Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Discuss comparisons of various school choices and the various metrics that inform them, including rankings, student life, location, etc.
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Commander
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Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Commander » Tue Dec 01, 2020 9:25 pm

Hello. I am a 47 yo married, liberal democrat, white male living in Birmingham, AL, with two kids. The older kid is about to go to college. I'm a middle school English teacher. I've been doing this for seventeen years. It's not bad. I make about 62k, I like the kids, but I am antisocial with adults. I don't work super well with adults or with the general public unless I'm genuinely helping them in a social justice sense. I was, for a short time, an insurance agent (customer service rep, really) at a branch office of a large retail insurance company. Hated it. Off and on, I've tried to get out of teaching because I'm not much of a rules, regulations, by-law, policy and procedure person. Lot of that in education. It gets old. Also, I'm finding that the education workplace isn't what it used to be. Used to be that lots of teachers put in their 30 or 40 years and retired. Now, you don't see many older folks like me aren't teaching any more. The old guard is few and far between, and younger folks are doing it for awhile and going on to other things after 1-10 years. I'm one of the older people in my wing. I've attempted to change careers before, but outside of education, an education degree is pretty worthless. So, I'm looking at becoming a lawyer.

FIrst, yes, I know, why in the absolute hell is a guy who isn't into rules and regulations going into law? Well, it seems to me that the law is pretty diverse, and yes, it's got a malleability to it that leaves openings to interpretation and change. Education is super rigid. I'd like to be in a career where I can have some input. In education, crap rolls downhill. Law/litigation has a reputation of flexibility in some types of practice.

I have no idea what kind of law I want to go into. I would figure that out in law school. Still, I'm interested in something where I can sue corporations, possibly education law, maybe criminal defense, civil rights, maybe lobbying, maybe health law, maybe family law--and I see this indecisiveness as a good thing. For me, a big aspect of law school would be exploration--what kind of law do I want to practice?

Also, biglaw means absolutely nothing to me. I certainly wouldn't become a lawyer for the money. A 60-80k salary would be fine. I am not looking for prestige.

My goals--well I don't know if I know what they are. I don't know what kind of law I want to practice, and to me, goals would go hand in hand with the type of law you want to do. Corporate law--you want to make money. Environmental law, then planet earth is important to you. Energy/natural gas/oil law--you want to make money. Prosecutor--criminal justice is important to you.

Some reasons why I want to become a lawyer--there is the opportunity to own your own business, have a hand in your own future. Helping people. Giving people an avenue to help them solve problems. Social justice is important to me. Entertainment law sounds fun, too.

So, what's my plan?? I'm entrenched in Birmingham. My wife has a job that she just started here, so there's no moving. Hence, I'm looking at 3 law schools. We're already pretty deep in debt, so there's that, too. The first school I'm looking at is Univ. Alabama. My LSAC-adjusted gpa is 3.55. Univ of Florida English/political science double major. I also have an MEd in English education. If I can get a decent LSAT, I'm hoping for scholarship money. The second law school I'm looking at is Samford. Again, it's a proximity thing, and I'm hoping to get a scholarship with a decent LSAT. Third, I'm looking at the University of Dayton online program. Because there's really no other law school nearby, and it's simply another option. Also, I could still work since Dayton's online program is part time. Still looking for scholarship money.

My questions:
Are all my assumptions about law school well-founded?
WHat are employment prospects in social justice type law?
Should I be thinking of law school in the first place? Or, are my assumptions all pipe dreams?
I see a few lawyers complaining about law school and their careers. Is it that bad? However, everybody's different. You never know until you try.
I'm also thinking of pursuing a judgeship. What are the prospects for a judgeship in general?
I haven't been in school for 21 years. Is the LSAT a tough nut to crack?
I'm looking at law school, and the practice of law, as a trial. If I like it, I'll stay. If not, I'll realize it's not for me and move on. Am I wrong to approach law this way?
I know the general/ultimate goal is to go to a T14 with scholarship money, but that's not the reality for me now. And, like I said, money and biglaw aren't my main goals.
It seems like you can write your own ticket in the field. Is that the reality.

