February 13, 2007 at 1:51 PM #8385adminKeymaster
I realize that I am the only one who can truly answer this question, but here we go anyway!
I currently live in San Diego, have a wife and three kids, am in my late 20s and was in the military for 6 years. I work in sales and make 80-90k a year and rent a house. We have approx. 200k saved for a home down payment, no debt.
I have applied, and been accepted, to the evening law program at USD starting this fall. It is a 4 year program, costs 27k/year, and I will get 7500 GI Bill per year. I have also applied, and been offered a governmental affairs job with the federal govt. in a small Miswestern city that has a large university, low cost of living, low crime, great schools etc. My 6 years of military service will go towards the govt. pension system, with an additional deposit I must make to make up for not paying in while in the military. The job pays $73,000/year, with a 5% 401k match, pension, a total of 40 days off a year (I estimate 21 vacation, 10 sick, 5-10 federal holidays). Job stability can’t be beat, and we can buy a 3300 sqft. home for 250k.
I can’t decide between the two options! I really want to get an advanced degree, especially given the competative nature of the job market these days. However, I am concerned that even after 4 years of law school, not seeing my family much, and working full time days, I will not get much better of a salary than this government job. If I go to school, we would burn through 100k in our savings in 3-4 years, and would only have 100k left, I estimate. And also we would not own a home, and starting salaries out of USD Law are 70-80k average.
If I take the job, I should have 300k saved by the day I would have graduated and own a home. I have anchored myself onto this law thing, but perhaps I could just get a different advanced degree. Anyone have any advice out there on whether this law degree would really pay off in the long run, or whether I am just chasing the status and prestige that society has given the profession of law? I know you can’t answer that one, but I am partially driven by the challenge and status of the whole thing. Only to end up working 80 hour weeks in a stressful job with half the vacation days of this govt. job and the same pay? I’m inclined to go for the govt. job, but struggling with giving up the opportunity to go to law school and reach for the stars. Any advice, experiences etc. are appreciated!February 13, 2007 at 2:00 PM #45289PerryChaseParticipant
Go to law school. You’ll have more options then. You can then be a government lawyer or professor. Corporate law is not the only path.February 13, 2007 at 2:27 PM #45293AnonymousGuest
Thing is that government lawyers get in at GS13 pay, and in a year or two I could get hired into that same pay band in this job, or as a public affairs specialist. I could also get an advanced degree in public affairs or something like that and teach, and likely get in easier than I would if I tried to become a law professor. Law professor jobs are extremely hard to get, most go to graduates of the top law schools (USD is good, but not top), and you need to rank sky high to get them. Not saying I wont, but I am being realistic with a large family here:) I agree with you about having more options – and I love to have options, to a fault sometimes. That’s what is really bothering me here – the feeling that I am closing options off by not going to law school.
Perry, one thing I failed to mention is that my wife has a bachelors degree and will eventually work, and most importantly we are trying to brainstorm ideas for a small business/home based business we could run from home if I take this job. The government job would provide the stability, the business would satisfy my entrepreneural desires and provide us with extra income that could all be saved. I might even have her sell gift baskets:)February 13, 2007 at 3:34 PM #45301lindismithParticipant
Are you expecting to get a job as an attorney and stay in SD? Your grades will have to be tops, and you will need all kinds of extra credit stuff to really stand out. The SD market is very difficult on new attorneys, as EVERYONE from top law schools would like to live here too.
I suspect you might not even really get a jump in salary if you became an attorney here. If you would like to talk to my bro-in-law who just went through this process, drop me a line at lindismith at hotmail.com
He in now in private practice bankruptcy law, so no long hours, but no real prestige, and earnings are not corporate because he’s working with a partner.February 13, 2007 at 3:45 PM #45303AnonymousGuest
I would likely want to stay here, but would be open to relocation elsewhere if opportunities opened up. I am thinking about focusing on an area like real estate law or health law, getting job in one of those fields while going to school at night, and then when I graduate it will be a natural transition into life as a real estate attorney or health care law attorney either at a firm or a business. I am also thinking that just by going to law school here I will run into career opportunities through networking that I wont find in the Midwest if I take the government job. Some of these opportunities might even be in business.February 13, 2007 at 3:55 PM #45305(former)FormerSanDieganParticipant
Although I am a proponent of advanced degrees … as a citizen of this great country I have to beg you not to become a lawyer.
By the way, which midwestern city ? It makes a lot of difference if it’s Topeka vs Kansas City for instance. If it’s Topeka, then forget my advice above, go to law school.February 13, 2007 at 4:06 PM #45307AnonymousGuest
Columbia, MO. By the way, if you were in a place like Columbia in my situation and wanted to start a business from home on the side, what would it be? Criteria I have so far are:
-Relatively low cost to start.
