Desperate times call for measures to take advantage of the desperate. Why pay California lawyers $10 an hour when they’re willing to work for free? And not just willing, but eager to provide their services on a volunteer basis.

We wrote before about the public sector utilizing the unpaid legal workforce when the Marin County DA advertised for attorneys for “unpaid, temporary positions that offer a valuable opportunity to gain courtroom experience including trying misdemeanor jury trials.” Last week, a tipster sent along another Craigslist ad from the other side of the Bay, with the subject line, “Seriously?” An excerpt:

Superior Court of San Mateo County Seeks Volunteers

The Legal Research Department of the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo, is seeking attorneys willing to volunteer their time as a legal research attorney with a minimum 6 month commitment to the court.

We write often about these depressing job ads and the fact that a degree that entails six figures of debt can only help you nail down a six-month unpaid position. We wondered what kind of response such ads were actually getting, so we reached out to the San Mateo Court.

The response makes the ads even more depressing. The hiring attorney tells us that his phone won’t stop ringing…

We emailed asking what kind of response the court had received. We wondered (or hoped, rather) that it was an opportunity that would mainly appeal to financially-secure, retired attorneys who had their fill of Matlock reruns and wanted to get back in the game. Alas, no:

Actually, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Only one of the applicants was retired. Most are fairly recent admittees who cannot find work. Six months is a fairly long commitment but when San Francisco Superior Court started this, they asked for the 6 month commitment and got a large response so we thought we’d try it. We’ve been overwhelmed with the response. I suspect the job market is even worse than many of us thought.

Not depressed yet? Well, the competition to work for free for six months is fierce. We asked how many positions are available:

Just 2 – one criminal researcher and one civil. Its more about having the space and my time in reviewing all of their work. I’ve had volunteers this whole past year, 2 recent law school grads who just cannot find work. Its very sad. They are both bright and hard working [they work for free] but cannot find anything paying.

At least they have some nice experience to make them attractive candidates for another unpaid position.

Maybe it’s time for unemployed attorneys to get out of California.

Superior Court of San Mateo County Seeks Volunteers (redwood city) [Craigslist]

Earlier: District Attorney Looking for Lawyers — Free Lawyers, of Course


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