According to the Department of Labor, 14 million people in our country are unemployed. And with a surplus of lawyers that reaches into the thousands in almost every state, unemployment is a serious problem for the legal profession.
Unfortunately, we all know that Biglaw firms — and surely other firms, as well — are avoiding these attorneys like the plague. We spoke about this industry-wide issue back in late 2009, noting that Biglaw firms weren’t exactly keen on hiring associates that had previously been laid off. In fact, one recruiter we spoke with told us that approximately 80 percent of employers specifically requested résumés from attorneys who are still employed.
Facing these seemingly insurmountable odds, what’s an unemployed attorney to do? As it turns out, President Obama wants to lend a hand, but only if he can get Congress to pass this jobs bill….
Pass this jobs bill, pass this jobs bill, pass this jobs bill. Okay, we get it, Barack.
If Congress passes this jobs bill, we can put people back to work. If Congress passes this jobs bill, we can also cure AIDS and learn how to fly. Most importantly, if Congress passes this jobs bill, the unemployed will be able to sue for hiring bias.
The New York Times has more information on this caveat to Obama’s proposed jobs bill:
Mr. Obama’s jobs bill would prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants because they are unemployed.
Under the proposal, it would be “an unlawful employment practice” if a business with 15 or more employees refused to hire a person “because of the individual’s status as unemployed.”
Unsuccessful job applicants could sue and recover damages for violations, just as when an employer discriminates on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Establishing the unemployed as a new protected class could create a surge in litigation, says Texas Representative Louie Gohmert. “If you’re unemployed and you go to apply for a job, and you’re not hired for that job, see a lawyer. You may be able to file a claim because you got discriminated against because you were unemployed.”
But should unemployed lawyers be running straight to one of their colleagues if they’re not hired for a particular law firm position? Other lawyers examining the issue say that it “may be may be difficult for job applicants to show that they were turned down because they were unemployed.”
In addition, bringing a lawsuit like this may be an easy way to get your foot in the door for a market-wide blackballing from other Biglaw firms. Because really, who wants to hire an overly litigious lawyer? No one wants to be afraid to give you a congratulatory file-to-ass-slap when you win a big case.
According to Representative Gohmert, this part of Obama’s jobs bill is great news for trial lawyers who don’t have enough work. Maybe if this thing actually gets passed, unemployed lawyers won’t have to worry about being unemployed for much longer. Niche practice alert, anyone?
When Obama promised “shovel ready” jobs, who knew he was talking about lawyers flinging around more horses**t?
Obama Proposes Protecting Unemployed Against Hiring Bias [New York Times]
Obama Backs Ban on Hiring Bias Against Unemployed People [ABA Journal]