Flutterby™! : ...become lawyers

Next unread comment / Catchup all unread comments User Account Info | Logout | XML/Pilot/etc versions | Long version (with comments) | Weblog archives | Site Map | | Browse Topics

...become lawyers

2003-04-25 20:45:58.233219+00 by Dan Lyke 15 comments

Of late I've been wondering what it gains me to be a programmer. I mean sure, I can enjoy my work, and I make a decent living, but if I become rich through my efforts towards innovation it will only be a shadow of what someone else makes while navigating the legal IP minefield and the marketing battlefield in taking my efforts into the world. Philip Greenspun looks at showing his students Ken Burns documentary based on the book by Tom Lewis, Empire of the Air, noting that they're "teaching them to become Lawyers":

The only people in the drama who made millions without taking tremendous risks, working very hard, and occasionally going bankrupt, were ... the lawyers in the patent and regulatory disputes.

[ related topics: Intellectual Property Books Software Engineering History Law Consumerism and advertising Work, productivity and environment Marketing ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2003-04-25 21:39:31.386023+00 by: Bill Altreuter

Trust me Dan, it only looks like the lawyers are the ones who make the money. A lawyer freind of mine tells his kids, "Don't be lawyer, be the client," and he is absolutely right. The lawyers I know who are well-off have clients who are absolutely rolling in it-- the lawyers just get to pick up the crumbs. Nice crumbs, but in the end, it is the people who design the process, or see the need for a new application, or come up with something that nobody ever thought of before that make the serious dough. Bill Gates' father, to pick a famous example, is a pretty well-fixed lawyer. He could afford to send his kid to Harvard, and for a lot of people I know, that means that he had a pretty good lifestyle. Who would you rather be, Bill Gates Sr., or the other Bill Gates? Be the client.

#Comment made: 2003-04-26 03:58:15.151243+00 by: Mars Saxman

For every Bill Gates, there are a hundred entrepreneurs who bankrupted themselves trying to push an idea out into the world only to see it ripped off or ignored. But law practice - how can you fail? Maybe lawyers don't get quite as rich, but I've yet to hear of a lawyer working late nights out of their garage for twenty years, developing a really awesome world-changing theory that they hope to present to a jury some day.

#Comment made: 2003-04-26 15:59:32.838163+00 by: meuon

Dan, you KNOW rule #1: create things that create recurring revenue without your direct hourly/daily involvement. Getting paid by the hour is good. Get paid while you sleep is better. Yes, It took MANY years of long hours, hard work, stress.. etc..but it was and is still worth it.

#Comment made: 2003-04-27 16:43:17.439758+00 by: ebradway

By meuon's argument, maybe we should all become insurance salesmen. All you have to do is sell the policy and make sure the client doesn't go anywhere else - and you get a cut out of every premium the client pays.

It's always seemed obvious to me that there are a few different ways to monetary wealth:

  1. Luck. Lottery tickets, horse races, buying the right land and the right time, or IBM calling you because the guy they really wanted was out flying a plane...
  2. Hard work. Start a business and bust ass until it's big enough to have other people busting ass for you. Of course without some of #1, you'll likely have a few bankruptcies along the way. Just like learning to skate - don't let falling down keeping from trying again.
  3. Sucking up and kissing ass. Works even better if you have big tits. But salespeople, bankers, and politicians fall into this category as well.
  4. Cheat, steal and lie. Okay, maybe I put politicians in the wrong category. The danger here is to make sure the law doesn't get you before you are wealthy enough to dictate the law.

Monetary wealth is generally overrated and usually involves sacrificing either your morals or your time (usually both). Best path to true wealth: follow your dreams. A $20K/year income is alot of money if you love your work and have plenty of quality time with your family. But a $20M/year income sucks if you dread every hour of work and the work hours greatly outnumber the time you get to spend on things you like. All of a sudden you end up spending the money trying to make yourself happy when it's not the money or things that are keeping you from being happy.

#Comment made: 2003-04-28 00:58:21.624888+00 by: Larry Burton

The key to wealth is simple, don't spend any money.

I've seen an awful lot of my parents peers, people that grew up during the depression, live a very modest life, saving every spare penny and not buying things that aren't needed, and end up with a modest fortune at retirement time. I've even seen a few of them develop a business, still living life only spending money on themselves as it is needed, and wind up multi-millionaires. It's all about putting off rewards for oneself until everything else is taken care of and using credit sparingly.

That's a lesson I wish I had learned a lot better a few years back.

#Comment made: 2003-04-28 02:49:17.921504+00 by: ebradway

Larry, the problem with that lesson is that you have to be of the mindset that you are better off putting off rewards for later in life. Me, I'd rather cash in on it while I'm young enough to move around.

#Comment made: 2003-04-28 03:20:28.140995+00 by: Pete

Well, lucky for me that "following my dreams" doesn't map to squandering my income.

#Comment made: 2003-04-28 13:17:56.8611+00 by: Larry Burton

Eric, I saw Kitty Carlisle on TV yesterday morning. She's 92 and was demonstrating the exercises she does daily. One of those exercises was her laying down on her back and lifting both legs back over behind her head and touching the floor. She got back up off the floor by herself.

The point is that even at 92 she is still young enough to get around.

#Comment made: 2003-04-28 14:19:55.47307+00 by: topspin

Pete, definitions and nuances of "squander" and "income" vary. Thankfully.

Thomas Jefferson died $100,000+ in debt, but he did promote and live a dream or two in his life. I, personally, think his "following his dreams" mapped to a much better outcome than it would've if he'd concentrated on farming Monticello and making money. YMMV.

#Comment made: 2003-04-28 15:26:58.831288+00 by: Pete

And maybe if he'd avoided that debt he could have afforded to free his slaves, before or at his death, instead of selling human beings from beyond the grave to finance his debts. That might have been a nice dream for somebody to live.

#Comment made: 2003-04-28 15:57:30.744373+00 by: Dan Lyke

Larry, I know a few folks who are in the million or two range who made it that way, but the wealthy folks (ie, actual quote: "How many shitloads in a fuckwad?" rich) I know all made it as part of "an event". Company goes public or Cisco buys it, or some other income event happens. And yes, this is pre .com boom too. Well, okay, I also know a few non-techies who were born into it.

By the time I retire I expect that a million will be the baseline, and if I can avoid taking on too many more kids I expect to be there, even living moderately comfortably. But I'm not going to make a lot of money without navigating a huge legal minefield and fighting off a gazillion lawyers and business-weasels trying to shave off shares.

#Comment made: 2003-04-28 18:02:02.052497+00 by: Dan Lyke

In the context of compensation for CEOs and J.K. Rowling, Philip Greenspun looks at the effects of wealth on productivity.

#Comment made: 2003-04-28 21:11:03.954361+00 by: meuon

Overly simplified in the Harry Potter analogy, but true nonetheless. I'm just living at middle class levels (for the first time again in a long time), but it affects even me. I have enough money to do something interesting on weekends... so no more camping out at the Virtual Building for the weekend, making new things, improving old.. I've downloaded a life and don't want to send it to /dev/null. Luckily, I have a multitasking personal operating system, but it's still a time sharing one, and there is a finite amount of time (day/week/etc..) to divide. I'd like to find out personally, if I could be as productive at work at $20mill per year.. :) Maybe a research grant is in order.

#Comment made: 2003-04-28 21:37:03.749405+00 by: Dan Lyke

"Lord, if money is a curse, afflict me!"

#Comment made: 2003-04-29 01:03:36.281679+00 by: topspin

As I was squandering my day, I happened across a local attorney who I was gonna get to comment about our discussion, but despite my prodding, he wouldn't bite.