you might be making a financial sacrifice to go to law school but feel drawn to do so anyway, then law school could be a reasonable path for you.

    I have found real meaning in my work as a lawyer, and I completely understand the desire to seek meaningful work. Best wishes.
  • liu02bhsliu02bhs Posts: 657- Member
    You shouldn't use law school as a basis for career switching. You'll be able to get into a law school for sure. But JDs are commonplace these days and will not open any doors. If you are having a mid-life crisis, you should consider other outlets.
  • MSAMM70MSAMM70 Posts: 4Registered User New Member
    Not really having a mid-life crisis at 39. And having a JD would open the specific doors that I want to go through.

    But the message I am hearing is that law school, like the rest of the world, is prohibitively expensive and only for the very young. Thanks for the feedback.
  • GreybeardGreybeard Posts: 2,355Registered User Senior Member
    Not only for the very young. But the expected return on investment (which, as other threads have have pointed out, isn't necessarily great for the young) is necessarily lower for those whose opportunity costs are greater, and who have a shorter time to practice.

    That doesn't mean you shouldn't go to law school. But anyone who's considering law school, regardless of age, should have realistic expectations about the potential costs and rewards.
  • supertme41supertme41 Posts: 230Registered User Junior Member
    You only live once. Will you be happy with what you did in your life in 40 years? Are you going to remember the debt you incurred or the work you did?
  • pierrechnpierrechn Posts: 1,505- Senior Member
    im pretty sure you can get into your state school with that LSAT+GPA , go to law school if you want too.
  • PrecognitionPrecognition Posts: 150Registered User Junior Member
    I heard that law school is easier for people in their fourties because they're in that mentality at that point.

    Law school saps the energy and creativity out of you, if you're in your thirties then you're immune.
  • liu02bhsliu02bhs Posts: 657- Member
    Not really having a mid-life crisis at 39. And having a JD would open the specific doors that I want to go through.

    But the message I am hearing is that law school, like the rest of the world, is prohibitively expensive and only for the very young. Thanks for the feedback.
    You need to be more specific on what your goal is after law school, before we can help you evaluate the feasibility for you as a 39 year-old.

    I think there's a general misconception on what a JD can do for you. JD isn't some magic degree that erase all of your troubles. People only see the big pay checks that big shot lawyers at BigLaw take home. The truth is, only a very few elite graduates are afforded those opportunities. There are thousands of unemployed T14 graduates or the 1st year associates working 80-100 hours a week.

    You should try to read Above the Law: A Legal Tabloid - News, Gossip, and Colorful Commentary on Law Firms and the Legal Profession to see all the stories about how bad the legal job environment is right now. When you graduate, you will not only be competing against your classmates, but also with past graduate from more pretigious schools with work experience.
  • MSAMM70MSAMM70 Posts: 4Registered User New Member
    The reason I want a JD is so I can do more in the public sphere. If you work in government and you don't have a JD, you are extremely limited in where you can go -- there definitely is a glass ceiling. And if you want to actually be part of policy development discussions, a JD is the only way in.

    I have no realy desire to be part of a large law firm, and I have no delusions of ever being wealthy. I want my contributions in public service to mean something but having a BA/MA gives me no voice. I work and have worked with several lawyers over the years and I really believe I am smarter than they -- in many cases, I knew the applicable sections of the state code better than they did. But even my correct suggestions and answers meant nothing because I don't have the right degree.

    I do know a ton of unemployed and underemployed lawyers in my town -- many of them really aren't that smart, to be honest, and their only goal seems to be getting rich. That's not the way I want to go.

    All that said, I am extremely risk and debt-averse. If the chances are good that having a JD STILL won't help me do anything other than drive me further in debt, then it's not wise for me to pursue it. That's especially true if I will be at a disadvantage during law school itself because of my age.
  • liu02bhsliu02bhs Posts: 657- Member
    Maybe you should also look into a MPP degree or a MBA/MPP joint degree. Either way, to have your voice heard, you need experience and to a certain extent, pedigree. A JD from a T2 school will not help.
  • GreybeardGreybeard Posts: 2,355Registered User Senior Member
    I don't second the view that a JD from a tier-2 school won't help your voice be heard.

    I don't know what your time commitments are outside of work, but a part-time law program (which spread their classes over four years rather than three, with classes in the evenings) could greatly reduce your opportunity costs. It's a huge time commitment, but if you don't have to give up your day job and borrow to cover your living expenses, you might be able to reconcile law school at least partially with your (sensibly) debt-averse nature.
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