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Law Degree at age 50? Is it worth pursuing?

Please help get my mind right. Is this a good idea or a waste of time?

 

I am thinking of taking the lsats/going to law school/passing bar.

 

But I am going to be 48 in a few months and haven't even taken the lsat's. I think I have an exceptional amount of history as an employer, leader, writer and in two industries that use attorneys extensively, mortgage and insurance.

 

But…. when I pass the bar I could be 50 or 51. I am told I wouldn't be considered by a law firm but corporations may find me desirable for hiring.

 

Am I wasting my time?
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Comments

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN
    Why do you want to go to law school? (I ask because it doesn't sound like you have a strong idea of why.)
  • Sam Question is the one to answer. If you feel that you can do some good for the clientele you wish to serve, then it is never too late to go to law school. But if you think you're doing it because you're going to land a high paying "job" you'd better check your goals again. Being an attorney is not a job. It is a professional career. Once you're a licensed attorney, you will never be unemployed again, you may not be making what you think you're worth but there will never be a lack of individuals seeking your service.

     

    BTW what state are you in?
  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN

    Ben Platon said
    Once you're a licensed attorney, you will never be unemployed again

    I know an awful lot of unemployed licensed attorneys who would beg to differ.
  • I am doing it because I think i missed my true calling (well second true calling, but didn't want to risk the agony of being an unemployed writer, but I have found satisyfying outlets for my writing skills both paying and non-paying.). Of course employment and income go into the equation but it certainly is something I think I would like to do for the rest of my life, and not just for the money.
  • Sam Glover said
    Why do you want to go to law school? (I ask because it doesn't sound like you have a strong idea of why.)

    Did my last post satisfactorily answer that or do you need some more?
  • Sam Glover said

    Ben Platon said
    Once you're a licensed attorney, you will never be unemployed again

    I know an awful lot of unemployed licensed attorneys who would beg to differ.

    This is why I ask. The point is to be an employed attorney, not an unempoyed one. Same reason as I didn't want to be an unemployed writer. Leaving my family starving and homeless is not the price I am willing to pay to pursue a dream. Which is why I am curious if a 50 year old will get passed over regardless of what I have to offer compared to a 25 year old who has no track record but will be seen as more moldable and less likely to get tired of working 60-70 hours a week (or more).

     

    Does this help illustrate my thinking some more? I am happy to add more if anyone is interested.
  • To Sam: in any fair sized city, a licensed attorney is only unemployed by choice. Because s/he's not willing to pick up the low pay/ pro bono client or work in an unpaid internship. Employed as an attorney and getting paid are two separate issues.

    To Ggusta, unless you're going to graduate in the top 10 of your class from a prestigious school, tere will be no headhunters looking for you so you better be able to afford law school and support your family on your writing until you establish a practice. With that in mind, look to alternative methods of law study if available in your State.

    CA for instance you can study at night law schools, distance learning, classic correspondence and even "in chambers" (which is why I asked what State.

    Once that hurdle can be cleared, 50 is not too old to start. You could look forward to several years of practice, plenty of attorneys practicing in their 70's & 80's if they're competent.
  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN
    I'm pretty sure you and I live in different realities. Do you have any idea how many people apply for public interest jobs? You've got a better chance of being accepted to Harvard Law. And doing pro bono work or unpaid internships does not equal being employed. Although the competition for unpaid internships is still pretty fierce.

    Nevertheless, I agree that if you can't get into a great school at 50, take it as a sign you aren't cut out for lawyering.
  • Wow Sam, how cynical? or Jaded? Just because you can't get into or afford a top tier school doesn't mean you're not cut out for lawyering. I went to a small night law school here in CA (4 years) with a day job, knowing full well there was no position at any firm going to be available other than by pure luck or good connections. Nonetheless, I graduated without debt, passed the GBX on the first take and now 15 years later have a decent solo practice and am turning down matters I would have taken on in my first few years just to say I had clients.

     

    Yeah it was rough the 1st few years just like any other start-up but I always new I would be a good lawyer, able to care for my clients and provide them with good counsel and service.

     

    BTW GGusta I started law school at 34, having determined that I was tired of having jobs and needed a career.

     

    Good luck to you.
  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN
    I read his goal as getting a job, not starting his own firm. If you want a job in this economy, you need to go to a good school. If you want to start your own firm, it doesn't really matter where you go.
  • After further research I have decided not to pursue it. Thanks for all your assistance. A law degree without any assurance of enhancing my 'employability' is not worth the risk (investment of money and time) as far as I am concerned. I will continue to research and see what sort of results other people in my age bracket are having just out of curiosity.

     

    I may take courses in law that are related to my current occupation (foreclosures and bankruptcy).
  • Sam Glover said

    Ben Platon said
    Once you're a licensed attorney, you will never be unemployed again

    I know an awful lot of unemployed licensed attorneys who would beg to differ.

    And you live in a place with way more jobs.
  • Ggusta, I am a firm believer that it is never too late and you are never too old to go back to school. That said, before you make the step to go to law school and everything that entails, I think you really need to look at the "why" of your decision and really make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to do with that law degree. Not every lawyer is a member of a law firm so there are many other options out there for utilizing a law degree. I suggest you look at those options too. If you still feel that you are meant to be an attorney, go for it. Determine what area of law you want to practice and once you are in law school and once you have your "required" courses taken, focus on classes aimed toward that area of practice. 

