Over 40 and Considering Law School?

If you’re a mature individual and you’re thinking about pursuing an advanced degree, there are things you should consider prior to taking the LSAT and enrolling in law school.

I was 37 when I entered the law school’s five-year extended-evening program. I worked full time for my employer the first two years, then landed a clerk position with a large municipality in its Labor & Employment Section. I worked there for four years, took an eighteen month diversion then clerked for eighteen months for a labor arbitrator before passing the Bar Exam in 2008.

Though my hope was to practice labor and employment law with the municipality, opening my own practice was the only realistic option. The municipality was not hiring, but laying off attorneys at the time I graduated. When I did reply to a couple positions that opened, I lacked the experience for the first then the city lacked the approved funding to fill the second. Law firms were not an option. Classmates who had graduated with me that were of the same age or older were not being hired by firms. My guess is that this is because law firms demand such a high level of life commitment that it is viewed people our age would not adapt well. I know I could not.

I shadowed a friend in his court appearances representing criminal defendants, and joined the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM). CDAM’s semi-annual conference includes a special day-long seminar for new attorneys on how to practice criminal law in Michigan, which provided me with the necessary skills and information to practice this area of law.

Almost all of my clients are appointed to me through Macomb County. I receive about 2-3 cases every 4-6 weeks. I’ve met some interesting people, involved in interesting situations, and at times I’ve had to meet them in jail. I’ve been able to expand my practice into the employment area, where I’ve picked up a couple cases, one of which is set for trial in the coming months.

With large and small law firms and entities not hiring, if you are a mature individual considering a law degree, realize that it is very likely that you will have to practice on your own once you pass the Bar Exam, with payments of student loans in the $100K range coming due as you begin your practice.

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