How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

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jackdanielsga

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How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby jackdanielsga » Mon Nov 12, 2018 10:48 pm

I'd like to know what's the "reasonable" cutoff age to start working in biglaw or midlaw or any kind of meaningful law firm.

Please share how old were the oldest people who made it at least through 1-2 years of biglaw or some kind of law firm, subject to the following conditions:

- NO pre-JD law work experience (eg. a paralegal with 20 years of experience who finally decided to get a JD would not be interesting)
- NO specialties (eg. no phd/ inventor turning patent attorney, enrolled agent with 20 years of experience turning patent attorney)
- Should have successfully completed at least a year of actual work at a law firm (not in-house) and not got fired for being too slow

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby nealric » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:24 am

I went to law school with a retired Navy veteran who ended up at a market-paying mid-size boutique (~50 lawyers). I never asked his age but he looked about 50.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby r6_philly » Sat Nov 17, 2018 8:11 pm

I was 37 at graduation. I had a classmate at least 41.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby jackdanielsga » Sun Nov 18, 2018 4:59 pm

QContinuum wrote:I knew a BigLaw partner who started law school in his mid-40s.



Wow, what did he do before the law school?

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby Npret » Sun Nov 18, 2018 9:49 pm

jackdanielsga wrote:I'd like to know what's the "reasonable" cutoff age to start working in biglaw or midlaw or any kind of meaningful law firm.

Please share how old were the oldest people who made it at least through 1-2 years of biglaw or some kind of law firm, subject to the following conditions:

- NO pre-JD law work experience (eg. a paralegal with 20 years of experience who finally decided to get a JD would not be interesting)
- NO specialties (eg. no phd/ inventor turning patent attorney, enrolled agent with 20 years of experience turning patent attorney)
- Should have successfully completed at least a year of actual work at a law firm (not in-house) and not got fired for being too slow

Older students/grads/associates aren’t too slow. If anything, they seem to be more organized and professional in a law firm and adapt faster than people who’ve never had a job.

The issue with older students/ associates is how well they can work with younger people supervising their work and giving the kind of corrections 1st years get. If you can’t take (sometimes harsh) direction from a much younger person who is your mid-level or senior associate, then you won’t last. If it seems like you wouldn’t be able to have younger people tell you what to do, you won’t get hired.

Just remember that a law firm isn’t a permanent gig, and generally doesn’t have great benefits, so that could be an issue for older people. I’m not sure how lateraling or gong in house works if you are older, no clue.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby r6_philly » Sun Nov 18, 2018 10:16 pm

I was the the fastest at a lot of the work. I also had a lot of insights that my younger peers wouldn’t necessarily have - those come from years of working in any field.

I think it’s an advantage being older, as long as you are not expecting to be treated as you were at your former position. Most people with over 10 years of WE are supervisory, and it is a little weird to start off at the entry level.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby QContinuum » Sun Nov 18, 2018 11:15 pm

jackdanielsga wrote:
QContinuum wrote:I knew a BigLaw partner who started law school in his mid-40s.

Wow, what did he do before the law school?

My bad, I didn't fully read your list of exclusions. This was a scientist (albeit with no previous legal experience) who decided to become a patent attorney.

Although on that note, a minor correction to your line:
jackdanielsga wrote:- NO specialties (eg. no phd/ inventor turning patent attorney, enrolled patent agent with 20 years of experience turning patent attorney)

An "enrolled agent" is a nonlawyer authorized to practice in tax matters before the IRS. A "patent agent" is a nonlawyer authorized to practice in patent matters before the USPTO.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby jackdanielsga » Mon Nov 19, 2018 8:47 am

QContinuum wrote:Although on that note, a minor correction to your line:
jackdanielsga wrote:- NO specialties (eg. no phd/ inventor turning patent attorney, enrolled patent agent with 20 years of experience turning patent attorney)

An "enrolled agent" is a nonlawyer authorized to practice in tax matters before the IRS. A "patent agent" is a nonlawyer authorized to practice in patent matters before the USPTO.


Yes thank you, I intended to exclude both patent and tax experts transitioning to patent or tax attorneys. So it should have read "no phd/ inventor/ patent agent turning patent attorney, no enrolled agents turning tax attorneys" :)

Basically the examples I am looking for is people becoming successful lawyers from a non-law/ non-specialty background in their late 40s.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby Redamon1 » Wed Nov 21, 2018 11:24 pm

r6_philly wrote:I was the the fastest at a lot of the work. I also had a lot of insights that my younger peers wouldn’t necessarily have - those come from years of working in any field.

