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"I want to be a lawyer!" -- Frequently Asked Questions

 
 
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Dec, 2004 05:21 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
...
jespah wrote:
Legal Auditors (I've worked as one) scrutinize annual billing hours. Attorneys who average over 2000 - 2200 hours per year most likely don't have lives outside of the office

Or they're fudging their hours. Honestly, I don't know how someone can actually bill 2200 hours in a year and still leave the office before midnight every night.....


Exactly. I've seen the 56-hour billing day (turned out both the lawyer and his secretary billed as him) and I've seen plenty of places that pay lip service to the idea of a tenth of an hour (6 minute increments) system, but then their smallest increment billed is .3 hours, or 18 minutes. Routine phone calls tend to not take that long, particularly when you are calling about a file that you know very well. It's fudging, pure and simple, or if you're more of a bull in a china shop, like I am, you call it cheating. And clients also call it fraud. It exists, it's nasty, and while it's technically not encouraged in large firms with heavy billable hour requirements, circumstances tend to dictate that you have either billing ethics or a life outside the office. If such a conflict comes up in your life, walk. Yes, walk. It ain't worth it to hang around. If you get a reputation as a serial bill-padder, many firms will not hire you, and clients will not want to work with you. Keep your sanity and your ethics and quit. There are always other legal jobs out there.
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Kyle esq
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Dec, 2004 04:47 pm
When i graduate from Law School (which will be in some time...I am only in H.S. at the moment) can I still join a prestigous firm...even if I do not get accepted to an Ivy League school? I want to have work to do and a well established law firm will obviously have many clients... I also - as anyone - want a decent salary; to live comfortably.

Are Ivy League schools overrated?? This is my main concern...
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realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Dec, 2004 06:21 pm
Thank you, joefromchicago and jespah, for a fascinating thread. I'm sure you both realized that the audience was going to be small. Really, really small. But I enjoyed it. Thanks.
johnboy (once a CPA, btw, but we never got any tv show featuring us).
0 Replies
 
Lash
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Dec, 2004 06:40 pm
Hey.

I think you two have a wider audience than posts may belie.

I've enjoyed it so far.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 27 Dec, 2004 10:40 am
Kyle.esq wrote:
When i graduate from Law School (which will be in some time...I am only in H.S. at the moment) can I still join a prestigous firm...even if I do not get accepted to an Ivy League school?

First of all, welcome Kyle, you've come to the right place.

Now, we need to be clear on this point: the notion of an "Ivy League law school" is largely meaningless. First of all, only five of the eight Ivies have law schools (Brown, Princeton, and Dartmouth don't). These five, it is true, are all highly regarded: Harvard and Yale traditionally top everyone's lists of best law schools, and Columbia, Penn, and Cornell are typically ranked in the top 20 (check the US News rankings here). But other law schools have reputations which are as good or better than any Ivy League law school, so there's not a whole lot of additional cachet in having attended an Ivy League law school.

So, what you really should be asking is: "can I still join a prestigious firm even if I do not get accepted to a top-20 law school?" The answer is "yes." Obviously, it will probably be easier to get your foot in the door for the crucial job interviews if you are attending a prestigious law school, but even grads from second-tier law schools have been known to get into the nation's top firms.

I checked out one of the biggest law firms in New York City, Dewey Ballantine (largely because it has a good website). As a random sample, I took the first twenty associates in the New York office and listed the law schools from which they received their JD degrees. In total, they attended fourteen different law schools (five attended Columbia, and two each attended Fordham and NYU). Below are the schools and the US News ranking for each of them.
Columbia - 4
American Univ. - 56(t)
Fordham - 34(t)
Temple - 59(t)
NYU - 5
Univ. of Chicago - 6
Syracuse - unranked (3d tier)
Catholic Univ. - 82(t)
William & Mary - 29
SUNY Buffalo - 82(t)
Duke - 10(t)
Northwestern - 10(t)
Univ. of Wisconsin - 31
Rutgers - 72(t)

What does this entirely unscientific study tell us? Well, first of all, it supports the notion that geography plays a part in employment: if you want to work in New York, for instance, it's probably a good idea to go to law school in the New York area, or at least the east coast (the farthest west that any of these twenty associates went to law school was Madison, Wisconsin). More importantly, it shows that, while going to a top-20 law school certainly helps to get into a prestigious law firm (10 out of 20 of these associates attended top-10 law schools), it's not a requirement.

