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Posted: 8/9/2007 1:39:59 AM EDT
My wife is thinking about going to law school to get out of the auto industry here in Michigan. She will have her masters in auto design in May and is worried about the fact that this will max out her school loans and we will have to get another small personal loan to finish it. Will we be able to afford to pay them off or afford the payment during her first year?

So, what is a typical starting pay for lawyers and where does it go from there? Is it worth it?
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 1:51:53 AM EDT
We-ll, not a lawyer, but my brother is and my father was.

First of all, realize that what is typical pay to some means average pay to others. Average pay can be skewed because there are a few lawyers making MEGAbucks and a lot of lawyers making meagerbucks but the average point makes it look everyone is doing pretty good. So watch out for that.

Next, how old is your wife, what is she thinking of doing? If she is thinking of working for some great firm, then the choice of law school could be a big issue. But if she is too old, then it may not make a difference at all.

Ie, my father started being a lawyer at around 57, after 30+ years a career Infantry officer. Most law firms would not touch him with a ten foot pole despite having graduated from a major regional law school. Why? Age and experience. Law firms want someone they can groom to their own way of thinking. They don't want someone brought in who will tell them what to do, who is quite tactically savvy.

Likewise, my brother is young, but he went to South Texas. Affordable, lots of lawyers graduate from there, but it isn't presidious. At the very least, without a reputation, the school or the lack there of can hurt one.

So the questions are a little bit more in depth than what is being asked.
_____________________________________________________________
("Oh, no. I am fully aware of your reputation and there's no way you're getting... that. No."--Lucy Kelson
"Getting what?"--George Wade
"You know what. Sex. There's no way you're getting... that. No."
"Well, that would be nice. But what I really need is a new chief counsel."
"[beat] Honestly, I think I'd rather have the sex.", (w,stte), "Two Weeks Notice")
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 1:54:00 AM EDT
Tell her to concentrate on IP law. She'll have those loans paid off in a year or so.
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 1:58:33 AM EDT
She's 37 BTW. She isn't sure what field she will go into. She will be going to Wayne State University in Detroit.
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 2:31:42 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/9/2007 2:32:26 AM EDT by spartacus2002]
Starting pay will depend a LOT on how highly ranked her school is, what her grades are, and where she seeks employment. The law schools are divided into tiers by the US News and World Report rankings. Top 50 are "first tier," next 50 are "second tier," and so on. First tier schools command a premium.

As for location making a difference, for instance here in Virginia the Richmond firms start from $90K+ to $145K+. An hour down the road in Tidewater area, the firms start MUCH lower. New York starting pay at megafirms is around $145-160K, but (a) you gotta graduate from a top name school to get in there and (b) $145K in NYC is less pay than $100K in Richmond, based on cost of living.
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 8:55:16 AM EDT

Originally Posted By RobarSR60:
Tell her to concentrate on IP law. She'll have those loans paid off in a year or so.

It's not that simple. To get into IP law, she will need to have a degree (preferably a bachelor's) in an engineering field, computer science or to a limited extent in a hard-science field. Electrical engineering is hot, computer science is ok, some biotech is good (but typically requires an advanced degree in a specific "hot" subfield). ME, chemistry, and physics are "sufficient" but there are plenty of people chasing those jobs already.

I'm not sure where "automotive design" fits into engineering and IP. Probably doesn't. If it's a subspecialty of ME, she has a shot. I know one firm looking for people with experience in turbine design, but the job isn't that hot (at least it's a foot in the door, though).

Wayne State is right at the very bottom of "Tier 2". As long as she does well in law school, she'll be able to get a job regionally, but it probably won't pay more than about $70K-$80K per year. If she does poorly, she'll probably be making $50K to $60K in Podunkville. Her age is going to count against her as well, since better law firms want to hire 25yo new grads who are willing to work 80 hours per week to drive up billings, not 37yo women who have families and outside-work lives.
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 8:58:27 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/9/2007 8:59:09 AM EDT by FordGuy]

Originally Posted By hughjafj:
My wife is thinking about going to law school to get out of the auto industry here in Michigan. She will have her masters in auto design in May and is worried about the fact that this will max out her school loans and we will have to get another small personal loan to finish it. Will we be able to afford to pay them off or afford the payment during her first year?

