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What made you go into law?


Dee
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Before I started law school, I worked in admin in quasi-government (community colleges). I made a decent salary (I think it was like 45k+ in 2004 for mostly administrative work), and I am pretty sure I would have been promoted a few times between 2004 and now. But there's no way I'd get into a position where I make 200K a year, which is what my law degree has gotten me on the in house track.

You have to be really high in government to make 200k/year. You have to be a mid-level functionary like me in-house to make that kind of money.

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PulpFiction
  • Lawyer

I wanted my parents to be proud at family get-togethers when they bragged about me and showed the other parents how much better and smarter I am than their kids.

In all seriousness, I grew up pretty poor and always saw education as my escape from mediocrity. An escape to a better life, which at that time and for a majority of my life, meant a better financial situation. As I was going through university, my family moved from poor as shit to upper middle class, but the desire for money was still on my mind. I worked in finance for a couple years after undergrad, made a lot of money, but soon realized it isn't everything. 

Decided to pursue law to do meaningful work and contribute something real to society. Now doing criminal defence. I enjoy life a lot more these days. 

I'll never knock anyone for pursuing corporate law/big law solely for money - it sucks being poor or living cheque to cheque. If I didn't have savings and the option to essentially graduate debt free from law school, I doubt I would have followed my passion for criminal law. I probably wouldn't have gone to law school at all if that were the case, especially if my financial situation made me shift my focus on landing a corporate gig (corporate lawyers are like the less sexy/less cool version of the finance people I worked with. I'm joking...kind of. )

Don't let anyone say your reason for going to law school isn't good enough or legitimate or whatever people are saying. Live your life and do what makes you happy. 

Edited by PulpFiction
a couple things. prob still a couple things wrong. i'm tired.
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Lionel Hutz
  • Lawyer
15 hours ago, Avatar Aang said:

An easier path than law may be to get a master's degree in public policy/public administration and find a government job, but besides that, I really can't think of many career paths for arts graduates to pursue that will make them as much money as they would a lawyer. If you are fine with making 70k+ as a lawyer, then it is well worth pursuing even if you will graduate with a lot of debt. The average income in Canada is way less than that and many careers available to arts graduates and other non-practical degrees will not make as much

I think that might be a somewhat myopic view of what's possible, but it's sadly a view shared by a lot of young people who are just rolling off their lib arts undergrads and choose law school because they want some assurance they'll be able to make better income the second they hit the job market, or because they like the prestige that's still attached to being a lawyer. There's also still a residual credentialism and a failure to take a longer view to career development, and an elitism that sees things like, say, taking a shift manager position at McDonalds or Starbucks as beneath you, yet I've known people with arts undergrads who are still in their 20s and who started amazing careers in exactly this way. 

I have worked in-house at a few places, and I've known many people several years younger than me, making middle-class money in their mid-20s ($80k-ish+) with undergrad degrees in English or history or polisci, because they accepted a low-paid entry level job at 22 and simply climbed the corporate ladder. 10 years later in their mid-late 30s, these people will be making comparable money to at least 50% of lawyers at the same age, but will have started families and have been building wealth for over a decade without the burden of wasting 3 additional years on school (basically 4 years if you get a crappy articling position) and without massive professional school debts. 

IIRC in Canada median incomes are around 50K for individuals, maybe higher now (it's been a few years since I read the stats). That means there are something like 15 million+ people in Canada who make over the median (give or take people who aren't employed or looking for work), lawyers are only a tiny fraction of that, and the median pay of lawyers is really not that impressive outside the Toronto market, which is also one of the most expensive places to live in North America. Other than the trades, for which there is enormous demand and the possibility of relatively high incomes if you're even slightly capable and intelligent in how you manage yourself, middle-management and administration jobs are generally attainable with a few years of work at any of the hundreds of mid-sized and large corporations and banks with a presence in Canada by literally just getting an entry level job, doing a good job and developing a skill set, and getting promoted or lateraling. You can also take part-time courses as you go to gain relevant skills and improve your market value as a worker. These jobs typically do not require additional debt beyond undergrad to obtain, and the pay can fall anywhere from $70k-$100K and up plus benefits, options, bonuses etc. as you climb the corporate ladder. Government and education jobs are available and typically pay reasonably well after the first few years, and especially as you gain seniority. If you get into finance or any related industry, including banking, you don't necessarily require a specialist degree, and most requisite credentials to get to a middle-class income are obtainable for less work and money than a law degree. In real estate and related industries you can make a good income without much specialist training and with only a few years of experience. In fact residential real estate has been a relative gold mine for realtors for decades. There are also the nursing and healthcare related industries which pay well and are in constant high demand with relatively cheap and fast community college training. Other major industries include any kind of natural resources exploitation (lumber, oil, gas etc.), and generally manufacturing. There's a whole world of opportunities out there for pay on-par with the lower-half of lawyer pay, but far earlier in your life and with less work and relatively little (or no) debt. 