I am confident that these results are fairly typical for big firms across the country. A Chicago firm, for instance, probably wouldn't have many Fordham grads, just as a New York firm wouldn't have many DePaul grads. But no firm hires only grads from the top-20 law schools -- there will always be jobs available for good students from well-regarded schools.

Bottom line, Kyle: don't get too caught up in the notion that you must go to a top-20 law school in order to get a good paying job. Dewey Ballantine, like many other top-of-the-line law firms in New York, is paying a starting salary of $125,000 with bonuses. If someone can go to Syracuse Univ. law school and make that much, it's not absolutely necessary to go to Harvard or Yale.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 27 Dec, 2004 12:02 pm
... and you need to decide what you need to live on. $125k is lovely, but do you really and truly need it? You might be able to get by on $75k. Or $50k. It's really up to your standard of living, and up to where you end up living. Housing in Boston is far more expensive than housing in Columbus, Georgia. And if you get into a relationship (marriage or just living together) with someone with a decent salary, having a super-high salary will be less of an issue.

If I was certain where I wanted to practice (I wasn't when I went to school, but that's beside the point), I'd look at area schools with good placement departments, good first-time Bar pass rates and which were well-represented at the law firms where I wanted to work.

And here's another idea. Here in Boston, there's something called the Boston Lawyers' Group, see: http://www.bostonlawyersgroup.org/ Its mission is to help area law firms hire diverse candidates - nonwhites, women, disabled persons, and I believe also veterans. If you fit into any of these categories, and want to practice in Boston or the surrounding area, you could look into their job fairs and other resources.

I assume other cities have similar groups.

And if you don't fit into a minority-type pigeonhole, don't worry. There are other ways to go. For example, here's a site with legal recruiters: http://dmoz.org/Society/Law/Employment/Legal_Recruiters/http://dmoz.org/Society/Law/Employment/Legal_Recruiters/

Another thing about money and recruitment - you should do what you like. Law is a stressful profession under the best of circumstances, so why waste time doing something you hate? If you do, then you're wearing what are called golden handcuffs. If you want to be, for example, an assistant District Attorney, you probably won't be hauling in the biggest salary out there. But if you enjoy what you're doing, so what? You won't starve, don't worry about that. But life is too short to just look at money as a measure of the value of a career. There's more to it than that.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 27 Dec, 2004 12:02 pm
PS Thanks Lash and rjb.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 27 Dec, 2004 12:40 pm
jespah wrote:
... and you need to decide what you need to live on. $125k is lovely, but do you really and truly need it?

I'm not sure if this advice would have really registered with me when I was sixteen, but it's certainly my life mantra now. I know that there are lawyers, much younger than me and just starting out in their careers, who are making more money than me. I can see them silhouetted in office windows at night while I'm on the train going home. Making $125,000 right out of law school sounds awfully attractive, but spending 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week, at work in order to get that $125,000 is a sacrifice that you may not be prepared to make.

jespah wrote:
PS Thanks Lash and rjb.

Ditto. I think a thread like this can strip away some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the legal profession, even if you're not planning on becoming a lawyer youself. I'm glad we could be of some assistance.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 27 Dec, 2004 01:15 pm
If you do the math on the hours, $125k/yr is not all it's cracked up to be.

Let's say you work 12 hrs/day, 7 days/week to get that salary. This is not a farfetched scenario. That means you work 84 hrs/week. If you work 50 weeks out of the year, that comes to a total of 4200 hours. But let's be generous with your vacation, and give you 4 weeks instead of 2, so actually you're working 48 weeks out of the year for a total of 4032 hours/year. At $125k/year, that's abour $31/hr. And don't forget, the 4032 total annual hours doesn't include commuting or meals.

