Seeking Counsel - Thinking of attending law school at age 43

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Seeking Counsel - Thinking of attending law school at age 43

Postby bbloomen » Wed Oct 10, 2018 8:22 am

Good morning everyone,

Currently, I am a mid-career professional (a manager), who has worked for the past twenty years. However, I have always wanted to attend law school. Nonetheless, I ended up earning my MBA (in Healthcare Policy and Finance) and a BS in Psychology. It has been 10 years since I was in graduate school - and I am looking for guidance from other folks who have also attended (or are attending) law school at this stage of their career / life.

Now at age 43, I still desire it. I would love to hear from other mid-career folks my age - in terms of their experiences. I am looking at Suffolk and New England School of Law (due to proximity and part time status).

Thank you.


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Re: Seeking Counsel - Thinking of attending law school at age 43

Postby QContinuum » Wed Oct 10, 2018 11:42 am

What do you want to do with your law degree? As you probably know, Suffolk placed less than half (46.7%) its class of 2017 in full-time, long-term, J.D.-required employment. New England placed even fewer of its class of 2017, only 38.2%, into such roles. These are not good odds.

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Re: Seeking Counsel - Thinking of attending law school at age 43

Postby coramnonjudice » Wed Oct 10, 2018 4:04 pm

I went back to law school mid-career, so I'll bite. What concerns me here is that you say you always wanted to go to law school--not that you want to be a lawyer. It might sound like I'm splitting hairs here, but hear me out because I hear a lot of folks say this and I don't think they have really had an opportunity to think about what they're truly desiring. Law school on the outside can appear somewhat glamorous, and sometimes when you are caught up in the day-to-day drudgery of work in a career that might not have been your first choice, the idea of law school can appear quite attractive and the practice of law romantic in a vague way. There's also some prestige, and it can feel like finishing law school "proves" something to the folks you may have encountered in life who may have not recognized your full intellectual ability/potential, or prove something to yourself if you ended up in a career that wasn't your "dream" career.

But something that I didn't give enough thought to back in my the-grass-is-greener days is what happens after law school. Because if you're caught up in the glamor and prestige and general romance of the idea of law, you can miss some sobering, specific and all-too-real red flags about this profession and what it's actually like to practice law. Like the fact that, if you don't go into law school with a clear plan for precisely what you want to do when you finish, with specific, realistic steps on how to achieve that, you could very well end up in a job that pays less than what you make now or, even more likely, provides less job satisfaction. We have one of the highest rates of suicide, depression, and substance abuse of any profession. The day-to-day job can be at once mind-numbingly dull and unbearably stressful.

Let's think about the worst-case scenario and say you complete law school but don't have the best grades or the clearest vision about what to do with your law degree. I've seen friends working at retail stores two years after graduation because their third-tier law school, or their poor grades at a good solid state school, wasn't enough to provide them with the tools they need to get a legal job, and they need to pay their bills somehow. The numbers back up my anecdotal evidence. Let's say you do average and finish in the middle of your class. The numbers back me up there, too. The real salary of an average lawyer is much smaller than you might imagine--and I'm willing to bet it's less, maybe even a lot less, than what you make now. I've seen kind, smart, well-meaning people struggle to find work or to make ends meet after finishing in the middle of the class and ending up in legal jobs that were temporary, transient, and even demeaning. Some have gone from document review project to document review project--with little hope of finding something permanent. Others, who wanted to get a law degree in order to help others--a noble goal--had too much money in student loans and other financial obligations to work for $30,000 per year and were forced to find run-of-the-mill, much less inspiring legal jobs to pay their bills. Let's say that your maturity and drive set you apart, and you do wonderfully in law school and get a job at a top firm. That doesn't always portend a happy path either. I did well and ended up landing my "dream" job. I then started to slowly realize--like many other new lawyers in large "biglaw" firms--that staying and succeeding at the firm would require more dedication and hours of work than seemed not only reasonable, but physically possible. Associates have literally worked themselves to death at big firms. Multiple people at prestigious firms have voiced their regret to me at ever going to law school. I've seen brilliant people burn out. I've watched wonderful people--men and women--sit at their desk and cry that, despite the fact that they have performed brilliantly and achieved their dream job--that they are unhappy and wish they had never, ever become lawyers. I have had a judge cry in my office about how miserable he or she was and how hard the job was on his or her life.

