Depressing stuff

It’s about that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about when ESPN tells you what Ray Lewis and his teammates ate for breakfast along with every other remotely interesting detail of the other Super Bowl players’ lives. Instead, I’m talking about the time that law schools start to really get anal retentive about getting their graduate employment forms back.

I bet some of you readers have already received a couple of emails from your alma mater, each increasingly desperate and frantic as the head of career services threatens to pull his hair out unless you respond. This may seem like a good or even noble task for the school to perform, but let’s take a closer look at what’s really going on….

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We’ve all been there. It’s Friday. It’s 5:30 p.m. The rest of the working world is already well into their weekend, their three-day weekend.

But you’re not sure if you can leave. You work in Biglaw, and you don’t know if it’s okay to simply get up from your desk and rejoin the rest of free humanity.

Well, here’s something that can help you. A former Biglaw associate made a handy chart to let you know when it’s okay to leave….

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‘Please sir, some more gruel experience.’

Anyone who’s been following the implosion of the law school bubble is well aware of the fact that many recent graduates have been left floundering when it comes to employment prospects. And given the vast media coverage of the legal academy’s existential crisis, everyone and their mother knows that entry-level law jobs are few and far between. People are hungry for experience, but they’ve quickly come to the conclusion that it’s a real seller’s market out there. In today’s economy, it’s kill, be killed, or work in retail with a law degree (a fate which, for some, may be worse than even death).

As expected, some employers have chosen to take advantage of this situation. Take, for example, the “excellent position” we covered last summer, after a number of tipsters emailed us to express their outrage. The job was touted as providing “valuable experience,” and even though it had a sad little yearly salary of $10,000, some 32 people applied.

In the wonderful world of legal one-uppance, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with an even more audacious employment scheme. Would you be willing to pay someone for legal experience? Because that’s what this Connecticut law firm expects you to do.

Leave it to a lawyer to come up with a way to turn this dearth of job opportunities into a revenue stream….

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In Professor Paul Campos’s new book, Don’t Go To Law School (Unless) (affiliate link) — a book I’d recommend to anyone thinking seriously about law school — he shares an email from an individual who, after much research and thought, decides to enroll in law school. The email sheds some light on why people continue to sign up for law school despite all the warnings (from folks like Professor Campos, my colleague Elie Mystal, and many others). The law student writes:

[Prospective law students] think: debt doesn’t matter. There is no penalty for defaulting on the debt, except the relinquishment of the privileges of an advanced financial life. . . Students evaluating the horrible deal in question believe they have no access anyway to those privileges (e.g. a retirement account, a home purchase, a start-up business). For the student in question, all law school has to do is provide some potential benefit, and it becomes a rational choice.

After acknowledging that “[t]here’s a lot of force in this line of argument,” Professor Campos tries to refute it, basically arguing that many who go to law school based on such reasoning are “making a difficult situation worse.” But maybe the argument is not so easily refuted.

After all, what else are you going to do with yourself? Before you criticize law schools and those who matriculate at them, please familiarize yourself with the grim economic realities of twenty-first century America….

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It’s December, and you know what that means: it’s time to deck the halls with boughs of holly, and offer jobs to law students that will make them fa-la-la-la-laugh their indebted little asses off.

It’s been a while since we last wrote about the ridiculous jobs law professors try to pawn off on students, but at least this one isn’t offering up an adventures in babysitting gig. No, this time, a law professor caught a whiff of the holiday spirit, and is offering students the chance to get involved with their very own holly jolly Christmas.

Perhaps the eggnog this law prof was drinking had a little too much whiskey in it, because you’d have to be drunk to think it was a good idea to offer up a job that offers no legal experience whatsoever….

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Maybe you’ll make partner next year.

Back when I was at the law firm, billing more hours than I knew were in a week, there were people who thought I was “gunning” for partnership. I billed a ton of hours, had basic social skills and a good mentor, and hey, I’d look pretty good in any “diversity” partner puff piece. Just add ten years of sustaining a maniacal pace, learning how to generate rain in a shrinking market, and navigating the political minefield of kissing the right people’s asses, and maybe I could have had a shot.

