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January 24, 2014

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You must have had some serious student/school loans

You've done very well in getting a position in a corporate law firm. I read recently "Don't Go To Law School (Unless): A Law Professor's Inside Guide to Maximizing Opportunity and Minimizing Risk" and it sounded really scary, a lot of people still live with the perception that the law profession is always profitable. I am in an industry that seems to be going soon the way the legal market already went, so can absolutely relate.

You probably realize it yourself, but you need a bigger net worth/savings buffer if you decide to trade income for lifestyle or if you don't make partner. I assume the $200K don't include house equity since you don't mention a mortgage, but if you are spending $130-150K a year (60-65% of net salary at your level of taxes) they won't last long . As you said, you need to position yourself for that step - and that includes a financial buffer.

Thanks for sharing your story.

I agree with you that anyone considering law school should be very careful. It is a dangerous amount of debt, and there is no guarantee of a lucrative career waiting for you on the other side.

However, I don't think law school is necessarily a mistake based on your criteria of 1) having cash to pay, or 2) going to a top tier school. Even with the debt, many graduates will probably earn more over their lifetimes with their degree than without. Maybe they won't be filthy rich, but having such a limited scope of who should go to law school is telling anyone outside of the upper class to forget about it.

In any case, it's a good thing to have more info out there about the reality of massive debt and the reality of the legal job market. It will help people think through it. I just think a black and white view of who it's a good choice for is no better than the marketing of bottom tier schools saying it's a good choice for everyone.

Anyhow, seems like it worked for you! I know several lawyers, and your path of a firm job as a method of debt repayment before moving on to something more fulfilling is a common one. (President Obama did it too!)

Good luck to you!

I love this profile. It really resonates with me because I am a similar high earning professional in a major city and I feel like a lot of the reason I got to where I am is timing and luck. Not that I'm not smart, but it's not always about that. Although I live like I won't have this high an income forever, so I have been saving 50% or so for the last four or five years which has allowed me to amass a net worth about 3x my salary.

UPDATE: I have found a new job, in a slightly cheaper city, for a much, much lower salary, which will hopefully give me my life back while being more satisfying to do!

LJ: I suuuuure did. Including a little consumer debt, about $180K.

Ivy: I spent my whole life pre-law school living on a LOT less money. I'm sure it will hurt going back to that lifestyle, but I don't really have fixed costs to sustain: no mortgage/other debts, no car, and no dependents. So my lifestyle is basically up to me. I will be using a bit of saved cash to buffer out the first year or so. I'm anxious about giving up the security of the larger salary, but I do believe I can adjust.

VA: The problem is this. There is a bimodal distribution of income amongst starting lawyers. At one end, the people starting at $160K--an ever-dwindling group. At the other end, people earning about $45K. There is very little in the middle (picture a U shape). Barring a few special circumstances, you simply can't service typical law school debt if you're on the left-hand side. It's a brutal trap I see far too many contract (temporary) attorneys in. (For the record, my family was nowhere in the vicinity of upper class.)

Interview11....I don't agree with every point, esp. the mobility one...but otherwise you seem very grounded. I like that!

I think the biggest way people kill themselves financially is having kids out of wedlock and divorce. Reduce the scope of those 2 problems and you have more economic mobility. (Not a panacea, I know....but it definitely would help).

Interesting post, as I was also in Biglaw until very recently. I took a $150k pay cut to take the job I'm at now and have zero regrets. Good luck!

I too would affirm the advice on not going to law school. Law schools have not adjusted their tuition to the new reality. Everyone wants to charge a tuition that only makes sense when biglaw is booming and partnership was lock step. The reality is that partnership is a crap shoot even for those who went to the best schools and are awesome lawyers. And biglaw is shrinking and the U shaped distribution is dead-on.

MJ: I hope it'll be the same way for me. Thanks!

Brooklyn Money: If you're saving 50% of your salary and living in Brooklyn, you're very self-disciplined indeed.

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