Catherine Rampell

You need a college degree to get a good job. That’s been the case for some time. But a story in the New York Times yesterday pointed out that in this economy, you need a college degree to get a bad job. Increasingly, you need a college degree to get most kinds of office jobs, even if those jobs are as intellectually simple as “receptionist.”

I suspect that’s been true for some time as well. At this point, I expect every “white-collar” employee I interact with to have at least “some college.” Actually, I expect most blue-collar people I interact with to be formally educated as well, albeit in a different country. We’re living in an age of over-credentialization. Just like everybody in Hollywood has had a little work done, one expects that everybody in an office has had to sit through a terminally boring lecture on how many miles you have to go before you can fall asleep to a boring Robert Frost poem.

But, there’s getting a little work done, and there’s walking around with flotation devices bolted to your chest.

And I wonder, to extend the analogy to its logical conclusion, if getting a law degree is kind of like a waitress borrowing $10K to get a boob job thinking that getting her DDs is all that’s standing between her making $9.50 plus tips versus becoming a movie star….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “If College Is The New High School, Is Law School The New Liberal Arts College?”

Ed. note: Happy Thanksgiving! We will resume our normal publication schedule on Monday, November 26. We hope you have a wonderful holiday, and we thank you for your readership.

* We’ve discussed this trend before, and it continues: administrations of the LSAT plunge further, reaching their lowest level since 1999. [Economix / New York Times]

* We’ve discussed this trend before, and it continues: judges are still offering unpaid clerkships (even though the days of law firm deferrals are behind us). [Salon]

* We’ve discussed this trend before, and it continues: law schools sometimes discriminate against conservatives, as jurors from the Teresa Wagner trial told Iowa’s leading newspaper. [Des Moines Register]

* Are you mooching off of someone else’s wireless internet? If so, consider yourself warned. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Are you a lover of Twinkies? If so, consider yourself warned (although it’s possible that a buyer might snap up the Twinkies brand). [DealBook / New York Times]

* Seven Am Law 200 firms are saying YES to work on a billion-dollar deal. [Am Law Daily]

* I thought Def Leppard got a cut every time a stripper takes off her clothes. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Catherine Rampell tackles the sputtering lawyer salaries numbers. Yes, to the New York Times, you listen. [Economix / New York Times]

* Oh nepotism, the thing that proves that it’s better to be lucky than good. [Wise Law NY]

* It’s kind of funny if your entire document production can be flummoxed by a squirrel. [Wired]

* The New York City Bar association is putting together a task force of people to look at the terrible legal job market. You know who isn’t trying to come up with the a response to the terrible market? It rhymes with American Bulls**ttar Association. [WSJ Law Blog]

Since this afternoon’s big Dewey & LeBoeuf development, namely, the defection of Morton Pierce and seven other partners to White & Case, there has been some additional news. It concerns the timing of Dewey’s possible shutdown, a subject that has been the subject of much speculation lately.

One rumor had the firm closing its doors as early as tomorrow. Another suggested a date closer to Memorial Day. The truth may lie somewhere in between: according to sources cited by Am Law Daily (reg. req.), “Dewey is poised to close by May 15 and possibly sooner.”

(Also at Am Law, a very handy Dewey Departure Tracker. It lists each defector’s name, practice area, departure date, new firm, and location. It’s a great resource.)

The May 15 date makes some sense. As reported by Thomson Reuters News & Insight, on Monday the firm received a two-week extension from lenders for renegotiating its $100 million credit line. Assuming the parties can’t reach a new agreement, which seems like a good assumption right now, the new deadline would fall on or about May 15, the shutdown date mentioned by Am Law.

Compared to other outlets, we’ve been focusing a lot on the human side of the Dewey story. We’ve talked about the partners, including the particular partners who might be blamed for Dewey’s demise. We’ve talked about the staff, bringing you a paralegal’s lament.

Tonight let’s consider the fate of would-be Dewey associates, both full-time and summer associates, who now find themselves left in the lurch….

As usual, UPDATES — including one relating to support staff — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Dewey Have Career Advice for Incoming and Summer Associates?”

Going to law school worked out great for this guy.

And now we come to the real reason I, and so many others, went to law school: I wanted to go into politics. Before I was married, before my father’s name recognition spiked, before I was in debt, before I realized I had no talent asking people for money, I thought elected office was in my future and a law degree was an important credential.

Don’t act like I’m the only one. For as long as anybody can remember, a training in law has been viewed as a good foundation for an eventual career in politics. Even if you never practice, it makes sense that a person who would make laws would have a fundamental understanding of how laws work. A law degree also suggests a certain respect for the rules, a useful quality for those who would be in charge of the rules. In the modern era, law has been the best “career” for would-be politicians to start out in, and historically only military service has been a more common way to elected office.

But maybe that’s all changing? Catherine Rampell of the New York Times has a great piece showing that while lawyers are still the dominant profession among our senators and congresspeople, there are fewer former lawyers running Washington than there have been for a generation.

So, you know, just add one more way in which law school isn’t as valuable as it used to be…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Is A Law Degree Still The Best Way To Get Into Politics?”

Several prominent judges, like Richard Posner (left) and Alex Kozinski (right), hire 'off-plan.'

Over the weekend, we mentioned a very interesting New York Times article on the chaotic state of the clerkship application process, and said we’d have more to say about it later. Well, now is later, quite a bit later — so let’s discuss.

The piece — by Catherine Rampell, who has written about the legal world before — paints a depressing picture of a dysfunctional system. Rampell reports that the clerkship process “has become a frenzied free-for-all, with the arbiters of justice undermining each other at every turn to snatch up the best talent.”

Let’s look at the reasons behind this, and discuss whether the process can be fixed….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Price of Prestige: Clerkship Application Chaos”

At birth.

– Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, explaining when he begins recruiting law clerks.

(Chief Judge Kozinski is quoted in a very interesting New York Times article on the chaotic state of the clerkship application process, which we’ll have more to say about later.)

UPDATE (9/27/11): Here is our commentary on the NYT piece.

You'd smile too if you got home in time for dinner.

Today’s New York Times has a front-page story by Catherine Rampell entitled At Well-Paying Law Firms, a Low-Paid Corner. The article focuses on the phenomenon of “career associates” or “permanent associates” at large law firms. These lawyers are not eligible for partnership consideration and earn less than traditional associates, but they do enjoy a better “lifestyle,” in terms of more-reasonable hours and greater control over their schedules.

These positions generally pay around $60,000, significantly lower than the $160,000 that’s standard at top Biglaw shops. They are typically located not in New York or Chicago or L.A., but in more out-of-the-way places — such as Wheeling, West Virginia, where Orrick has its back-office operations, or Dayton, Ohio, where WilmerHale has “in-sourced” much of its work.

We mentioned the Times article earlier today. Morning Dockette was not impressed: “Career associates get to have ‘lifestyle’ jobs at Biglaw firms — but really, what kind of a lifestyle is it when you have to live in a crappy city with an even crappier salary?” Elie has also criticized these positions, characterizing them as “barely legal” jobs.

But such criticism might be overly harsh. Let’s look on the bright side….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Not on the Partner Track — and Maybe That’s Okay”