Thinking about Money

I’m unsure about how much advice I can provide about the issues of debt, income and financial management in one short post.

I can tell you that if one of the suggestions I have proposed over the last decade had been adopted, you would have had a smaller debt load – eliminate the third year of law school. I have not heard any member of any faculty give me a persuasive reason for continuing to have a third year of law school. One could argue that the two fundamental skills (of the ten) needed to be a competent practitioner of the law which the MacCrate Report found were taught poorly by the law school could be covered in one year and BOTH the second and third year of the traditional law school could be eliminated.

For a devastating attack on the financial aspects of the traditional law school, read  The Deeply Unsatisfactory Nature of Legal Education Today – A Self Study On the Problems of Legal Education and on the Steps the Massachusetts School of Law Has Taken to Overcome Them, Massachusetts School of Law, 1992.

While there is a massive amount of literature and interest from the media in what used to be unbelievable high amounts of money flowing in to BigLaw and flowing out to associates and partners, similar data from the mainstream of the legal profession, those who are solos and in firms of 5 or less lawyers is harder to come by.

When I ran a workshop for law students in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I would encounter students appropriately concerned about how much they owed. They were convinced by the law schools and their peers that to pay back loans and live comfortably, they had to strive to be accepted by BigLaw. I treasured and distributed an article from the Boston Globe about a paralegal working for a solo practitioner who was arrested for embezzling $900,000 form the lawyer. My caption read “It’s difficult to keep track of small amounts of money in a firm like this.”

The reality is that you do not know what lawyers not in BigLaw earn. Some prosper, some don’t. Potential income should and will be a factor along the way. The point, however, is that financial assumptions should not be a barrier to considering an area of law.

Another consideration is that those funneled to BigLaw tend to think that they are employees and that their income depends on a number of factors not within their control. Those working on their own or working semi-autonomously with a few other lawyers have fewer constraints. The possibility exists that your individual effort could have an enormous multiplier effect on your eventual income.


Lawyer Satisfaction Blog - The High Cost of Law School