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Post-college D now considering law school - best path in the meantime?

sylvan8798sylvan8798 Registered User Posts: 6,720 Senior Member
D is two years out of college, working in a marketing research firm. She is considering law school, and would be applying for admission in 2020 (too late for this fall). I'm thinking there are things she can be doing in the meantime to help her advance in that direction, but I'm not a lawyer, so looking for advice from other Legal Beagles here. Obviously, preparing for the LSAT would be important. Other suggestions/advice?
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Replies to: Post-college D now considering law school - best path in the meantime?

  • Demosthenes49Demosthenes49 Registered User Posts: 1,622 Senior Member
    Does she have any firsthand experience with the practice of law? If not, she should get some. Law schools won't care, but a lot of people have ideas of law practice that differ greatly from reality. It's good to find that out before paying tuition.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 76,161 Senior Member
    http://schools.lawschoolnumbers.com/ has scatterplots for each law school which can help her see what kind of LSAT score she needs to target for a law school with high enough rank to have good law job prospects.

    https://www.lstreports.com/schools/ shows employment outcomes for various law schools.
  • seekingaidseekingaid Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    When thinking about which law schools to apply to, review very closely the actual wages the graduates earn upon graduation. I read sad stories about graduates who went to a law school, took on six figures in debt only to find job offers in the $50k/year range. There will be a few outliers who go on to "Big Law" and start at $200k, but they are outliers, not even close to normal. Law is not the lucrative field it used to be. Bottom line - don't take on too much debt.

    When thinking about areas of law, she should consider her personality. Likes adrenaline/emergencies/conflict? Then litigation. Like dealing with difficult emotional situations? Family law. Like teamwork? In-house. Want to change the world? Public interest law. Each of these will have different starting salaries (see first paragraph). Ideally she would do this introspection, then find a paralegal or clerking job in the that field before attending law school.

    She should check out the websites of the bar associations in her area - there are often monthly lunches for the members with speakers. She may be able to arrange to attend, and then she could pick the brains of the attorneys at her table while eating.

    Good luck!
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Registered User Posts: 6,720 Senior Member
    Thanks so much for the links and ideas! I know she has a lot to think about in making a decision like this.
  • barronsbarrons Registered User Posts: 24,950 Senior Member
    Big Law is also the ultimate meat grinder job. Makes investment banking look like a day at the beach--which you will not see for at least 5 years.
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Registered User Posts: 6,720 Senior Member
    I do know that Big Law is not really where her interests lie and neither is Big Money.
  • Demosthenes49Demosthenes49 Registered User Posts: 1,622 Senior Member
    Big Law varies a lot by firm, office, and even practice group. She should investigate what, precisely, are her interests in law. The following are red flags: "human rights" "environmental" or "international." These are terms usually used by those with very little knowledge of the actual practice of law.

    Also, plenty of students who claim to have no interest in BigLaw end up at OCI anyway. The reasoning for this varies, but usually it's because of a desire to pay down debt, a desire to enter another law job where a BigLaw resume is required or highly valued, or lack of a clear path anywhere else (plus you find out about a post-grad job usually before your third year, which is nice).
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 9,530 Senior Member
    I disagree with that characterization of litigation (three close family members who are litigators). One does the OPPOSITE of adrenalin- his cases take years and involve meticulous mathematical modeling. One does more of what you see on TV, but a very high percentage of cases settle out of court, so although there is the potential for the conflict and emergencies you might think of- it happens VERY rarely. One practices in a relatively obscure area and the work is pretty academic.

    Again- life as a lawyer is NOT what you see on TV. And the only way to get a good job in-house with a solid career path is to start at a firm, btw.

    I think any paralegal job is going to be eye-opening for a young person. Just seeing how long things take to wind through the system- not like on Law and Order where it's all tied up in a bow in an hour.

    Some cases take YEARS to even get to the first step. And there are lawyers working on that every step of the way.....
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 21,504 Senior Member
    And the only way to get a good job in-house with a solid career path is to start at a firm, btw.

    Disagree.
  • zoosermomzoosermom Registered User Posts: 26,241 Senior Member
    edited May 15
    I've worked in hiring in Big Law for 30 years and the advice I have given since the crash, which changed the entire legal industry, is that you should only go to law school if (a) you can pay for it with cash that you won't miss, (b) you have a guaranteed job on graduation (like a family firm or company), and (c) you are black and receive admission to one of the top 14 law schools. Otherwise don't do it.
    And the only way to get a good job in-house with a solid career path is to start at a firm, btw.
    I think since the crash, this is much more accurate than it was and may be very close to true. Most jobs in public interest, in-house departments, and in government aren't entry level jobs. The positions require some experience, and most employers want that experience to be as a first/second year associate at a Big Law firm because of the training processes. The lawyers come to the with stellar training that didn't cost the new employer a penny. Is it 100%? No. But In some fields it's very close.