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Barry
  • Law School Admit
1 hour ago, Lionel Hutz said:

-

So the lib arts job (that took you 10 posts to finally come out with) that can get you more money than being a lawyer is McDonalds?

 

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Lionel Hutz
  • Lawyer
1 minute ago, Barry said:

So the job lib arts jobs (that took you 10 posts to finally come out with) that can get you more money than being a lawyer is McDonalds?

 

Imagine being a law student who is so pretentious you look down at people who started at McDonalds and now make more money than average lawyers, all without going to law school. 

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Barry
  • Law School Admit
8 minutes ago, Lionel Hutz said:

Imagine being a law student who is so pretentious you look down at people who started at McDonalds and now make more money than average lawyers, all without going to law school. 

I'm not looking down at people that work at McDonalds, I'm looking down at your posts.

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Speaking as a person who worked for about 3-4 years before quitting to attend law school, I suppose I had one of those "entry level jobs" that theoretically could have led to upward mobility in the corporate ladder. I didn't study liberal arts in undergrad, I was okay enough with the "math-y" bits of the employable skill set to get my foot in the door at a financial institution, and I got super lucky that I didn't have to start in a frontline, customer-facing role right out of undergrad. I was making above $55K excluding bonuses and benefits in 2015, which is roughly comparable to the anecdata @Jaggers shared above. And even then, I would strongly caution against over-romanticizing the notion of "climbing the corporate ladder from an entry level job" just to set up that path as a foil to the path of becoming a lawyer. Keep in mind of course that I made the choice of giving up my $55K job to go to law school and I had a decent bit of luck on my side while participating in recruit activities during law school as well.

I have been following the threads and speaking as a recent immigrant of humble socioeconomic beginnings shouldering the expectations of "making it" in Canada by getting a "respectable" job that would do my immigrant parents proud, I have enormous sympathies for the points that @Lionel Hutz has made in many of their previous posts. The thing is, being the first person or first few people in your family to work in a glass tower makes it way harder both to get your foot in the door into an entry-level position and to keep your position there, when you do not have a professional degree or certificates or credentials. It's not a matter of working hard; I learned that lesson well in my early 20s. Corporate restructuring from what I know during my time working in financial services is a brutal and blindsiding phenomenon that has literally sent middle-aged parents of young children packing their desks to go home, less than 3 hours since they've shown up for work that day. And yes, a lot of these parents did go back to school to get their post-graduate certificate programs or accelerated MBAs while working full-time. When it comes down to it, what differentiates the people who get saved and the people who didn't is the other people they know. Have they made friends in higher places, i.e. directorial positions and up, who see further potential in them and believe that they can continue to be an asset if whisked away to a different job niche or product/service department? That part too, has got a lot of luck to do with it. The kindness of strangers, even if it conceals ulterior motives, is what climbing the corporate ladder depends on when you are in a position of significantly less (bargaining and hiring) power. That's not to say that luck doesn't have a lot to do with being successful at recruits as a law student, too; that is to say, before you can climb upward, you gotta think about how tough it is to even stay in the game in the first place, when every single year your employer can hire a family friend's 21-year-old lib arts grad to do the same job you've been doing then get them up to your level in a matter of weeks of training, and even the best outcome from your annual performance review is severely restricted by the hard salary ceilings of job levels imposed by the HR structure designed to tightly ration/control the upward corporate ladder mobility of thousands of employees across the country.

In terms of the degree of fungibility, it is a lot, a lot harder to make the case for yourself as to why you deserve to get or keep the same job that your employer can pay your colleague in your neighbour cubicle to do for about the same pay by adding more work responsibility bullet points to your colleague's job description. I like having a law degree because exactly like the point @Avatar Aang made, it's not about what happens when I'm operating under best-case-scenario assumptions under rose-coloured glasses. It's about what I'll still be able to do within my own will and my own power under very not ideal circumstances, like losing my law-practicing job overnight. In the middle of a pandemic, many first year calls and other junior lawyers of slightly higher experience levels were able to seize on better-paid employment opportunities in their areas of expertise despite a period of drought due to pandemic related setbacks. Truly, not many other careers can say that. The significantly better options available to you as an individual in terms of remedying downward risks are what makes law a good route to pursue despite the high amounts of debt stacked up during the student years.

Ultimately, I hope the people reading this thread who are still in the process of making up their mind about whether to go into law would hear a variety of opinions and stances before diving in or walking away for good. I hope my anecdata will serve them in some way.

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QueensDenning
  • Law Student
2 hours ago, Lionel Hutz said:

Imagine being a law student who is so pretentious you look down at people who started at McDonalds and now make more money than average lawyers, all without going to law school. 

