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Posted: 2/18/2010 8:41:21 PM EDT
I've always thought I'd like to attend law school, and am seriously thinking of attending after retiring from the military.  I know there are a ton of lawyers here on the board, did any of you start your career so late in life?  I'd be about 42-43 by the time I graduated law school.  Of course I would have about $50K from the MGIB to spend towards school, and my retirement income, so I wouldn't be quite as broke as some young lawyers.  I'd like to specialize in aviation law, since all of my undergrad and graduate education is in the field.  



Do you think it would be worth it or is it too late in life to realize any decent earning potential?
Link Posted: 2/19/2010 6:26:58 AM EDT
You can certainly get through law school, learn the trade and earn a good living (hopefully) after that.  None of the top firms will touch you due to age.  

As an aside, the guys who go to law school really young often do not shine.  And the ones who go to school too old (45+) do not do so well because their brains have ossified.  Former public sector people are particularly prone to this condition.
Link Posted: 2/19/2010 6:29:36 AM EDT
A lot of my friends in law school right now are over 40.  In my opinion they are well adjusted, disciplines and make great law students.

I'm a twenty-something and there are times I wish I would have waited a bit longer to jump in.
Link Posted: 2/19/2010 9:27:37 AM EDT
Quoted:
I've always thought I'd like to attend law school, and am seriously thinking of attending after retiring from the military.  I know there are a ton of lawyers here on the board, did any of you start your career so late in life?  I'd be about 42-43 by the time I graduated law school.  Of course I would have about $50K from the MGIB to spend towards school, and my retirement income, so I wouldn't be quite as broke as some young lawyers.  I'd like to specialize in aviation law, since all of my undergrad and graduate education is in the field.  

Do you think it would be worth it or is it too late in life to realize any decent earning potential?


I went to law school at age 35.  

I found that I had a large advantage over the younger students, because I was not spending any time boozing or chasing broads.  It meant that even with the less stamina of my age I was spending more time studying.
Economically, law school is not always a great idea.  If you can do it without any significant student loan debt, then it can be a good idea but if you end up borrowing six figures of funds to pay tuition and room and board, you will never earn that back and student loan debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.   That can be a disasterous financial choice.

The legal profession is not for everyone.  There is a lot stress in practice, and some people do not enjoy a work life of conflict.  So I would recommend talking to people in the legal field about such things and be sure it is for you before you begin.  I know a lot of ex-attorneys - you don't want to be one.
Link Posted: 2/19/2010 8:07:26 PM EDT
Quoted:
You can certainly get through law school, learn the trade and earn a good living (hopefully) after that.  None of the top firms will touch you due to age.  

As an aside, the guys who go to law school really young often do not shine.  And the ones who go to school too old (45+) do not do so well because their brains have ossified.  Former public sector people are particularly prone to this condition.


Sorry,  but that is rubbish.  I graduated the night division at Georgetown when I was 38, and I was far from the oldest in the class.  Probably a majority of my classmates went into AMLAW 100 firms, which is where I practice now.  I am currently mentoring a first year lawyer who is quite a bit older than me.  She went back to law school after retiring from a senior civil service position.  

In reality, a lot of law firms prefer older lawyers who did law as a second career.  In some cases it is because the previous experience is directly useful.  In other cases it is just because it's easier to integrate someone who may not be experienced in the law, but at least has mastered the basics of good work habits.  Clients in my experience often prefer a little maturity as well.  




Link Posted: 2/19/2010 9:29:12 PM EDT
Thanks to all who have replied for the advice.  If I choose to use the post-9/11 GI Bill and I select the right school in the right state, I should be able to get my law degree at zero cost to me.  That significantly lowers the financial penalty of deciding later I might not want to stay in the industry indefinitely.  Some states are very generous with the maximum tuition they allow under the post 9/11 rules, allowing up to $65K/year.  Selected schools participate in the "yellow ribbon program" where any costs above the cap are covered up to a certain amount as well.  I'd love the opportunity to be a full time student, I've never had that pleasure and have always had to work full time while taking classes.  



It looks like the highest tuition rates are paid by Utah, Florida, and Colorado.  Any law schools in those states that you would recommend looking at?  North Dakota and Wisconsin are pretty generous as well, but there's no way I'm living in the great white north voluntarily.  




As for working in an adversarial workplace, I don't think that will be much of a change for me. I've had quite a few college professors over the years who were also lawyers, and all of them were very good teachers/instructors.  One of them warned us (a class of Grad students) not to go to law school, and said he hates it every day, but the others didn't have anything negative to say about it.  Thanks again for the advice.




Link Posted: 2/20/2010 7:33:14 AM EDT
Quoted:
Thanks to all who have replied for the advice.  If I choose to use the post-9/11 GI Bill and I select the right school in the right state, I should be able to get my law degree at zero cost to me.  That significantly lowers the financial penalty of deciding later I might not want to stay in the industry indefinitely.  Some states are very generous with the maximum tuition they allow under the post 9/11 rules, allowing up to $65K/year.  Selected schools participate in the "yellow ribbon program" where any costs above the cap are covered up to a certain amount as well.  I'd love the opportunity to be a full time student, I've never had that pleasure and have always had to work full time while taking classes.  

It looks like the highest tuition rates are paid by Utah, Florida, and Colorado.  Any law schools in those states that you would recommend looking at?  North Dakota and Wisconsin are pretty generous as well, but there's no way I'm living in the great white north voluntarily.  

As for working in an adversarial workplace, I don't think that will be much of a change for me. I've had quite a few college professors over the years who were also lawyers, and all of them were very good teachers/instructors.  One of them warned us (a class of Grad students) not to go to law school, and said he hates it every day, but the others didn't have anything negative to say about it.  Thanks again for the advice.



