What Do Law Students Think of FIRE? 

Being a law student is tough.  If you’re looking to go into Biglaw, you don’t know whether you’ll get a job there.  And then you know that most Biglaw attorneys are long gone from that job within 3-4 years.  Then, who knows where you’ll go.  If that’s your desired path, you basically have very little idea what exactly you’ll be doing in 10 years.

Contrast this with students in medical school.  These students have a pretty good idea, depending on their planned specialty, where they’ll be in 10 years.  They even have a decent idea how much they’ll be making based on generally known compensation data for each specialty.

For doctors or engineers, it’s a whole lot easier to plan than for lawyers.  I think this uncertainty plays in, to a significant degree, towards a desire for the security of financial independence.  When I was in law school, I knew people who had the explicit strategy of pulling in the high salaries at Biglaw for a few years, then dropping down to a less prestigious firm and doing the same for a few years, then dropping down to a small regional firm and then maybe solo practicioner.  That journey down the ladder would, they thought, allow them to pay off all their loans and save close to $500,000.  What would happen after that?  Nobody thought that far ahead.

I sort of had this strategy as well, although a major issue when you’re in law school is that you can’t even really imagine what it’s like to be an actual lawyer.  Even after being a summer associate you don’t really know because you don’t understand the work you’re doing and half the time you are doing social events anyway.  But you have a sense, just from looking around, that it’s not going to be great.

Maybe it goes without saying but I think that these factors (uncertainty in career path plus sense that working environment isn’t great) are why many law students were attracted to FIRE even before FIRE was a thing.
What’s it like now?  Anyone?  Bueller?

5 thoughts on “What Do Law Students Think of FIRE? 

    1. I can’t believe I didn’t define it. I guess I’ve been reading too many FIRE blogs. It’s “Financial Independence; Early Retirement”.

  1. FIRE = Financial Independence, Retire Early

    I think you’re right – FIRE is just a catchy way of phrasing the mentality of many law students and young law grads without knowing the principle itself. And like you said, it’s especially relevant if student debt has been incurred. So to answer your question, YES it’s probably more important to law students now than ever! It is for me (a 1L)…

    I’ve wanted to follow the “FIRE” path of my undergrad mentor, who retired by age 30, ever since I met the guy. His Biglaw career was intense and burdensome on his health, but he made his goal of retiring early. Though he certainly didn’t refrain from bragging about it, I’m not sure that he’d recommend it. He’s one who both inspires me and deters me from going into Biglaw. I’ll have to come back and comment in 10 years…

    1. Wow, by 30? I’m not sure how the numbers work for that, particularly with any LS debt. It can obviously help to have a two income household. I’m working on a post showing how much it’s possible to save by the time you’re a mid-level and senior associate.

  2. What’s the attraction of a job that the employee doesn’t really seem to like and plans on leaving from before day 1 (i.e. exit is being planned in law school).

    Doesn’t it make more sense to try and take up a corporate executive / leadership role where the opportunities for upward or lateral moves are much better (also you’re not just simply involved in the time for money trade typified by the billable hour)?

    HH

    Also where are all the FI lawyers anyway, they seem few and far between…

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