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I will soon be entering law school and have always wanted to be a prosecutor but have second thoughts after looking at how small the salary is. It isn't an issue of not getting rich, its an issue of whether I will be able to pay off loans and live somewhat comfortably. How are y'all able to live off of 55k and pay off law school? I know police officers with just a high school diploma that make more than that. Is the job really worth it? I read a US News article that claimed up to 75% of attorneys are unhappy and regret going to law school. Do prosecutors usually fall into that depressing category?
I know its a lot of question but I feel that actual working attorneys are the best source for my decision versus just reading studies.
Somehow we all make ends meet and pay off our loans. We even manage to raise families in the mean time. And I would bank that prosecutors have some of the highest job satisfaction in the profession. I've been on both sides; I started out in private practice. I have never looked back.
Congress is currently considering a loan payback program for law students that take public service jobs as prosecutors or public defenders. You should write your congressman and ask for his or her support.
Both were considered choices--after other employment experience for over five years. Before you set out, though, make sure each is really what you want to do. If they are what you want to do and you set about them with the proper mindset, things (such as finances and satisfaction) should all work out and you should not have regrets. At this stage, pre-law school, you certainly do not have to commit to prosecution. Once you have tasted it, however, nothing else might be as fulfilling--witness those who transfer from civil and defense work (while acknowledging that many attorneys go the other ways too). Good luck.
[This message was edited by JAS on 04-01-07 at .]
[This message was edited by JAS on 04-01-07 at .]
I've seen prosecutors get burnt out, but I've also heard fewer civil attorneys wax rhapsodic about how fulfilling their job is.
If life is permitting you to attend law school and you can make it happen--don't let your opportuniy to go to law school pass you by. Money is secondary to achieving your life's ambitions.
I'm kind of ol' school in my approach to getting along in life. Do what you truly love to do and the rest will fall in place. If your passion is to get your JD and become a prosecutor, press on and don't look back.
We need good prosecutor-minded folks willing to make their stands and become future leaders in the criminal justice arenas we live and work.
I don't even know you, but you got my vote of confidence. Nothing worth having comes easy! Best to you.
Thanks for the input. I'm actually attending a regional police academy right now and will be TCLEOSE certified in a few months. I have always wanted to either be a police officer or a prosecutor but it seems that since I'm 22 now it is the best time for me to pursue that JD. I just don't want to fall into the BigLaw trap because of student loans. A family friend wanted to do prosecution work but fell for the $145,000 first year salary because he had $100k worth of loans to pay back.
Also.. does the law school attended and class rank matter as much for employment as a prosecutor?
Congratulations on being accepted to law school!
Those in both criminal prosecution and civil government law seem happier than many who are in, as you say, BigLaw situations. But, as you correctly point out, if you graduate with $100K in debt, you limit your options. Since you are already thinking ahead and see the problem (which many don't, until it is too late), take the next step and live economically in law school, keeping your loan debt as low as possible. Believe me, when you are repaying a lot less than those who lived it up in law school, you will be very glad you did. When asked, I always suggest that law students not work that first semester, or for the entire first year if they are having trouble catching on. But second and third year present some work opportunites and fellowships that are worth pursuing, both for resume fodder and because they can keep your debt load reasonable. Dont' be afraid to borrow what you need but don't fall into the trap that so many do, borrowing lavishly on the expectation of a great salary. A little restraint now will make you much happier when the bills come due. Believe me.
As to the law school and your standing -- standing in law school opens doors to some law firms (if you already have a firm or office you want to work for, and everyone there is from one school, it matters), but it also opens doors to opportunities in law school, some of which can be financially beneficial. After that, it usually matters only in getting that first job. As I tell my law students, after the second day on your first job, all anyone wants to know is whether you can perform the job. By your second job, if you have been diligent your reputation will matter more than the rest.
It seems like most of the fun jobs--being a cowboy, being a prosecutor, being a carnival worker come to mind--don't pay that well. If you want to make the long bucks, be a tax attorney. But they've never made a TV show about a tax attorney, and there is a reason for that.
I once ran into a Harris Co. ADA who was thinking about leaving the office to go into civil work. He said that with the advent of female attys, the DA's Ofc. there had become populated with mid-level female ADA's who were happy with their situation, and stayed for years, whereas in the past, when it was almost all male, many more would leave for greener pastures, thus creating opportunities for newbies to move up.
He was very reluctant to make the move, however. He said he had observed a number of experienced prosecutors move into the civil law side, and in almost every case they were excited by their new job for about 6 mos., and then they found the routine deadly dull. Many wanted to come back, he said. He said civil lawyers who had never prosecuted were not so dissatisfied as former ADAs, because they didn't know any better.
We had a fellow in our office who left his law firm in Corpus, where he was a named partner, to be an ADA in our little rural DA's Ofc. He was totally burnt out on civil law, and was doing very little work by the time he left. He LOVED prosecuting. I'd hear him talking on the phone with his old buds back in Corpus, and he'd always say, "I'm busy fighting crime with both hands!"
