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‘I know it’s hard, but at least you’re making about $14/hour!’

The value of an attorney isn’t what it used to be. While you’re all ravenously pouring over the U.S. News Law School Rankings to figure out which six-figure law degree is closest to its face value, it’s a good time to check out Craigslist and see exactly how rough newly minted lawyers have it out there. Unless they’re willing to hang up their own awesome shingle, that is.

Contractors are struggling to pay off their loans collecting paltry hourly wages, and now there’s a firm willing to pay a young lawyer even less…

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An anonymous lawyer in New York City

I’m not sure I’d recommend that a young person go into law.

When I was starting out, it was more of a profession, and your worth was determined by the service you provided. Now it’s become more of a business, and your worth is determined by the fee you’re able to collect.

– An honest lawyer who happened to be passing through Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan when he was photographed by Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York.

(Do you agree with him? Feel free to sound off in the comments.)

Ed. note: This is the latest post by Anonymous Recruitment Director, who will offer an insider’s perspective on the world of law firm hiring.

Following the publication of my initial column, I received scores of emails from polite job-seekers with specific questions about their current employment situations. While I am not able to reply to all of the notes, I can offer some guidance to assist the majority of these job-seekers.

Insider tip: Biglaw firms tend to avoid hiring candidates who have strayed off of the traditional path to Biglaw firm employment. Such “rogue” candidates make the recruitment committee nervous, and any candidate who makes the committee nervous will not be advanced in the process. If you want to work in Biglaw, get a job in Biglaw during your 2L summer. If this is not possible (because you did not land a job in Biglaw or you have already graduated), get a job at a small- or medium-sized private firm in the exact practice area that you hope to work in when you make the jump after a few years to Biglaw. Clerkships are fine, but law firm experience in your desired practice area is the ideal. Also, of great importance, you MUST do well in all courses related to your practice area of choice. If you received a C in Securities Regulation, it will be a hard sell to land a job as a securities lawyer at a large firm.

What are some other factors that will make the recruitment committee uncomfortable?

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Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s new poet-in-residence, Qui Tam. You can read his inaugural column (and poem) over here.

On-campus interviews: the topic of this week’s Qui Tam observational “poem.” I can’t imagine a more dehumanizing job-related experience, unless of course you were one of those students who didn’t get any….

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Staci here. We’re sure many of you have applied to clerk for or have actually clerked for federal appeals court judges. We’re sure that waiting for a response after you submitted all of your paperwork was simply agonizing.

If you got the job, congratulations; we bet you were absolutely elated. If you got rejected, you might have been disappointed. But if you got a rejection letter like the one we’re about to show you, you must’ve been downright, well, confused. While we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in federal clerkship rejection letters — see, e.g., here and here — we’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

This is something we think you’re going to want to take a look at. Call it “rejection via resignation”….

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Ed. note: Frank H. Wu is the Chancellor and Dean of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. He shares some of his thoughts about legal education and the legal profession here on Above the Law from time to time.

I was talking to a reporter the other day about changes within the legal profession. She had called me to ask what types of jobs were opening up. I disappointed her. She wanted specialties offering positions that were sexy, new, and numerous.

I explained there were indeed more jobs. But I did not know any of them that satisfied all of her criteria.

There were many possibilities for her article. None of them were everything she was looking for.

That would be true for the individuals obtaining those roles as well. I recall a former colleague who used to say in response to the extravagant expectations that young people express about their careers: “That’s why we call it ‘work.’” She meant that there isn’t any reason to believe it will be fun. It is more likely to be boring, stressful, or both boring and stressful by turns if not simultaneously.

By the journalist’s standards, unless it is sexy, new and numerous, it does not register at all. That isn’t the best understanding of the universe of possibilities. Law is not intrinsically sexy….

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Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s new poet-in-residence, Qui Tam.

Qui Tam. Short for a Latin phrase that means, more or less, self-righteously suing alongside the King, and keeping a little on the side for yourself. More commonly known today as a whistleblower action, where a private individual with knowledge of fraud gets sheltered by the feds and a nice cut of the penalties imposed for said fraud. So basically the same idea in Latin and common parlance.

For purposes of this column — which will be a collection of observational “poems,” chronicling experiences the writer may or may not have had during a pretty vanilla T1 law school and corporate legal career — what I am going for is the “whistleblower” allusion (quite self-flattering, not to mention self-righteous). Oh, and the pretentious use of Latin is designed to create a sense of sophistication where one probably doesn’t exist (sorry Bryan Garner, but it is true).

I now present to you my first poem:

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As we all know, a federal clerkship is the salve that cures all employment ills, even in a depressed job market. But now that the Law Clerk Hiring Plan is dead, everyone and their mother and their dog has been applying for these clerkships. Come August 2014, even students completing their 1L summer jobs will be able to apply for clerkships. It’s a frustrating process that just got even more chaotic.

As much as we wish that clerkships were doled out Oprah-style — And YOU get a clerkship! And YOU get a clerkship! — the competition is going to be that much stiffer now that anyone and everyone can apply, in any which way they so choose.

Aww, did you think you were going to be able to land a clerkship just because you applied to a less-than-prestigious district court, one not located in a major city? Think again….

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Recently, a group of Harvard Law professors released the results of their survey of 124 attorneys from 11 large firms, asking what courses Harvard students ought to take to prepare for Biglaw practice. Overall, financial courses such as accounting, financial reporting, and corporate finance, topped the list, as noted by Will Baude over at the Volokh Conspiracy. But the study got me thinking: what courses should lawyers interested in starting a practice — either directly after law school or a few years down the road — study in law school?

If you ask this question of solos or consultants, most will argue that law schools need to teach business-type classes like how to write a business plan or how to market a law practice. And while law schools should certainly make those classes available to interested students, I don’t view them as imperative. Let’s face it, most of this material isn’t rocket-science (high school dropouts open successful businesses, after all), and the web offers a bottomless treasure trove of this type of information. (As an aside, one of my personal faves is Canvarise, a one-page template that pulls together all of the elements of a traditional business plan).

Nor do I believe that substantive courses — bankruptcy, family law, immigration, copyright — are all that important. Substantive law is state-specific, so it’s tough to teach and it’s always changing. What you learn as a second-year law student may no longer be valid a few years down the road. Plus, it’s not difficult to pick up the basics of a new practice area on the fly. Think about it: most students studying for the bar gain a quick understanding of as many as 25 different substantive practice areas in a summer. No reason the same isn’t true in practice.

In my view, law students should focus on studying and acquiring the kinds of skills that aren’t easily found or readily mastered in practice. With that as a guide, here’s my top five list of classes that will help prepare students for solo practice…

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Having a job is so awesome!

For almost a decade, the National Law Journal has published a list of the best law schools to go to if you want to work in Biglaw after graduation. As we noted last year, “through the lens of this annual report, we can see some of the changes that have happened in a profession that’s been in transition ever since the Great Recession.” With the rise and fall of some of Biglaw’s largest firms, the hiring scene for would-be entry-level associates has ebbed and flowed.

The legal profession, while still in recovery, shows some signs of life in its sluggish attempts to return to its glory days. Each year, we hear news of marginal improvement in the job market, and we squeal with glee over single percentage point upticks. For example, in 2013, the percentage of law school graduates who landed associate jobs was up two points from where it was in 2012 — and this increase represents the highest hiring percentage since 2010. Hooray! Exciting news! Lawgasms for everyone!

Which law schools led the pack in this pseudo-revival of normalcy? Let’s find out….

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