I get a few questions from the Navy Nuke Community that tend to repeat themselves. One of those questions is, “Should I go to Law School after the Navy?” or “Could you advise my son/daughter who is thinking about going to Law School?”
I have composed several long emails on this topic over the years and I think it’s time I just made a post on NavyNukeJobFinder.com so that you will have a resource to consider before you take the plunge.
I’m going to make a few assumptions in answering this question. I’m going to assume you are a Navy Nuke or an ex-Navy Nuke. That means you are probably in the top 10% of the entire world as far as intelligence goes. And you have excelled in every academic program that you have encountered.
This is who I am answering this question for. If you somehow found this website and you are not a member of the Navy Nuke community, this post will still be helpful to you, but you might seek the advice of someone who knows more about your background than I do.
I only ask one favor: Make no judgment about me or about the validity of this article until you read the paragraph titled “DISCLAIMER.”
Should Navy Nukes Go To Law School or Become Lawyers?
The Short Answer is…No. Let’s just start with the assumption that for you, going to Law School and becoming an attorney is not a good idea.
Chances are, if you are even entertaining the thought of going to Law School, there is no way I (or anyone else) will be able to talk you out of it anyway. But it’s good to be forewarned.
Quantity of Competition and Strength of Competition
Aside from practicing law, I also build websites, get them ranked on Google, and collect money as people click on ads or purchase affiliate products from me. You have probably seen one of my websites on the Facebook page.
One of the easiest ways to make money with websites is to find a keyword that 1) very few people are trying to rank for (like concealed carry guns), and 2) that the people who are ranking for that particular keyword, are not doing it in an optimal way. (Quantity of Competition and Strength of Competition).
These kind of keywords are hard to find, but when you find them (assuming they have a high commerciality) it is relatively easy to make money by building a website around said keyword and then just waiting for the traffic to find you as people search for these keyword phrases on google.
What does that have to do with being an attorney?
Well…it is important for 3 reasons:
1) The need for attorneys is shrinking,
2) The number of people entering the profession is growing (quantity of competition), and
3) The people who enter Law School are some of the smartest people in the world (strength of competition). Let’s take a look at each of these aspects.
The Demand for Attorney’s Is Shrinking
Ever hear of legalzoom.com? Ever hear of Geo-Arbitrage? Ever hear of India? Ever hear of the internet? Attorneys are slowly being replaced by technology. Do you have some kind of legal research you need to have done? You could hire an attorney to do it at $300 per hour, or you could get on elance.com and find someone in India, who went to a U.S. Law School, who has a J.D. and an LLM (an advanced law degree), and simply have them do your research for $15/hour. And they will provide charts and spreadsheets. I know this because I’ve done it.
Lawyers used to have all the information. We were the gatekeepers. There are no more gatekeepers. That’s not entirely true, but the gatekeepers don’t have as much power as they used to and they are being phased out. Information is free, or can be purchased for much less than $300/hour. Welcome to the new world.
Nobody will outsource your Nuke skills to India. And the internet is capable of doing a lot of things, but it will not make your nuclear training obsolete. America is exporting our legal billable hours to technology and to India and or China. We are IMPORTING experienced engineering professionals. Do you understand that? We are IMPORTING engineers!
The Number of People Entering the Profession is Growing
This might actually be a lie. I don’t know if it is technically true…it just feels that way when you are applying for a job. I graduated Law School in the Spring of 2010. Luckily, I knew someone who knew someone. Many of my friends didn’t know anybody and they spent the next year looking for employment…in Houston, one of the largest legal markets in the country.
Because I knew someone who knew someone, I lucked into an extremely excellent job working in an industry that I still work in today. I did a ton of networking in law school and one of the 100s of people that I networked with was able to help me get a job. Most of my peers were not so lucky.