Thanks for reading my post. I appreciate your answers.

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Stranger
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Stranger » Tue Dec 01, 2020 10:25 pm

Figure out why you want to be a lawyer. The kinds of law you talk about wanting to practice, where you really get to help people, aren't going to pay much, especially in Alabama. Yes, there are some great organizations in Alabama, but the ones that can afford decent salaries draw attention from young folks who can put in tireless effort and have elite degrees, and you'll be fighting to make it even to the interview stage with a lot of them. Realistically, you're looking at salaries in the 40s and 50s for jobs like legal aid and public defense, if you want to work for the downtrodden in Alabama. That's not to say you shouldn't do it, but you need to understand that you're probably talking about a paycut, even from teaching, unless you go the private practice route (and there are a few decent sized firms in Birmingham that pay good salaries, at least for Birmingham).

You're probably not becoming a judge unless you can win an election (it does appear y'all have elected judges down there). Birmingham is probably a decent place to try to run as a liberal Democrat, at least as far as Alabama goes. It's still relatively long odds, though, as I'd guess there are plenty of more experienced folks politically aligned with you already in those jobs, if your politics are viable for election there. Don't go to law school just to become a judge, because you probably won't.

Law school's rotten at times, but it's better than my 9-5 life was before it. I enrolled at 35, and until this semester (when the covid isolation really started to compound the stress of law school), it wasn't so bad.

As for the LSAT, how were you at standardized tests back in the day? It's a particularly learnable standardized test, so if you had the chops for those, you can probably refresh your skills and do well on it. If not, the rust might make it difficult, but you can always download the free practice test they make available, try it under timed conditions, and see how you do. How you do on the LSAT will be tremendously important for getting scholarship money. Your undergrad GPA isn't bad, really, but it won't do any work for you in the scholarship department (mine was more than a full letter grade lower, and I still managed a decent scholarship at a school comparable to Alabama with a high enough LSAT).

Have you taken the time to talk to practicing lawyers in your area? I'd say that's a really good way to get a feel for what their lives are actually like, rather than just going on reputation. Your post is kind of all over the place as far as your ideas about law as a career, so I think that could help you get some grounding.

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jeff chiles
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by jeff chiles » Tue Dec 01, 2020 10:42 pm

You need to identify like a half dozen places in Birmingham or nearby where you could realistically work after graduating and ideally talk to people in those jobs to see if it’s something you want to do.

Honestly I think it’s a bad idea, if you want to help people more there have to be ways to do it that don’t involve throwing away that seniority and I presume progress toward a pension (no idea how it actually works in your state). The only people I know who did this and stuck with it were independently wealthy.

Commander
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Commander » Tue Dec 01, 2020 10:44 pm

Great stuff. Thank you for taking the time to answer. I do have a few lawyers at my church. Will definitely speak to them.

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BlendedUnicorn
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Tue Dec 01, 2020 10:57 pm

Law school is definitely not the time to explore. It’s a dumb grind that teaches you almost nothing about the actual practice of law. While non-traditional routes to law school aren’t necessarily bad, It’s absolutely essential to be clearheaded about a) what you want to do with a law degree b) whether there’s a realistic chance of doing that thing and c) whether the effort and expense of law school is worth b chance at a before you commit three years of your life and a small fortune to the endeavor.

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Nony
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Nony » Tue Dec 01, 2020 11:20 pm

I disagree with the above a little, in that I think you can explore different kinds of fields while in law school - a little through classes, but mostly through internships/various jobs. Interest in an academic class doesn’t necessarily translate into enjoying/being interested in how the field works in practice, so classes are of limited use, but if you take every opportunity you can to get practice experience, that can be helpful (also it’s a good way to connect with people in the local market who will be hiring you. I went to a state flagship so that’s the perspective I’m bringing to this).

