Monday, November 20, 2006

It's a Blue Chip Stock

Went for a couple of lawyer-type gatherings over the weekend resulting in much internal reflection.

I'm starting to realise that maybe I did pick the right horse when I decided to get that law degree. Yeah, it's a local degree and everything, and detractors did say I was not going to amount to anything with just a local degree and nothing else to back it up, but that's not true. It's how you use it that really counts. As long as you don't flunk out, and you do bring back a piece of paper at the end of the day, it's pretty much a blue chip stock.

I mean, everyone in my class is well-off now, after just 10 years of work. Not filthy rich, but comfortable enough to buy that big car, big house and fancy lifestyle. And it's only been 10 years!

Examples. Classmate who stayed for 11 years now with the very first law firm she joined. Nobody I know has a particularly good opinion of the firm. Yet with careful savings and tax planning, she's almost regarded as a high nett worth individual.

Another example. Classmate who was a little bit quirky, went overseas to work with less than 5 years' PQE. Now practising in NY, doing very well. Flies business class everywhere.

Last example. Classmate who did not study very much in school, grades were not fantastic. Played a lot of pool. Did not save money after graduation - like the grasshopper who sang all summer while the ant toiled away. Drifted along with the tides, no career planning, just took the next job that came along so long as the pay was marginally higher. Can still buy big house and nice car with current earnings, enjoy nice vacations anywhere, no need to pack self up in a Fedex jumbo box with a sammich in order to travel overseas.

I've got lots of examples, but I'm just amazed. It's like everyone did things their own way and still came out all right. The guys and girls I knew, whom I secretly (or not so secretly) thought were kooks have turned out just fine. The crazy girl in the lecture theatre sitting on the floor and mumbling to herself, who always has a can of Evian spray for her face. The chao mugger who copied all the jokes during the lecture. Even the person whom we thought might actually ... fail. Everyone can buy their own way anywhere now. Who would've thought?

25 Comments:

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At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Ma Chao said...

Really? Now you're making me start to think (just start) about staying on in this profession instead of quitting to become a banker...

 
At 2:15 PM, Blogger HairyDonut said...

No no no no please get out whilst you still can!!!!

Some of my happiest classmates are now bankers.

 
At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this has been debated to death, but i think alot of it comes down to what buying that big house and the big car really means to you. Is this your yardstick for measuring how well a person has lived? Like if they have a big house and a big car with a jet setting lifestyle does that mean they are no longer kooky in their heads?

 
At 3:02 PM, Blogger HairyDonut said...

Well kooky is as kooky does, but I think it's easier to be crazy with a lot of spare cash than with less. Mazlow's hierarchy of needs and all that.

You can indulge your inner crazy a lot better if you have some disposable savings on the side. Otherwise how?

Definitely money doesn't bring happiness but it does bring a measure of comfort. I always was a little bit more concerned about whether I'd be able to make ends meet when I started working, and it's good to know that I'm capable of doing better than just that.

Ma Chao: I should've made myself clearer. The law degree is a means to an end. It can be a banker end. But the point is, that you got eligible for the banker job coz of the legal PQE and the degree.

 
At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

do you think it's worth it?

you know, you working so hard, and having less time for yourself, yet you get all that money?

just curious. =p

 
At 4:27 PM, Blogger HairyDonut said...

This one cannot be helped. If you pick a career where you earn fees based on time spent, then you have no choice but to put in the time.

It's referred to as low time leverage. You cannot leverage very much off a small intense burst of effort or someone else's time. That's some other career, e.g. banker/ author/ businessman.

 
At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Ma Chao said...

Well, we're not talking about living the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but it costs so much to buy a home (even a modest one) and raise a family these days. And GST just got raised to 7%, you know!

Smoot: thanks very much for the tips!

How much PQE do you think is enough before one makes the switch?

And do banks have a preference for PQE in particular fields (e.g. corporate as opposed to banking)?

Thank you! :)

 
At 9:17 PM, Blogger the VirginPornStar said...

The parental unit are very keen for me to study Law next year, but I've decided to go along with political science instead. Law is fine with me, it's one of my best subjects in fact but I really want to study political science.

Perhaps ten years from now I'll be kicking myself for not taking Law.=)

 
At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Ma Chao said...

Oops, my bad. That was supposed to be "e.g. corporate / banking as opposed to litigation"?

I'm in liti now. Trying to figure out if I should get out. I do like the work, but marketability (or lack thereof?) is a concern.

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger HairyDonut said...

Ma Chao: I'm not sure if the banks have any preference for any particular area of practice with regard to lawyers switching to banking. Liti lawyers are generally regarded as more aggressive, but in any case, you'd probably be asked to do a personality test.

Everyone will have a different view of whether you are too young/ too old. Frankly, on the assumption that you are going to be working for about 30 years, do you think PQE of a few years makes you too old to switch? I don't. Why don't you look at your annualised salary, compare it to starting pay of a banker, and if that's still comparable or the banker's pay is higher (more likely) then it's fine to switch.

VPS: I'm not sure what you'd be able to do with a PS degree - it's regarded as a general degree - and your parents may be thinking that you'll have a more comfortable life with a law degree. Actually, there are arts components in a law degree, and you could pick PS as your arts component. I did that. Got a B for PS and quite enjoyed the course. Have never been able to use what I learned for work, altho it was easier to understand the news after that.

 
At 7:59 PM, Blogger the VirginPornStar said...

I was thinking if I did the PS degree, I could major in political economy and politics and international relations. I have about three weeks before I have to tell the uni what I want, I need to think about it first. You're right though, doing Law will possibly guarantee a more comfortable future, PS is just uncertain ground.

 
At 6:12 PM, Blogger HairyDonut said...

I guess we all have our preferences. I picked a course where I could see a direct career path, with a salary that was commensurate with the course fees. It was directly in line with my Fear Of Not Being Able to Make Ends Meet. I might not be the best person to comment on whether PS or law is better since I don't know anything about a direct career path for a PS grad.

 
At 9:49 PM, Blogger expat@large said...

If all the lawyers were lined up from here to the moon...

...it would be a good thing.

 
At 10:10 AM, Blogger ene said...

I had a chat with a friend along similar veins over dinner one evening. We were ex-classmates at school and was wondering whatever happened to everyone. And like you pointed out, even though we all took rather different paths in life, we are pretty much at a similar place right now.

It got me thinking: So why all that stressing over PSLE and O levels results then?!

Tsk.

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger gremlin said...

you mean you actually spend the time to charge the cost? I always charged the cost based on what time I thought it oughta take to do the work - but do it in record time so there's coffee chat time. thot everyone worked that way ;p

 
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