    Most Big Law firms are based on the "up or out" model, which means that if you aren't going to be elevated to partnership, you must leave, and this happens between years 7-9 in most firms. What many people don't realize is that because of this model, most firms have a very vigorous process for seeding their former associates at clients, collegial non-profits, and governmental locations. Being outside that network would make it insanely hard to get a job because everyone knows everyone else. You can often look on a firm's website at the alumni section and see where the former associates work and then search who does those companies' legal work, and it's often very connected.
    think any paralegal job is going to be eye-opening for a young person.
    Except in residential real estate, paralegal jobs aren't really a thing anymore. It's definitely a dying profession and for many of the jobs that still call themselves paralegal jobs, technical skills for ediscovery and the like are necessary to get hired. It used to be that young people graduating from good schools would take a job for a year or two at a firm and then go to a good law school and get hired at a different firm with the assistance of people from the former firm, but that doesn't happen anymore, unless your dad is a GC at a major company or a partner at a major firm.
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 9,530 Senior Member
    I know a bunch of new grads (about to graduate, 1-3 years out of college) working as paralegals.

    Small law firm which does Trusts/Estates/Family law (kid had zero connections and a sociology major, admittedly from a top school); public interest law firm specializing in first amendment issues (kid had zero connections, poli sci major, told them during the interview he intended to apply to law school after two years), and a kid who landed a paralegal job with a bankruptcy firm, again- no connections- but a bunch of solid internships in legal related fields AND a summer working as a receptionist at a law firm (i.e. not afraid of scut-work).

    The line between traditional paralegal research and secretarial work is likely very blurry right now- especially since the ratios of lawyers/admin assistants everywhere has been shifting. But if a kid's only understanding of the legal field is from watching Law and Order and its ilk, seeing the law up close (the tedium, the hours of research just to land one citation which may or may not be relevant, the amount of time spent scheduling hearings and having calendars shift, waiting for a clerk to call back) is pretty potent.

    My own company (not a law firm) no longer hires in-house counsel with no experience. We've got lawyers all over the world, and in every location and in every specialty area, we need people who hit the ground running. IP, Employment, Compliance, Litigation--no matter what the specialty, we want someone coming out a firm. Back in the day you COULD get hired into contracting just out of law school- but we no longer hire lawyers for those jobs-- it's now a purchasing function, and one lawyer supervises 30 non-lawyers for the routine back and forth that we used to pay lawyers to do. Huge cost savings- and this is not an anomaly- many corporations only have in-house counsel for the things that require a lawyer and have lower cost folks doing legal-ish work that does not require bar admission.
  • zoosermomzoosermom Registered User Posts: 26,241 Senior Member
    The line between traditional paralegal research and secretarial work is likely very blurry right now- especially since the ratios of lawyers/admin assistants everywhere has been shifting. But if a kid's only understanding of the legal field is from watching Law and Order and its ilk, seeing the law up close (the tedium, the hours of research just to land one citation which may or may not be relevant, the amount of time spent scheduling hearings and having calendars shift, waiting for a clerk to call back) is pretty potent.
    Very true. Most companies have outside counsel guidelines where they explain what they will and won't pay for, and most formerly paralegal tasks are now considered secretarial, which means clients won't pay for them. Since secretarial salaries are already built into the overhead, where paralegal salaries are not, that means that paralegals are a drain on law firms.

    Small law firms will hire paralegals because they bill differently, and interestingly, many corporations do hire them, but they aren't doing traditional paralegal-type tasks.

  • mom2andmom2and Registered User Posts: 2,710 Senior Member
    Not sure it is quite as dire as you paint it Zoosermom. I know several young lawyers (graduated in the last 3- 5 years) who went to good, but not top 14 firms, who are working as attornies. One started at a firm and is not working for a government agency, and one (was top of her class at a decent, but not very prestiguous law school) is a public defender. Others are at firms, or are DAs or public defenders that had other jobs before that. A friend who is a law professor at a low ranked school, says that the top graduates get jobs but the others struggle.

    If your daughter is passionate about law school, can get into a very good law school (or her top state school), and does well, she should be able to get a job but it may not be easy. If she is not a great student and is only thinking of law school because she can't figure out what else she wants to do, I would suggest she really explore what her ultimate goal is and how to get ther.
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 9,530 Senior Member
    Mom2- you post a nice and nuanced state of the industry right now. But I would add a caveat- these options are great for a kid with no debt. If you're looking at a 200K loan, you're not taking a job as a public defender, you're scrambling for Big Law... or a federal clerkship which will lead to the huge signing bonus once you enter Big Law.

    No debt, some options. Lots of debt- your choices are constrained, and these jobs are VERY competitive if you aren't graduating from a top 14 firm AND are in the top half of your class (except for HLS).
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