That said, I absolutely agree with talking to practicing lawyers to see what they can tell you.

Re becoming a judge, I’m not super familiar with election processes and I think that will mostly be determined by your connections and traditional political ability. But keep in mind usually to be competitive you need 10-15 years’ experience, which will make you an older candidate (and some states have age caps), so I agree that’s not very likely.

I absolutely agree you don’t have to go to a T14, but going to school for 3 years as a trial is kind of risky, because it’s a lot of money and time and a difficult thing to explain sometimes if you move into something else.

Story
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Story » Wed Dec 02, 2020 3:39 pm

It sounds like you could do a lot of the stuff you want (helping other people and doing social justice) by doing something else other than law. Nonprofit work? Maybe volunteer first and see how you like it?

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pancakes3
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by pancakes3 » Wed Dec 02, 2020 4:08 pm

Are all my assumptions about law school well-founded?
Not really. There are rules everywhere you turn, and procedural defects override solid legal arguments all the time.
And shit definitely rolls downhill in law. You've got your boss, you've got your client, and you've got a judge to answer to.

WHat are employment prospects in social justice type law?
This is difficult regardless of what law school you attend, and especially if a lower tier law school. It's effectively impossible, and even if there's a 10% chance of getting it, you have to reconcile that with the 90% chance of doing something else.

Should I be thinking of law school in the first place? Or, are my assumptions all pipe dreams?
Pretty much pipe dreams. You're going to give up 4 years of your life (lost income, etc.) to start down a path that has murky goals and dicey results.

I see a few lawyers complaining about law school and their careers. Is it that bad? However, everybody's different. You never know until you try.
Nah, it's all bad. You complain if you're overworked. You get nervous bc you're underworked. It's a grind, and the demand for perfection is high because if you mess up the details, like a date, or a filing requirement, your entire work product is in jeopardy. there's more, but you get it. it's bad.

I'm also thinking of pursuing a judgeship. What are the prospects for a judgeship in general?
You and probably half the attorneys in Birmingham. The prospects aren't good, and they go to either ppl who are tied into the political party, or ppl who are tied into the local bar. As a latecomer, you're at probably an insurmountable disadvantage, unless you're connected. And if you're connected, use those connections to get you a better, non-law gig.

I haven't been in school for 21 years. Is the LSAT a tough nut to crack?
Not really. You just have to drill enough problems to see the pattern. It's really the same 20 or so questions dressed up in different ways. The difficulty with the LSAT is that it demands perfection, and they put more questions in than the average person is able to answer within the allotted time. The material itself isn't difficult.

I'm looking at law school, and the practice of law, as a trial. If I like it, I'll stay. If not, I'll realize it's not for me and move on. Am I wrong to approach law this way?
It seems like a bad way to approach any career change, to be honest. It's especially bad for a career with as high a cost of entry as law. chef would be cheaper. other trades (electrician, woodworking, plumbing) as well.

I know the general/ultimate goal is to go to a T14 with scholarship money, but that's not the reality for me now. And, like I said, money and biglaw aren't my main goals.
If it's not about money, and it's not about prestige, doesn't seem logical to attach yourself to law

It seems like you can write your own ticket in the field. Is that the reality.
No. Even if you go solo, you're at the mercy of your clients, and there about a million reasons for you not to go solo straight out of law school.

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presh
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by presh » Wed Dec 02, 2020 4:17 pm

Adding on - if you self describe as not a people person, then running your own solo office is not a great idea.

I’m at a government agency, but my FIL is a solo practitioner and it is heavy on interpersonal interaction - interfacing with opposing counsel and insurance companies, handholding clients through depositions, getting people to actually pay you for your services, etc. And even if you’re working in a social justice type category, you will have frustrating clients who don’t act in their own best interest. There is a lot of customer service in law, particularly solo practice and clinic type work.

