Let's assume I had left my job and gone to law school. For the sake of argument, we'll assume a best case for my law school career. So let's pretend that I set myself up for a job with a big firm with a big paycheck. In my alternate reality, U or R was the school that I would most likely attend. To keep things simple, let's say that I ended up borrowing $175,000 to cover tuition and various living related expenses. I would have given up a job over that time as well. I made about $275,000 over the three years that I would have been in law school. Stepping in my new job as a freshly minted lawyer, I would be $450,000 in the hole relative to where I am now.
I was recently promoted to management in my organization. That boosted my pay up to a level that is comparable to what I would likely be making as a new lawyer. The exact numbers aren't relevant. All that matters is that I would be a very deep hole, and I wouldn't be making any progress to making up that differential. This scenario also assumes a best case outcome from my legal studies. Any other outcome would result in an even bigger gap between what I gave up to attend law school and what I would be making after getting the degree. Let's not forget that I would paying back all those student loans. That drag on my earnings would push them well below what I'm making now.
In the very best outcome, I would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to lose ground financially.Of course, it isn't always about the money.Looking at the non-financial side of the situation makes staying at my job look even better. My quality of life was pretty good over the last three years. I wasn't spending all my waking hours working my ass off in class. No all nighters studying for finalsl I just did my normal nine to five type of thing. In the process of doing that normal nine to five thing, I'm one class away from my MBA, a degree that my company is paying for (I just have to stick around for two years after I'm finished). I took vacations, spoiled my kids, took care of my house, put aside money for retirement (another huge chunk of money that I would have forfeited to get a law degree), and didn't have to worry about every penny that I spent. I also suspect that I would have hated being a lawyer. I like my current job. So I would lose money to pursue a job that I would likely hate.
The bottom line, getting a law degree would have been a HUGE mistake. This is how things looks for me. I recognize my good fortune when it comes to having an industry job. I'm not stuck in post-doc purgatory or struggling to make a living as a non-tenure track professor. Law is a viable option for many. Maybe that big financial gap would have been covered if I'd been a successful lawyer, but I suspect that the price of that success would be very high. I made the right decision. I hope this blog helps you find the best path for you.