Now let's try $60k/year, and you work 8 hrs/day, 5 days/week. Let's give you 4 weeks of vacation in this scenario, too. Here, you're only working 1920 hrs/year, and you're making $31.25/hr.

Amazing. You make less than half what you do in the first scenario, yet you make more per hour. And, you have time to have a life and sleep at night. When you go to a social outing on a Sunday, you don't check your watch, worried about all the billable hours you're missing.

$60k/year is a perfectly respectable living, and a rather good living in most of the country. So keep that in mind as visions of dollar signs dance in your head.

-- Re the demystifying -- agreed. It shocked the hell out of me when my first job offer, fresh out of Law School, was for $11,000/year (I found something better). That seemed ludicrous, I mean, c'mon, lawyers don't make that kind of dreck. But sometimes they do. And sometimes, well, let's just say that the TV/movie version of the law is so different from the reality it's not funny. And that's why there are shows about lawyers - it's because of trials and investigations - most of our work is a lot like a CPA's and, hence, not the stuff of high drama.
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Kyle esq
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Dec, 2004 10:16 am
Joe, Thanks for taking your time to help me out.

You have immensly helped me, you cannot possible fathom! =) I feel calmer and less stressed...and more focused! All i have to do now is do well where ever i go. Not hard Smile

My goal is to be a successful lawyer working at a prestigious law firm...and I always stressed over it. Telling myself that I must go to an Ivy League school. But now I'm conforted in knowing that where ever I go, there is oppurtunity... Just do my best...
-------
Law is fun!! I have a mock trial coming up soon... Smile can't wait!!!
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Kyle esq
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Dec, 2004 05:09 pm
Hmm, I was wondering...

What skills do I need to improve on to be a successful attorney? In general...
--------
And What does it take to be a lawyer? What should I work on??
-------
How should I prepare myself for Law School?
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Dec, 2004 10:37 pm
Well, to start with, unless you've got Old Paint boarded in a local livery stable, you might drop that esquire crap--you plan on ridin' circuit or somethin'?
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Lash
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Dec, 2004 10:43 pm
Oh, Kyle. Put on your iron underpants. The roads gettin' a little bumpy. You can always sue him when you're a big lawyer...

<smiles sweetly>
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Debra Law
 
  1  
Reply Fri 31 Dec, 2004 01:26 am
stop worrying
Kyle.esq wrote:
Hmm, I was wondering...

What skills do I need to improve on to be a successful attorney? In general...
--------
And What does it take to be a lawyer? What should I work on??
-------
How should I prepare myself for Law School?


To be a successful attorney, you must stop worrying about everything . . . you must stop worrying about "justice." LIVE FOR TODAY and take things one step at a time.

1. Finish high school. Do your best and be satisfied. If you continue to give yourself 50,000 lashes everyday because of this or because of that, you will soon reach a point where you won't even be able to get out of bed and face the day. So what if you slacked off in the past? Don't cry over spilled milk. Every day is the "FIRST DAY of the rest of your life." Every day gives you a brand new opportunity to start over. SMILE. Don't worry, be happy.

2. Plan ahead, but don't be obsessed. Be flexible. Attorneys must always be flexible.

3. Get a great big poster of the Serenity Prayer and hang it in your room: "God grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference." Attorneys are not GODS. In every case that goes to trial, there's a winner and a LOSER. You have to accept that when you become a lawyer, that doesn't necessarily make you a winner every time you walk into court. You have to start calming down. You're only 16. If you continue on your worrisome path, you will burn out within the first five years of becoming a lawyer and end up leaving the profession or end up seeing a mental health professional on a regular basis.