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Nony
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Nony » Wed Dec 02, 2020 4:45 pm

Yeah, law is a very customer service kind of job, in most cases, and interpersonal skills are definitely important for solos.

I think there are actually a lot of social justice/helping kinds of jobs that aren’t impossible to get, but it depends what you mean by that. Criminal defense, legal aid, social security work, workers comp work, plaintiffs’ side employment law, civil rights at the local firm level (like suing the police for excessive force), these are all jobs that can be seen as helping ordinary folks and aren’t out of reach for many grads. Now, they may not be what the OP means, but I don’t think helping others has to be working for UN or ACLU.

That’s not to say that this is a great reason to go to law school, I just wanted to throw it out there.

Education law could be a relatively natural fit - it would require a fair amount of networking though.

Commander
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Commander » Wed Dec 02, 2020 9:04 pm

These responses are exactly the type of insight I'm looking for. Thanks again for taking the time.

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Hey_Everybody
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Hey_Everybody » Wed Dec 02, 2020 9:13 pm

pancakes3 wrote:
Wed Dec 02, 2020 4:08 pm
If it's not about money, and it's not about prestige, doesn't seem logical to attach yourself to law
Most of what you said is probably true, but this is just crazy biglaw-centric nonsense. There are plenty of public defenders and legal aid lawyers who love their jobs and didn't get into them for money or prestige

app
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by app » Sun Dec 27, 2020 4:41 pm

pancakes3 wrote:
Wed Dec 02, 2020 4:08 pm
Are all my assumptions about law school well-founded?
Not really. There are rules everywhere you turn, and procedural defects override solid legal arguments all the time.
And shit definitely rolls downhill in law. You've got your boss, you've got your client, and you've got a judge to answer to.

WHat are employment prospects in social justice type law?
This is difficult regardless of what law school you attend, and especially if a lower tier law school. It's effectively impossible, and even if there's a 10% chance of getting it, you have to reconcile that with the 90% chance of doing something else.

Should I be thinking of law school in the first place? Or, are my assumptions all pipe dreams?
Pretty much pipe dreams. You're going to give up 4 years of your life (lost income, etc.) to start down a path that has murky goals and dicey results.

I see a few lawyers complaining about law school and their careers. Is it that bad? However, everybody's different. You never know until you try.
Nah, it's all bad. You complain if you're overworked. You get nervous bc you're underworked. It's a grind, and the demand for perfection is high because if you mess up the details, like a date, or a filing requirement, your entire work product is in jeopardy. there's more, but you get it. it's bad.

I'm also thinking of pursuing a judgeship. What are the prospects for a judgeship in general?
You and probably half the attorneys in Birmingham. The prospects aren't good, and they go to either ppl who are tied into the political party, or ppl who are tied into the local bar. As a latecomer, you're at probably an insurmountable disadvantage, unless you're connected. And if you're connected, use those connections to get you a better, non-law gig.

I haven't been in school for 21 years. Is the LSAT a tough nut to crack?
Not really. You just have to drill enough problems to see the pattern. It's really the same 20 or so questions dressed up in different ways. The difficulty with the LSAT is that it demands perfection, and they put more questions in than the average person is able to answer within the allotted time. The material itself isn't difficult.

I'm looking at law school, and the practice of law, as a trial. If I like it, I'll stay. If not, I'll realize it's not for me and move on. Am I wrong to approach law this way?
It seems like a bad way to approach any career change, to be honest. It's especially bad for a career with as high a cost of entry as law. chef would be cheaper. other trades (electrician, woodworking, plumbing) as well.

I know the general/ultimate goal is to go to a T14 with scholarship money, but that's not the reality for me now. And, like I said, money and biglaw aren't my main goals.
If it's not about money, and it's not about prestige, doesn't seem logical to attach yourself to law

It seems like you can write your own ticket in the field. Is that the reality.
No. Even if you go solo, you're at the mercy of your clients, and there about a million reasons for you not to go solo straight out of law school.
is it really that hard to do law school and pursue legal career at old age? even with T6 degree?

as an engineer, i've heard law seen as a far more preftigious career than tech even in these tech boom times, or am i mistaken about that?

wouldn't op be able to get t14 with schollys if he wanted? his lsac gpa even makes H as a possibility and i think OP can do very well in lsat at 173+ may be even high 170s with his english teaching background.