I think it’s an advantage being older, as long as you are not expecting to be treated as you were at your former position. Most people with over 10 years of WE are supervisory, and it is a little weird to start off at the entry level.


This is key. Ask yourself whether you are ready for this. Being a student again is fun, but losing your status as a professional can be harsh. Same goes for being an entry-level professional again. Unfortunately, most big law attorneys don't care about your prior experience, unless it's likely to result in new business.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby QContinuum » Thu Nov 22, 2018 1:08 am

Redamon1 wrote:
r6_philly wrote:I was the the fastest at a lot of the work. I also had a lot of insights that my younger peers wouldn’t necessarily have - those come from years of working in any field.

I think it’s an advantage being older, as long as you are not expecting to be treated as you were at your former position. Most people with over 10 years of WE are supervisory, and it is a little weird to start off at the entry level.


This is key. Ask yourself whether you are ready for this. Being a student again is fun, but losing your status as a professional can be harsh. Same goes for being an entry-level professional again. Unfortunately, most big law attorneys don't care about your prior experience, unless it's likely to result in new business.

+1 to all of the above. Further, even if you have great connections, 1) if you're at a top V firm in NYC, they really cater to the biggest, most high-volume clients, and in many cases may not even want to take on a smaller client due to current/future conflicts considerations, and 2) in any case, even if you're referring business into the firm, you'd still progress through the same hierarchy as everyone else. You'll still be a baby lawyer as a new grad, and no amount of connections is going to change that (unless you go to small law, which will be much more flexible negotiating titles and compensation).

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby jackdanielsga » Sun Dec 02, 2018 11:17 pm

I'm looking for examples of success, not lines of reasoning that would lead to finding excuses for failure :))

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby Npret » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:01 pm

jackdanielsga wrote:I'm looking for examples of success, not lines of reasoning that would lead to finding excuses for failure :))

I don’t have any examples for you. I think they must be extremely rare with the criteria you propose. The only older associates at my firm had been a nurse for years before going back to school (but was significantly younger than you stated) and a retired Navy jet pilot who wasn’t really treated the same as the younger associates.

The advice we are giving you isn’t an excuse for failure. It’s the reality you face.

Also, if you have no expert/professional knowledge at all, it’s going to be even more difficult. If a person hasn’t hada steady career, they will be viewed skeptically.

I’m only talking about biglaw as I have no experience with other hiring. Maybe other jobs will be more open o non- traditional backgrounds.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby nixy » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:09 pm

I know at least a couple of people who fit your criteria who started in biglaw in their late thirties. Not sure about older than that because there just weren’t any in my law school class who were interested in biglaw. I know you want specific examples rather than generalities, but my experience has been that if you can rebut any presumption that you’d have a hard time starting at the bottom/taking orders from someone younger than you, you’d be fine in terms of getting hired. If you’re talking about whether you can handle the lifestyle, anecdotally, like I said, a lot of older students don’t seem so interested in biglaw - whether any of that is self-selection based on believing they’d be too “slow,” I don’t know. You’re the only who can say whether you could handle some of the runs of long days/little sleep that you get in biglaw (but I don’t think that’s simply a function of age - I know people in their 20s who can’t take their hours and people in their 40s who thrive on little sleep/lots of work).

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby Veil of Ignorance » Tue Dec 04, 2018 4:12 am

Redamon1 wrote:
r6_philly wrote:I was the the fastest at a lot of the work. I also had a lot of insights that my younger peers wouldn’t necessarily have - those come from years of working in any field.

I think it’s an advantage being older, as long as you are not expecting to be treated as you were at your former position. Most people with over 10 years of WE are supervisory, and it is a little weird to start off at the entry level.


This is key. Ask yourself whether you are ready for this. Being a student again is fun, but losing your status as a professional can be harsh. Same goes for being an entry-level professional again. Unfortunately, most big law attorneys don't care about your prior experience, unless it's likely to result in new business.

What is the "status" you're talking about? I've been a teacher and don't feel like I lost any social clout when becoming a student again.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby nixy » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:01 am

It’s good that you didn’t experience this yourself, but if you’ve been out in the workplace for a decade or so, it is weird to go back to being a student. It’s not about social clout, it’s your work status - it’s about being a respected, established professional and then going back to being a rank newbie. No disrespect meant, but teaching for a couple of years isn’t exactly the same thing.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Dec 04, 2018 10:47 am

"The advice we are giving you isn’t an excuse for failure. It’s the reality you face." --- Yes, I know. However, I'm also 40+ years old. I've faced the reality before, so it's not adding any new information for me.

