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I've got a BA (political studies) and have taught English in Asia for several years.

I am a 38 year old man and plan to start law school at 40.

Not related, but I mention it in case anyone wonders what my experience is.

  1. Is there a type of law that an older graduate would often practice or is it the same as any age?

  2. I plan to go to U Windsor for my JD

  3. Will live anywhere (except a very remote place like Nunavut)

  4. High salary is not my top priority (as long as I make at least the same as a public school teacher in Ontario I am happy).

  5. Hoping for a work/life balance (hoping for 40 hours a week and not 60+).

I think trying to find a job in a smaller city (no commute time) is something I ought to try.

Criminal defence and family lawyers will always be in demand so I am thinking to go that route.

I could be dead wrong, but I think that the learning curve is more steep with criminal defence so a family law focus may be best. Again, I could be dead wrong but I think that the soft skills/life experience that I have gained may be useful for working in family law.

I have also thought of trying to find a general practice in a small place that could use an extra lawyer (IF I can find such a place). They may prefer a young guy BUT I think that my life experience and the soft skills that I have learned may be looked upon as an advantage.

I mentioned that salary is not my top priority, but of course I hope to make a decent salary. I could be wrong, but I think that criminal defence (doing legal aid) can pay VERY bad unless one becomes very good at it. As a child my next door neighbour was a criminal defence attorney and his wife (speech pathologist) made more money than him. I estimate that he made about the equivalent of CAD $70 000 a year in 2021 dollars.

Thanks for reading and for any advice.

Edited by curiousandauthentic
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I started law school at a similar age. It is very, very, very hard to go back to school, and even harder to be going back to law school. You need to be prepared to learn a completely new way of thinking, speaking, and behaving. Are you willing to fight the uphill battle to do so for around two and a half years? Oh, and the debt, but that I assume you've already grappled with or have enough savings to cover the bill.

Windsor is not a top tier law school. For a younger person that may not be as much of an issue, but for an older person you really want to have as much going for you as possible. I am at U of T and I still encountered strong, frequent, and blatant resistance in finding jobs because of my age. Windsor will only set you back further. My friend who attended Windsor, did a ton of mooting, had clinical work and represented clients at tribunals, and interned with a judge, took two years to find an articling position after graduating. Unless you are at the top of the class, attending Windsor may be a negative when it comes to the job hunt. I would highly recommend considering other schools. U of T, Osgoode, McGill, and UBC are excellent alternatives with very good reputations and high job recruit percentages.

As to family law and criminal law, are you ready for the emotional stress you'll face? Abused spouses and children, murderers, rapists, some of the most difficult stories you have ever heard which you have no choice but to listen to and even view through the evidence, and you'll potentially be representing the perpetrator. I worked in a workers' comp clinic with people who were badly disabled at work, and I couldn't have stood more than 2 years doing it. I can only imagine how much worse it would be in family or criminal law.

I would say consider business law. Business law firms not only recognize your work experience as a plus, they value it strongly enough that they often look specifically to hire mature students. You can do a lot of good work in business law, and you can do both transactional and litigation work if you want. There are a ton of opportunities, and you can figure out what interests you as you work during school.

Generally, what you are planning to do is a lot. You will be paying tens of thousands a year for your education. You will have to start at the bottom, both in summer/articling jobs and when you're hired as a lawyer. The learning curve at school and at a law firm are brutally steep. You will find yourself surrounded by young peers who you may feel don't get you. The school will not support your unique circumstances as a mature student. And the job recruit, which is geared towards K-JDs with families who take care of their needs, will be an uphill battle for you. If you love the idea of being a lawyer so much you can't consider doing anything else, then these barriers will not be too high for you to surmount. If you do not, pick something else.

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If salary isn't the top priority and worklife balance is something you value. Why not leverage your experience as a teacher overseas and teach ESL here in Canada. Pretty sure ESL teachers make a decent living in Canada and have good hours where you aren't killing yourself. 

Also, you stated a bunch of reasons which would not deter you from being a lawyer and never stated the reason/s why you want to be a lawyer.

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Law is a challenging and demanding profession that is almost inherently competitive/adversarial... but you don't want to compete in time, area of law or salary.

Don't go to law school, it's a bad idea.