     

    Also, make sure to study the law schools. Just because they are a top tier school doesn't mean that they are necessarily the school for you. Yes, it may be easier (notice I said "may") to get a job right out of school, but no one can count on that, not even the ivy leaguers, I wouldn't make that my top requirement (not to mention they cost much more).  If you are worried about taking care of your family, look for a school that has both day and night classes -this may take you an extra year, but you will be able to work while you go to school. Also look at work study programs for the school - do they offer any? What is their tuition like and how often does the school raise it? These are things you need to look at, not necessarily where on the law school chart the school falls. 

     

    Lastly, I am 52 and am currently a 3L. I was a paralegal for 13 years prior and knew that with my age, the chances of my getting a job with a high dollar firm was pretty slim. I also knew that I wanted to be able to set my own hours and not have to worry about "billable hours," pick my own clients, set my own rates, and practice until I no longer felt competent to do so. I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was in my 20's and although it has taken me a while to get here, I am glad I am doing this. Yes, I have worries about "after" - passing the Bar, setting up a practice, etc. but I firmly believe that you have to follow your heart so that you are happy and content in what you do. Otherwise, it is just a job and you will not be any good to anyone - including yourself.

     

    Good luck.

  • I just graduated from law school at 35. I went back because I felt called to do it. It is definitely not something to do if you are not sure about it because of the commitment it takes, especially at an older age. I currently am an oracle analyst and worked full time while attending evening school. I went to a decent school but I am running into the problem of not finding a job that pays enough to match my current salary. 

    I think there are quite a few jobs out there but it is definitely highly competitive. I live near Dallas and there just does not seem to be as many jobs as there are lawyers entering the legal field. Of course I also am waiting for bar results so I have not been to hard core about searching for a job until then. 
  • I think you should absolutely do it. There are many people out there who run small businesses and who need relatively minor put consistent legal assistance.

    Given your age and past work experience, you probably bring practical, real-world experience and value to a client that many recent (unemployed) law grads don't have.

    Also, don't forget that a student loan is the only debt that dies with you, so it won't burden your estate. I'm sure I will be corrected by others in the forum if there is other debt that is extinguished upon death.
  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN
    HeratyLaw said
    Also, don't forget that a student loan is the only debt that dies with you ...

    All personal debt dies with you. The only exceptions are joint debt, or debt that is guaranteed by someone else.
  • I was a "non-traditional" student (the nice term that they use to describe older students) and graudated at 37, so younger than you, GGusta. But I still found it impossible to find a job after graduation, despite being in the top 12% of my class, speaking 2 langugages, having lived abroad and having a solid resume. I had a hard time even getting interviews.

    When you graduate as a non-traditional student, you are entry-level in terms of what you know and can do as an attorney. But you aren't entry-level as an employee/worker because you have decades of experience and skills that in my opinion, most law firms don't know what to do with. And they don't want to bother to find out. It takes a special employer to realize the wealth that a non-traditional law school graduate can bring to the job, but good luck finding that employer. I wasn't able to so started a firm right out of law school. It is extremely difficult to start a new business and learn how to practice law at the same time.

    I agree with Sam and suggest that you examine very carefully why you want to go to law school, the financial burden that it entails and make a decision accordingly. There are a lot of lawyers doing other jobs than practicing law; but the question is whether they would be able to do those jobs with out a JD and without the thousands of dollars of debt that many students accumulate while at law school.

  • Sam Glover said

    HeratyLaw said
    Also, don't forget that a student loan is the only debt that dies with you ...

    All personal debt dies with you. The only exceptions are joint debt, or debt that is guaranteed by someone else.

    We can agree to disagree on that. Your estate is responsible for paying personal debts like credit cards, outstanding bills, etc. Most student loans (I can't speak for the private student loans) are explicitly forgiven at your death.
  • I didn't start law school until I was thirty, but that was a long, long time ago, and annual tuition for my public law school was less than $5K/year. I was not the youngest person in my class. The oldest was a 60-year old woman who was told by a Young Whippersnapper that she should be ashamed of herself for taking the place of a man. Times have changed.

     

    Go to law school if:

    1. You have a reality-based idea of what lawyers actually do, which you have gleaned from talking to practicing attorneys across a range of disciplines. Do not let them blather on with war stories. You want to understand what they do to get clients, to serve clients, to manage their practices, and pay their bills.

    2. When you find out that lawyers do just four things (read, write, talk on the phone, and go to meetings), ask yourself whether this sounds like a way to spend a large part of the rest of your life or the 7th level of hell. (Yes, I know that some lawyers go to court, but real trial lawyers are obsessively prepared, having done hundreds of hours of reading and writing before they walk into the courthouse.)

    3. After having talked to lawyers (#1), ask yourself if what they do describes your preferred problem-solving methods. If your ideal work setting is strongly collaborative, think carefully about lawyering -- especially litigation -- which was once described as "Writing a 100-year term paper in a room all by yourself."

    4. Assuming that armed with relevant information that you have decided to go to law school, aim for a full-ride, or at least the largest scholarship possible. Law school debt is at an all-time-crippling high, and, unless you are independently wealthy or have a trust fund, student loan debt might put a damper on your Golden Years.


    5.  If your goal is to help others, define the problem that you want to solve and search out all of the career paths that might help you achieve that goal. Research. Research. Talk to people working in the field.

     

    Good luck!
  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN
    HeratyLaw said 

    We can agree to disagree on that. Your estate is responsible for paying personal debts like credit cards, outstanding bills, etc. Most student loans (I can't speak for the private student loans) are explicitly forgiven at your death.

     

    I misunderstood. I thought his concern was his debt passing to his heirs. Of course the estate will have to pay off what it can.
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