"a retired Navy jet pilot" --- I'd **love** to know more details about that pilot's story. Once again, I'm not looking for the difficulties along the path. What I want to know is the examples of people who overcame the difficulties to become successful in the law profession despite a very very late start.

"lot of older students don’t seem so interested in biglaw - whether any of that is self-selection based on believing they’d be too “slow,” I don’t know" --- that's basically my concern. I feel that I'm just not able to learn as quickly as 10 years ago, and a sleepless night pretty much breaks my functioning and takes a few days to completely recover.

"Also, if you have no expert/professional knowledge at all, it’s going to be even more difficult. If a person hasn’t hada steady career, they will be viewed skeptically." --- I never said I don't have any knowledge at all. I have a diversity of experiences that don't add up to a specialized career in a given field but do add up to a very broad view of the world. I've been in the IT field for 20+ years, at fairly expert positions. I've also been a licensed flight instructor. I've been to 40+ countries, worked in a few. I've ran company departments and startup businesses with 100+ people.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby Redamon1 » Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:17 pm

Veil of Ignorance wrote:
Redamon1 wrote:
r6_philly wrote:I was the the fastest at a lot of the work. I also had a lot of insights that my younger peers wouldn’t necessarily have - those come from years of working in any field.

I think it’s an advantage being older, as long as you are not expecting to be treated as you were at your former position. Most people with over 10 years of WE are supervisory, and it is a little weird to start off at the entry level.


This is key. Ask yourself whether you are ready for this. Being a student again is fun, but losing your status as a professional can be harsh. Same goes for being an entry-level professional again. Unfortunately, most big law attorneys don't care about your prior experience, unless it's likely to result in new business.

What is the "status" you're talking about? I've been a teacher and don't feel like I lost any social clout when becoming a student again.


As a student, it was a little strange, but not that hard to get used to after the first semester or so. The harder thing for me was starting at the bottom again in Big Law (or any law job, I think). That means getting the shit assignments for the first few years. It means sometimes taking direction from folks who have barely more experience than you. Some of that is fully justified, since others are more experienced at law and will do a better job at a certain things. But the legal profession really takes this logic to the absurd.

Big Law is especially hierarchical. They think and organize work in CLASSES for crying out loud. You join as a "first year," and that year sticks to you until you leave the firm (even if you've been there 10+ years) or make partner. You can be above your peers in efficiency or quality; you can be a better writer; you can have more experience in the subject matter; you can have done all the leg work in the case. Usually, IT DOESN'T MATTER. You're still categorized based on your year/seniority. That seniority determines how much you are paid, the quality of the work you get, who has to stay late to meet that deadline, who has the last word in the case (on anything from strategy to a line edit), who gets acknowledged in front of the client, who gets invited to meetings, whose name appears on the filing (and in what order) etc. And folks up the chain kind of enjoy doing to the juniors what they once hated putting up with. It gets old real fast, especially if pre-law you worked somewhere less hierarchical and, as a supervisor back in the day, you avoided this type of BS.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby Npret » Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:46 pm

Redamon1 wrote:
Veil of Ignorance wrote:
Redamon1 wrote:
r6_philly wrote:I was the the fastest at a lot of the work. I also had a lot of insights that my younger peers wouldn’t necessarily have - those come from years of working in any field.

I think it’s an advantage being older, as long as you are not expecting to be treated as you were at your former position. Most people with over 10 years of WE are supervisory, and it is a little weird to start off at the entry level.


This is key. Ask yourself whether you are ready for this. Being a student again is fun, but losing your status as a professional can be harsh. Same goes for being an entry-level professional again. Unfortunately, most big law attorneys don't care about your prior experience, unless it's likely to result in new business.

What is the "status" you're talking about? I've been a teacher and don't feel like I lost any social clout when becoming a student again.


As a student, it was a little strange, but not that hard to get used to after the first semester or so. The harder thing for me was starting at the bottom again in Big Law (or any law job, I think). That means getting the shit assignments for the first few years. It means sometimes taking direction from folks who have barely more experience than you. Some of that is fully justified, since others are more experienced at law and will do a better job at a certain things. But the legal profession really takes this logic to the absurd.

Big Law is especially hierarchical. They think and organize work in CLASSES for crying out loud. You join as a "first year," and that year sticks to you until you leave the firm (even if you've been there 10+ years) or make partner. You can be above your peers in efficiency or quality; you can be a better writer; you can have more experience in the subject matter; you can have done all the leg work in the case. Usually, IT DOESN'T MATTER. You're still categorized based on your year/seniority. That seniority determines how much you are paid, the quality of the work you get, who has to stay late to meet that deadline, who has the last word in the case (on anything from strategy to a line edit), who gets acknowledged in front of the client, who gets invited to meetings, whose name appears on the filing (and in what order) etc. And folks up the chain kind of enjoy doing to the juniors what they once hated putting up with. It gets old real fast, especially if pre-law you worked somewhere less hierarchical and, as a supervisor back in the day, you avoided this type of BS.

