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Hopefullawstudent11

Is becoming a lawyer worth it?

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Hey guys,

I am a fourth year who has finished applying to law school, done their LSAT and now just waiting for the law schools to make their decisions. I have only applied to Ontario law schools. Recently I have been doing more research on what lawyers think of the profession and honestly most opinions that I am reading paint a very dark picture with long hours, and little pay. I would like it if some of you could share your thoughts/opinions/personal experiences. I have an undergrad degree which I can get a job with right out of undergrad so I was just wondering. I have always wanted to be a lawyer and was attracted to the field partly due to the high income earning potentials. I understand that for the first 4-6 years that may not be a possibility as I will still be learning but I definitely want to be making 100k-200k in my career. Please don't tell me to not go into law thinking only about money; I am not, but in this world you have to be realistic. No one is gonna go under debt and extra schooling for the pure passion of it. Yes I have passion and a desire to be a lawyer, but I definitely do want to be making money as no one is putting me through school and I will be exclusively depending on loans. 

 

I would really appreciate your honest advice thanks! Please be gentle LOOL

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For someone who says they're not only thinking about money you sure seem to be thinking a lot about money. 

In all seriousness though this is a really hard question for anyone to answer for you. Everyone's going to have a different idea of what constitutes good money, what long work hours look like, what sort of working conditions you're willing to put up with, etc. 

Edited by PlayALawyerOnTV

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So my answer comes from my perspective as an articled student, not a lawyer. There are others in this forum that will have more experience and be able to provide a better answer, but here goes.

On the topic of low pay, while there are people that complain about the low pay, on average lawyer is still one of the highest paying professions out there. Personally I think the dissatisfaction in pay comes from 2 sources, unrealistic expectations going into the profession, lawyers on average do not make Harvey spectre levels of money, and your income relative to others. The job will having you rubbing shoulders with people that make more than you. Could be the friend that made partner at a large firm early or it could be a client that just had a stupid amount of money, but it will happen. If you got into this job expecting an easy salary, work your ass off for 100k and saw some realtor making 200k just by unlocking doors, I could see why someone would be unsatisfied

That being said, an income between 100-200k is something that is attainable in this profession, which can't be said about many careers. You won't be working 9-5 and weekends off making that, atleast not early on, but it is doable. I do have a hunch that people that feel like they don't make as much as they should and are miserable in the career, don't make as much as they could because they are miserable, but that's just a hunch.

Personally I think this profession does require a genuine interest in order to excel at it. That doesn't mean you need to eat breath and sleep law, but there needs to be something other than a paycheck that has you showing up in the office the next day. There's much easier ways to make a buck.

For me, my articling salary is close to what the cap would have been had I gone into the field for my undergrad. I find the work much more enjoyable than when I was in the trades, even though I'll probably be almost 40 by the time I've made more money in law than I could have if I stuck in trades.

Tl:dr I dunno, maybe.

 

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2 hours ago, Hopefullawstudent11 said:

Hey guys,

I am a fourth year who has finished applying to law school, done their LSAT and now just waiting for the law schools to make their decisions. I have only applied to Ontario law schools. Recently I have been doing more research on what lawyers think of the profession and honestly most opinions that I am reading paint a very dark picture with long hours, and little pay. I would like it if some of you could share your thoughts/opinions/personal experiences. I have an undergrad degree which I can get a job with right out of undergrad so I was just wondering. I have always wanted to be a lawyer and was attracted to the field partly due to the high income earning potentials. I understand that for the first 4-6 years that may not be a possibility as I will still be learning but I definitely want to be making 100k-200k in my career. Please don't tell me to not go into law thinking only about money; I am not, but in this world you have to be realistic. No one is gonna go under debt and extra schooling for the pure passion of it. Yes I have passion and a desire to be a lawyer, but I definitely do want to be making money as no one is putting me through school and I will be exclusively depending on loans. 

 

I would really appreciate your honest advice thanks! Please be gentle LOOL

It is possible to be earning that amount of money as a lawyer. You have to figure out which area of law is lucrative enough to get you that earning potential. According to a survey of lawyers' salaries in Ontario, those earning at least $100k are mainly practicing BigLaw, personal injury and insurance law, litigation, and labour and employment law with varying degrees of success. 

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7 hours ago, Ruthless4Life said:

If you're in it for the money, you're going to be in one hell of a disappointment (unless you make biglaw).

If I don't make it into BigLaw (considering that only few students go there), in your opinion what types of law and experience to guarantee 100k-200k? And if not that then what should I expect to be earning as a lawyer with 3-5 years of experience?

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Just be a full-time private practice solicitor anywhere and you'll make the money you're looking for within five years.

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Was it "worth it" for me? Yes, without question.

Will it be "worth it" for you? I don't know, and, unfortunately, no one can know that until after you've done it. 

For what it's worth, many people have gone to law school and had rewarding and successful careers. The odds are that you will too. You're still playing the odds, but you have some control over it, and I think the odds of success after law school are pretty good in any case.  

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A junior lawyer on Bay street can be making 100k+ quite easily in their 1-3 years. But factor in cost of living in Toronto... 

As you progress, and certainly, if you become a partner at a firm, your earning potential only goes up. You can make 100-200k as a partner at a small firm, no problem. 

So, the quick answer is that you can make the amount of money you noted. 

But the trade off is long hours and hard work. Even as partner, you could still end up working a lot. Certainly I know some partners who probably work comparable hours to their associates but in the form of trying to bring in business to the firm or managing the firm's affairs. 

Edited by gg092

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The way I see it, if you'd still go to law school knowing that you'll in all likelihood earn an average income, then you should go. Otherwise, you're probably placing to much emphasis on the earning potential and not enough on the other factors.

