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

 
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Oct, 2006 09:29 am
How much choice can I realistically have in which cases I get?

The reason I'm asking is that as a physicist working in a mix of research and engineering, I'd probably end up as a copyright- or patent lawyer. On the one hand, this is an exciting field because many modern technologies currently challenge traditional concepts of copyright and patent law. (The software industry and the internet are two examples.) There must be landmark cases coming up there in the next 10-20 years, and I'd love to be involved in them. On the other hand, the lawyers most visible from my line of work are essentially patent trolls through which companies rip off each other. These sorry excuses for lawyers are the kind of scum I wouldn't touch with a glove, let alone work together with. In view of this, what can I do to get involved in the interesting cases and stay away from the troll jobs? And after doing all I can do, how much will I still depend on luck?
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Oct, 2006 09:47 am
T become a European Patent Attorney would be relatively easy for you, Thomas.

More difficult (and a longer period to qualify), if you want to become a patent lawyer (as in the German qualification 'Patentanwalt').

Both seems to be money-spinners ... regarding how much our neighbour works and how much he seems to earn ...
0 Replies
 
BlueAwesomeness
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Jul, 2007 09:23 pm
Does anyone know about how many non-billable hours an average lawyer works per every billable hour? It doesn't need to be an exact number or anything, just a guesstimate. Thanks!
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Jul, 2007 09:07 am
Most lawyers do their best not to work when it's not billable. After all, that's how the firm is run.

However, there are some who put in time but it's not billable. Are you talking about pro bono work, which is required in a lot of jurisdictions (and can be looked up on state bar websites), or are you talking about things like file management or what a Managing Partner does?

When I was practicing law, the Managing Partner handled fewer cases than any of us but worked just as hard, if not harder, making sure that the calendar made sense, that the right people handled the right cases and that assignments were handed out intelligently. He also made sure the rent and other bills were paid and worked with the clerks to assure that the supplies were ordered, etc. In an earlier firm where I worked, there was an Office Manager who took care of some of that but of course she did not decide who tried which case and so that was done by that Managing Partner.

As for nonbilled time, there's also lunch, commuting time, comfort breaks and the like but I suspect you're not asking about that. Sole practitioners have to do a lot of things that aren't billable, such as drum up business, but lawyers in larger firms can spread that around.

So -- specifically -- what are you asking?
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Jul, 2007 09:44 am
There's a distinction between a "non-billable hour" and an hour that an attorney is in the office but doesn't bill. For instance, if an attorney is in the office for eight hours but only bills six, it doesn't follow that the two hours she didn't bill were "non-billable hours." A "non-billable hour," typically, is an hour that is worked by the attorney on a project or a file that cannot be billed to a client. The attorney still "bills" that time, in that she still fills out her time sheet and tracks the time that she works on that project, but it isn't charged to a client. It might be a pro bono project, or client development, or continuing legal education, or something else that the firm regards as important, even though it doesn't generate any income. Different firms handle these hours differently, but, in general, they give the attorneys some sort of credit for the hours that they work but don't bill.

Hours where the attorney doesn't do any work at all, on the other hand, aren't non-billable hours, they're just nothing.
0 Replies
 
BlueAwesomeness
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jul, 2007 09:53 pm
I'm not sure exactly what I meant, since I've just heard people talk about it, and don't know all of what lawyers have to do, exactly. But I guess I mean the hours that the lawyer is doing file management, drumming up business, stuff like that.

Basically, I was curious because I think I read something where someone said that to make a certain salary, you would have to work about 2200 billable hours a year, and I was trying to figure out how many hours they would actually have to work (including the non-billable ones).

So the hours that a lawyer is in the office but cannot bill to a client...they still get money for these hours?
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jul, 2007 07:57 am
When a firm says that it wants associates to work 2200 (or 2400 or some other astronomical number) hours, it generally means that they're all supposed to be billable hours. Some firms may allow a certain number of unbillable hours to count toward the total, but too many unbillable hours would definitely be frowned upon.

