Alex Rich has a whole “worst job” thing going for contract attorney gigs. So far, that little contest has turned up lawyers getting paid minimum wage. That is pretty dismal.

But what about getting paid zero?

While some federal judges are making tentative steps toward ending the exploitation of regular folks at the hands of unpaid internships, others feel you shouldn’t have to pay for a cow when you can get milk from desperate cows hoping that giving away their labor might increase the dim likelihood of securing a decent wage somewhere else in the long-term for free.

If you’re looking to work for free, maybe this job listing is for you. If you just want to hate on a federal judge for taking advantage of lawyer misery for personal gain, you may want to read on as well…

Judge Fernando Olguin of the Central District of California hasn’t been in office for a full year and he’s already made it into the pages of ATL. Congratulations! And you didn’t have to pose naked either.

A tipster drew our attention to this job listing on OSCAR from Judge Olguin. Interning with judges is a great experience for a law school student and — oh, wait, he wants a “Volunteer Law Clerk” who already has a law degree?

And post-graduation experience? Judge Olguin is really going all-in with the contract-attorney model of hiring experienced lawyers so down on their luck that they’ll work for free doing the exact same job as a first-year lawyer (read: the paid clerks) more efficiently. It’s hard to imagine the dynamic in those chambers — young, optimistic lawyers collecting paychecks before going off to cushy jobs while a cynical, unemployed lawyer churns through the work easily — even proofing everyone else’s — knowing full well that all this effort is for free. Maybe Judge Olguin is running a Scared Straight! program for young lawyers showing them what is, statistically, their future.

Hiring people for free is His Honor’s right because the government is exempt from even the easily abused rules against stiffing interns. And several U.S. Attorney Offices have taken advantage of this loophole, pitching the Special Assistant United States Attorney job for a few years now. With a legislature that seems to enjoy shuttering the government for kicks, maybe using unpaid labor is the best model for keeping the lights on, and to hell with the way it blocks off prestigious job opportunities for the benefit of those who can afford to work for free, notching one more advantage for the already privileged.

In fairness to Judge Olguin, he is not the only federal judge offering an unpaid clerkship. In a piece last year for Salon, Professor Paul Campos wrote about Judge William J. Martínez of Denver doing the same thing. And we’ve heard unconfirmed reports of other judges — including some in New York and D.C., two cities that aren’t cheap to live in — who also have uncompensated clerkships.

Anyway, the full job listing is on the next page, if you’re totally desperate and can afford to work a few months for empty praise and sadness….


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