Biglaw, Job Searches, Law Schools, Recovery

Introduction to the Legal Recovery (We Hope)

Ed. Note: Will the Lost Generation ever find its way back into Biglaw? If recent law school graduates can’t find a Biglaw job straight out of school, or if they were laid off from their initial Biglaw job, the chances of them having a Biglaw career seem unlikely.

But not impossible. This new column is written by a member of the Lost Generation who initially was thrown off of the Biglaw bandwagon but was able to get back on, and is now trying to hang on to his Biglaw second chance.

The first thing many of you must wonder when some new writer infiltrates your daily ATL intake is, “Who the hell is this girl or guy?” Thus, before I begin telling you how it is in my world, let me tell you who I am.

I am T-Fifty. I go by that name because I have learned the importance of law school rankings in the legal industry. I graduated from a T50 law school, and that ranking has now consumed my identity in the legal world. I could tell you all the things I’ve told Mark Zuckerberg and his business partners, but you wouldn’t care. Not when I’ve got T-Fifty emblazoned on my face. It is the way of things.

My journey begins the summer prior to my graduation from my T50 law school. I was no-offered by my Biglaw summer employer, and I soon learned that I was part of the Lost Generation, doomed to be excluded from Biglaw and the accompanying paychecks forever. I will admit that I was distraught. I faced a mountain of debt that I had no chance of paying off….

I remember talking to a therapist at the university health center during my 3L year:

“I’m extremely scared about my situation. I owe close to $150,000 at 7% interest. I took out that much debt under the impression that I would be making over $120,000 per year for the foreseeable future. Now, I can’t even get interviews for jobs that pay $40,000 per year. How am I going to survive after graduation? Am I going to be fighting an uphill financial battle for the rest of my life?”

“Is it possible that you’re overreacting?”

“What, is the normal reaction to this situation is not to be scared?”

“No, perhaps your job prospects aren’t as bleak as you make them out to be.”

“Ma’am, I’ve sent out over 200 applications, each with a personalized cover letter. I’ve had one phone interview. If you’ve got something more bleak, keep it to yourself.”

“But, you’re a lawyer. Lawyers are employable. It’s not like there’s an army of lawyers who are unemployed…”

After that meeting, I looked up on Lexis whether the doctor-patient privilege would somehow prevent her from contacting the police if I slapped her in the face. But, with my overpriced T50 education, I was incapable of finding the answer.

As graduation approached, I was not excited. I was terrified of graduating unemployed. I was terrified that I had just spent three years putting myself in a worse position than when I had started: unemployed and net worth of -$150,000, as opposed to just unemployed. It was a ridiculously stupid situation to be in.

Like many of my peers, law school was not my first brush with financially stupidity. I had engaged in shenanigans in high school and college. I had made ridiculous impulse buys on my credit card. I had gone out to exorbitant dinners yet ignored unpaid utility bills. I had left Vegas in tears, promising to never again spend even one dollar on a non-essential item. Yet the stupidest, most irresponsible, most expensive decision I have ever made — the one decision with severe lifelong consequences — was the decision to attend law school.

Imagine if, three years earlier, I had decided not to go to law school and instead had borrowed $150,000, walked into a casino, and thrown it all on black. Win or lose, I would have been better off. If I had lost, I would have walked out, found a nice $35,000 a year position somewhere (maybe as a casino dealer), and worked for three years while paying down the debt somewhat. If I had won, I would have returned three years later from the most extravagant and debaucherous around-the-world journey ever — with no debt.

But, I had made my bed, and I would sleep in it, at least until it was reclaimed via writ of replevin. So, I kept sending out those applications. I kept networking. I kept going to legal events. I smiled and pretended to be confident and optimistic. I tried to remember that the conversion rate didn’t matter. In other words, it didn’t matter if I got one job per ten applications or one per a thousand applications. I only needed one job, regardless of how many applications or interviews it would take.

Hundreds of applications later, I actually got a job in Biglaw once again. Then I realized that everything prior had merely been a prologue to the story of my career in Biglaw, a story that I will be telling on ATL.

Of course, I’d still like to slap that therapist.

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