Yes, I am a hypocrite. Every month, I’m constantly reminded of the hole that law school left in my bank account and I cringe at the thought. The bad taste in my mouth isn’t necessarily law school, but the overwhelming cost of attending law school. It’s the biggest reason why I tell those contemplating law school to not attend if there is any hesitation as to what they will do with the degree. Another reason why I tell people not to go to law school is if they are actually thinking of becoming a lawyer. These days, there aren’t too many newly minted attorneys that make over $50,000/year. Yes, you read that right. Those that actually get jobs may be looking at a small firm gig at the whopping $38,000 salary. In addition, there aren’t many seasoned attorneys that make six figures, unless you want to put in the time at a large firm hoping at the end of eight years you will be considered for partner. Me personally, I’d rather live in the slums of Bombay than go through that torture. So, why am I a hypocrite? Because I wrote a number of blog posts chastising the thought of going to law school, but I do believe it can be of benefit if you leverage it in a certain way.
Debt aside, law school teaches you a few things that you typically wouldn’t learn by experience alone. It teaches you how to think differently, write logically, and sharpen your analytical skills. Law School gives you the ability to visualize, articulate, conceptualize or solve both complex and uncomplicated problems by making decisions that are sensible given the available information. These indispensable skills transfer over to anything you decide to do. The major problem with law school is the lack of information provided to law students of how these skills transfer over to other areas outside of law. Many will quit law school before they finish because they discover they do not enjoy practicing law. To be candid, I don’t know many attorneys that do enjoy practicing law. If law schools can help law students open their eyes to the opportunities outside of law, I believe, it would be a much more pleasant and successful experience for all.
Most employers understand what it takes to complete law school. It isn’t an easy endeavor. It takes hard work, dedication, and discipline. In my opinion, it’s just as much of a risk as starting your own business. You’re putting up $150,000 in the hope that you complete those three years and pass the bar exam. An employer sees you as battle tested. You can withstand a highly competitive and stressful environment and end up on top. Leverage that experience to get what you want!
After I stopped practicing law I knew that I wanted to work for myself. I loved the financial industry and thought I could leverage my background in law to break into wealth management. My background in law allowed me to leapfrog several candidates for a highly sought after position at a large firm. I got the position over those that had been in the industry for years. They took a chance on me because of the skills I gained practicing law. The firm believed those skills would transfer over to provide a benefit to the firm and their clients. This started a transformation within myself. From then on I leveraged those skills for any endeavor I went after.
Over the past 4 years I have started three successful businesses. Having a business partner with extensive legal knowledge is huge when starting a business. From filing state documents to creating a business structure, these are some of the most important components of business creation. Given, some businesses use legal services like LegalZoom, the business founders have no clue what those documents mean. They are being provided a standard document that provides them with little insight into what the potential pitfalls may be. I have drafted numerous legal documents and the knowledge I have gained provides me with an understanding of what specific provisions are most important and how to structure those provisions to deal with certain outcomes. My background allows me to deal with everything from lease negotiations to lawsuits. If I don’t know how to deal with it, I know a friendly attorney that does. This has provided my business and business partners knowledge that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible without in-house council.
My legal background has also provided me with a steady stream of business opportunities. I have friends, family, and acquaintances that ask for my advice and inquire as to whether I would be interested in their idea or concept. They understand how valuable it is for a company to have an investor that comes armed with knowledge that can help the company operate more effectively. This comes back to my previous blog post about picking investors that bring more than money to the table.
This is not a blog post about me believing you “should” go to law school. My intent is to give insight to those that are contemplating law school. I want those contemplating law school to understand that a law degree can do more for you outside of law than within. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business owners have a law degree. Law School doesn’t teach you to be an entrepreneur but it does teach you how to solve complex problems and as an entrepreneur solving problems is one of the most important skills you can have. It’s a tough road, but it may provide you with the experience you need to succeed in whatever you decide to pursue.