Not since its pursuit was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence has “happiness” had a bigger cultural moment than now, and not just because of that “room without a roof” earworm. There is a new and rapidly growing science of happiness, a mash-up of economics and psychology sometimes called “hedonics,” which tells us that money can buy happiness, but only to a point. Meanwhile, in corporate America, we witness the emergence of a new C-suite character, the Chief Happiness Officer, who is responsible for employee contentment. Sort of like an HR director, but smiling and magical.
Recently, the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research released a paper, “Unhappy Cities,” reporting the findings of a major survey asking respondents about their satisfaction with life. The authors, academics from Harvard and the University of British Columbia, found that there are persistent differences in self-reported subjective well-being across U.S. cities and, unsurprisingly, residents of declining cities are less happy than other Americans. (Interestingly, the authors suggest that these unhappy, declining cities were also unhappy during their more prosperous pasts.)
So there are unhappy cities; there are also unhappy (and relatively happier) law schools. When ATL’s own Staci Zaretsky learned that Springfield, Massachusetts — home of her alma mater, the Western New England University School of Law — made the list of unhappiest cities, it came as no surprise: “It’s hard to tell where the local misery ends and that of the law school begins.” Prompted by Staci’s observation, we wondered whether unhappy cities make for unhappy local law students. Or is the law school experience so intense and self-contained that one’s surroundings have little impact? What are law students in the happiest (and unhappiest) cities in the country telling us about their own personal satisfaction?
The average debt load of law school graduates is well over $140,000. That’s roughly the cost of purchasing a Maserati, or 88% of your first-year Biglaw salary. Couple that with a notoriously grim employment outlook and law school grads often find themselves tethered to mortgage-sized repayment plans, minus the actual house.
One thing law school doesn’t teach you is the variety of loans that are available and the advantages and disadvantages of each loan type. With a little foresight, law school students can select the proper loan and create a repayment plan that is best aligned to their career and lifestyle post-graduation.
Let’s start by breaking down each type of loan to better understand consolidation after graduation…
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ian E. Scott offers 10 valuable pieces of advice for Biglaw summer associates.
While a full-time job at a large law firm is not for everyone, a summer at one is highly recommended. Even if you are not sure if you have an interest in practicing at a large firm after the summer, a summer at one is a great experience and you will be paid around $35,000 for the summer. You should be careful though, because many who have summered at large corporate firms and swore that it was just for the summer, often must have drank the Kool-Aid and went back after graduation. If you have decided to work for a top law firm during the summer here are a few things to consider.
1. You will likely get a job offer but do not take it for granted.
I previously wrote about the depressing prospects for graduates of all but the top ten or twenty law schools (“Two Law Grad Markets”). And yes, these were statistical generalizations, and the experience of specific individuals with particular skills and backgrounds will always be different, pro and con. But as an industry, if you care about our supply chain for talent, many law schools are burning platforms.
There are actually some closely connected problems driving this dynamic:
More JDs are being turned out each year than there are (a) full-time, (b) long-term jobs, (c) requiring bar passage, (d) at current salary levels;
perhaps the primary reason for the mismatch between supply of JDs and current demand for them (about two supplied for every one today’s market is demanding) is that clients increasingly resist paying for junior associates, which makes it uneconomic for firms to invest in traditional training;
but/and at the same time, every sentient observer is painfully aware that vast segments of the U.S. population — consumers and businesses alike — remain underserved by lawyers.
This would prompt any economist to ask, almost instinctively, “Why isn’t there a market-clearing price where supply and demand can meet?” Which is another way of asking, “What if there were a way to address both these problems at a single stroke?”
Non-lawyers are often surprised to learn of the lockstep salary schemes of large law firms and the near-perfect information we have about them. (Recall Kevin Drum’s befuddlement at the bi-modal distribution of law graduate salaries and the “weird cultural collusion” it suggested.) Even annual bonuses are frequently spelled out in what amounts to public memoranda and are typically some variation of the “market” dictated by our Cravath overlords. Of course, there are some “black box” firms and a few gilded outliers such as Wachtell Lipton or Boies Schiller, but generally speaking, the world of large firms practices a degree of relative transparency around compensation that is unsurpassed outside the public sector.
