DD undecided - Law or Engineering -

(75 Posts)
hattymattie Thu 20-Dec-12 14:08:58

My daughter is absolutely stressed about what she should study - she would be a great lawyer but also is looking at engineering on the advice of her dad who is a civil engineer. She's not sure what branch of engineering she should look at and also how women get on in this male dominated profession. I would be particularly interested in anybody's experience - their degree, career path, whether they enjoy/regret their career.

Thank you - I know there is a shortage of engineers and too many lawyers so this may be a more sensible option if she enjoys the subject matter.

Good, not god.

blueshoes Sat 22-Dec-12 11:12:57

Just to correct some popular misconceptions about the law ...

Herethere is absolutely right. Lawyers are problem solvers par excellence. They solve other people's problems. They put transactions together. It is not all litigation. In fact, in the City, it is only 20-30% litigation. Most of it is transactional work, like M&A, Finance, Intellectual Property, Employment, Antitrust. And yes, if money were the sole object (which I am sure it is not), lawyers earn very little for the hours they put in compared to investment bankers, hedge fund managers and top entrepreneurs.

When I made the comment about lawyers being better conversationalists, it was slightly tongue-in-cheek. Words are a lawyers' trade, and lawyers have a witty and nuanced way with words that IMO other professions do not. I suppose if I spoke a lawyer at the schoolgate, they could be as boring as anyone else. But when talking to a lawyer in a professional context, well, it is an instant subtle connection. Perhaps I am only referring to City lawyers or to the City in general.

I don't agree about engineers necessarily contributing a lot more to society. Lawyers put things together too and fix things up. If no one thought lawyers contributed anything but were just sucking the life out of society, then one would have thought they'd be found out by now and no one will continue to pay lawyers the big bucks. When companies are on their knees, they go to their lawyers (general counsel, external) and practically bet the ranch on their lawyers getting them out of their mess, whether it is a debt restructuring, sale, regulatory problem, massive litigation or arbitration. It is great fun with lots of drama and real life issues ... just not the sort you talk about at the schoolgate.

Maybe it just boils down to whether the OP's dd prefers working with words or with (I dunno) sums/drawings ...

Anifrangapani Sat 22-Dec-12 11:21:08

In my sector we could not function without lawyers or engineers. Both are very well paid but both put in really long hours and work to very tight deadlines. I would advise go with her heart. You spend a lot of time at work and it seems a lot longer if you don't enjoy it.

Pantomimedam Sat 22-Dec-12 11:23:35

blueshoes, lawyers get paid by the hour so they have a powerful incentive to drag stuff out for as long as they can get away with. Hardly conducive to problem solving. It's a pretty fundamental flaw in the whole legal process in this country, tbh.

'Snide' remarks - what, like claiming lawyers are better conversationalists than everyone else? hmm

I've read some incredibly badly written documents drafted by lawyers in my time - just being a lawyer doesn't make someone good at communication. Or grammar or spelling, it would appear.

There are clever, amusing lawyers who do contribute to society and I like to think my friends fall into that camp. But there are clever amusing people in every occupation.

blueshoes Sat 22-Dec-12 11:37:37

Panto, I don't know about high street lawyers. Maybe you are right. But in the large commercial law firms, lawyers' clients (some are engineers?) are every bit as sharp, if not sharper commercially, than lawyers.

In the City, hourly billing is under enormous pressure. Of course clients prefer to cap fees, but the nature of the work, like for litigation, makes it difficult to estimate the amount of time. For transactional work, lawyers have to give a fee estimate which will be difficult to depart from. They have to discount a lot of their hourly bills. Many fee deals nowadays build in a big discount if the transaction does not go through, so lawyers take the risk of a deal cratering.

There is nothing enshrined in the law that it must be hourly billing. It is all contractual and what you agree with your lawyer.

Snide to one person is tongue-in-cheek to another, depending on your perspective and agenda. I don't have many dealings with engineers, except a little with the structural engineer for our house. Of course there will be clever and amusing engineers. I never said there weren't.

wanderingalbatross Sat 22-Dec-12 11:48:55

As an Engineer, I like to talk to other engineers because they often have a straightforward analytical concise way of talking and thinking about things that makes a lot of sense to me smile

But, I was heavily involved in patents in my last position, and found that there is a lot of overlap in the type of thinking needed for the legal side of things.