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Nony
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Nony » Sun Dec 27, 2020 5:22 pm

Age isn’t a problem for going to law school and being a lawyer. But will make it harder to become a judge because an older law grad has less time to make the connections needed to become a judge and less time on the bench to be useful to those connections.

Law is absolutely not more prestigious than tech. But in any case prestige is dumb. There’s no point in caring what people outside your industry think of it, because they rarely have accurate knowledge of what it’s like on the inside so their evaluation is meaningless. There are more and less prestigious jobs within law, but that doesn’t make the field itself somehow objectively prestigious. And you can’t eat prestige.

If the OP gets high 170s on the LSAT, yes, probably they’ll find a good school to give them money. Teaching middle school English does not at all remotely predict doing well on the LSAT, though. And the T6 is pretty irrelevant to the OP if they’re entrenched in Birmingham.

Story
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Story » Sun Dec 27, 2020 9:23 pm

app wrote:
Sun Dec 27, 2020 4:41 pm
pancakes3 wrote:
Wed Dec 02, 2020 4:08 pm
Are all my assumptions about law school well-founded?
Not really. There are rules everywhere you turn, and procedural defects override solid legal arguments all the time.
And shit definitely rolls downhill in law. You've got your boss, you've got your client, and you've got a judge to answer to.

WHat are employment prospects in social justice type law?
This is difficult regardless of what law school you attend, and especially if a lower tier law school. It's effectively impossible, and even if there's a 10% chance of getting it, you have to reconcile that with the 90% chance of doing something else.

Should I be thinking of law school in the first place? Or, are my assumptions all pipe dreams?
Pretty much pipe dreams. You're going to give up 4 years of your life (lost income, etc.) to start down a path that has murky goals and dicey results.

I see a few lawyers complaining about law school and their careers. Is it that bad? However, everybody's different. You never know until you try.
Nah, it's all bad. You complain if you're overworked. You get nervous bc you're underworked. It's a grind, and the demand for perfection is high because if you mess up the details, like a date, or a filing requirement, your entire work product is in jeopardy. there's more, but you get it. it's bad.

I'm also thinking of pursuing a judgeship. What are the prospects for a judgeship in general?
You and probably half the attorneys in Birmingham. The prospects aren't good, and they go to either ppl who are tied into the political party, or ppl who are tied into the local bar. As a latecomer, you're at probably an insurmountable disadvantage, unless you're connected. And if you're connected, use those connections to get you a better, non-law gig.

I haven't been in school for 21 years. Is the LSAT a tough nut to crack?
Not really. You just have to drill enough problems to see the pattern. It's really the same 20 or so questions dressed up in different ways. The difficulty with the LSAT is that it demands perfection, and they put more questions in than the average person is able to answer within the allotted time. The material itself isn't difficult.

I'm looking at law school, and the practice of law, as a trial. If I like it, I'll stay. If not, I'll realize it's not for me and move on. Am I wrong to approach law this way?
It seems like a bad way to approach any career change, to be honest. It's especially bad for a career with as high a cost of entry as law. chef would be cheaper. other trades (electrician, woodworking, plumbing) as well.

I know the general/ultimate goal is to go to a T14 with scholarship money, but that's not the reality for me now. And, like I said, money and biglaw aren't my main goals.
If it's not about money, and it's not about prestige, doesn't seem logical to attach yourself to law

It seems like you can write your own ticket in the field. Is that the reality.
No. Even if you go solo, you're at the mercy of your clients, and there about a million reasons for you not to go solo straight out of law school.
is it really that hard to do law school and pursue legal career at old age? even with T6 degree?

as an engineer, i've heard law seen as a far more preftigious career than tech even in these tech boom times, or am i mistaken about that?

wouldn't op be able to get t14 with schollys if he wanted? his lsac gpa even makes H as a possibility and i think OP can do very well in lsat at 173+ may be even high 170s with his english teaching background.
No, it is not harder to become a lawyer when you are older.