So, what is a typical starting pay for lawyers and where does it go from there? Is it worth it?


graduated over 8 yrs ago. not worth it. made plenty of money...still not worth it. guess what I do now?

<<<<
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 9:04:33 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/9/2007 9:05:19 AM EDT by monkeybusiness]
I'm a "1L" dropout and would never consider returning. All the attorneys in the Tampa/Orlando area that are recent grads start around $45/year, some make more. The important this is knowing how to generate billable hours, and how to re-bill paralegal/secretary time under attorney time. Most firms require an attorney, or paralegal, to generate "X" number of hours per month/year. Most paralegals generate 120-150/month and most attorneys generate 150-250/month.

Truthfully, the lawyer field is becoming saturated, much like the computer field, and firms can pay less because people need the money to pay off their $100k+++ student loans!!!

Link Posted: 8/9/2007 9:22:53 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/9/2007 11:59:12 AM EDT by stockshift]
I have been practicing law for almost ten years.

As mentioned by other posters, hiring in law firms is generally very localized unless you are at a top tier law school. If you go to any of the Ivys or similar, you can take your degree and get a big firm job anywhere. If you go to a lower tier school, you should be aware that most of the big firm job opportunities will be local to your law school.

Firms tend to hire local because of several reasons. One, alumni connections. Two, they want to hire people who have experience or connections to the area because those people are likely to stay in the area. Imagine if you're hiring in Detroit and you get a resume from a law student in California and one from a law student in Michigan ... which one of those two is more likely to work in Detroit?

To be clear, your wife is not guaranteed a big firm job in Detroit if she goes to a second tier school in the area. She will be competing with the outside applicants from the first tier schools as well as her peers. In my summer class the only students that were not from first tier schools were ones that were top of their class (one was third in her class) or had client connections (one guy's father was a big client of the firm). So she should really dedicate herself to study at a second tier school, because just "good" grades will NOT be enough for a big firm job. She needs to be a flat-out star to get a big firm job. Failure to do so results in a pile of student debt while working for a mediocre salary.

For compensation, look up the big law firms on Martindale Hubbel in Detroit. That should give you an idea of the upper end of starting compensation in your area. Then go down for medium law firms, small law firms and govt clerk/department positions.


Originally Posted By hughjafj:
She's 37 BTW. She isn't sure what field she will go into. She will be going to Wayne State University in Detroit.


She doesn't have to make up her mind right now about which field of law to choose. She will get an opportunity to see first-hand during her summer intenships.

Typically, the internship during one's first year summer is unpaid. Most law students will clerk for judges, and those are volunteer positions. I was lucky enough to get a firm job for my 1L summer so I was paid but it is very rare for firms to hire 1L students for summer internships. So factor that into your finances. No pay for 1L summer.

The 2L summer is usually the big one. If she has done well her first year she will land an internship at a big firm. She will be paid as if she were a first year associate (in most cases). Wining, dining, and all that jazz happens as well (they are luring you to work for them). If she does well at the internship, an offer of permanent employment is typically extended by November or so of her 3L year. That usually means good news from the financial front as they will also pick up her costs to take the bar exam, bar prep classes AND a stipend for the summer.

This is why most law students go full bore for the first year. The only grades the law firm may see is your 1L grades because you interview at the beginning of the 2L year.

PS patent law is lucrative but you generally need an undergrad engineering/science degree and also you have to pass a separate exam to practice in front of the PTO. The pass rate is around 33% -- it is not easy.

Hope this helps!

Edit: check out the NALP website for a searchable directory (including cities) so you can see what people are paying ....
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 9:41:28 AM EDT
NFW...but you probably want more.

I've been in practice since 1982. I was 42 when I graduated, after years of .mil and police work. Worst mistake I ever made, but I dug the hole so I made the best of it.

Unless it is a burning desire that can't be extinguised she'd be better off elsewhere. Some have a "calling" (child abuse, politics, etc), but most are in the field for the money. The practice of law becomes secondary.

Salaries are typically not that great. I can hire all the $40k lawyers I want, and beat them into billing $150k. Guess where the net profit goes. You must be the boss, or in the upper level of a firm to make the big bucks.

You don't go into government service as an attorney to make $$$. There are plenty of jobs, but the pay isn't that great.

