Law school as an investment in long-term job security?

thehouseguy's picture
Rank: Monkey | 60

Looking for some advice...

In the current market, everyone is talking about job security (or lack thereof). I currently work for a small private equity firm where I am learning traditional and non-traditional investment techniques/strategies. However, while I have an MBA (not from a top tier school) I feel as though I may be lacking given that I do not have a technical background (engineering, accounting). I can model, manage, and have some pretty strong experience in both value creation and entrepreneurial strategy, but long-term I don't know how important these experiences will be without a demonstrable skill set other than the traditional types. Furthermore, I am still young (<30) and I am really thinking about being able to provide for my family long-term.

Do you think that I should be considering law school as a realistic option? I have done considerable research into this question and while the tuition and opportunity costs are nothing to shy away from, it seems that lawyers have considerably more job security in the long-term.

What are your thoughts on this question and is this something you would consider? Also, how do you feel about attending law school and not practicing? How much weight do you give to the "analytical training" provided?

Your feedback is greatly appreciated...

Comments (11)

Jan 14, 2009

I've been told that you should only go to law school if you're okay with being a lawyer for the rest of your life. Outside of Top 14 law schools, you'll have to fight for good opportunities, first by getting very good grades, then by wowing recruiters. While people have definitely been able to lateral out of Biglaw into finance after a few years, it's usually towards IBD. Your background seems to suggest you want to PE or fundamental investing of some sort yet lack the technical skills. Law school is probably the last place you'll get those.

If job security is your main concern, may I suggest Big 4 experience. Your background should get your interviews with Big 4 Advisory divisions, probably in a function related to PE. At best, this will give you the technical experience to make a jump back to PE. In most cases however, you'll have a job with a better lifestyle, comparable security and potentially better pay than biglaw (the odds of you making partner at a law firm, especially considering your age are slim).

Jan 14, 2009

Hold on, you claim to work in PE yet you want to be a lawyer??? All of the lawyers that I work with (while extremely valuable) are mundane and seem miserable. I think it would be difficult to go from being the deal guy to the sit in your office til 2 am drafting documents guy but I guess it depends on the personality of the individual.

I have considered law school in the past but having witnessed my gf spend 3 miserable years in law school and then studying and passing the bar was more than enough for me to never want to become a lawyer. Lawyers have become so commoditized and I would never want to be an instrument of business.

Jan 15, 2009

Thank you both for offering some great insight into my questions.

I think the Big 4 idea is fantastic and one I had never considered since I thought the typical path was to use the Big 4 as a career-starter only.

Thanks again...

Jan 15, 2009

You said that you want to build a demonstratable skill set - why would you consider going back to school? A skill set is developed in the workplace.

Furthermore, if you already have an MBA, you'll be going to school for a third round - this may signal potential employers that you're not an on-the-job learner.

My suggestion? Keep your head down in your job while things are as bad as they are. Consider going for the CFA - you could take level 1 in June. It'll build your financial aptitude, and you won't have to stop working.

Most importantly, decide what you want to do when things get better. You probably know a lot more and have a broader skill set than you think.

Jan 15, 2009

CFA is definitely a big plus, you'll want to go the whole way though because a whole lot of kids have just level 1. A CFA+PE experience is all you would need for most anything that's not quant imo. As for the Big 4 thing, make sure you keep in touch with your contacts in PE because they could be useful, both for jumping back into PE, or bringing in revenue as a partner in your firm (Senior Advisory partners clear 1-2 mil a year).

Jan 27, 2009

Thanks guys for your insight. I have been thinking about the CFA actually and will give it more consideration.

Feb 5, 2009

Learn from my mistake, and don't go to law school. I went to a top law school, have good friends in big law, but I returned to financial markets afterwards. Unless you hate business and have GOOD reason to think you would like doing the nuts and bolts things that lawyers do, you will be well served to not think one more second about law school.

The purported flexibility of a law degree is SO overstated (mostly by law schools and people who haven't been), especially for someone who already has an MBA and work experience. If you are not going to become a practicing lawyer, you will learn much more efficiently (and cheaply) on the job, in whatever your next job is. I promise you that.

I think previous posters made some good comments. If you think you're rusty on specific skills, address those specific skills. CFA is great for that. Very practical and challenging. Or switch jobs to something safer (audit? I dunno...) if you want career security. Law school is such a vague education for everything other than practicing law (which sucks). It is not a general career education, it is a tax you pay on the way to a shitty but safe career as an attorney. (unless you are one of the chosen few who actually enjoys practicing law-- trust me, they're rare, and many of them aren't practicing in an area that pays well.)

Good luck to you.

Mar 5, 2009

Unless you work at a law firm, you're job security is no better with a JD than without. And even the big firms are laying people off these days. Don't do it.


Jan 17, 2010

From my perspective, don't go to law school for job security, go to law school to get a different job. With a law degree working in PE, you will be bringing a little more to the party (ie regulatory analysis, tax impact, etc). However, to get the documents drafted, finalized and filed, Legal will be called - not you. And, remember, membership in a state Bar association is required to practice law if you move to another state.

You should pursue a CFA certificate. It is the gold standard in the Financial Industry. THAT degree would add job security from the perspective of bringing much more to the table (knowledge, analysis, dedication), and would make you MUCH more attractive to the BIG 4 (which is a great career path), And a CFA is tranportable.

Much depends on what you want to do in the future, how old you are, if you have a family, etc. The CFA can be obtained by studying on-line and passing 3 tests. I do not mean to down play the time and effort it would take to earn a CFA designation, but to obtain a JD you have to attend law school (usually 3 years full-time, 5 years part-time). You could work full-time and attend law school part-time and not have a social life for 5 years. I don't recommend it unless you are an alcoholic.

I am currently a regulator in the financial industry. I am a JD and CPA and on a path to begin studying for the CFA level 1 exam in six months. Why? becasue of the knowledge I will obtain and creditability it will give me in dealing with other financial professionals such as you. I wish I had done it 5 years earlier.

Good Luck in your decision.

Jan 17, 2010

Wow this has been pretty elucidating for me. Ive been discouraged with recruiting and sat for CFA level 1 this year to try and add something to my resume. My GPA is finally in a more competitive place, but I had seriously been considering law (partly because i could do ma or phd in philosophy simultaneously) as another option.

Oct 25, 2012