You need to consider carefully what you want to do with the degree.  If you plan on hanging out your shingle then that is one thing and should push you in the direction of going to an inexpensive school.  If on the other hand you plan to get yourself hired by a firm, then going to an inexpensive school may be a very dumb decision because it will effectively lock you out from being hired.  A lot of legal practices and hiring committees live and die by the US News rankings.  There are hundreds of law schools, but only around 20 in the country that count.  The higher up the rankings you go, the less the tuition you paid will matter in the long run because it will put you into the running for a career where you won't be struggling to pay your student loans.  In general rule of thumb if you go that route is to go to the highest ranked school you can get into.  Nobody's career ever suffered because they went to too prestigious a law school.

Another thing to consider is where you want to practice regionally.  The top 20 schools will allow you to practice anywhere.  However, firms tend to only recruit from certain schools for practical reasons that have nothing to do with rankings.  It's expensive to fly interviewers or interviewees around.  There are also regional schools that can make good sense if you plan to practice in the state or region.  E.g if you go to the University of Florida, it will be hard to get a job in a NY big law firm, but it should open doors in Florida.  


Have you taken the LSAT yet?  That's your first step.  Without knowing where you rank there is no point even thinking about this.
Link Posted: 2/20/2010 1:20:01 PM EDT
Quoted:
I've always thought I'd like to attend law school, and am seriously thinking of attending after retiring from the military.  I know there are a ton of lawyers here on the board, did any of you start your career so late in life?  I'd be about 42-43 by the time I graduated law school.  Of course I would have about $50K from the MGIB to spend towards school, and my retirement income, so I wouldn't be quite as broke as some young lawyers.  I'd like to specialize in aviation law, since all of my undergrad and graduate education is in the field.  

Do you think it would be worth it or is it too late in life to realize any decent earning potential?


i do not recommend it. if you are looking to make money in a rewarding career forget it; the profession of law is gone. it is all about money now. unless you desire to run for political office, or are really connected (your mother, father, brothers and sisters are all partners in a firm or have a book of business in excess of a million dollars) run away as far and as fast as you can.  no firm is going to devote the effort, time and money in training you. there is no reward in it for the firm. when you graduate from law school you only know some theory.  if you stepped in a court room you would be committing malpractice.  some tips: the number of years the school has been in business is directly proportional to the likelihood of getting a job.  unless you are in the top 10 in your class from a tier 1 school, large firms will not go near you. small firms do not pay well. every lawyer i know (both large firm and small firm) is looking for a way out.

good luck.
Link Posted: 2/22/2010 6:33:27 PM EDT
I graduated in 2007.  The market for attorneys is terrible right now and will likely remain so for several years.  I would not recommend law school unless you can go to a top notch school and plan on graduating in the top 20% of your class or if you have a family member that will hire you.  I have plenty of classmates that are unemployed or underemployed.

Its a tough, stressful job and the rewards might not be what you think they are.

Link Posted: 3/8/2010 7:58:36 PM EDT
chairborne, utah has two top twenty schools, BYU and the Univ of Utah.  i've had friends go to both, both are great programs.  

while being an attorney is a stressful job, your situation will allow you to control the stress. namely, b/c you'll have your military retirement, you won't have to take the crap cases to survive, nor will your bills go unpaid b/c you have a slow month.  these are some of the biggest stresses when you're on your own.  also, if you can get through w/ minimal loans, this will get rid of a bunch more stress.

btw, i graduated law school at 33.  many firms appreciate the maturity of the older student.  lots of firms will hire you, if that's the direction you want to go.
Link Posted: 3/8/2010 9:28:59 PM EDT



Quoted:


chairborne, utah has two top twenty schools, BYU and the Univ of Utah.  i've had friends go to both, both are great programs.  



while being an attorney is a stressful job, your situation will allow you to control the stress. namely, b/c you'll have your military retirement, you won't have to take the crap cases to survive, nor will your bills go unpaid b/c you have a slow month.  these are some of the biggest stresses when you're on your own.  also, if you can get through w/ minimal loans, this will get rid of a bunch more stress.



btw, i graduated law school at 33.  many firms appreciate the maturity of the older student.  lots of firms will hire you, if that's the direction you want to go.
Thank you.  I'm still trying to figure out the specifics of the post 9/11 GI Bill, but that sounds like a good option.  I'm a huge fan of the mountain west anyway, so Utah would be a great place to go to school.  For the record I have not taken the LSAT yet, I'm working on the last couple of classes for my MS. I'm not to worried about academic entry requirements, I've always done extremely well on standardized tests and have maintained a 3.7+ GPA throughout my college career.  





 
Link Posted: 3/8/2010 9:35:30 PM EDT
Link Posted: 3/8/2010 10:14:58 PM EDT





Quoted:



Aviation law? I would think that might be tough. It's one thing to be a 45 year old brand new attorney and hang out your shingle in your hometown and start hussling real estate closings etc, but aviation law would (I assume) normally entail working at a sizeable law firm that already has aviation clients. How many large law firms are going to look at a 45 year old first year associate? Are you really going to want to work the 60-80+ hours a large law firm requires?





My undergrad degree and graduate degree are in aeronautical science, and I'll have at least 20 years of experience in the industry so it's not as if I bring nothing to the aviation side of the table.  I work 60-80 hours a week pretty routinely now, so that's nothing new.  I'm not looking to land a job at a huge law firm, I'd rather practice in a much smaller one.  I'd be anywhere from 41-43 depending on when I retire exactly.  



ETA:  I'm not looking to be a corporate lawyer for an aviation giant like Lockheed or Boeing, more along the lines of defending aviation professionals against actions by the FAA, or even working the other side of that house.  There are small firms that specialize in that area.  
 
Link Posted: 3/9/2010 2:12:42 AM EDT
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