Worth going back to school for an accounting degree?

Anyone have thoughts on getting an accounting degree? Lsecondcareerlawyer04/30/12
If it turns out that MS in accounting is a ticket to a decenkeithd04/30/12
@KeithD- Did you ever return to graduate school? I remember mordecai04/30/12
No haven't really looked into it any further.keithd04/30/12
On the other hand, if you get a job in accounting, then thattherewillbeblood04/30/12
Accounting jobs may be boring but at least they offer 9-5 stsecondcareerlawyer04/30/12
" Maybe I can continue getting UE up until the time I get acbigsal05/01/12
Accounting seems boring, but if you like the businessy mathsunfrozenlawyer04/30/12
I'll be honest. I failed the bar b/c I didn't take it seriousecondcareerlawyer04/30/12
Gotcha. Well, I'm glad you passed.unfrozenlawyer04/30/12
I don't know...are you expecting to have a shot at a Big 4 fbutt_hair04/30/12
Oh, I have no intention of joining a big 4. Ideally, I wantsecondcareerlawyer04/30/12
Ok, well I probably don't know any more than you do about thbutt_hair05/01/12
I've looked. Most jobs want people w/2-3 years of experiencsecondcareerlawyer05/01/12
You'd be willing to work as an intern but not as a bank tellbutt_hair05/02/12
I guess I had prestige on my mind but the other factor has bsecondcareerlawyer05/02/12
I am going in for a second interview for a compliance positishouldalearnedmath05/01/12
OP, I've also been contemplating the accounting route for thbchang05/01/12
Thanks for the detailed feedback! My problem is that I'vsecondcareerlawyer05/01/12
Regarding you futures experience, I wouldn't down play it onchimsbadassrevenge05/02/12
Clarification. I was a trader for my own personal account asecondcareerlawyer05/02/12
I donít have much experience with the futures side of thingschimsbadassrevenge05/02/12
I wouldn't do tax. It's supposed to be heavily outsourced inturde05/01/12
This^ Take the CFA level 1 exam instead and fight like hell mordecai05/01/12
Not sure if the CFA is a golden ticket it once was. Congressecondcareerlawyer05/01/12
Here's all you need to know about accounting. http://www.lolcat05/02/12
Don't get an accounting degree unless you plan on selling yoctrlaltdelete05/02/12
Accounting does have the potential to go into "document revidabear05/02/12
You paint a dire picture. But what about accounting w/a taxsecondcareerlawyer05/02/12



secondcareerlawyer (Apr 30, 2012 - 9:12 pm)

Anyone have thoughts on getting an accounting degree?

Legal job market remains brutal. I've done the doc review circuit for roughly 7 months. Not thrilled with the career prospects.

Background:
Graduated 2008 but not admitted until 2011 (repeat bar taker). 2nd tier TTT state school. Top 1/3rd class rank. 2 internships w/state judges. No real legal jobs - just doc review and a short stint w/the census.

PROS:
An accounting degree seems more and more sexy the longer I think about it (who would've thought that 3 years ago?). Accounting = examiner, tax law, compliance, estate planning, etc. opportunities. Dream job is to move into some kind of securities compliance job or other federal/state regulatory agency. They all seem to require accounting backgrounds though.

CONS:
More debt! More time spent in school! Up to 2 years for MS in Accounting.
Time spent studying for GMAT/GRE and writing entrance essays. On the other hand, the English verbal sections of the test seem like a joke to anyone who passed law school.

No way would I do undergrad again. And before anyone asks, LLM = waste of $ as it is easily 3x-4x more expensive than an MS and locks you into law.

Thoughts welcome.

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keithd (Apr 30, 2012 - 9:16 pm)

If it turns out that MS in accounting is a ticket to a decent middle class lifestyle, then go for it. Without any substantive law in your background, 7 months in doc review can easily turn into 7 yrs in doc review, as you are constantly rejected from all but the worst jobs out there. I can't speak to whether accounting is a golden ticket right now, but I do know, from my own personal experience, that the career path you're on just screams "doc review lifer." Try to avoid that if you can.