Suuuure I would have. Making partner at the Biglaw firm that you started with is functionally impossible. It happens so infrequently that setting it as a goal is about as realistic as children saying they want to walk on the Moon when they grow up. The odds were long before the economic crisis that caused partnerships to close their ranks and protect their profits like dragons hoarding treasure.

It’s not going to happen, but trying to get there ruins a lot of people. They can be having perfectly fine, perfectly serviceable Biglaw careers, but then somebody starts dangling the possibility of “partnership” in front of them, and suddenly they are trying to schmooze late into the night and kick their billable hours up into the 3,000-a-year range. And maybe if they’re lucky they’ll be able to get into a less prestigious firm, slog another couple of backbreaking years as “counsel,” and then get equity at some other shop.

Am Law Daily has the story of a man who finally got his shot at the brass ring, was fired over his alcoholism, and died a short while later. It’s a sad and extreme story, but many people fall in all sorts of ways on the path to partnership….

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Ed. note: Gradenfreude is a new series chronicling a recent law school graduate’s life after attending an unranked school. Feel free to email the author at [email protected], and he’ll respond ASAP. After all, it’s not like he has anything better to do.

As the number of days without a career increases, I can feel myself losing it. Now by “it,” I don’t mean I’m going to have a bad day and go postal, but instead, I believe I’m becoming a little dumber every day. It seems that the lack of thought required for working in retail is resulting in a regression in terms of my basic common sense.

I now understand why old people need to play brain games to stay sharp. At least once a week, I catch myself doing something that is out of character — something that, if I saw another person doing it, would make me think that person was a moron. I feel like this job is turning me into the complete idiot that my customers treat me like….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Gradenfreude: Working Retail as a Lawyer Is Pretty Damn Demeaning”

Ed. note: Gradenfreude is a new series chronicling a recent law school graduate’s life after attending an unranked school. Feel free to email the author at [email protected], and he’ll respond ASAP. After all, it’s not like he has anything better to do.

I know that I complain about my job a lot, but when you have the experiences that I’ve got under my belt since graduating from law school, I think I have the right to complain. Personally, when I’m at work and thinking about how much I hate the job, I’ll sometimes wonder, “What could possibly make this worse?”

Last week, I found out.

I walked up to my boss as he was speaking to a coworker about the lack of intelligence required to do our job, and he said, “It’s not like we have a bunch of lawyers walking around here.” And my coworker responded, “Actually, now we do have one.” It was then that my boss grabbed a mop and said, “Tristan, just because you passed the bar exam doesn’t mean that you can’t clean the floor.”

Wow. I didn’t realize that it was possible, but my boss actually made me hate my job even more….

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I write about law school debt, often and passionately, because at the end of the day there are real productive people who are getting ruined by taking out more money than they can reasonably pay back. Not all of these people are “deadbeats,” and not all of these people are too stupid to understand a loan agreement. Many of them are people who simply thought that in America education was the path to upward mobility.

But unfortunately, in America today, education is also the path towards financial instability, or even disaster. People who take the shot at bettering themselves through education can easily find themselves with bad jobs and a mountain of debt that will take decades to pay off.

It’s not just happening to kids. The New York Times had a big article yesterday that highlighted all of the parents who have taken loans out for their children’s education and now can’t pay off the loans. And since we’re talking about parents, we’re dealing with people who maybe don’t have decades to get their financial houses back in order.

In one shocking case, a man took his own life; in the suicide note, he said: “I can’t even answer the phone in my own home no more. I can’t live like this no more.”…

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Bill Henderson

It’s kind of like the Hunger Games. You’re just trying to survive.

– an anonymous partner quoted by Professor William Henderson in a presentation today at Unlocking the Law: Building on the Work of Larry Ribstein. Professor Henderson noted that today many partners move laterally not for greater prestige or pay but for sheer survival.

(One factor that’s keeping partners up at night, after the jump.)

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