Friday, September 18, 2009

If You're Thinking about Going into Law...

This ABA article should be required reading for all you aspiring law students.

Broken down by age group, the median salary of law grads who never passed the bar was $32,000 before they reached the age of 30 (compared to $48,000 for lawyers and $35,600 for college grads), $48,000 from the ages of 30 to 39 (compared to $64,000 for lawyers and $42,000 for college grads), $54,000 between the ages of 40 and 49 (compared to $83,600 for lawyers and $46,250 for college grads), and $62,849 between the ages of 50 and 59 (compared to $86,400 for lawyers and $48,416 for college grads).

Did you see the median salary for most law grads under 30 years old? Yes, your eyes are clear--it's $48,000/yr. The lesson: don't go into law just because you think the money is wonderful.

For your information, 2009 annual tuition at my alma mater’s full time law program is $38,040, or $114,120 total. At a local night law school, total tuition for a law degree is $51,156. The aforementioned tuition numbers do not include books, study aids, or bar prep courses, which can add an additional $10,000 to $15,000 to the cost of the J.D.

Why is there such a wide disparity in tuition costs between my law school and the night school? My school's alumni network is much different. I know some graduates from the night law school, and all of them are solo practitioners. Nothing wrong with being a solo (I'm one), but I don't know of any big or even small firms where this night school's grads have hiring authority. In contrast, both of my jobs out of law school were given to me by former alumni.

I am happy I managed to pay off my student loans. I had a generous housing situation, but I still had to minimize unavoidable expenses, like food, gas, suits, a reliable car, insurance, etc. I remember eating mostly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for three years post-graduation. A few times, I forgot to pack my lunch, and I just didn't eat that day. Also, although I love coffee, I avoided Starbucks like the plague. An attorney/mentor (a fellow alumnus, by the way), would buy me lunch once a month, and I looked forward to those lunches more than he will ever know. Now, we take turns paying for lunch, which is nice.

Before I forget, I will leave you with one story about my friend/mentor. When I first met him, I had no idea he was a big shot lawyer. I got to know him because he and I both love movies, he is down-to-earth, and he seemed like a really cool guy. One time, he casually mentioned that he had taken a weekend vacation with his family, and somehow, the cost came up. It was 8,000 dollars. My eyes got wide, my head jerked back, and I remember saying, "8 thousand dollars? For one weekend? How is that possible?" The only thing going through my mind was, "That's two full years of undergrad tuition at UC Davis!" I hope my friend/mentor doesn't remember that day. He hasn't said anything about it, but since then, he's never mentioned the price of any of his vacations.

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