With that being said, 100k-200k is definitely attainable for almost all lawyers with 10+ years of experience regardless of area from what hear and see through surveys. Which makes sense because after all, the more experience you have, the more you can charge and the larger your client base will be.

I know that might not be in the time horizon you were expecting, but keep in mind I'm being very conservative. Obviously, if you're in some of the more lucrative areas, you'd earn that much in your first year as an associate.

Idk if that helps, but I'm just a 1L that was faced with the same question a year ago. 

Edited by OnlyResident
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I have no idea if it is "worth" it for you to become a lawyer. However, I can provide you with a bit of perspective.

A lot of the clients I work with who have what I will call a "regular office job" and make between $60 000 - $120 000 a year are regularly sending me emails into the wee hours of the night and on Sunday evenings. Unfortunately, the 9-5 is disappearing from a lot of workplaces regardless of compensation. In contrast, in my job I am not often finding myself working into the wee hours of the night or putting in solid days on the weekends and my compensation fits within your desired range.

Another anecdote, one of my friends became a research analyst after their Master's at some marketing company where they made $60 k a year. They were regularly given "on my desk tomorrow morning" assignments at 6:00 pm and would therefore find themselves at the office until 2 am.

I think that you hear cautionary tales MORE in law and LESS in other fields simply by virtue of the fact that "regular office job" employees 1) don't get together and make online forums to discuss their issues, and 2) undergrad students and law students tend to "network" with lawyers and get the feedback "being a lawyer is the worst, the hours are ridiculous" whereas undergrad students are not reaching out to civil servants/research analysts/insert other job where you send a lot of emails from your desk and asking them "hey how much do you make/what are your hours/would you recommend your job". 

Good luck with your decision. 

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5 minutes ago, admitme said:

I have no idea if it is "worth" it for you to become a lawyer. However, I can provide you with a bit of perspective.

A lot of the clients I work with who have what I will call a "regular office job" and make between $60 000 - $120 000 a year are regularly sending me emails into the wee hours of the night and on Sunday evenings. Unfortunately, the 9-5 is disappearing from a lot of workplaces regardless of compensation. In contrast, in my job I am not often finding myself working into the wee hours of the night or putting in solid days on the weekends and my compensation fits within your desired range.

This is very true. At my company, I work a lot less hours and make a lot more money than a lot of senior managers.

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You can make $100,000+ in numerous public sector jobs. Firefighters pull that and work seven 24 hour shifts a month. Teachers can approach that (teaching is hard though). 

Did you know that there are bus drivers on the sunshine list? 

If you are making $80,000 as a lawyer you will be in the top 10% (or whatever it is now) of Canadian workers but when people complain that law isn't "worth it", at least in Ontario, I think a lot of the time it's lawyers in that income bracket (say, $70k to $100k) and they are making a comparison to the work:compensation ratio of specific employment sectors (which tend to fall under the public sector). 

The thing with law, though, is that at the very upper end you will outscale the comparison groups. Yeah, if you are working in a legal clinic it might have been a better idea to be a firefighter or TTC bus driver, but if you land on Bay Street you've broken through the comparison ceiling and even as just a reasonably smart and experienced sole practitioner you can realistically clear $200k (in some practice areas).

Edited by BringBackCrunchBerries
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32 minutes ago, pzabbythesecond said:

There are easier ways, both in terms of investment and hours worked, to make 100-200k per year over your career.

What is your undergrad in? 

Name them please

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I think generally speaking, to make $100-200k/yr (which, by the way, is a TON of money), you’re going to have to work very hard until you’re 40 or so. Then you’ll hopefully be at a level where you have good income, good job security, and are good at doing what you do so you can coast a bit. Or you’ll be headed above that level and, well, will keep working very hard. 

Most jobs don’t have a path to $100k. Fewer have a path to 200. They all usually require quite a bit of work. 

Edited by easttowest
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My advice is, if you want to be a lawyer, go to law school. If you're looking for money, get your MBA and network, network, network. $100k-200k range is absolutely doable in law. I do not work in Big law and make in that range. 

That said, what makes law difficult is the amount of stress and pressure that exists to put out excellent work product in a very short amount of time. When you are junior (and many senior in-house folks have this problem too) you have almost no control over your schedule. Emergencies or time-sensitive issues come in all the time and can have real consequences for people. In my line of work, sometimes it's even the risk of serious injury when it's a serious safety-related issue. In addition, delivering bad news/ news your client does not like/ dealing with very stressed out individuals going through the legal process is very stressful. If you are in an area of law where you are dealing with clients regularly, it can be quite draining and you can think about work long after your day has ended. Depending on the area of law, you can get be burned out very quickly so learning healthy habits is very important.

So, in comparison to jobs out there in policy for example, I can quite firmly say I am underpaid based on my conversations with people in those jobs. However, in comparison to nurses working shifts on COVID wards, I can say I am in no way underpaid. It's all relative so that is why the advice you are going to get is to go to law school if you want to do the work because there are many other jobs that you can do to achieve that salary range.

 

Edited by Law Girl26
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26 minutes ago, lolnope said:

Name them please

Law Enforcement, Teaching, Firefighting, Transit Driver, CPA, CFA, anything in computer science, realtor,  any trade where you're running your own business (plumbing, electrical, carpentry, HVAC), any sales job, consulting, i-banking, Private equity, etc.

Idk if any of these are necessarily easier, but from an educational perspective, there's less debt and resistance involved.

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36 minutes ago, lolnope said:

Name them please

Engineering, certain business related positions (no, not finance, etc, since the hours are similar or even greater), certain trades, dentistry, and the list goes on.

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