My suggestion is that she really question why she should bother. Unless the reasons are overwhelming I'd look for another career.
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 9:43:29 AM EDT
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 9:59:40 AM EDT

Originally Posted By FordGuy:

Originally Posted By hughjafj:
My wife is thinking about going to law school to get out of the auto industry here in Michigan. She will have her masters in auto design in May and is worried about the fact that this will max out her school loans and we will have to get another small personal loan to finish it. Will we be able to afford to pay them off or afford the payment during her first year?

So, what is a typical starting pay for lawyers and where does it go from there? Is it worth it?


graduated over 8 yrs ago. not worth it. made plenty of money...still not worth it. guess what I do now?

<<<<



FordGuy why is this? What didn't you like?
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 10:07:54 AM EDT
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 10:25:57 AM EDT
One afternoon a lawyer was riding in his limousine when he saw two men
along the roadside eating grass. Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop
and he got out to investigate.

He asked one man, "Why are you eating grass?"

"We don't have any money for food," the poor man replied. "We have to eat grass."

"Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I'll feed you," the
lawyer said.

"But sir, I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there,
under that tree."

"Bring them along," the lawyer replied.

Turning to the other poor man he stated, "You come with us, also."

The second man, in a pitiful voice, then said, "But sir, I also have a
wife and SIX children with me!"

"Bring them all, as well," the lawyer answered.

They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as
large as the limousine was.
once underway, one of the poor fellows turned to the lawyer and said,
Sir, you are too kind."
"Thank you for taking all of us with you."

The lawyer replied, "Glad to do it.
You'll really love my place. The grass is almost a foot high!

Link Posted: 8/9/2007 10:30:00 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Will220:
One afternoon a lawyer was riding in his limousine when he saw two men
along the roadside eating grass. Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop
and he got out to investigate.

He asked one man, "Why are you eating grass?"

"We don't have any money for food," the poor man replied. "We have to eat grass."

"Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I'll feed you," the
lawyer said.

"But sir, I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there,
under that tree."

"Bring them along," the lawyer replied.

Turning to the other poor man he stated, "You come with us, also."

The second man, in a pitiful voice, then said, "But sir, I also have a
wife and SIX children with me!"

"Bring them all, as well," the lawyer answered.

They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as
large as the limousine was.
once underway, one of the poor fellows turned to the lawyer and said,
Sir, you are too kind."
"Thank you for taking all of us with you."

The lawyer replied, "Glad to do it.
You'll really love my place. The grass is almost a foot high!




Link Posted: 8/9/2007 10:36:27 AM EDT

Originally Posted By shotar:
I recruit lawyers for a living. Top school, top grades, $135k starting salary at a major firm. If she has any engineering background, I suggest patent law.


Yup and you work dirty whore hours for that pay.

Anytime you have to work under "partners" in a large company, you're a slave.

Link Posted: 8/9/2007 10:38:25 AM EDT
Depends on if she goes to a big firm or not. Starting pay at big firms is now $135,000-$160,000, depending on the location. If she goes to a government job such as prosecuting, she could be looking at under $50,000. Mid-sized and small firms will fall somewhere in between.

Going to a decent law school and being top of the class will open a lot of doors for her, but doing poorly will result primarily in a lot of debt. The high-paying big firm jobs go to people who are top of the class and made law review.

Keep in mind that the biglaw life is not 9-5. You'll work for the money. And you get to "bill" your time, which means dividing your work day into tenths of an hour which you then have to convince a client to pay you for. Only billed 6 hours out of an 8 hour day? Those other 2 hours don't count. Most big firms require 2000 hours per year in billables, and some want 2300+.

My wife and I each came out of law school with $100k in debt. Was it worth it? Yes, since we did well and have good jobs. I'm at a firm that pays biglaw salaries but is more family oriented. (This is an exception.)

Go to Greedy Associates. They have salary and bonus information for most major markets.
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 10:38:32 AM EDT
Link Posted: 8/9/2007 11:34:33 AM EDT
There is some good advice here (from a former attorney, now in government service).
Link Posted: 8/10/2007 7:17:54 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Possum-Sandwich:
Most big firms require 2000 hours per year in billables, and some want 2300+.


True ... you can also check the NALP listing for each office of a firm and see their published billable hour requirements. You will notice I said "published". What is published is not always what is EXPECTED.
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