And finally, I was thinking about my uni friends who now practice law. I think that only 1 out of about 10 actually studied law. The others studied a wide range of other subjects. And a lot of my engineering co-students now work in finance! Universities often publish stats about the destination of their graduates, which might be interesting reading to give a good idea of career options.

blueshoes Sat 22-Dec-12 12:00:04

Wanderingalbatross: "As an Engineer, I like to talk to other engineers because they often have a straightforward analytical concise way of talking and thinking about things that makes a lot of sense to me"

Totally agree this also applies to lawyers which explains the overlap in thinking between lawyers and engineers you describe. The most respect I had for a client (in terms of their ability to negotiate a commercial contract across the table) was for a client who was a German engineer! He could have been a lawyer, which is high praise or not, depending on how you see it.

Neither profession boxes you into doing what you trained at university. The analytical and problem solving skills of both professional are eminently transferrable.

hattymattie Sat 22-Dec-12 12:22:04

Thank you everybody - lots of interesting ideas like patent law and actuaries. The message I think we're getting is that you needn't feel boxed in by your degree. Also good to know that both engineers and lawyers seem, on the whole, to love their jobs.

She has looked at the Headstart Training Taster courses - unfortunately most of them overlap with the end of term in the French school. It was a great idea.

I think at the moment we're looking at general engineering with possibly law training afterwards. This thread is really helpful - it's interesting to see the career paths people have followed.

FreyaKItty Wed 26-Dec-12 21:13:22

I know an engineer who also got a law qualification. He has moved into mediation conflict resolution in large engineering projects such asocial exploration. He has to travel a lot though. There are consultancy firms who specialise in this type of thing.

Xenia Thu 27-Dec-12 20:00:37

Let it not be a bun fight between lawyers and engineers. They are both good careers. I often give talks to engineers and always tell them at the start they make good audiences as they tend to be very bright. Many of them are a bit fed up that top lawyers are likely to earn £500k to £1m+ a year and engineers are very very unlikely to make that - there is a massive pay difference which of course does notmatter to most people but it can rankle with some engineers I've known, in some cases so much they retrain to be lawyers.

If she does an engineering degree she can still go into law later but has to do another year of study which may or may not be funded by a law firm but it would have to be a very good degree from a very good university. If she might only be able to do engineering at an ex poly and scrape a 2/2 then law later would not be an easy move. One of my daughter's friends read engineering at Oxford or Cambridge although I cannot remember what she now does (not law).

She should have a think about what she wants to earn, what sort of life she wants to lead (there are many happy engineers and lawyers, not just miserable ones) and what subject she will enjoy studying for 3 years. Also be tactical. I think my daughter would not have got in where she got had she done law for her first degree and in part got the law job she got because of the university where she went. If a teenager is unlikely to get to a good university doing a hard to get into subject then they might be better picking a subject less popular to go to the university from which the better employers recruit.

hattymattie Fri 28-Dec-12 13:35:47

Hello Xenia - thanks for your input - from what you and a couple of other posters are saying I get the impression that it's better not to do a general law degree first. Did your daughter do law conversion then? I'm interested in people's career paths at the moment - as DD1 is reading them and I think she finds it reassuring that there are actually so many options open to her.

Xenia Sun 30-Dec-12 13:22:30

Yes, my daughters did but I think it makes no difference at all. Law is a difficult and good degree and if you can get on to that somewhere good and get a good mark then it certainly does no harm and I have worked with lots of business people who found a law degree so useful in their later business life even though they never became lawyers. I would say it's pretty neutral in career effect whether you do law at first degree or not. Also if you're sure what you want to go and get want to get on with it (as some people are) then you gain a year by reading law and save a year of fees unless a firm sponsors that conversion year.

I would always want people to put first what work they will enjoy most of all as we spend so long doing it. I adore still what I do nearly 30 years in to it and hope I do another 30 years before I die.

hattymattie Sun 30-Dec-12 18:06:04

Thanks Xeniasmile

MariscallRoad Mon 31-Dec-12 12:13:02

DS is doing now an electronic engineering degree. It needs hard maths hard physics and good programming. DS Department says if students master the first year then they do well in the next years. They can transfer to another programme if the current does not fit. The assessment is continuous which is different from other degrees where the end of year exam determines the grade. Every day is full. There are twice weekly marked labs and in addition other tests counting the progress of the year. Some Eng Schools guarantee jobs to nearly 98%, you need to discuss with the university.

