Friday, March 21, 2014

Where I ended up after not pursing a law degree

A gentle reminder from WashU Law that they offer graduate programs reminded me that I would have graduated last year had I chosen to pursue a legal degree. Assuming I passed the bar and was able to get a job, I would likely be in the first months of a job with some big firm in some big city. This alternative to my current life made me realize that comparing my current situation to my hypothetical situation may be worth sharing. This blog is about providing information. This is another piece of information that I can share.

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.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Please share your stories

I'm very happy to see that people are using this blog to inform their law school applications. I would love to expand the content to make it even more useful, but I am not actively engaged in applying to or attending law school. You are. I invite any visitors to leave a comment offering to share some insight into how being a PhD has impacted your law school application cycle. The comments are moderated so nothing is visible on the site until I approve it. I can repost a comment as a stand alone post or you can leave some contact information and I'll follow up with you to get your perspective posted so it can help others.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Explanation

You can't hear the bitterness that I feel when I read my statement about not going to law school. Law would be an excellent move for my career. Unfortunately, my wife's job has gotten a little too unstable for me to give up my salary and benefits for 3 years. There are no part-time programs that are close enough for me to attend so that means putting aside my law school ambitions.

I envy everyone placing seat deposits and getting ready to start classes in the fall.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, March 20, 2010


I was waiting for W&M to sent out their denials to see how people with my numbers fared, but I get the feeling most people will get accepted. Why? Because it really is all about the LSAT score, with some element of GPA. Other things may weigh in one way or another, but ultimately, that 3 or 4 hours you spend taking the LSAT will seal your fate. A PhD will help you get in if you have the numbers, but it won't help if you don't.

Focus on your LSAT, that's all that really matters.

I'm not going to law school. Good luck to everybody in their studies and careers.

So long,


Friday, February 26, 2010

How much is a 168 LSAT worth?

WashU sent me a scholarship offer email last night. They're offering a Scholar in Law scholarship of $10,000 a year (or $30,000 distributed evenly over three years in their terms, I guess they want me to be impressed by the larger number). That only leave Mason and U of R outstanding in terms of scholarship offers. Alabama has not offered me any money so I'll take a look at the impact of the various scholarships on the tuition of each school.

Here's how the offers impact tuition (The Marshall Scholarship from Richmond is in italics to indicate that my application for that scholarship is pending):

Tuition $$ Tuition - $$ % $$
WashU $40,436 $10,000 $30,436 24.73
Minn $35,089 $18,000 $17,089 51.30
W&M $20,146 $6,000 $14,146 29.78
GMU $18,732

W&L $36,297 $17,000 $19,297 46.84
Richmond $31,510 $25,000 $6,510 79.34
IU $37,373 $15,000 $22,373 40.14

That Minnesota scholarship really makes a difference. The W&M offer is nice (I have in-state tuition) too. The Marshall scholarship would really give Richmond an edge. I've heard that the scholarship money is basically used to buy LSAT scores. I guess we can see which schools want a 168 more than others.

A quick review of LSN shows that other people with numbers similar to mine are getting pretty much the same offer, with a few exceptions (two people with similar numbers have been waitlisted at IU). No PhD boost for merit scholarships. Maybe it will make a difference with the Marshall scholarship

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Linchpin Lawyers

I started reading Seth Godin's new book Linchpin yesterday. One of the chapters is titled Indoctrination: How we got here. He argues that schools have been designed to generate compliant and obedient workers for the factory (and his definition of factory is pretty broad, I have no doubt that a law firm would be considered a factory for the sake of his argument). There were several passages where I felt like I was reading a description of law school. Compliance, obedience, following the prescribed path to a socially accepted prestigious career (where it's more of the same compliance and fitting in to get to the top). That's the essence of law school. Law school isn't about processing information in an insightful manner, it's about regurgitating as much as you can during an exam (at least that's what I've been told by two reasonably successful law students, they're both 3L's with job offers at good firms, that's the defition of success for law students right now). The path to a BigLaw career is clear from my position. Go to X law school, get Y grades, be on Z journal, and you'll end up in one of these firms, bill a couple thousand hours a year, and you'll be partner making big bucks in no time. I think that clarity is one of the things that attracts successful students to the law. If you're good at school, that kind of clear path is appealing. The requirements of a successful academic career are clear. It's not much of a jump to apply that same approach to a law career.

Law has a bit of a brute force element to it. You plug away for hours reading casebooks in law school and work crazy hours as a lawyer delving into every little detail of every document. It falls into the idea that if you show up and do the work, you'll be rewarded ideas of career that Godin discusses early in Linchpin. I like to take the smarter not harder approach myself. I have always considered law school as a means to a new stage in my career, but I will have to get lawyer experience at some point to make the transition worthwhile (especially as being in law school does not teach you how to be a lawyer). Maybe there is a better way to access the business develop side of the industry.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

There is a PhD boost for something

I talked to a PhD 3L a couple of days ago to get a little more background on how the PhD plays in the legal recruiting process. He has had no trouble getting interviews and offers at every stage of his legal education. The advanced degree places somebody like me in a special category for applicants that law firms really want. PhD lawyers are rare (who doesn't want to got to school for 7 or 8 years after finishing college). I may be in an even more special case as I am a PhD who has also worked in the pharmaceutical industry. This eases one of the biggest concerns that I had going into this process. There is so much bad news out there about the legal job market, I have always wondered if there are better ways for me to spend 3 years and who knows how much money than getting a degree that may not lead to that next move in my career. Assuming I don't tank as a law student, I think things will be alright now.