This is a perfect summation of biglaw. This is why it’s important to show you can deal with the situation of having to do scut work for people almost half your age who have a couple of years experience. Many of them will have never even had a job before but went K-JD. No matter how hard you work, you aren’t breaking lock step.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby 265489164158 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:38 am

Not a successful grad, yet, but a 3L who received biglaw offers and chose a midlaw firm (it was my top choice, so a no-brainer). One year ahead of me, there was an older student (40+?) who went to K&E (not sure what his background was).

I would think that having headed departments or companies would make starting over at the bottom of biglaw (or any law) more challenging. I was out of the workforce for years raising a family, then reentered in my mid-30s in a new field and worked my way up over several years. This involved job changes to advance (trying to make up for lost time), but that taught me the importance of being flexible, adapting to change, and humility. In my summer law jobs and during a govt externship, my focus has on being teachable, eager, and competent. I try to project that it is not weird to be taught/supervised by someone 10-15 years younger than me (it's not, truly). I think my age has been helpful at times (I am used to client facing roles and really like client interaction, so was compfortable when I had those opportunities over the summer) and a bit challenging at others. I know that there are firms that will not really consider candidates who entered law school past age 28, but that's ok.

I do think it is important to be realistic and realize that we are talking about rare/isolated instances - older students who have the combination of grades + personality. I think personality cannot be understated here, because you have to sell yourself at every step of the way.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby jackdanielsga » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:04 pm

265489164158 wrote:Not a successful grad, yet, but a 3L who received biglaw offers and chose a midlaw firm (it was my top choice, so a no-brainer). One year ahead of me, there was an older student (40+?) who went to K&E (not sure what his background was).

I would think that having headed departments or companies would make starting over at the bottom of biglaw (or any law) more challenging. I was out of the workforce for years raising a family, then reentered in my mid-30s in a new field and worked my way up over several years. This involved job changes to advance (trying to make up for lost time), but that taught me the importance of being flexible, adapting to change, and humility. In my summer law jobs and during a govt externship, my focus has on being teachable, eager, and competent. I try to project that it is not weird to be taught/supervised by someone 10-15 years younger than me (it's not, truly). I think my age has been helpful at times (I am used to client facing roles and really like client interaction, so was compfortable when I had those opportunities over the summer) and a bit challenging at others. I know that there are firms that will not really consider candidates who entered law school past age 28, but that's ok.

I do think it is important to be realistic and realize that we are talking about rare/isolated instances - older students who have the combination of grades + personality. I think personality cannot be understated here, because you have to sell yourself at every step of the way.


Thank you! Super helpful.

1) Would you mind sharing your age (or range) and what kind of a law school you're attending? This would be a third career change for you, correct? After re-entering in mid 30s and working your way up.

2) Government externship - what was that like? As in, what kind of a role and what's a typical day? And what did it take to get it?

3) Personality - mine sux. Tried making it better but managed to get it to "barely acceptable" level rather from "totally weird" which is a huge improvement in my case.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby r6_philly » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:29 pm

Npret wrote:This is a perfect summation of biglaw. This is why it’s important to show you can deal with the situation of having to do scut work for people almost half your age who have a couple of years experience. Many of them will have never even had a job before but went K-JD. No matter how hard you work, you aren’t breaking lock step.


I ran companies, departments, teams, events. So it was a challenge. It is less so about the challenge of being managed, it is more about having someone with less experience make management decisions which you know (from your experience) that is not the most optimal. But at the same time, more senior associates really do have more LEGAL experience, they are just green at managing (resources, contractors, staff, clients, etc.).

But as many have said, biglaw associates are fungible cogs in a big machine. You are mostly there for one function which is not your previous experiences. They are valuable at times, but at the end of the day you are a number of billable hours on the firm's bill (and your rate is lower than more senior associates). Do that well above all else.

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Re: How old were the oldest law school grads who were successful in biglaw or near-big-law?

Postby Lesion of Doom » Thu Dec 13, 2018 2:10 pm

I'm an early 40s 3L headed to NYC for my first gig. I've asked myself these same questions but am not overly concerned. The thing is, even if it all goes horribly and I end up quitting or getting fired, I'll have lots of company of *all* ages.

My plan is to succeed, but who knows. No point in worrying about it. I'm grateful to have an opportunity to launch a second career, however it goes, because I wasn't sure there for awhile.



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