4. NEVER WORK FOR FREE. It's pretty naive to go into the law profession with the noble idea that you want to work for that elusive concept of justice. No matter how sorry you feel for people, if they don't plunk the money down on your desk to pay for your services -- show them the door. Pro bono clients will suck the life out of you, eat up all your time and money, and drive you to the poor house or the nut house (or both). Don't let your emotions rule the course of your life. Use reason and logic.

BEST WISHES.
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Kyle esq
 
  1  
Reply Fri 31 Dec, 2004 09:21 am
Debra...thanks. I needed that.

I will focus more on the present, taking on step at a time, but it will not hurt to start preparing for law a little early. Mock trials!!! Smile

"Every day is a new day," time to start my new day...
------------------
Quote:
Oh, Kyle. Put on your iron underpants. The roads gettin' a little bumpy. You can always sue him when you're a big lawyer...

<smiles sweetly>


Haha, Lash. Good idea - I'll make a note of it. Very Happy
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jan, 2005 09:16 am
Kyle.esq wrote:
Hmm, I was wondering...

What skills do I need to improve on to be a successful attorney? In general...
--------
And What does it take to be a lawyer? What should I work on??
-------
How should I prepare myself for Law School?

I won't repeat the "stop worrying" advice that everyone has given you, even though it remains excellent advice. There are many years that separate a 16-year-old high school student from law school, and much of the preparation that you will need for law school will take place during your time in college. Right now, therefore, you need to concentrate on preparing yourself for college: law school will take care of itself.

And forget about preparing yourself to be an attorney: nothing prepares you for being an attorney -- not even law school -- except actually practicing as an attorney.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jan, 2005 09:28 am
Setanta wrote:
Well, to start with, unless you've got Old Paint boarded in a local livery stable, you might drop that esquire crap--you plan on ridin' circuit or somethin'?

That brings up an interesting question:

What's all this business about lawyers calling themselves "esquire?"
Lawyers in the US typically append "Esq." after their names. As far as I can fathom, this practice can be traced back to England. According to my Black's Law Dictionary: "In English law, [esquire is] a title of dignity next above gentleman and below knight. Also a title of office given to sheriffs, serjeants, and barristers at law, justices of the peace, and others." Presumably, the title meant something at some point and distinguished one class of lawyers from others, but it was gradually diffused throughout the profession so that now every lawyer is called "esquire."

Can a non-lawyer call himself "esquire?" Sure. The title means nothing. I find it useful, however, when dealing with big law firms that might have paralegals or other non-attorneys handling correspondence: if they don't have "Esq." after their names, then I know I'm not dealing with a lawyer.

And if you think that "esquire" is pretentious, just be glad that lawyers don't go around calling themselves "doctor," which they are equally entitled to do. Even for lawyers, there is a limit to our pretentiousness.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jan, 2005 11:45 am
Yes, though that limit can be hard to see, sometimes.

I used esquire when I was practicing; with an obviously female first name, it would have otherwise been assumed that I was a paralegal (this was almost 20 years ago). Hopefully, things have changed a bit.
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Dannielrd
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Jan, 2005 02:40 pm
Question about becoming a Lawyer
Just a quick question...

At what point can one officially call him or herself a lawyer?

I know its a long journey, getting into law school, graduating from long school, passing the bar exam, and finally getting sworn in to the bar but, I just wanted clarification of when a person officially becomes a lawyer

Thanks, Dann

PS joefromchicago are you a lawyer?
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Jan, 2005 04:03 pm
Re: Question about becoming a Lawyer
Dannielrd wrote:
Just a quick question...

At what point can one officially call him or herself a lawyer?

I know its a long journey, getting into law school, graduating from long school, passing the bar exam, and finally getting sworn in to the bar but, I just wanted clarification of when a person officially becomes a lawyer

Thanks, Dann

It's at the end of that process, when a person is sworn in as a lawyer. For me, that was several months after the bar exam (during that time I worked at a law firm, but I could only bill my time as a paralegal).

Dannielrd wrote:
PS joefromchicago are you a lawyer?

Yes.
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