(Incidentally, why don't you do the degree at night and keep doing doc review during the day? Fewer student loans that way.)

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mordecai (Apr 30, 2012 - 11:14 pm)

@KeithD- Did you ever return to graduate school? I remember you had a thread asking for suggestions..

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keithd (Apr 30, 2012 - 11:16 pm)

No haven't really looked into it any further.

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therewillbeblood (Apr 30, 2012 - 9:24 pm)

On the other hand, if you get a job in accounting, then that means you have to work a job in accounting. Don't really see an upside there.

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secondcareerlawyer (Apr 30, 2012 - 9:33 pm)

Accounting jobs may be boring but at least they offer 9-5 stability, benefits, and a decent work schedule. I'm hard pressed to say the same about law jobs these days that want 3+ years of experience and are paying $18/hr w/no bennies. I was lurking on the compliance board before I posted and it seems the regulatory life ain't half bad. The accounting question I posted is more general though b/c it can be used for stuff outside compliance too like tax law or estate planning.

@keithd, *shudder* at doc review for lifer. I met people at the office like that and well, they are uniformly unhappy. I was doing Foreign language doc review so was better paid than most but even the FL veterans were telling me to get out and not make their mistakes.

I worked long enough to qualify for Unemployment so I'm floating on $400/week. Maybe I can continue getting UE up until the time I get accepted into a program. I volunteer at the law clinic (immigration and divorces) a few times/month since my last doc review ended to keep my hand in the law game.

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bigsal (May 1, 2012 - 4:42 pm)

" Maybe I can continue getting UE up until the time I get accepted into a program."

Why not keeep getting paid while in school? My state allows me to collect benefits while in school as long as I certify that I will drop out if I get offered an acceptable full time gig?

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unfrozenlawyer (Apr 30, 2012 - 9:36 pm)

Accounting seems boring, but if you like the businessy maths, go for it.

You are lucky that you've even gotten document review since you failed the bar 3 times. How did you manage that? ( I mean failing...not getting doc. review)

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secondcareerlawyer (Apr 30, 2012 - 9:46 pm)

I'll be honest. I failed the bar b/c I didn't take it seriously enough. I got admitted into a small state that has reciprocity with a much bigger market and am just waiting until the statutory time to admission tolls.

Passing is all that matters though - I was never asked at a job interview how many times I took the bar.

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unfrozenlawyer (Apr 30, 2012 - 9:57 pm)

Gotcha. Well, I'm glad you passed.

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butt_hair (Apr 30, 2012 - 10:12 pm)

I don't know...are you expecting to have a shot at a Big 4 firm or something? If you think you can land that then your expectations sound reasonable otherwise it sounds like you're trying to take an uncharted career path. What you probably need right now is an accounting-related job. Is there a way you can get into a company's accounting department before going all-in with a masters in accounting? There are some low-paying jobs reconciling cash that could serve as a starting point. The masters could leave you with the same problem you already have, being over-educated but under-experienced.

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secondcareerlawyer (Apr 30, 2012 - 10:38 pm)

Oh, I have no intention of joining a big 4. Ideally, I want to get an accounting related job that uses the law degree - in the aforementioned psuedo-legal regulatory positions like bank examiner,tax, and insurance examiner in a place like CFTC, Treasury, IRS, SROs like FINRA, NFA, and/or exchanges like CME, NYSE,etc. This would be the backdoor to a compliance position *I think.* But I am having second thoughts on the whole thing because of the upfront cost in time and money. I absolutely agree that being over-educated and under-experienced which is why I'm here asking the board for its collective wisdom.

If I could jump in w/o going back to school I would. But all the applications have been rejected specifically b/c a) I don't have enough accounting credits. b) I am not a student (to qualify for student intern program which seems to be the real hiring pipeline).