Law is not more prestigious than tech. And even if it was, you should never go to law school because of prestige.

app
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by app » Mon Dec 28, 2020 2:32 pm

idk it's grass is greener on the other side mostly i think. depends on what you mean by prestige and for whom.
note that tech has very low barrier for entry unlike law even for the most selective positions.

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pancakes3
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by pancakes3 » Mon Dec 28, 2020 2:46 pm

app wrote:
Sun Dec 27, 2020 4:41 pm

is it really that hard to do law school and pursue legal career at old age? even with T6 degree?

as an engineer, i've heard law seen as a far more preftigious career than tech even in these tech boom times, or am i mistaken about that?

wouldn't op be able to get t14 with schollys if he wanted? his lsac gpa even makes H as a possibility and i think OP can do very well in lsat at 173+ may be even high 170s with his english teaching background.
I was answering wrt a specific set of circumstances and desired goals, and even with HLS, it's questionable whether OP could work in unicorn PI/impact lit or get on the bench in his desired market.

and the only thing where age was a factor was getting on the bench, bc that's a very political process and and older people have less time to develop the relationships necessary to get on the bench. it's not ageism so much as practicism.

and i don't know how to answer your question re: prestige because (1) prestige is subjective, and (2) i do my best to not treat prestige as an actual thing.

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Nony
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Nony » Mon Dec 28, 2020 4:00 pm

app wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 2:32 pm
idk it's grass is greener on the other side mostly i think. depends on what you mean by prestige and for whom.
note that tech has very low barrier for entry unlike law even for the most selective positions.
Yes, my point is exactly that grass is greener on the other side. Everyone discounts the thing that they’ve succeeded at. You don’t think tech is prestigious because you’re in tech. Lawyers don’t think law is prestigious because they’re in law.

What the general public thinks 1) shouldn’t really matter because it has no real effect on your life, and 2) absolutely depends on what you mean by prestige and for whom, which means that there’s no objective answer to what’s more prestigious. A lot of people hate public defenders and think they’re scum for defending criminals. The public defenders I know are all really proud of the job they do because it’s crucial to keeping the criminal justice system fair. Biglaw looks prestigious in some circles because you get paid a lot and work in a fancy office in a big city. But some people despise biglawyers for adding nothing of value to society and just adding costs/helping big corporations get richer/avoid liability for stuff. Etc. Tech may not require a graduate degree, but it requires facility with scientific fields that a lot of people feel they have no ability in. Many people probably feel it’s easier to get into and graduate from law school than learn to code (everyone can find a law school that will admit them and honestly the material isn’t really hard). Keep in mind we’re comparing tech and law generally, not tech and getting into Harvard.

I mean, if you think law is more prestigious, that’s fine, because it is a subjective opinion, but it’s also bad reason to go into a profession. Popular opinion of a profession’s prestige doesn’t really make any difference to the actual lived experience of doing the job. If you’re in biglaw but hate being tethered to your phone and at the beck and call of partners 24-7, that the job is “prestigious” won’t make you any happier to do it.

I get that there’s an impression of law as a reliable way to enter the middle/professional class, and that can be true, except for the complications of debt and the oversaturation of the market which mean that the JD doesn’t guarantee a future job (not like the way an MD does). But if you’re successful in tech, law isn’t offering anything you can’t already access.

Story
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Re: Hi. New here. Thinking of becoming a lawyer.

Post by Story » Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:59 pm

If you work in law because it’s prestigious, then what would you do if it becomes non-prestigious? Quit law and go to tech? What a miserable existence that would be.

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