And several of the attorneys I went to Law School with are not actually employed by the law firms that they work for. They are contractors. They are hired guns. Mainly because the work that they are currently working on could dry up tomorrow and the firm doesn’t want to be stuck paying unemployment benefits. The work outlook is not strong enough for many firms to justify taking on full time salaried employees. It’s safer to hire contractors.
You don’t have to pay any benefits to contractors, no medical, no dental, no retirement, just an hourly wage. In some ways this can be beneficial to the attorney, but do you know any contract nuclear reactor operators?
Contributing to this is the fact that the job market is flooded with new attorneys who are eager and willing to work as contractors because they can’t find any other kind of work.
And the entire time that these guys were looking for work, that Summer another class of new attorneys entered the job market, then that Fall another class of new attorneys entered the job market, then that Spring another class of new attorneys entered the job market…
The legal job market does not need (can not support) all these new lawyers.
Strength of Competition
A lot of what I’m about to write is going to sound very cliche, especially to anyone reading this who may actually be in the legal profession. If you are a Nuke and you decide to go civilian nuke or you decide to go into the engineering field you are going to be competing against 2 types of people.
If you go Nuke you will, for the most part, be competing against other Nukes. More than likely you have already demonstrated your ability to do this successfully. On the flip side, you may not want to spend the rest of your life taking CTEs, working rotating shift work, and worst of all…working with Senior Chief every day.
If you find yourself competing against Navy Nukes, then you should keep in mind that there are very few Navy Nukes in the world, and there are unlimited number of jobs hungry for Navy Nukes.
If you decide to go into some other engineering field that is not filled predominantly with Navy Nukes, then you will find yourself also competing against the average American College student. We should all be so lucky.
Now lets assume that you decide to go to Law School. Did your parents groom you from birth to be a lawyer? Are your mom and dad attorneys? Did you grow up at the dinner table talking about case law and debating statutes? These are the people who are in the top 10% at law school. The top 10 percenters are the lawyers you read about and see on television. These are attorneys who have guaranteed jobs, who are making 6 figures for their first job out of law school. These are the lawyers who make doctor money. And for most of them, it’s not only their first job out of law school, it’s their first job period.
That’s the top 10 percent of the law school class, that’s really your only competition, because the bottom 90% is left fighting for the scraps of the legal profession, hoping to just be able to make engineer money.
At this point if you are the typical Nuke, those last few paragraphs acted more as a motivator than anything else because now you are hell bent on proving that you can not only compete against these guys, but that you can dominate law school. Good luck. Maybe you are one of those top 10 percenters. You have been to several academic programs and you have been in the top 10 percent so far. Law School is different. Law School is where all the top 10 percenters go to compete against each other. So sure, you’re in the top 10 percent, but are you in the top 10 percent of the top 10 percent? There is a 90% chance that you are not (my math may be wrong here but you get the point).
I’m not writing this to say that you are not smart enough to go to law school or that you are not good enough to compete with the typical person who goes to law school. What I’m trying to say is that it will be a lot easier for you to compete against the average college student and the same Navy Nukes that you have already spent several years competing against, then it will be to compete against the top 10 percent of the top 10 percent. And the rewards aren’t any greater in either profession.
All of the above are true and valid points if and only if you do not absolutely LOVE the legal profession.
There are some people who have spent their entire life wanting to be an attorney. As a child they dreamed of being an attorney. There are some people who want to be an attorney the way other people dream of being an astronaut, or a Navy SEAL, or a race car driver.
If you are one of these people, then go to Law School. If you love it, if it’s in your heart, then go get it and don’t listen to anyone who tries to discourage you.
I spent 4 years in Law School (the night program was four years instead of three), and I didn’t meet one such person. People go to Law School for the wrong reasons.
Chances are, you don’t love it. How do I know this? Because there are much easier ways to get to Law School then through the Nuclear Power Pipeline.
If you just finished your stint in the Nuclear Power Pipeline and now you are looking for a way to make a lot of money, being a lawyer is not the best or easiest way for you to achieve this goal. And…most lawyers don’t make as much money as you think they do.