An associate would still get paid a salary, regardless of how many hours she bills. But if the associate doesn't bill a sufficient number of hours, or spends too much time on unbillable assignments, it would adversely affect that associate's prospects for continued employment with that firm.
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BlueAwesomeness
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jul, 2007 06:12 am
Ah, okay. Thanks, joe and jespah
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Nov, 2007 06:28 pm
Some interesting information on women in the American legal profession: http://www.abanet.org/women/
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 03:24 pm
Interesting thread, Joe! Add my thanks to all the A2K Lawyers who’ve taken the time to participate. I’ve recently considered Law School myself and have some related questions… but didn’t want to muck up your thread with them. If you, Tico, Jespah, etc have time to answer a few questions for me; I would very much appreciate it!
I’ve posted a New Topic HERE.


0 Replies
 
RisingPhnx
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 04:03 pm
I don't know if it was mentioned earlier, but how do law schools look at students who went to community college for two years and transferred to a normal college to get their bachelor's degree?

URL: http://able2know.org/topic/40678-5

Referring back to and expanding on this question posed previously...
I am a 33 year old adult with an unusual background and I would like to attend law school.
In a nutshell here is my background:
I left home when I was 12 years old and raised myself out of necessity.
I dropped out of school and worked full time (illegitimately of course)in a variety of jobs to get by and slept outside if I had no place to go.
Once I turned 18 I took the GED exam and passed in all categories with high scores. Luckily, I have always been an avid reader with a strong interest in math and science.
During my early 20's I attended community college in between working more than full time and I amassed roughly 70 transferable credits.
Anyway, fastforward several years and I am now very successful by any standards in sales.... I have a track record for being a "rain maker" as you put it. I average a 70K-80K yearly income....not bad for a street kid.
I am a heavy heavy workaholic with no interest in children or family...side effect of the abusive childhood I'm afraid.

To my point -
I have a dream of completing my degree and attending law school.
I will not allow anything to stop me from achieving this goal.
Can anyone offer up suggestions or do you have any advice on how to pitch this to a law school in a way that will convey well?
You've all stated that law schools appreciate diversity....?

P.S. Thank you to all who have contributed to this thread; your comments have been most instructive.
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 04:08 pm
@RisingPhnx,
Just to throw this out quickly (I have stuff I have to get to tonight, sorry I can't elaborate too much) -- there are a thousand or more applicants who are white, early twenties Poli Sci majors. You are quite different from that already, so I figure that's gotta give you attention from the get go.

You seem to be able to write although I would polish things quite a bit with applying (I recognize you're talking to a board right now). I think a lot of things can be forgiven, overlooked or explained except, possibly for a lack of ability to write. I am not saying that is the case with you -- what I am saying is, writing is incredibly important.
0 Replies
 
Ticomaya
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 08:42 pm
@RisingPhnx,
Like Joe said earlier, I think your grades and your LSAT score are going to be more important than the fact that two of your undergraduate years were spend at a community college. Explain your circumstances in your application, get a great LSAT score and GPA, and you should be fine. Not sure I'm really adding much here, but maybe just reinforcing what was already said.
realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 09:01 pm
@Ticomaya,
I am not sure I can add much to this since it has been about 30 years since I attended graduate business school. I decided to go for an MBA because it would be free (GI bill).
My grades in college were mediocre except for subjects I was interested in. I am convinced that the only reason I got in was because of the essay that was part of the application. I worked on that sucker and it was good.
Yes. Law schools are looking for diversity. You have that covered, RisingPhnx.
But you also must demonstrate that you can think - and write - coherently. That is important.
Good luck. Please keep us apprised of how things are going for you
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jun, 2010 11:45 am
@RisingPhnx,
Some of these questions were addressed in this post. As a general rule, use you personal statement to explain anything in your record that you think needs explaining, such as gaps in education or other "non-traditional" paths to law school. If you're 33 with an unusual background who spent the first two years of undergrad at a community college, explain why that would make you a valuable addition at the law school to which you're applying. Good luck!
0 Replies
 
surovi
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2012 11:42 pm
@joefromchicago,
u can search i nur locality , cause it is the best option
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hilbert
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Jul, 2012 12:51 pm
@joefromchicago,
My daughter is a successful attorney. I will send her a copy of your questions and post her responses here. I know the answers to some of your questions, but will ask for her answers instead
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Jul, 2012 01:03 pm
@hilbert,
I'll be interested in seeing those answers. I imagine some of my responses would be different now. After all, the original posts are almost eight years old.
0 Replies
 
hilbert
 
  3  
Reply Tue 24 Jul, 2012 02:25 pm
@joefromchicago,
You are in luck.

My daughter, who is a quite successful patent attorney, answered all your questions within 30 minutes. You must have interested her greatly.