-Able to be operated from home.
-Potential to grow much larger if it succeeds.
-Not geographically limited to the place I start it.
(This one is not set in stone. I will go for a local niche, but would rather go for something with a broader reach that I can run from anywhere we might relocate to.)February 13, 2007 at 5:15 PM #45316(former)FormerSanDieganParticipant
You could sell Mizzou T-shirts.February 13, 2007 at 5:22 PM #45317DoofratParticipant
If it were me, I would not count the assumption that you and your wife will start a successful home based business into your decision. I’d assume that you will be the only one working, or that your wife will have to take what job she can get in a town of less than 100,000 in the middle of the midwest. Then you can sprinkle in whatever optimism you want.
It’s a tough decision, but personally for me, I’d go to school.February 13, 2007 at 6:16 PM #45318AnonymousGuest
Yeah, I’m basically looking at the 73k salary as our only income and counting any business we may start/part time work by my wife etc. as gravy. Interestingly, I ran some numbers today and with that salary alone I should be able to save $500-$700/month right off the bat. Cost of living is cheap there and 73k is like making 110k here.February 13, 2007 at 6:39 PM #45319one_muggleParticipant
not my opinion, just FYI
-one muggleFebruary 13, 2007 at 6:41 PM #45320AnonymousGuest
Which option are you most passionate about?February 13, 2007 at 8:04 PM #45323AnonymousGuest
juice, congrats on being a squared away 29 year old: having done six years of service and having $200K in the bank.
When Perry talks about real estate, listen. When Perry talks about personal choices, do not listen.
Take the government job and save the additional $100K. Life in the states is going to be very different in four years. $300K will go a very long way, then. You and your wife will have amazing investment opportunities then.
Actually, I think that it will take five to ten years for the amazing investment opportunities — dirt cheap businesses, homes, commercial real estate — to materialize. Cash will be king, and will be much more valuable than a law degree.February 13, 2007 at 9:43 PM #45327Nancy_s soothsayerParticipant
Totally agree with jg. Who says you can’t go back and re-apply again at a better law school in 3, 5, or 10 years just in case the government job and Mizzou do not pan out?
If you decline the government job, you will miss out watching the California housing implosion from a safe and financially secure distance. In succeeding months, load up on midwestern popcorn while watching your savings and bank accounts grow in Mizzou and while blog-reading about the financial destruction of foolish and delusional San Diegans. The law degree can wait for now, methinks. That govt. job may not wait for you.February 13, 2007 at 11:36 PM #45331daveljParticipant
I’m not going to comment on whether you should move or not. I don’t have an opinion. But, let me share a couple of thoughts/ideas. First, an important poll result. Every couple of years American Lawyer magazine polls a bunch of partners at the top 100 law firms across the nation. And each poll comes back with the same result: Between 70% and 80% of this group of $300K/year (and up to $1 million) partners say they would not go to law school and become a lawyer if they did it all over again. Yup, you read that correctly. Lawyers have notoriously low job satisfaction. My brother is a lawyer and loves his job – but he makes jack shit as a Federal prosecutor… but he does love his job. So, just something to think about.
Now, if you decide for whatever reason that you don’t want to go the legal route (I just know too many miserable lawyers not to recommend running from that field like a banshee on fire) and that finance might interest you, I have a suggestion. Do NOT go to business school for your MBA. Instead, sit for and pass the Chartered Financial Analyst exams. Assuming you pass all three exams (the first exam is offered twice a year, the third and fourth exams are offered once a year, so it takes a minimum of two years to pass all three assuming you don’t fail one), then you’ll have something of value. Practically every asshole in business and finance (including me) has an MBA from a noted program. But a much smaller percentage has obtained their CFA charter as only about 15%-20% of those that sit for the first exam end up receiving their charter. So, you’ll have “scarcity value” when you’re done. Also, you don’t have to take any time off from work (although you’ll have to spend a good portion of the three months prior to each exam studying). And finally, the cost for each exam after paying for the exam fee and the study materials, etc. is maybe $2K-$3K (but that’s a ballpark, I haven’t looked in a while). Personally, if I could go back in time and do it all over again I wouldn’t have bothered with business school – complete waste of time and money. 95% of my class graduated (like most programs) and a third of them still couldn’t read a fricken’ balance sheet by graduation date (again, like most programs). The CFA charter, however, has served me well, particularly relative to the time and investment required.
Now if you have no interest in finance or business disregard what I just wrote… but still think long and hard about law school which I think is the surest path to professional misery.
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