Lawyer turned architect?



First time poster (short-term lurker). My wife and I have no kids. I'm well compensated for a government lawyer ($80k US).

But I'm dismayed and have always had a passion for architecture. Not just looking and admiring cool design, but putting pencil to paper. Funny story: as a very little kid (starting at 5), I used to design / draw nuclear power plants (based on what I'd imagined), schools, and baseball stadiums. Multiple lawyers, cross-sections. You bet I had friends!

Is my desired career change unheard of? What will I need to do? My background, in college, is in mathematical philosophy (logic and language), so I probably have no pre-reqs aside from gen eds.

Any advice you could share would be so greatly appreciated.

Jul 10, 20 12:07 pm

Nice username for a lawyer! As a heads up, I'm sure there will be plenty of sarcastic responses to this from the usual grumps on here. My two cents is - do some research. What about architecture do you truly find interesting? Is it mainly sketching/aesthetic creativity? Try to get an understanding of all of the different capacities architects can work under - ie Designer, Project Architect, Project Manager, etc. With no background in the profession, it is difficult to jump into having "a say" in the design process. Most go through years of computer drafting work, long hours, unpaid overtime, and low pay in general. An entry level designer would typically make just over half of your current salary. Something to consider!

Jul 10, 20 12:20 pm  · 

Perfect background for an architect. You will do well because you will be able to make sense out of zoning and the code with greater clarity. Gp for it.

Jul 10, 20 12:22 pm  · 

 Most go through years of computer drafting work, long hours, unpaid overtime, and low pay in general. An entry level designer would typically make just over half of your current salary. Something to consider!

that and layoffs, you have to be the very best and make damn sure everyone knows it. Be good at self promotion too.

Jul 10, 20 12:23 pm  · 

If I were you, I'd look into moving to construction law (not sure what your working in now) and maybe working for a large firm as their in-house counsel. You'll get to participate in the industry without needing to go back to school or dealing with the low pay and working your way up through the designer ranks. 

Your desired career change isn't unheard of (lots of people want to be an architect), though I've heard of more architects turned lawyers so ... take that as you will.

Jul 10, 20 12:35 pm  · 
3  · 

I know two.  Both though started with a architecture degree, then got their law degree.  Lost track of one... He sort of was going into corporate law and getting in with boy boy firms as in-house legal (contracting, HR issues, policy, etc.) a decade ago he was with KPF.  

The other I've worked with on the forensic litigation side.  He was a attorney, then decided to get back into architecture.  Figured out real architecture isn't a ton of design, still a lot of paper, and paid a lot less.  So he went back to being an attorney in construction defect lawsuits.  

Jul 10, 20 12:54 pm  · 

Make list of what you like and don't like about your current profession and position (not place of employment / public sector culture, as those are different conversations).  You may find aspects of your current situation that may not be all that different than in architecture.

As others have said, there can be long hours for medium pay. The typical route, if you were to choose to go back to school, would be about 5 years of school, followed by another decade-ish before you make it back to your current salary.  If you are in a position to not get a raise for the next 15 years (and you won't be able to work while you're in school), then maybe it's something worth looking into.  If that doesn't sound reasonable, then you have your answer and a traditional architecture may not be doable.

Jul 10, 20 1:27 pm  · 

Keep architecture as a hobby. Don't give up low healthcare costs and Govt. pension for Architecture. 

Jul 10, 20 1:30 pm  · 


Don't do it - keep your nice "well compensated" job - 2 words you will almost never hear an architect say - well compensated. There are many ways to explore and satisfy your passion for architecture - classes, drawing, sketching, tours, etc. Architects are the most overeducated, over tested (ARE exams are insane compare to the Bar exam) , under compensated and under appreciated professions there is. 

Jul 17, 20 6:46 pm  · 

"It's All Good Man" ... stick with being a lawyer.

Jul 18, 20 11:22 am  · 

i think you could do it if you were really passionate about it. It will be a lot of work. 

A few years of school PLUS 3-4 years collecting IDP hours before you can finish your exams, which will probably take 1-2 years to pass. It would probably take you 6+ years to get licensed from when you start. (It's possible to do it faster though not easy) Although, part of that time you would be regularly employed. 

People tend to over-hype the low pay. Yes, you will start out in the 40-50k range. But, a professional such as yourself will probably advance quickly. 5 years of professional experience and I bet you will make nearly what you make now. 10 years in you will be making a good amount more than that. 

Jul 18, 20 1:20 pm  · 

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