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I'm over 40, and I am going to law school. I'm getting kind of a negative vibe from this thread, but I think going to law school at an older age is a great idea. This assumes you can afford to take on the debt, and that you are passionate enough about wanting to be a lawyer that you are willing to put in the work.

I'm not sure where the concept of a age being an issue in finding employment is coming from. 

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Also over 40.

Here's the thing: no matter what age you are, it's going to be viewed by someone as a barrier to something. When I was in my 20s I was too young and didn't know anything (which was probably true but whatever). In your 30s people assume you're probably dealing with demands of small kids, or that you will if you're not already and that'll be a deterrent to some. In your 40s and beyond you've either got too much experience or the experience you have is out of date and what do you know, barriers again.

All of this to say, the fact that someone somewhere is going to look at your age as a barrier no matter what age you happen to be when you're trying to do something isn't, to me, enough to a reason in and of itself not to do something. Screw 'em; one person's liability is another person's asset or something like that.

Edited by Veggie77
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On 2/15/2021 at 1:37 PM, FortifiedEight said:

Windsor is not a top tier law school. For a younger person that may not be as much of an issue, but for an older person you really want to have as much going for you as possible. I am at U of T and I still encountered strong, frequent, and blatant resistance in finding jobs because of my age. Windsor will only set you back further. My friend who attended Windsor, did a ton of mooting, had clinical work and represented clients at tribunals, and interned with a judge, took two years to find an articling position after graduating. Unless you are at the top of the class, attending Windsor may be a negative when it comes to the job hunt. I would highly recommend considering other schools. U of T, Osgoode, McGill, and UBC are excellent alternatives with very good reputations and high job recruit percentages.

I am not experienced enough to offer advice on whether or not the OP’s should undertake a legal career but...regarding them hoping to attend Windsor. I was under the impression that there is no “tier system” for law schools in Canada? Some have more prestige than others, and the schools you mention are preferable if you want to work on Bay st, but unless OP has their heart set on Bay st, I don’t think Windsor would be an additional hurdle. 0L here, who has recently been accepted to Windsor, so factor in lack of knowledge and the personal bias. That being said, judging from other posts that I’ve read and from speaking to practicing lawyers in the GTA, it doesn’t seem to matter where you go to school unless you want to be sure you’ll have the best chance possible at landing a Bay st job. 

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3 hours ago, Toby1994 said:

I am not experienced enough to offer advice on whether or not the OP’s should undertake a legal career but...regarding them hoping to attend Windsor. I was under the impression that there is no “tier system” for law schools in Canada? Some have more prestige than others, and the schools you mention are preferable if you want to work on Bay st, but unless OP has their heart set on Bay st, I don’t think Windsor would be an additional hurdle. 0L here, who has recently been accepted to Windsor, so factor in lack of knowledge and the personal bias. That being said, judging from other posts that I’ve read and from speaking to practicing lawyers in the GTA, it doesn’t seem to matter where you go to school unless you want to be sure you’ll have the best chance possible at landing a Bay st job. 

I also thought that Canada did not have a "tier system".

For some it seems to be Bay St. or bust (I am not one of those).

I mean, comparing Windsor with York isn't exactly the American equivalent of comparing Harvard law school with the University of South Dakota law school (nothing against South Dakota/SD law school).

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I went to law school at 33, and was 37 when I was called. You're going to be 44 when you're called. 

You appear to want to go to law school because you're out of ideas for what to do next, particularly as you spent a substantial period of time directionless - I did the teaching in Asia thing too, I saw loads of dudes in their 30's on their 10th year teaching, in a kind of suspended animation while the world went on back home.

There are other things to do than law. Getting into law school is hard. Law school itself is difficult. Getting a reasonable job is a challenge. Keeping it can be as well. 

Also the practice of law is very difficult and the people who do it are largely miserable and take that out on the people they deal with. Plus if you're older it can be tough to conceptualize working with/for people who are substantially younger than you. 

If you're seriously going to attempt this, like the earlier poster said, you need everything going for you you can get - you can't just squeak by. I know someone who went to Windsor on its whole "we take a holistic look" approach because their grades/lsat weren't great. They couldn't find articles and I think gave up on law. 