Here are her answers: (free advice from a very successful patent attorney for the last 5 years)


GETTING INTO LAW SCHOOL
What courses/major should I take in college? Anything you want. Makes no difference whatsoever once you get to law school, so take whatever interests you. The only exception is if you want to be a patent lawyer (i.e., someone who prosecutes patent applications at the USPTO), you have to have a degree in science or engineering.

Is there any disadvantage if I'm not a pre-law major? No, see above. In fact, many schools don’t even have a pre-law major.

What's the best way to study for the LSAT? Best way is to take a review course, but they are expensive. Most of them, including Kaplan, put out books you can buy much cheaper for independent study. That’s how I prepared.

Do I need any math skills? Nope. Lawyers are notoriously bad at math.

Which law school should I go to? Depends on lots of things. Pedigree is important if you want to work at a big law firm, so going to a good school can be important, but also extremely expensive. Many state schools are more reasonably priced and still well thought of (like University of Texas, University of Michigan). My advice would be to apply for scholarships everywhere and visit as many schools as you can to try to see which is the best fit.

If I want to practice in a certain state, do I need to go to a law school in that state? No. It is definitely easier for students from in-state schools to find jobs at local law firms as a practical matter, but especially big law firms are looking to hire students based on their grades and experience, and the fact that you are from out of state might even be a plus because it creates diversity.

Can I still get into law school if I have a mediocre GPA/LSAT score? Yes, just not as good a law school. Better the GPA/LSAT, better the law school.

What's the difference between a top-rated law school and one that's not so highly rated? There are a lot of factors that go into the rankings. Number of tenured professors, student-to-teacher-ratio, volumes in the library, etc.


I'm in high school right now.

Is there anything I should be doing to prepare myself for law school? Read a lot.

LAW SCHOOL
What's law school really like? It’s actually a lot like high school because you tend to have smaller classes with the same students (as opposed to college, where you may be part of a sea of faces). It’s generally a pretty competitive atmosphere, but it’s also where you’ll make some of your greatest friends.

I've heard law students are really competitive. Is that true? Yes, definitely.

I've heard that law professors are real jerks. Is that true? Not at all. There are jerk law professors just like there are jerks anywhere else in the world, but I personally only had a few professors who I would consider jerks.

PRACTICING LAW
Is the practice of law like what I see on tv? No.

How much do lawyers earn? It varies considerably. At the low end of the spectrum are lawyers who work for the government or for non-profit organizations. They make as little as $50K per year. On the high end of the spectrum are lawyers in private practice who are partners at multinational law firms. They make as much as several million per year.

How many hours a week do lawyers work? It varies considerably. Lawyers in private practice at big law firms typically work 60-80 hours per week.

I want to make a lot of money. What area of law should I go into? If you are entrepreneurial, then the most money to be made is doing contingent-fee work for plaintiffs. But you have to win significant money for your client before you’re going to get rich doing that, and it involves a lot of risk (i.e., if you lose, you’ve spent your own money on the case and made nothing). The more traditional way to make “a lot of money” practicing law is to work at a big private law firm. Associates start at around $160K out of law school, and it goes up each year from there (to around $250-300K by the time you are up for partner). To do so, you need to either go to a top school and do reasonably well or go to a mediocre school and do very well (or know someone).

Are there any areas of law that are "hot" right now? Intellectual property.

I want to be a lawyer but I don't think I'd want to get involved in trial work. Is that possible? Yes. That means you want to be a transactional lawyer. Transactional lawyers work on deals. They do not go to court – ever.

Will I be able to get a job once I graduate from law school? Is there a "glut" of lawyers right now? Yes there is a glut of lawyers. If you do very well in law school, you will be fine, but I would not want to graduate in the middle of my class from law school right now. It could be difficult to find a job, as the market is quite saturated.
jespah
 
  2  
Reply Tue 24 Jul, 2012 02:43 pm
@hilbert,
hilbert wrote:
...

How much do lawyers earn? It varies considerably. At the low end of the spectrum are lawyers who work for the government or for non-profit organizations. They make as little as $50K per year. ...


This made me smile. My first job out of Law School, in 1983, I made $21K/year.
 

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