Engineering is very versatile and opens up many possibilities to enter careers both related and unrelated with it. One can study eng and do Law after which is extremely useful.

notcitrus Mon 31-Dec-12 12:28:51

If she enjoys.maths, why not a maths degree, perhaps with an element of management or a language? People with maths degrees who can also write and converse well tend to be very employable.

hattymattie Mon 31-Dec-12 15:33:11

Mariscal may I ask where you son is so I can google the course.

MariscallRoad Tue 01-Jan-13 21:42:04

hattymattie, Message me, I am happy to answer.

Amerryscot Sat 19-Jan-13 19:29:28

I did an engineering degree and think it is a fantastic field to be in.

It combines a very wide range of skills - scientific, technical and "softer skills". It is an essential entry requirement for many fields and an attractive one for many others. Very few people regret graduating in engineering.

The starting salaries are relatively high, and continue to grow with experience.

Dromedary Sat 19-Jan-13 19:48:16

Law only pays well for top lawyers. Many lawyers receive very average pay, and some are genuinely low paid. Holiday and benefits tend to be quite poor.
Radical changes are going on in the legal profession - to the detriment of lawyers. Many are expected to go out of business, and many will become poorer. Competition is tough. The job is often stressful and often mundane. Unless they specialise in international type areas, they are restricted to working in the UK.

hattymattie Sun 20-Jan-13 19:30:58

Amerry did you do general engineering or a specialist field?

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 21-Jan-13 10:24:00

They are both excellent degrees, but I do think engineering opens many more doors.
I have several friends who graduated with variety of engineering degrees. What do they do now director of multinational construction engineering company, senior buyer for Marks and Spencers, 1 vice president of international bank, 3 directors of international banks and 1 film editor living in LA working with Guy Ritchie etc. Not a single one of them earns less than 6 figures and the most successful is a multimilionaire (he did elec eng and then MSc in Medical Engineering). Unsurprisingly the most succesful graduated from Imperial. So it is important to think about where you go.

hattymattie Mon 21-Jan-13 18:29:43

Wow interesting Lonecat. I'll show this to my daughter - I think she definitely is still of the impression she'll end up on a factory floor with an engineering degree.

mathanxiety Tue 22-Jan-13 20:44:28

So far, I have managed to persuade my three oldest DCs not to go near law. I consider it my life's work to make sure they do a maths or science based undergrad degree, or at worst economics, before deciding on law if that is really what they want or if that is the way to advancement in their careers.

I know three teachers who started out as lawyers, two women and one man. None of them found lawyering a good match for family life. Of the several engineers I know none have left the field or have ever considered it -- and all have managed a good lifestyle and found an acceptable home/work balance. None of them work on factory floors -- all have nice office environments. One in particular works for a firm that bends over backwards to make an attractive work environment for women, with nursery on site.

Grand Ecole a v good idea, or top UK eng schools. Don't be tempted to go to any second rate university. If she wants to go further after her bachelors degree, look at excellent MBA programmes or postgrad engineering programmes in the US. A friend from university in Dublin went on to Stanford for a postgrad degree in engineering and named his price when jobhunting time rolled around. Another went to the University of Chicago for an MBA and again, could write his own contract at recruitment time.

Yellowtip Tue 22-Jan-13 22:01:57

Law as an undergraduate degree subject at a decent university is not in any way a handicap hattie and can be an advantage with certain applications too. But she should go with her instinct at this stage, play to that and her strengths.

cumfy Fri 25-Jan-13 13:37:57

What does she love ?

Hint it is not "Engineering" or "Law".wink

Being sufficiently capable of doing pretty much anything is as much a curse as a blessing.
It's tough to decide at 16; and my view is you shouldn't if you can avoid it.
It's incredibly tricky to understand what it's all going to be about.

What about medicine, economics, applied maths, psychology etc etc for instance ?
It's almost impossible to know what a degree let alone a career is going to be like.

Do what you love. Not what you think you should do.

I did Engineering then branched out into software/ mathematical modelling.
At a flying guess I would suggest psychology just to set the cat among the pigeons.

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