Your first threshold is the LSAT. Study, see if it makes sense to you. Write, and if you get a ridiculous LSAT score, keep going. Like if you're under 170 don't waste your time. 175 is better.

You ultimately need to look like a feral genius and bust your hump the whole way through school. 

 

Edited by machine
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Just want to point out that both the two people who have warned you about Windsor have used anecdotes from one person that they know, a sample not representative of all Windsor Law graduates. Again, aware of my bias as I most likely will be a Windsor graduate myself...but I do think it’s a bit unnecessary to warn OP about attending Windsor based off of a friend that had trouble finding articling, a problem that could’ve arisen  due to a number of reasons. 

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30 minutes ago, Toby1994 said:

Just want to point out that both the two people who have warned you about Windsor have used anecdotes from one person that they know, a sample not representative of all Windsor Law graduates.

We get it, you just wrote the LSAT; everyone understands this. 

People aren't saying that Windsor's a bad school, but that going there can exacerbate the resistance that mature students already face in an extremely competitive job market. That can be fatal for someone like OP, who doesn't seem to want to work hard. 

Edited by Tagger
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7 hours ago, machine said:

Write, and if you get a ridiculous LSAT score, keep going. Like if you're under 170 don't waste your time. 175 is better.

No. Just no. A 160 is a fair goal. 170 is very hard to attain.

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3 hours ago, SNAILS said:

No. Just no. A 160 is a fair goal. 170 is very hard to attain.

I think you missed his point. 160 may be enough to get you in, but as a middle aged law student, that’s not going to be enough. You need to be exceptional to have a reasonable chance at succeeding. You need to have much more going for you than your younger peers. 

I would give the same advice. Being an average law student at 40 years old, you are at serious risk of a very bad outcome. And you don’t have the years left to recover. 

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I am 41 and have applied as a mature student this year. I have the benefit of having worked in law as a paralegal for the past 21 years...so I know what I am getting into. To be honest, I do not think  I have ever met a lawyer who only works 40 hours a week on a regular basis, especially fresh out of the gate.
You have received a lot of advice here that I agree with. The thing that I didn’t get from your post is a strong desire to work in law.
As Luckycharm mentioned above, the opportunity cost is high. Law school is not cheap, and you will be either eating savings or living on loans for years to come. If you are not passionate about law (and to be honest from your post you do not appear to be), this venture will cost you more than you will likely gain at the end of the day.

I am not trying to discourage, but suggest you take a deep dive into why you want to pursue law school and practice law.  I would write it out. This exercise will help you when you go to write your personal statement later on if you still feel like law school is what you want to do. :)

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OP, your whole post indicates you’re trying to find the easiest and least competitive way to go forward. Willing to live anywhere. These two areas seems in high demand. One is harder than the other so let’s focus on the easier one. Oh, and $70k a year is not enough. 

The fact that you are forty is beside the point to me. Anyone writing that kind of an inquiry gets a hard no. Law isn’t for you. The hurdles just get higher as you go, and any instinct to take the easier path because it’s just easier is a bad instinct.

I suspect you’re actually looking for meaningful work, a career you can point to at 40 and say “I am a successful adult now”. That’s totally reasonable. But law is expensive, difficult, demanding, and unless there’s a lot you aren’t sharing here, it’s not for you. You’ll hate it. 

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12 hours ago, Toby1994 said:

Just want to point out that both the two people who have warned you about Windsor have used anecdotes from one person that they know, a sample not representative of all Windsor Law graduates. Again, aware of my bias as I most likely will be a Windsor graduate myself...but I do think it’s a bit unnecessary to warn OP about attending Windsor based off of a friend that had trouble finding articling, a problem that could’ve arisen  due to a number of reasons. 

Unless the OP has a passion for the law, NO law school is the right choice for them. Now, let's talk about Windsor :D

http://ultravires.ca/2019/12/toronto-summer-2020-2l-recruit-numbers/

Traditionally, Windsor has very low hiring percentages. Look at any firm website and count how many people working there are from Windsor versus other schools if the summer hiring numbers aren't enough. These percentages are generally the same year after year. And note, the class size at Windsor is comparable to other schools, so the averages are a fair comparison. There are amazing lawyers who went to Windsor, but when you consider the class as a whole, the hiring percentages are problematic. Of course, after a few years of practice things DO even out, but for someone who is already in their early forties when they graduate, time is of the essence.