But, he was very wealthy by the time he came to us. He bought a ranch outside of Cuero, and he was partners in a trucking business. His ADA's salary was the least of his income. His bank took him and some of their other big customers on a quail hunt on the King Ranch, and he took me along. I got to meet the kind of people banks invite on quail hunts on the King Ranch. It was another world from what I knew. The most my bank ever gave me for being their customer was a key chain.
As far as the choice between law enforcement and prosecution--that is a hard call. I've often wondered if I shouldn't have been a cop. There are so many areas you can get into, and so many new things to learn. But it seems like cops are even more expendable for political reasons than ADA's. But one advantage they have is that they are geared for rather early retirement. You could stay on a force for 20 years, and then be an ADA, and drawing retirement to boot. It's an idea.
i'd recommend carny over lawyer any day of the week. and carny is a step up from roustabout, so you got that goin' for ya'.
i fear the black hat.
You know what they say about carnival workers...you could clear a lot of open cases by rounding them up when they come to town. Maybe even run their CCHs and risk a lawsuit for invading their privacy.
As for me, never having been accepted into law school and never even being allowed to run the Tilt-A-Whirl for that matter, my prosecutor from down in Brazoria County probably thinks I'd be better suited to cleaning spittoons, except I might not be smart enough for that job right off. Right Phil?
I was in your shoes a couple years ago, except I'm much older than you and have had a few jobs to help along my decision. One of those jobs was a police dispatcher. I can tell you that a lot of police officers do not like their job. They wished they had done something else. So, if you really want to be a prosecutor, go to law school. You can always resort back. Or, you can become an officer and go to school part time and get the best of both worlds. My college adviser went to law school and then, after he graduated, became a police officer. He later used the law degree to be an attorney and then a Prof. So anything is possible.
I thought long and hard about the debt I am accumulating. I knew the salary I would be looking at coming out as I checked all the numbers. If you have no debt other than student loans, and no family, it is easily done on a prosecutors salary. Unless of course you want to be rich, which with your job options I can see is not an issue for you. Last year they created grad plus loans which are lower interest than private loans and the loan companies even helped out by consolidating private loans. So now it is even easier to handle the loans.
If you really want to be a prosecutor, don't let the debt stand in your way. But, make sure it's what you really want first.
I second what everyone else is saying. Live economically, pursue what you love, and the money will take care of itself. Don't go to an expensive private law school! You're posting here so I assume you're in Texas; stick with whatever school is least expensive and gives you the most aid. For me that was UT. Also consider working for the courts when you're fresh out of school, I believe they have a loan payback program already.
Do NOT go into law enforcement for the money! (ha ha) I was married to a cop, I've been lucky enough to have cops as friends, and even the ones who love the work don't feel they make enough to justify the sacrifices. I suppose it's the same for prosecutors-- very few of us feel like we are paid as much as we're worth, but we do it nonetheless because we are satisfied with our work. And we don't risk our lives every day, either.
If you have questions about this career path and how some have addressed these challenges, feel free to contact me.
georgette.oden (at) oag.state.tx.us
Office of the Attorney General
Not all prosecutors make 55,000. I only make 45,000. I have student loans in the 80,000s. It is worth the struggle to pay them just for the satisfaction I take home every day.
I was in law enforcement for 17 years, and was even a chief of police. Law school came at 40 years of age, after I had saved sufficient funds so that I didn't have to take a loan. I've never looked back, and can honestly say that the second half of my life has been far more satisfying that the first. The key is to plan what you want, work toward that end, live frugally, and it will happen. With respect to grades, the better the student, the more available are grants to help with expenses. And tell your family that you'll be back from the law library in 3-4 years.
You can easily graduate from law school without $100K in debt if you go to the right school [read: state school]. If money is a huge issue, do what it takes to get into a state school - Tech is infinitely less expensive than South Texas, and you can live in Lubbock on the cheap alot more easily than you can in Dallas or Austin. Truly consider your options - making excellent grades at a less expensive school (though perhaps not as illustrious) that allows you to remain unemployed for the duration of law school and also allows you to participate in moot court, mock trial etc., may set you up for better jobs than making mediocre grades at a more expensive school. Also, don't think that you can go to a more expensive school your first year and then transfer to a cheaper state school for your second year - many private schools have, ahem, structural obstacles that make it almost impossible to do that.
As you grow older (much older) you will find that wearing a white hat makes for a more sound (and satisfying) sleep at night!
Thank you for the responses. Upon entering law school I will have my peace officer's license so hopefully I will be able to work as a reserve officer. However from what I have been told that doesn't seem very feasible considering the workload. Right now, I have no idea what to expect regarding law school.
I just graduated from a big twelve university with a BA in psychology and was able to have quite a bit of free time to stay involved in activities I enjoyed such as student government. Is the workload during law school as great as most people make it out to be?
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