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butt_hair (May 1, 2012 - 7:55 am)

Ok, well I probably don't know any more than you do about the requirements to get into those "pseudo-legal regulatory positions" you mentioned. I can tell you what my strategy would be to land a compliance position with one of those organizations: I would forget about the accounting and keep applying to ANY job in every company, organization or agency that employs people in the capacity you want to be employed in. Those organizations you mentioned likely have nothing where you can get in on the ground floor so you might have to look toward low-level operations type work in a bank or other financial institution. Have you tried this?

I realize this accounting stuff is already Plan B for you because you've received so many rejections already but it gets so much easier to maneuver once you get a job somewhere.

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secondcareerlawyer (May 1, 2012 - 6:05 pm)

I've looked. Most jobs want people w/2-3 years of experience. Pure entry level positions in accounting/finance seem to be more of the stockbroker trainee type. I have no intention of destroying my friends and families relations by selling life insurance and loaded funds. The other types of entry level work seem to be open only to students in accredited programs - hence the idea of going back to school to qualify as said student population.

I am of course open to all suggestions. After all I do not relish the thought of spending even MORE money and accruing debt in school (again).

What titles should I be searching under? What exactly is a low level operations type work? Bank teller? I've seen those jobs advertised but it seems a big step down - the bare minimum is a GED and a clean record to get the job for barely $10/hr.

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butt_hair (May 2, 2012 - 8:38 am)

You'd be willing to work as an intern but not as a bank teller? I can tell prestige is weighing on your decision which you've already made so I don't know why I bother. You have zero skills to offer anyone so, yes, I would suggest a massive step down for experience. You gotta look for entry level jobs that only require a college degree and sell the HR people on your commitment to get into their business. This is one area where the JD could actually help you down the road when you try to lateral or maneuver within the organization. You're trying to hit a home run when you should be trying to get on base. Pursuing an accounting degree without a job in the business is a poor financial decision with increased risk. I wouldn't do it.

Look to positions with big banks that could have some wiggle room. Here are links to some jobs I had in mind:

https://psh.statestreet.com/psc/HRPRDEREC/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/c/HRS_HRAM.HRS_CE.GBL?Page=HRS_CE_JOB_DTL&Action=A&JobOpeningId=59498&SiteId=2

https://jpmchase.taleo.net/careersection/2/jobdetail.ftl?lang=en&job=1172275&src=JB-13027

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secondcareerlawyer (May 2, 2012 - 1:36 pm)

I guess I had prestige on my mind but the other factor has been that some employers think a JD is overqualified and thus not competitive with the typical applicant pool. That's been the case for other law type jobs I've applied for. I haven't looked into these specific types of positions you've posted so I can't say but I admit my bias has leaked into the search.

Thanks for the links.

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shouldalearnedmath (May 1, 2012 - 10:12 am)

I am going in for a second interview for a compliance position with a retailer. I was looking more at securities compliance, but this one is banking/credit. I'd definitely cast a wide net.

I would second butt_hair's advice below. Just apply for any entry level compliance looking job you can find at banks/large companies. Experience is a major plus for compliance jobs. I had an SEC internship which is probably one of the big reasons I am in the running. Try to spin whatever internships you have into looking like you dealt with detailed regulations.

You can also send cold resumes to banks or funds in your area and tell them you are very interested in compliance and ask for information meetings. Some places have unadvertised openings, and they really want to fill them with people who have a strong interest in compliance.

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bchang (May 1, 2012 - 11:39 am)

OP, I've also been contemplating the accounting route for the last 2-3 years since I got laid off from my law job (fellow class of 08'er here). I've been on the doc review circuit since then, and definitely need an exit plan like you.

Seems like I am drawn to accounting for similar reasons as you are. It's not a complete career change that would render the JD totally useless (such as going into nursing), as there are field where a legal/ accounting background can be quite complementary (and you've mentioned a lot of them). And then as Plan B, accounting as its own job/ profession is pretty solid.