Hiring percentages are also worse for mature students at ALL law schools - even at U of T, mature students were disproportionally unemployed after both the 2L and articling recruits for my year. The people I knew who did not get an articling job after graduating in 2019 and 2020 were (very) mature students. This is something that goes unstudied and unreported as the schools often don't want to admit it. The U of T Career Development Office is aware of it, and our SLS plans to work with them to provide better resources to mature students to help reverse the trend. Other schools with Mature Students Associations, like Osgoode, are likely already working on these issues as well. I hope.

As a mature student at U of T with an impressive background, good grades, and a variety of high quality ECs, I still had interviewers make obvious that my age stood in the way of my being hired. Many other mature students I knew faced similar push-back. Many of the mature students I knew did not get a job in the recruit, nor in the articling recruit. This same story has been echoed by individuals in years ahead of me. I'm not making this up as a scare tactic, it's just the reality of getting a job in Toronto out of law school. There are some firms in Toronto which also look specifically to hire mature students, but they are few and not the norm. I will say Vancouver firms were much better in terms of appreciating the benefits a mature student brings to a job, so looking outside the Toronto market may improve OP's chances.

If a mature student wants to make their life easier, they should take advantage of every opportunity to do so. Attending a school with a reputation that opens doors as early as possible in the hiring cycle is one such opportunity.

For the OP, I'd recommend doing more reading on Windsor from people who went there:

 

Edited by FortifiedEight
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23 minutes ago, FortifiedEight said:

Unless the OP has a passion for the law, NO law school is the right choice for them. Now, let's talk about Windsor :D

http://ultravires.ca/2019/12/toronto-summer-2020-2l-recruit-numbers/

Traditionally, Windsor has very low hiring percentages. Look at any firm website and count how many people working there are from Windsor versus other schools if the summer hiring numbers aren't enough. These percentages are generally the same year after year. And note, the class size at Windsor is comparable to other schools, so the averages are a fair comparison. There are amazing lawyers who went to Windsor, but when you consider the class as a whole, the hiring percentages are problematic. Of course, after a few years of practice things DO even out, but for someone who is already in their early forties when they graduate, time is of the essence.

Hiring percentages are also worse for mature students at ALL law schools - even at U of T, mature students were disproportionally unemployed after both the 2L and articling recruits for my year. The people I knew who did not get an articling job after graduating in 2019 and 2020 were (very) mature students. This is something that goes unstudied and unreported as the schools often don't want to admit it. The U of T Career Development Office is aware of it, and our SLS plans to work with them to provide better resources to mature students to help reverse the trend. Other schools with Mature Students Associations, like Osgoode, are likely already working on these issues as well. I hope.

As a mature student at U of T with an impressive background, good grades, and a variety of high quality ECs, I still had interviewers make obvious that my age stood in the way of my being hired. Many other mature students I knew faced similar push-back. Many of the mature students I knew did not get a job in the recruit, nor in the articling recruit. This same story has been echoed by individuals in years ahead of me. I'm not making this up as a scare tactic, it's just the reality of getting a job in Toronto out of law school. There are some firms in Toronto which also look specifically to hire mature students, but they are few and not the norm. I will say Vancouver firms were much better in terms of appreciating the benefits a mature student brings to a job, so looking outside the Toronto market may improve OP's chances.

If a mature student wants to make their life easier, they should take advantage of every opportunity to do so. Attending a school with a reputation that opens doors as early as possible in the hiring cycle is one such opportunity.

For the OP, I'd recommend doing more reading on Windsor from people who went there:

 

I don’t want to hijack this thread and turn it into a Windsor debate, but I’ll just say thank you for sharing those threads...because if you read the replies from practicing lawyers they seem to prove my point :). Also, the link you posted to 2L hiring rates do not encompass the vast majority of positions available in Ontario. I don’t have an issue with admitting that Windsor grads have a harder time achieving certain types of jobs, but it’s a fallacy to suggest that it makes securing an articling position more difficult. 

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Those threads are six and eight years old, respectively.

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