And here’s a newsflash for you. THEY DON’T TEACH YOU HOW TO MAKE MONEY IN LAW SCHOOL!
If your only reason for going to law school is that you want to make a lot of money, instead of devoting the next 3 years of your life to learning the law, devote the next 3 years of your life to learning how to make money.
You were operating Nuclear Reactors in your early twenties, surely you can figure out how to make money.
The most important question you need to ask yourself before deciding to go to Law School is why do I really want to go to Law School?
You should wrestle with that question.
Law School is extremely demanding. It takes an emotional toll on you. It takes a physical toll on your body. My back and neck have never recovered from Law School.
The profession itself is extremely demanding. For lack of a better word, it is tedious. I can tell you with complete confidence that the day to day life of an attorney is no more glamourous and no less glamourous than being an engineer.
If being an attorney isn’t in your heart and soul, if it’s just about the money, then everything you have to go through to be a successful attorney is not going to be worth it.
During my last year in Law School I took a class called Attorney Communications. It was an easy A and all we had to do was stand up and tell a story every class period. I took as many of these kind of classes as I could because they were the only class that I could get an A in (other than Torts, but I had a good outline for that one).
Anyway, one of our assignments was to get up and tell a story about our dream job. There were 8 people in that class, and not one of us told a story about being an attorney. Eight law school students, who were sacrificing time, and money, and LIFE to be in Law School, and not one of us wanted to be an attorney. That’s insane. I can assure you that several of those guys are still paying off their student loans and don’t even want to be attorneys.
You Should Go To Law School If…
If you are a smart person there can be a lot of social pressure to do something like go to law school. A lot of people find themselves in law school because society told them that they needed to make a lot of money and either had to be a doctor or a lawyer to do it, or because their parent’s expected them to do something like go to law school or medical school because they made good grades in public high school, or they find themselves in law school because it’s easier than med school, or they find themselves in law school because they have a sociology degree and no marketable skill and don’t know what to do next.
These are all the wrong reasons to go to law school. I went to law school for one of these reasons. Luckily it worked out for me. I don’t know if I would do it the same way if I had it to do over again. Life is short. Life is freaking short.
You should go to law school if you want to be a lawyer the way other people dream of being an astronaut.
You should go to law school if you want to be a lawyer the way other people dream of being a Navy SEAL.
You should go to law school if you want to be a lawyer the way Taylor Swift wanted to be a country music star.
If you are one of these people, then I sincerely want you to go to law school. I encourage you to go. I want you to go no matter the cost.
You should not go to law school because you have something to prove.
You should not go to law school because you want to make a lot of money.
That’s about all I have to say about that.
Drop me a comment if you still have unanswered questions and I will do my best to answer them.
Here is some required reading for you:
And finally, there are some books that I like to refer to as before and after books. I call these before and after books because there is the way my life was before I read this book and the way my life was after I read this book.
One such book is The Four Hour Work Week. A lot of the practical advice in the book is somewhat outdated (Google adwords), but all of the theory and all of the principles in the book are timeless and current. I have always believed that if you learn the principles you can choose any method.
The Four Hour Work Week was written by Tim Ferriss and he has a lot of new or different ideas about how we treat work, career, and life in the U.S. I wish I would have read this book in 1995 before I ever enlisted in the Navy, but the book wasn’t published until 2007ish, some 6 years after I left the Navy, and I didn’t read it until 2008, two years into Law School.
A word of caution, if you are currently in law school or currently in love with your career, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK, it’s too late for you anyway.
As a final thought, if you are still on the fence about whether you should go to Law School or not, then I ask that you read this book.
Click here to buy The Four Hour Work Week on Kindle.
Click here to buy The Four Hour Work Week on hardcopy.
Yes those are affiliate links and I will get a ridiculously small commission if you order the book from those links so don’t click them if you want to buy the book but would rather that I don’t make a commission off of your purchase.
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