How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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Stan wrote: "This may be a type of Autism that it inherently beneficial to law practice in a big firm."

Funny you should mention this. Before the law, I never forgot birthdays, etc. Now I'm so preoccupied with work (and, even legal self-stimulation) that I'm beginning to suffer this form of "Autism." Not good.


"really short"? as opposed to really tall?

Potential Lawyer?

I am making a decision about attending Law School this week! I'm in and all set but am still apprehensive and relatively uninformed about the reality of being a lawyer. Im 5 years into a career in advertising Acct Mngmt and have grown bored with the nebulous and trivial nature of the work and poor hours v. pay ratio. These are the things Im honestly looking for in a law career.

-Self-Worth (doing important work with tangible results impacting real people)
-A stable career that I can grow into and will continue to challenge/satisfy into retirement.
-Generous Paycheck right away
-The ability to parlay legal expertise into other realms (politics (maybe), real estate)

Please feel free to beat me and my dream of being a successful well-adjusted lawyer with a stable family life into submission. I think I need it.


These are great--is there anyway to identify these types early while they're still in law school? If for no other reason than to hypothesize which type I may turn out to be :(


"Generous Paycheck right away."

Good luck with that one. Contrary to popular belief, not all lawyers are rich, and many make less than you probably already do.

If you do find a job that pays very well right out of law school, be prepared to sell your soul to the devil, i.e. a big law firm.


If you have five years experience in another job, and you don't have a relative ready to hand you a great job on a silver platter, and you're not going to a top-twenty law school, it's exceedingly unlikely that you're going to find that the three years of law school are going to pay for themselves any time soon or get you a "generous paycheck right away." You can take the money and time you were going to spend on law school and use it to get into politics or real estate at the ground floor now if that's your real goal; you can go to business school if you want to make money (though I suspect there, too, you need a top B-school to make the tuition pay for itself). But unless you have a lifelong ambition to be a lawyer, a third-tier law school doesn't seem to be the path for what you're seeking. Law's tough enough when you're in love with the issues to begin with; as a means to a different end, it must be unbearable.

Eh Nonymous

A Lawyer Degree is, contrary to some of the naysayers' statements, a Ticket to Better Pay. It won't get you better pay unless you're willing to work on and for the sources of said better pay - and I'd avoid being a mob lawyer, they keep getting disbarred/ indicted/ hit, but if you have the need for a higher pay/effort ratio, it's possible that law could be the way.

Certainly, you can get better respect than an account manager- or was it manager of accountants?

If you have business skills / work experience that will actually help you in or after law school, great.

If you dream of that "great paycheck" right after graduation, take a hard look at the stability, self-worth, and quality of life issues. The firms that pay $130,000 to first year lawyers straight out of law school will set you up properly ... if you can handle it. Many can't, and many of those who believe they can try, and wash out after a few short years.

If you want to get into politics or another remunerative field, law can be a way (many many members of Congress are lawyers). But also, why wait? Start on politics _now_ if you care about it- talk to your local precinct captain, or seek out a candidate who needs help (i.e. not the incumbent most of the time).

Real estate? I guess some lawyers do both. Some real estate lawyers don't need to "do" real estate, they _are_ the real estate business, and they make the money off of people who are "doing" real estate.

One last danger: nebulous and pointless work? Hello, hello? Welcome to legal work. Ever hear of document review? Do you know *why* they're willing to pay an associate so much, and bill at $200/ hour (ish) for a human being to look at papers in a box? Because it's not fun.

Some of the most worthwhile legal jobs will pay adequately. Some of the best paying legal jobs are either not very self-worth-enhancing or are extraordinarily hard to get. Most jobs are, you know, jobs.

Hope that helps.

Frank O'Connor

The author of this blog (Evan) went to a third tier law school (SLU) and is, by many accounts, a millionaire.

Potential Lawyer?

Very helpful. Exactly the kind of kick in the pants I needed. I suppose my ultimate goal (if I become one of you) would be to enter private practice and focus mostly on real estate (commercial and res.) and perhaps estate planning. I would imagine this life is not automatically quite as profitable and does not offer the kind of independence that I would hope for. Part of my motivation is to have the opportunity to get the hell out of the damn city and be able to practice in the suburb of my choice as many successful lawyers I know do. Again, this seems like a means to an end. If I said that I wanted this life because of a love for the law, research and attention to detail I'd be a liar.


Evan's different from PL: he went to law school fifteen years ago, when the economics of the profession were different. He didn't have to pay $85,000 in tuition. Evan not only graduated at the top of his class (making him, by definition, an atypical SLU student), but has a love of the law and entrepreneurial skills. I can't imagine anyone succeeding as a lawyer without having some interest in the law, or at least in the performing aspects of trial work, or the schmoozing connections that make a certain non-standard path in the law plausible.

If Potential Lawyer is making $40,000/year as an account executive, he's out about $175,000 to attend law school full time. That's a big risk to get a gig that may pay him $70,000 at a small suburban law firm. With pay raises and taxes and loan interest, figure (optimistically) seven years working to break even: that's ten years of devotion to a subject PL doesn't particularly like just to get back to where he was before he applied to law school. And, keep in mind, he's hoping to become a lawyer so he can spend more time with his family. So, if he hasn't burned out (or hasn't been sacked because his supervisors have noticed his lack of interest in attention to detail), in 2015 or so, PL can say he's financially better off than before he went to law school; if he's been frugal, he may even have saved up enough to take an entrepreneurial risk.

If, faced with that realistic scenario, PL still wants to become a lawyer, more power to him: he's more interested in the law than he has let on.


"The author of this blog (Evan) went to a third tier law school (SLU) and is, by many accounts, a millionaire."

If Evan is a millionaire, I demand a Notes coffee mug, well, for everyone ... and some fancy grounds to put in the cup ... and a pretty box ... with a pretty bow ... and shipped FedEx overnight.

Potential Lawyer?

This is all very discouraging! Thanks! The economics of my it sounds less than exciting and the more I research the issue the more I am sure that a career in a big firm would be equivalent to a bludgeoning. What else can I do to fullfill my dream of getting wealthy (well comfy really) and gaining some fullitment by contributing to humanity? Join the Peace Corps and marry a Workaholic Personal Injury Lawyer? As long as she can cook. Thanks again everyone.


Mother Theresa said to start by being kind to the people around you. I think simply trying to be a nice person even to the people you disagree with is a contribution to humanity (and rare among law students, but seems less rare among practitioners I know - probably get a different picture on the other side of a case from them).

all of the career guides say to do what excites you - everything else will follow. For me the prospect of law school genuinely excited me - now just need to have faith that a way to make the practice just as exciting. Enough procrastinating now - the bar awaits. Good luck.

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