I've done some homework, so I'll share my thoughts and hopefully you find this helpful.

(1) Don't dismiss BIG 4. These firms seem to recruit on campus at basically ANY MACC programm. I'd avoid audit work like the plague (and I doubt people like us would be too competitive for these positions anyways), but there are some solid tax positions with BIG 4 firms. And they've traditionally hired JDs with some accounting/ tax background for these tax positions.

I used to do some M&A/ Tax work in BIGLAW, and what they do in BIG 4 (at least at the junior level) can actually be pretty similar type of work.

(2) If you want BIGGOV (IRS, SEC, etc), I think you need to shoot for a top MACC program. UT Austin, USC, UNC-CH, etc. I believe UT (which is the top program) has on campus interviewing with the large federal agencies. BIGGOV positions are so tough to get that I'd definitely think having that OCI would be a huge boost.

(3) This will segway into (4) below. But I also think you should shoot for a MACC from a large university that also features a pretty well known law school. The 3 schools I mentioned above all fit the bill, I think Michigan, Notre Dame, etc would as well. This will give you a chance to network with some law professors. A lot of professors are douche assholes (esp law profs), but some are super nice and will be open to meeting with a student to discuss various things. If you can find a securities and/or tax professor that would be willing to do this, it could be invaluable. What would be great is if you can land some kind of PT job as a research assistant helping out such professors (you could do it on the MACC side as well).

(4) If you go the MACC route, you are getting a second bite at making the education experience work for you. I definitely failed to do this, I don't know about you (seems like you did a better job than I did at least judging by your internships). But the most successful law students I know had a career goal, set a path to get there, and then did things during law school to add to their resume so that their resume would "tell a story" as to why they are interested and qualified for said positions.

If you are looking for tax and/or compliance type positions, I'd make sure to take advantage of any way you can boost your resume in this regard. Take tons of electives in tax. See if they'll let you take a class or two in the law school and take Sec Reg or some other securities related course like a seminar (this is why I suggested going to a school with an attached law school). See if you can do some research, write a paper on some securities law issue, etc. Network with as many people as you can.

Now, all that being said, I'd still think going back to school should be a last resort option. It is for me, at least. I'd echo what some posters said above about trying to find compliance positions. There was a pretty good thread on JDU a couple months back about compliance, see if you can find it through search. Try to tailor your resume as much as possible to compliance positions. Did you take Sec reg in law school? Mention that on your resume in the Education section.

Me personally, I'm interested in those same type of positions. I'm continuing to just try to apply for those types of jobs as I find openings.

As for accounting, I'm actually taking courses from a community college. I want to get enough credits to sit for (and hopefully pass) the CPA exam. This is obviously a lot less expensive (but also much less prestigious) then getting a MACC. I'm hoping if I can put on my resume that I took accounting courses and that I also passed the CPA exam, that will open up some doors.

Good luck!

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secondcareerlawyer (May 1, 2012 - 5:59 pm)

Thanks for the detailed feedback!

My problem is that I've got a bare bones accounting/finance background - 2 courses in undergrad (both B-) and that was over 10 years ago. There were some tax classes I took in LS like estate planning, gratuitous transfers that I got As in but I completely bombed Fed Income Tax w/a D. That was more the prof's fault than anything since it was her first time teaching and the entire grade rested on 1 multiple choice open book test on the IRC - 100 questions w/literally 6 choices/question. Half the class got C's or worse. That experience dampened my enthusiasm for tax for a few years.

I used to trade before LS. Not sure if that's a point I want to mention on the resume. I ran spreads on commodity futures and equity options - made some money but was ultimately not very successful.

Speaking of schools, what do you think of this program?

http://zicklin.baruch.cuny.edu/programs/graduate/ms/degrees/accountancy

It's a public school so its affordable. At this point in my life (early 30s) I want to avoid accumulating too much debt if at all possible. My LS was a state school too so my financial situation isn't as bad as others who went to a private TTT but $ is still a concern. After all, there are still undergrad loans to payoff (and those were private!).

