Q) I’m a third-year law student (at a T1 school) looking for a job. But the truth is, I don’t really love the law. To be perfectly honest, all I care about is making money. That’s it. It’s not P.C. to say that in public, I know, but my sole professional objective is to make as much as money as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. I don’t so much care about justice, the constitution or the pursuit of happiness. I’m a capitalist. So my question is: What’s the best way for a lawyer to get really rich, really fast? Thanks for your advice.
A) So let me get this straight, Mr. Capitalist. You went to law school to get really rich, really fast? Bad life choices.
The law is hardly a get-rich-quick profession. It’s more of a get-moderately-wealthy-over-time profession. When it comes to amassing cash, lawyers are tortoises. There are, of course, exceptions, but they’re few and far between. Just take a look at the Forbes 400. Not many practicing lawyers on the list.
While there may not be a ton of billionaire lawyers jet-setting around St. Tropez, there are still plenty of incredibly rich lawyers out there. “Plenty,” not “tons.” With that in mind, I offer up the following (potentially) lucrative legal career paths:
These guys aren’t well respected (okay, most consider them to be scum), but if they land a big case, they can make major jack. MAJOR. Like $30-, $50-, $70-million-in-a-year jack. All it takes is one severely flawed pharmaceutical product or a major automotive defect, and boom, you’re rich as hell. It’s a cutthroat business, and not very classy, but if you want to get fuck-you rich in a hurry, this is your best chance.
It’s a tiny, secretive club, but if you crack the code, you can get rich. The key to their financial success is simple: They don’t bill hours, they charge a 5% commission. That means if Will Smith makes 40 million a year, his lawyer makes 2 million. On just Will Smith. If said lawyer has 20 other A-list clients, the numbers can get pretty big, pretty fast. But like I said, it’s a small crowd, and these people don’t like outsiders. You don’t just send a resume and get a job. Trust me. You need to work the Hollywood scene for years and quietly earn “the town’s trust.” (Yes, they really do use phrases like “the town’s trust.”) It’s a crazy, annoying, elitist club, but if you get into the VIP room, you’re looking at making $3-10 million a year.
Equity Partner at Top-Tier White-Shoe Firm
It ain’t easy to make it there, but if you do, you’re looking at $2-7 million dollars a year for about 30 straight years. But there aren’t many firms that pay out that kind of money. I’m talking Cravath, Sullivan, Skadden, Wachtel. And it’s an eight to ten year process to make partner—if you’re a superstar. But if you have elite credentials, like working 80 hours a week and don’t mind throwing away the best years of your life—it’s worth a shot.
But my best advice: Go to Wall Street. That’s where the real money is. Even now.