When my friends' kids come to me and tell me they are thinking about law school, I always tell them the same thing: if you can find three practicing, licensed attorneys to physically look at you in the eyes and tell you that it's a good idea, then you have my blessing. They rarely come back and tell me they did. I'm partly joking, as I realize that no one can tell you what is right for you, except for you. But before I went to law school, every practicing attorney I talked to told me not to do it! And now I'm saying the same thing. So before making this decision for yourself, make absolutely certain that you are going into this decision with eyes wide open--not because you're bored, or unfulfilled, with where you currently are, and the idea is romantic in a vague way--but after conducting serious due diligence and are making a rational, not emotional, decision based on real data and realistic expectations. Come up with a specific plan for precisely what kind of law you want to practice, and why, and specifically how you plan to get there. Find a mentor to help you fill in the blanks in those specific steps. For instance, when many of my classmates were having trouble finding jobs, I was able to find the right fit because I had done my research on the market in which I wanted to practice, the type of law I wanted to practice, the type of firm I wanted to work for, and why. I did the networking I needed to do to find a mentor and get my foot in the right door.

Even with all that knowledge and successfully achieving my goal, however, I didn't perform the second step of due diligence--fully and specifically understanding what my life would be like once I got in the door. I only had my history of success, personal gumption, and a vague idea that I had "worked hard" before, and would be able to "work hard" and get where I wanted to be once I got in the door. I am ashamed at how simplistic my thinking was; but it had always served me well before entering the profession. I have always "worked hard" and succeeded. But there is "working hard" and then there is putting in 12 to 18 hour days, 7 days a week, for years on end with little to no time to eat, spend time with family, or practice self-care. If I had taken my vague, romantic notion of "working hard," and informed that notion with real data, I might have asked myself whether that was something I really wanted. Whether I would miss going to the shore with my family every June, the feeling of sun on my face, of taking part in holidays and being present in the moment with my family without being tied to my laptop or frantically emailing on my phone. The legal job you want may not have workdays like the ones I do, but I would bet a large amount of money that there are some other applicable aspects you would probably like to be aware of up front. And if you're not fully aware up front, one day you might look back and regret this decision like I--and a large number of my friends and colleagues--do.

Avoid my mistake, then, and make sure that your plan is based upon real data--go and shadow the lawyers who are practicing what you want to practice. Ask them about their lives and what a routine day looks like for them. Volunteer to work at a law office as a "student" or "intern" and observe the behavior of the lawyers whose shoes you ultimately want to fill. Are they stressed? Irritable? Haggard-looking? Do they look like they have had a vacation, or a well-balanced meal in the last year? Do they act fulfilled, or full of regret? Know what to expect and carry reasonable expectations.

Caveat emptor.

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Re: Seeking Counsel - Thinking of attending law school at age 43

Postby burner » Wed Oct 10, 2018 9:04 pm

I went to law school in my early 30s seeking a total career change. I think that if you have a desire to go to law school at the schools you specified at this time in your life you need to 1)go to law school for free (i.e. full ride scholarship) and 2) find a way to keep you job while attending part time (which I assume that's your plan anyway). I personally was trying to stay at my old job while doing a part time program (to keep an income and just in case the lawyer thing didn't work out I'd still have an income and a semblance of a career) but I was living in an area that didn't have a law school nearby, and they wouldn't transfer me. In the end, I landed OK, but since you're in your 40s I would think you'd want to hedge and be risk averse at this point in time, if you are going to take the law school plunge.


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Re: Seeking Counsel - Thinking of attending law school at age 43

Postby debalex5 » Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:29 pm

Hey, there. I'm 42 and applying to law school right now as well. I've got 2 kids and have been volunteering in the public education sector for the past 8 years. My stats aren't great (148 first-time LSAT) and 2.97 UGPA from 20 years ago, but last year took a Con Law class locally and got an wrote me a great LOR. I know for sure that I want to take my education advocacy to the next level, and would like to do so with the backing of a law degree. Last week I applied ED to CUNY, specifically for public interest law, and will now be biting my nails for the next month. I'm planning on retaking the LSAT if I get rejected, and trying again next year.

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