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chimsbadassrevenge (May 2, 2012 - 9:19 am)

Regarding you futures experience, I wouldn't down play it on your resume. Depending on the position, as I'll explain below, I would mention this along with license holdings (Series 3 I assume) whether they are active or not.

Because of Dodd-Frank, the OTC business is moving to a futures model for clearing. With major OTC dealers (e.g. JPMorgan, BofA, Deutsche, etc) I have seen positions, within their new clearing operations that look for people with futures experience. Sometimes, these listings explicitly mention the Series 3 license or futures experience. I would also expand my search to places like the CME, ICE, LCH (registered clearing houses). They too are looking for people with futures experience.

These positions are usually within the back office (e.g. client on boarding), or other more business roles requiring futures knowledge. This is also a way to spin your legal background too, because these new arrangements require clearing parties to use, if applicable, "give-up" agreements (something you might be familiar with) that will be executed along with ISDA Master Agreements. Making sure these agreements are in place and are properly executed is one of the primary tasks of client on boarding.

Just perform a search with key word such as "derivatives", "futures", "OTC", "Clearing" and see what comes up. Depending on what you do now and your past, you might be able to get your foot in the door, at one of these places

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secondcareerlawyer (May 2, 2012 - 1:44 pm)

Clarification. I was a trader for my own personal account and was never an employee of a brokerage firm or financial institution. Thus, there was never a need to get licensed.

I thought you needed a sponsor or failing that be already employed to take the Series 3 but I just went to the NFA web site and it seems that there's no such requirement! Is it common for job applicants to take these tests? If not then I'll just go on ebay or craigslist to buy a study guide and register for the next test.

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chimsbadassrevenge (May 2, 2012 - 2:28 pm)

I donít have much experience with the futures side of things. Iíve heard you can take the Series 3 without sponsorship but I also have heard differently. On the securities side of things, I almost certain you have to be sponsored.

Even if you could take the exam and pass, the license alone wonít magically open doors for you just as passing a bar exam doesnít automatically open the door to legal employment. It just states that you were competent enough to pass the exam and can do anything the NFA says a Series 3 holder can do. It will benefit you if (1) the position you are looking at requires a Series 3 or is a nice have, and (2) you have other experience applicable to the position.

Rather than pursuing another degree, I would look for more inexpensive ways to build credentials. I saw some people mention the CFA which, compared to pursuing an MS, is a hell of a lot cheaper. However, you need to pass 3 relatively difficult exams and have some qualifying experience before the charter is even awarded. However, showing progress through the program will at least show potential employers that you are competent enough to understand financial concepts and that you are making a commitment to the field. Again, the CFA is not a magic bullet and in certain circles of finance they could care less if you were shooting for it Ė but it is an option.

Thereís also a variant of the CFA geared toward alternative/investment funds. Iím too lazy to look for the link but I think the CFA website has something on it. Itís been around for a few years, but I donít know what weight it carries in the real world. Again, Iím just throwing stuff out there to look at.

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turde (May 1, 2012 - 2:24 pm)

I wouldn't do tax. It's supposed to be heavily outsourced in the next few years. Since audit requires people on site it will not be affected like tax. I posted on several other threads about a MACC being a good idea but it's getting more competitive.

Accounting will probably become the next law/pharmacy in a few years; new programs are popping up everywhere. Best get in now before everyone does.

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mordecai (May 1, 2012 - 5:44 pm)

This^ Take the CFA level 1 exam instead and fight like hell to get a financial services type job.

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secondcareerlawyer (May 1, 2012 - 6:14 pm)

Not sure if the CFA is a golden ticket it once was. Congress/Obama seemed to legislate its relevance (or at least the CFA members think so) lower.

http://www.cfainstitute.org/about/press/release/Pages/03192012_65057.aspx

I have a financial trading background (just not institutional - only individual) and remember 2009-2010 going to job fairs where I met TONS of unemployed, newly minted CFA's. Most seemed to be foreign candidates (especially Indians and Koreans) that required sponsorship to work in the USA. I could be wrong about the scene though.

