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Need to be Rich to Practice Law?

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Hello Everyone,

This is my first time posting in this forum.  I have been interested in pursuing law for some time.  However, the costs seem insurmountable for a person of modest means.  In Canada, the cost of an undergraduate degree is approximately $50,000 for four years if you include living expenses, followed by an LSAT test of about $200, followed by an undergraduate 3-year JD which, at the cheapest law school, is about $30K tuition for three years with cheap living costs of about $25,000 a year.  That's just to get an undergraduate law degree of course.  So that is about $105,000.  Then, if you want to get a law licence, in a place like Ontario, you are looking at $160 application fee, $1500 for Barrister and Solicitor Exams, a $2800 Articling Fee,  and a $250 dollar Call to the Bar Fee.  If you rent robes to get called to the Bar, that's like $200 dollars for the occasion, so your bill is now over $110,000 for becoming a Lawyer.  

Ok, now lets say you've gotten to that point of being a Lawyer.  Let's say you live in Ottawa or Toronto as benchmark cities.  Before even practicing your going to need room and board.  So in Ottawa, according to a google search, the average rent is $1100 a month, while Toronto would likely be a bit more, let's say $1500.  Ok, you've got rent squared away, and now you just have to worry about utilities which lets say are about $300 monthly.  Food lets say $500 monthly.  This is all assuming you are a single person with no dependents.  So that is your budget for living.  

Now let's say you want to set up practice.  According to the LSO, your Lawyer Fee for practicing is over $2300.  Now your set to work right?  Not so fast, you need insurance in case you get sued.  That's approximately another $3000.  We have not added everything up in a while, so that brings the total to approximately, $117,600.  

Now your pretty much all set to start work and earning the big bucks right and start paying down that debt?  Well now you have to make a choice.  Private Practice, or Employed lawyer.  Private practice has its own hurdles with deciding practice area, deciding if you need staff, an office, PC law, a trust account, business loan etc, whereas an employed lawyer you start to look at salaries.  Let's look at salaries via google.  This is what Google says:

"The average Lawyer salary in Canada is $105,669 per year or $54.19 per hour. Entry level positions start at $50,500 per year while most experienced workers make up to $142,676 per year."

Ok, so for big salaries you need to put in some time, I get it.  However, I question is it worth it anymore compared to say Nurses?  This is what Google says for Nurses: 

"The average Nurse salary in Canada is $78,546 per year or $40.28 per hour. Entry level positions start at $41,396 per year while most experienced workers make up to $95,346 per year."

It also seems really competitive to get a position as a lawyer when compared to other jobs in demand like say, Truck Driver.  Here is what Google says about Truck drivers in Canada:

"The average Truck Driver salary in Canada is $48,750 per year or $25 per hour. Entry level positions start at $34,125 per year while most experienced workers make up to $82,875 per year."

So my question to all of you is, in this day and age, is it still worth it to pursue the practice of law, or would it be simpler to just become a Nurse or Truck driver?  Is it a Profession for the Rich?  What say you?

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Why aren’t you working in the summers? You’ve forgone 7 years of summer income and an articling salary in your calculus.

Also your distinction between Private Practice and Employed Lawyer doesn’t make any sense. Private practice means you don’t work for the government. That’s it.

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When I was at Osgoode, tuition was $10K cheaper than it is now. So I recognize that the calculus is different now than it was back then.

But if I was given the choice tomorrow between (1) paying another $120K or (2) permanently giving up my law license, I would not hesitate to choose the former.

By my reckoning, the salary premium I enjoy as a lawyer today, relative to the best-case realistic outcome had I not gone to law school, is around $50K/year. And I'm about 10 years out of school, with lots of career ahead of me.

Even that best-case plausible outcome would have required some further education, too.

That said I was also really lucky. I got a well-paying articling job and have remained consistently employed since then, at a salary that's not quite Bay Street but certainly well-off.

And I really like practicing law, at least in the way that my job lets me. I don't think I'd like being a nurse or a truck driver anywhere near as much. In fact there are a lot of lawyer jobs I wouldn't enjoy.