Imagine being a law student and being content with the idea of working as a shift leader in McDonalds... It's not pretentious or "looking down" just because you wouldn't want to work in a certain position. I have a whole lot of respect for members of the Canadian military - but there is no chance in hell I'd want to join. Is that pretentious?

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Lionel Hutz
  • Lawyer
7 minutes ago, QueensDenning said:

Imagine being a law student and being content with the idea of working as a shift leader in McDonalds... It's not pretentious or "looking down" just because you wouldn't want to work in a certain position. I have a whole lot of respect for members of the Canadian military - but there is no chance in hell I'd want to join. Is that pretentious?

The point was that you can do any number of entry-level jobs as a starting point for a successful career, not that you should (or should not) be content with the idea of working as a shift leader at McDonalds.

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CheeseToast
  • Law School Admit
12 hours ago, Goblin King said:

more stuff

I agree with all your points, however, I would point out that gov jobs are waaaay easier to get in Ottawa and not everyone can or wants to live there. 

5 hours ago, Lionel Hutz said:

median pay of lawyers is really not that impressive outside the Toronto market

This is wrong.

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Goblin King
  • Law School Admit
13 minutes ago, CheeseToast said:

I agree with all your points, however, I would point out that gov jobs are waaaay easier to get in Ottawa and not everyone can or wants to live there. 

Yeah, being in Ottawa is a huge advantage. That said, prospective lawyers often relocate to Toronto because the pay is higher. Geographic constraints play a role in most job searches. 

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Barry
  • Law School Admit
1 hour ago, Goblin King said:

Yeah, being in Ottawa is a huge advantage. That said, prospective lawyers often relocate to Toronto because the pay is higher. Geographic constraints play a role in most job searches. 

In this case though it's not about higher pay it's about the job existing or not. 

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CheeseToast
  • Law School Admit
28 minutes ago, Barry said:

In this case though it's not about higher pay it's about the job existing or not. 

Good look getting coop with the feds in saskatoon, lol

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Psychometronic
  • Articling Student

Entry-level jobs are valuable for a variety of reasons and I'm glad I had that experience before law school. My point is that you can get these jobs without an expensive undergraduate degree. I also agree with @cherrytree about over-romanticizing climbing the corporate ladder.

And sometimes there aren't many rungs to climb. I basically hit the ceiling at every place I worked before law school (granted, none of them were big corporations). 

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Speaking of entry - level jobs, I worked full - time for several months on and off (collectively over a year) as a food delivery person for skip the dishes.

I'm wondering, should I really put that on my resume that I would send to some law schools that require resumes with applications? I actually feel kind of embarrassed and I fear that the law admissions may draw negative inferences from it.

I never really cared about these things until I was preparing my PS, and after looking at my first draft I thought to myself, "should I really be informing them that I used to deliver pizzas and sushi in my resume and PS?"

Any input would be helpful. cheers

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Barry
  • Law School Admit
27 minutes ago, Thrive92 said:

Speaking of entry - level jobs, I worked full - time for several months on and off (collectively over a year) as a food delivery person for skip the dishes.

Didn't Justice Jamal have his summer job at a book store still on his CV? I would think that it wouldn't hurt your application assuming it's otherwise strong, and it's not taking up space to talk about more relevant things. Might add character to it, or they might just ignore it entirely. I wouldn't leave it out if you're embarrassed about it because there's nothing embarrassing about it, but I would leave it out if you think it's fluff and doesn't connect to why you want to apply. 

Edited by Barry
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Psychometronic
  • Articling Student
29 minutes ago, Thrive92 said:

Speaking of entry - level jobs, I worked full - time for several months on and off (collectively over a year) as a food delivery person for skip the dishes.

I'm wondering, should I really put that on my resume that I would send to some law schools that require resumes with applications? I actually feel kind of embarrassed and I fear that the law admissions may draw negative inferences from it.

I never really cared about these things until I was preparing my PS, and after looking at my first draft I thought to myself, "should I really be informing them that I used to deliver pizzas and sushi in my resume and PS?"

Any input would be helpful. cheers

Excluding parts of your work history might be construed as misrepresentation, which is a big no-no. Be honest about your work history if a resume is required. Entry-level jobs are very, very common among law school applicants (and sometimes their only work history) so don't be embarrassed.

You don't necessarily need to mention it in your PS unless explicitly asked or you think it will help in some way. 

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BlockedQuebecois
  • Lawyer
2 minutes ago, Barry said:

Didn't Justice Jamal have his summer job at a book store still on his CV? I would think that it wouldn't hurt your application assuming it's otherwise strong, and it's not taking up space to talk about more relevant things. Might add character to it, or they might just ignore it entirely. I wouldn't leave it out if you're embarrassed about it because there's nothing embarrassing about it, but I would leave it out if you think it's fluff and doesn't connect to why you want to apply. 