Now, CFA Level 2 and 3's are a different story. But don't those require years of commitment/work experience at a firm to even take?

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lolcat (May 2, 2012 - 9:13 am)

Here's all you need to know about accounting.

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/cigna_quietly_moves_jobs_to_india_but_not_enough_to_jeopardize_tax_incentiv/

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ctrlaltdelete (May 2, 2012 - 11:13 am)

Don't get an accounting degree unless you plan on selling your soul to one of the big 4 accounting firms for a couple of years and you plan on taking and passing the CPA exam.

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dabear (May 2, 2012 - 3:16 pm)

Accounting does have the potential to go into "document review hell" mode at some point in the near future.

Or more H&R Block type shops open up. That is what I would do. Open a franchise like that. Gear it more to small and medium size businesses. Those kinds of players would be more likely to pay slightly more for accounting services. Focus on the micro businesses and maybe the 5-50 worker traditional small businesses. Big Four for the little people or something like that.

Do accounting if you love it. If you don't try something else maybe.

I was in college from 1999-2003 (yeah, I know I picked a bad time to get in). My first accounting class started in January 2000. And the stock market topped. I got a BBA and everyone was pressured to do the Masters in Accounting. But one of those years there was a masters student or a regular BBA-accounting major who had her job offer rescinded at Ernst and Young or one of those Big Four places. So the downturn hit them too. And she was a good student and I sucked at accounting.

Then, in 2007 I went back to school. Retook my accounting classes and started in the summer of 2007. Yep, the stock market topped again...

I did ok, but applied for an intern ship at an accounting firm (not Big Four, a tier lower) and they never even got back to me. A year later I saw them at a career fair and asked them, hey, I applied for an internship with you guys whats up? They said that they didn't take on any intern that time. Either, one, they were lying, or two, accounting is feeling the forces of gravity too.

... I barely passed Intermediate 1 accounting and corporate tax. Then I took Intermediate 2 and got a D. Retook it. On the first test I got a 10. That didn't work. I failed personal tax, took it again and bombed again. Then gave up. Accounting is tough. Intermediate 1 and 2 are the flush out classes. The tax classes are a pain in the ass. Another class is Governmental Accounting and that just screams clusterf*ck.

... accounting is going to international accounting rules in the next couple of years. That screams major outsourcing and accounting turning into shit law for aspies.

I talked to a accounting prof about possibly going back. Still thinking about it, especially if I can turn it into finance or something (I have my Series 7) but he kept talking about his masters students and if I get this so and so GPA I won't have to take the GMAT to get into the masters of accounting program.

So, more hoops to jump through. I have a bad feeling about the thing.

It might be better than law (MACC vs. JD) but maybe not vastly better. Especially when Americans go full-on southern European mode and just don't pay their taxes. ... if you can find a workable business model for Tax Evasion for the 99%ers then I would go there.

But, accounting and medical are the last two biz "professions" to go down, but the entire "white collar business model" is imploding.

What is the new new thing? I think that hydroponics would be cool. Marketing sounds fun. I think that most business is basically marketing. Internet type stuff. You might have to be self-sufficient. The new business skills will be similar to how to operate a terror cell -- do more with less, do it on the cheap, pay cash, get as small a team as possible, hit and run.

There is no more salvation through credentialism.



da bear

We must make an economy in our own image.

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secondcareerlawyer (May 2, 2012 - 4:01 pm)

You paint a dire picture. But what about accounting w/a tax or forensic focus? The IRS - or failing that, state finance departments - always seem to be in hiring mode. (Non-sexy fields always seem to be hurting for applicants).

Following along this route, do some kind of work-study internship at a tax regulator, put in the 10 years to get Student loan forgiveness and come out to the private sector where you can charge a mint.There's no need for a big law background or LLM anywhere in this picture.

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