All this is to say - the cost of going to law school certainly paid off for me. But I had a lot of luck and I really wanted to practice law. No one can guarantee you either of those things.

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Law has some pretty big advantages that don't show up in average or entry-level salaries. 

Income can be at least somewhat scaleable. You can make more money without disproportionately more effort by using your expertise, business sense, networking skills, by being more efficient, etc. There is a pretty hard ceiling on truck driving income, unless you start your own shipping business. There is a pretty hard ceiling on RN income. In certain types of law the income ceiling is just much, much higher. If you look at some top band of earners the lawyers will just blow the other professions out of the water. You can probably make $200k+ as an RN but I would imagine it is incredibly rare and there might be, I dunno, twenty very senior, management-type RNs who creep over that number in the province. I think nearly every sixth year associate on Bay St can now expect close to $200k. It's not exceedingly difficult to make $200k+ outside of Bay St, either. Obviously law also affords you the opportunity to earn absurdly high incomes, either by staying in law and being super duper at it or by branching into business or politics. 

None of that touches on certain other advantages, like the flexibility you can enjoy by being a lawyer and, say, running your own office. 

Of course there's monetary downside too and some lawyers just suck at running their little business and they don't make as much as an regular RN. 

Yeah, some see increasing law school tuition costs as a barrier for low-income applicants. Many people pay for the whole ordeal on credit though, so it's not like you need to be rich to go - you'll just earn less, net of your debt payments, when you start to practice. 

Yeah it's easier and simpler to become an RN but that job is not without its negatives. It also takes a full university degree too. Being a teach now takes 6 years of post-secondary education + a few years in a somewhat grueling graduated process towards full time permanent employment. 

If you want the simplest path to a stable career with a solid, reliable income, without many huge up-front costs, be a cop or a firefighter.

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$500 per month for food, u lavish 

Edited by Trew
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How many people are equally competent and interested in nursing, law, and truck driving and can simply pick the one with the cheapest career path? I would be a terrible truck driver. 

Edited by Tagger
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1 hour ago, Tagger said:

How many people are equally competent and interested in nursing, law, and truck driving and can simply pick the one with the cheapest career path? I would be a terrible truck driver. 

Not to mention, the next 10 years will bring some big changes to the shipping industry, particularly with self-driving vehicles. I would imagine one of automation's first goals will be to replace as many human truck drivers with AI. I don't see human truck drivers being much the norm in the 2030s.

@OP: We should assume that most careers that make decent money will need an undergrad, so we can write that cost off. The cost of law school is expensive, but there are scholarships and bursaries that help out significantly (sometime reducing the burden by as much as 50%), and then loans fill in the rest of the gap. The fees to get called and take the bar exam may be paid for fully or partially by employers, though that depends entirely on whether you have an articling position lined up before you graduate law school (about half do, based on my recollection of the statistics); that said, certainly not every employer will pay these fees, and indeed I doubt soles or small offices will. Law society fees and insurance is then usually paid for by your employer, unless you're working solo. I don't have much experience with the legal profession outside of Bay Street, but my (limited) understanding is all but the smallest or most cash-strapped employers will tend to pay your law society fees and insurance, at least partially.

All of that being said, yes it's expensive to become a lawyer, but people without cash can do it. You get access to quite a bit of credit when you get accepted to law school, and if you manage your money diligently and wisely, it will hopefully be enough to see you through law school. Summer work will usually help fill in the gaps.

Is it worth it? Well, that depends on what you want. If you're already making good money, then the answer is probably no. Also I wouldn't go into the practice of law just to make money, because the odds of you making it big are, well, difficult to say.

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OP has to be a 16 year old high school student or something. 
 

While your Google-based “analysis” of legal work is laughable, I will affirm this: most lines of work are going to involve a much more “simple” path to entry than becoming a lawyer. Why not go do one of those things, gain some life and work experience, and maybe you can pursue law later in life. Or not. 
 

