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Make Extra Money by Becoming a Mechanical Turk

Written by Brett McKay

The New York Times had an interesting article on Sunday about businesses paying people to do small tasks that computers can’t. For example computers can’t look at a picture and count the number of happy people in a picture. Neither can it easily recognize the difference between a picture of an oak tree and a maple tree. These differences can be important when organizing information. What many search engine companies are doing is outsourcing this work to humans, who can do these kinds of things easily.

Amazon.com has created a site called Mechanical Turk (a mechanical turk recalls a famous 18th-century hoax, where what seemed to be a chess-playing automaton really concealed a human chess master.) where people can sign up to take on Human Intelligence Tasks (HIT). A HIT might consist of looking at a photo and telling if it contains a pizza parlor. A computer would have hard time doing this, but a person can do it in a matter of seconds.

Most HIT’s reward just a few cents for each task, but it all adds up. The article discussed a disabled former military officer spending two hours a day on HITs. He earns about $100 a week. Not too shabby.

Being a mechanical turk seems like an easy way to earn some extra cash while in school. It’s not going to make you rich, but it can at least give you some extra money to pay those bills.

Hat tip to my lovely wife for telling me about the article.

How to Make Money While in Law School (or Graduate School, or Undergrad…):Become a Research Assistant

Written by Brett McKay


If you want to mitigate student debt while in school, cutting spending is half the battle. You’re going to have to earn some extra income if you truly want to limit debt. An excellent way to earn extra income is becoming a research assistant for a professor.

Why is being a research assistant one of the best ways to earn extra money? Let us count the ways.

  1. The pay is decent. I was surprised to see how much professors at my school were offering for research assistants. Most are offering $10 an hour. Not too shabby.
  2. The hours are flexible. Professors are probably the best bosses to have while in school. They want you to put your studies first, so they’ll work with you to develop a schedule that works the both of you. You won’t have to worry about your grades slipping because of lack of time while you’re a research assistant.
  3. You sharpen your research skills. Look at being a research assistant as being paid to be mentored. Professors will work with you and give you tips on how to research better. The research skills you take away from that will be an asset to for the rest of your legal career. And remember, you’re getting paid to do it!
  4. You sharpen your writing skills. Writing is an essential skill in the legal field. You’ll have the opportunity to get feedback from individuals who something about legal writing.
  5. You create an awesome reference. After you’re time as a research assistant, most professors will be happy to serve as a reference for you in your job search. Many will even write letters of recommendations for you.

Start looking for a research assistant position today. If none of your professors are actively seeking one, make a list of your favorite professors and offer you services to them. Many will be happy to hire you.

Start looking for a research assistant position today. If none of your professors are actively seeking one, make a list of your favorite professors and offer you services to them. Many will be happy to hire you.

6 Reasons Why You Should Be a Government Lawyer

Written by Brett McKay

This month’s edition of the Student Lawyer contains an article on the benefits of being a government lawyer. While you won’t make as much working for the government as you would in private practice, this article makes a strong case that the benefits of government service outweigh any monetary gain. Here’s what they had to say.

  1. You will become a good writer. You’re writing will be scrutinized by everyone, including judges, agencies, and private practicing attorneys. Additionally, you have more time for multiple drafts and close editing by supervisors and colleagues. I’ve previously posted on how my goal this semester is to become a better legal writer. Perhaps a clerkship with a judge over the summer will help achieve that goal.
  2. The hours are sane. In a government job, there’s no pressure to meet a certain number of billable hours. No working on the weekends! Thus, your quality of life and the balance of work and family are pretty good.
  3. You get government benefits. Another nice government job perk is the benefits. Dental, health insurance, paid vacations, and retirement. Can’t beat that.
  4. You’ll know how to work the system. If you decide private practice is what you really want to do, you still might benefit from a couple of years of government service. The experience and inside knowledge you gain about judges and administrative agencies will be a valuable asset to any private firm you work for.
  5. Debt forgiveness. Many schools have programs that will forgive some of the debt you acquire in law school. Granted, it’s often not that much, but every little bit helps.
  6. Satisfaction that you’re serving your community and country.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to do when I’m done with law school. Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to clerk for both private and government jobs to see what I like. What do you all think? What have been your experiences working for the government as a lawyer? Drop me a line and let me know.

Mitigate your law school debt by consulting

Written by Mrs. FLS

Get Rich Slowly has an excellent post on becoming a consultant in order to pay off debt quickly. The idea sounds very intriguing to me and is one that I might take up in order to mitigate my crippling student debt.

What is a consultant?

Consulting is just a fancy way of saying trading your knowledge for pay. You could be a blog consultant, an organizing consultant, a wedding consultant, ect. Andrea, the author of the post on Get Rich Slowly, says it’s easy to get into consulting. First, take a personal inventory of your skills, interests, and talents. Second, find people who could use that information and are willing to pay for it. The second part sounds hard, but I think it might be easier then most people think. Just telling your friends or family members that you’re offering your services can bring in several clients.

How much money can you make consulting?

It varies, but Andrea suggests that consultants charge from anywhere from $35-$300 an hour. It depends on what kind of information you’re providing. Some people are willing to pay more for certain types of information.

How much time does it take?

One of the beauties of consulting is that you set your own hours. You can work as little or as much as you want. Because of its flexibility, consulting is the perfect side job for law students. I think most students could find 10 or 15 hours a month that they could dedicate to consulting. Weekends are the perfect time to do it.

If you were to work 10 hours a month and charged $35 an hour for your services, that’s $350 a month that can go to paying off student loans.

Your experiences

I want to know if any of you have tried your hand at consulting. I’m looking to get into it, so I would like to see what others’ experience has been with it. I’d appreciate any suggestions or tips that you all might have. I’ve put Free Agent Nation on hold at the library and am looking forward to reading it. If you have any other books that you might suggest, drop me a line.

Law School Debt Round Up

Written by Mrs. FLS

250 Business Cards $.99 from Office Depot

Written by Brett McKay

Ever since I read Legal Andrew’s post on business cards for law students, I’ve been wanting to get some of my own. If price has been a concern for you, look no further to Bargain Quest’s post on 250 business cards for $.99 at Office Depot. The original price is $12.99, but using the offer code 29540100 at the check out brings the price down to $.99. The only downside is that you only have three templates and three fonts to choose form. However, I think this is a great deal. I’ll be buying mine today. Offer ends January 29.