In order to distinguish among firms, we have to look to the margins. For example, law firms vary quite a bit when it comes to paying for the bar and living expenses of incoming associates. Some firms may reimburse for covered expenses after the fact; others may pay some expenses directly to the provider. Some may give a stipend to cover living expenses, whereas others may offer the ability to take out an advance on salary.
Greater transparency (or, at least, aggregated information) on these questions might make one firm’s offer more attractive than another’s, or perhaps even give an offeree some basis for negotiating a package upgrade (but of course tread very lightly there)….
Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Debra M. Strauss, Associate Professor of Business Law at Fairfield University, offers helpful tips for landing a judicial clerkship.
Now that the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan is officially defunct, the timing of your clerkship applications depends on the individual hiring practices of each judge. This is another aspect of what is essentially a research project, with the primary resources being OSCAR (“Online System for Clerkship Application and Review”) for federal clerkships and Vermont Law School’s Guide to State Judicial Clerkships. See the additional tips on the timing in my first article in this series, “Putting it in Perspective: Understanding the History of the Timing Issue and Making Lemonade.”
So let’s take a closer look at the application process, the components of the application, and strategies you can employ to increase the chances of success in your quest for the prized clerkship.
Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan provides some advice for getting law journal work done.
I’ll be honest — I hatedLaw Review. Every second I spent in the bowels of the law school library searching dusty books for obscure references was time wasted, in my opinion. But, on the upside, I got quite good at getting my cite-checking assignments done quickly!
Here are a few tips for getting your journal work done, without losing your mind:
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan provides some practical advice for the new year.
It’s January, so we must reflect and resolve, right? Well, I’ve never been one for resolutions (just do it, don’t talk about it), but the beginning of a new year is a good time to examine recent history and identify “areas of potential growth,” shall we call them.
When I think about what I’ve been most surprised about in the 2+ years since I started The Girl’s Guide to Law School, one key thing stands out: The remarkable lack of urgency that many law students and young lawyers seem to feel about shaping their lives and their careers.
Before you get all offended, let me be clear. I’m not saying you’re lazy. I’m not saying you don’t spend a lot of time studying in the library. But — and I have to be honest here — there is an odd lack of gumption, of hustle, that permeates many of the interactions I have with law students and new lawyers.
In the two years that we’ve been conducting our ATL Insider Survey, we’ve amassed in excess of 15,500 responses from practicing lawyers and law students. These results have provided us with unique insights into what people really think about their employers and schools. We believe our survey information furnishes our readers with a deep resource for comparing and evaluating these organizations, whether in the form of our Law Firm and Law School Directories, or in posts that take a deeper look at such factors as practice area, compensation, or geographic location. Many thanks to those thousands of readers who have shared their experiences.
Obviously, one subject that the ATL readership is passionate about is the world of Biglaw. Whether it’s to assess a potential employer, or to simply see how one’s firm compares to its peers, apparently there’s no end to the appetite for insider information. So as this year winds down, we’ll end on a happy note and have a look at which Biglaw firms are rated most highly by their own employees…
Ed. note: This post is written by Adam Gropper, author of Making Partner: The Essential Guide to Negotiating the Law School Path and Beyond, a recent release by the American Bar Association. Making Partner provides guidance for maximizing performance while in law school, securing the dream law firm job, excelling as an associate, and moving on the fast track to making partner. Adam Gropper is also the founder of www.LegalJob.com, a blog that provides practical advice for current law school students and law firm associates.
Other than attending a top ten law school and being in the top ten percent of your class, there is not just one way or one big secret to obtaining a dream legal job. Many people, for example, especially top law students, just fall into their practice area, and are doing what they are doing by accident. Accordingly, for this group, focus and planning ahead are not as crucial.
This post speaks to all others who are not quite sure what they will do when they graduate law school and are interested in planning ahead. For these folks, it may be helpful to have a practical plan with specific, mechanical steps.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.