 

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Look, would you rather practice law for $50,000/year or paint houses for $100,000/year? You should only go to law school if your answer is the former.

There are faster, easier, and better ways to maximize your income than law, if that is one's sole goal.

But while I made more money with less debt before law school than I will for a while after, you only get one life to live, most of us spend a lot of time at work, and the work I do now is far more interesting and meaningful than the work I did before going to law school (not to mention I no longer have to put up with having supervisors with IQs of 85).

Edited by CleanHands
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I hate blood and  I hate driving. Wouldn't be simpler for me. I'm also not Paris Hilton and I don't want a Simple Life. I'll take my poor kid student debt and a career path that interests me :) 

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37 minutes ago, CleanHands said:

Look, would you rather practice law for $50,000/year or paint houses for $100,000/year? You should only go to law school if your answer is the former.

There are faster, easier, and better ways to maximize your income than law, if that is one's sole goal.

But while I made more money with less debt before law school than I will for a while after, you only get one life to live, most of us spend a lot of time at work, and the work I do now is far more interesting and meaningful than the work I did before going to law school (not to mention I no longer have to put up with having supervisors with IQs of 85).

This is awful advice. I’d way rather paint houses for $100,000 a year than practice law for $50,000. 

Despite that, I’m very happy with my decision to attend law school. And not just because lawyering pays better than painting. 

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I've been a construction worker for 6 years now while studying in uni trying to become a lawyer. Yes, the money is good and I have friends who paint houses for good money as well. But its also back-breaking, arthritis inducing, painful manual labour. I'm already seeing lots of physical damage to my body and its only been 6 years. I could very well be making 90k next year if I keep going at the pace I am. But the money isn't worth it anymore and I don't want to be doing this type of manual labour intensive work for 40 more years. Just my 2 cents. 

Edited by mikes77
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17 minutes ago, mikes77 said:

I've been a construction worker for 6 years now while studying in uni trying to become a lawyer. Yes, the money is good and I have friends who paint houses for good money as well. But its also back-breaking, arthritis inducing, painful manual labour. I'm already seeing lots of physical damage to my body and its only been 6 years. I could very well be making 90k next year if I keep going at the pace I am. But the money isn't worth it anymore and I don't want to be doing this type of manual labour intensive work for 40 more years. Just my 2 cents. 

Hey now, you can get arthritis from desk jobs too!

(Obviously being a bit satirical, but it's nonetheless true)

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35 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

This is awful advice. I’d way rather paint houses for $100,000 a year than practice law for $50,000. 

Despite that, I’m very happy with my decision to attend law school. And not just because lawyering pays better than painting. 

I can’t recall, are you a lawyer? 
 

Anyway, there are obviously many individual factors. For example, I would rather paint houses for $50,000 than practise as a junior securities lawyer for $100,000. 
I found the former more interesting (and intellectually challenging). 

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45 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

This is awful advice. I’d way rather paint houses for $100,000 a year than practice law for $50,000. 

 

 

Edited by nothankyou

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9 minutes ago, Deadpool said:

A lot of people ask me why I took on 100k+ debt to go to law school, and most of the time, the question comes from an economically privileged person. I have never been asked this same question by someone in a less economically privileged position. What they want to know is how I did it and made it work, and what they can do to achieve the same. 

An investment in education is one of the best investments you can make in your life. It is a particularly good investment for someone from a poorer background to have their shot at moving up in the world. I took on over 100k debt for my education and am currently employed in a public interest position. I made it work. It is possible. 

100.

 I enjoy Diplock, but he’s obviously got a massive chip and sometimes writes like he’s the only person in this profession that didn’t have a silver spoon. 
 

Blue collar background for me too. Less debt, but that’s because I got away from ON and worked through my degree.

Edited by QuincyWagstaff
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1 hour ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

This is awful advice. I’d way rather paint houses for $100,000 a year than practice law for $50,000

As someone who painted houses for 10 years, I'd practice law at minimum wage before I went back to painting.

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