I don’t know what “second tier” means. I certainly think that being an attorney is better than a Charterholder.
I think a better question for you would be “MBA or Law School”, rather than “CFA or Law School”. And I think the answer to this is: Which is the better school? If you can get into Harvard Business School, but only get accepted to Local State’s law school, then I’d go to business school. Similarly, if you get accepted to Yale Law, but to the Local State’s part-time MBA, I’d go to Yale.
What if you get accepted to HBS and Yale Law? That would be a toughie, but I still think that (all else being equal), Law School will give you more breadth of job options, and a higher “cap” once you take a job.
Remember–being a lawyer is like being a CPA (although much harder and more valuable)–it is a LICENSE granted by the GOVERNMENT that allows you to do certain things that non-lawyers can’t. The CFA is no such thing–it carries almost no legal weight whatsoever, and is not legally required to do any job. It just says that you’re smart and have a lot of self-discipline. Law school says the same thing.
If you are good enough for JD/MBA, you can probably get into a good MBA program or a good law school. I think the people who do JD/MBA are just really into the academics. Their decision is probably not based on NPV.
I took LSAT and was ready to go to law school but was working for a securities law firm and fell in love with finance. Law is boring, unrewarding and you will spend most of your day drafting letters and pushing paper around. My advice, work in a law firm for a few years and see if you can handle the lifestyle. Experience trumps message boards any day of the week.
From what I gather, 95% of lawyers do paper pushing job. However, if you are on the cutting edge of law practice, it’s very intellectual. The reason is that changes in the legal field are driven by law practice, not academia. If something arises with no precedent, it’s the law firms that have to argue the case. Legal scholarship is limited in usefulness. If lawyers need to structure an argument based on historical results, they refer to court cases.
As for lifestyle, yes you have to work long hours for many years. After 8 years, you either continue to work long hours as a law firm partner, or you “retire” into a more cushy job. Depending on the job, you might have pretty flexible working hours - for this reason, law is popular among women (moms) compared to other fields.
As for expected earnings, I have to say finance is better, if you have the ability to get a choice job. Big Law pays you $160k to $300k for almost a decade. You can probably do better than that in FO finance. The problem is that finance jobs are highly stratified. If you fall into the top bucket, you’ll do well. However, if you start your career in a lower bucket, it’s more difficult to climb up.
I’ve heard from friends that pursuing law isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. (Funny, because that actually sounds like finance these days.) There’s always the prestigious jobs at the upper tier, but of course, just like finance, it is super hard work and some luck to get there.
A lot of lawyers end up doing really low-end stuff that’s not the corporate law-attorney that most people see in their dreams.
I still think it’s irrational to compare vs the CFA charter… as ohai said… it’s way too general