This is a bit different because the judicial application process requires you to disclose all your jobs. It's not a normal application process, and there would likely be problems if you applied while omitting some work (though likely not your summer job). 

For OCIs, your resume should be two pages. The question when deciding to include anything is what is being left off. If you have space and the best thing to fill it with is your skip the dishes gig, you absolutely should put it on there. But if there's something else that space can be used for, you should consider which is more attractive to employers and go with that. 

Just now, Psychometronic said:

Excluding parts of your work history might be construed as misrepresentation, which is a big no-no. Be honest about your work history if a resume is required. Entry-level jobs are very, very common among law school applicants (and sometimes their only work history) so don't be embarrassed.

You don't necessarily need to mention it in your PS unless explicitly asked or you think it will help in some way. 

No reasonable employer is going to view excluding parts of your work history as a misrepresentation. There's no requirement that resumes contain every job you've ever worked. 

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Psychometronic
  • Articling Student
4 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

No reasonable employer is going to view excluding parts of your work history as a misrepresentation. There's no requirement that resumes contain every job you've ever worked. 

It's been a while for me, but don't law schools expect people to sign something saying their application is accurate... or something like that? Might be more of an issue with hiding education history though. 

Edited by Psychometronic
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BlockedQuebecois
  • Lawyer
4 minutes ago, Psychometronic said:

It's been awhile for me, but don't law schools expect people to sign something saying their application is accurate... or something like that? Might be more of an issue with hiding education history though. 

Yes, but that doesn't mean you need to include every job you've ever worked. If you lie and say you did a job you never did, that would be a problem. If you omit a job you did because you want to use the space for something else, that's totally fine. 

ETA: Schools usually do explicitly state that you have to provide all transcripts for all post secondary studies. If, for some reason, a school asked you to provide a list of all employers since high school, then obviously you should do that. 

Barring that, my opinion is that the usual rules for resumes apply. 

Edited by BlockedQuebecois
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Barry
  • Law School Admit
12 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

This is a bit different because the judicial application process requires you to disclose all your jobs.

interesting, didn't know that. 

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AllRise
  • Law Student
15 hours ago, Thrive92 said:

Speaking of entry - level jobs, I worked full - time for several months on and off (collectively over a year) as a food delivery person for skip the dishes.

I'm wondering, should I really put that on my resume that I would send to some law schools that require resumes with applications? I actually feel kind of embarrassed and I fear that the law admissions may draw negative inferences from it.

I never really cared about these things until I was preparing my PS, and after looking at my first draft I thought to myself, "should I really be informing them that I used to deliver pizzas and sushi in my resume and PS?"

Any input would be helpful. cheers

I don't think you should ever be embarrassed of working hard, regardless of the job.

I managed people (hiring and firing) for a few years before deciding to go back to school for Law, and if I saw that job on your resume all it would make me think is that you know how to hustle and that you are independent enough to do what needs to be done to earn a living. 

As far as Law school admissions judging you for your work experience, each interpretation of your application will be as unique as the person reading it so it is really hard to predict. That being said, I included all of my menial part-time jobs that I worked through university because I worked 30+ hours a week during undergrad and I thought it was important for the admissions office to know I didn't have the luxury of focusing entirely on my studies and it affected my cGPA (and I didn't want to talk about why my cGPA was low in my PS, I felt it took up to much room). This was specifically in regards to the section of OLSAS though where they ask about your working history. 

I echo the comments above with regards to resumes. Resumes shouldn't have everything you've ever done on them, they are a medium to put your best foot forward. If you have professional, relevant experience for the role you are applying to that should be what ends up on your resume. If you don't have that, then you put the experience you do have on your resume and tailor your experience bullets to line up with the required skills of the job you are applying for. 

With regards to your PS, I wouldn't treat it like a resume. If you think including your food delivery experience in your PS is something that is important then I would probably focus on highlighting how it demonstrates your character and work ethic or something like that rather than report it simply as working experience. That's just my personal opinion though, PS's are so unique and varying that every approach is different. 

 

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CheeseToast
  • Law School Admit
20 hours ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

Saskatoon has an absurd number of fed jobs. The Sask RDC is one of the biggest federal research centres in Canada. 

We were discussing students with liberal arts backgrounds, not STEM. Do try and keep up!

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BlockedQuebecois
  • Lawyer
8 minutes ago, CheeseToast said:

We were discussing students with liberal arts backgrounds, not STEM. Do try and keep up!

You think government research centres run without the bloated administrative and managerial staff that every government agency has? 

I used to work at a federal research lab and a large portion of our co-op students were non-STEM. 

I thought that would be obvious, but I guess I need to slow it down for you! 

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