Hiring Bias

Well, times have changed a bit…

Today’s horoscope for Scorpio reads:

In order to get what you want, you are almost certainly going to have to compromise. That could mean anything, so keep your ears open and your mind flexible. Things make more sense soon.

And apparently, that compromise includes coming to grips with the knowledge that you have no shot at the latest job listing from an AmLaw 100 firm. Because they have a real problem with 1/12th of the population….

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Keith Lee

For the past couple of days, I’ve been at a conference held by Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS). The purpose of the conference was to kick off a year-long project entitled Foundations For Practice that was being helmed by Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers (ETL), a subset of IAALS. ETL is trying to determine the fundamental skills that new law graduates need to make them as appealing as possible to employers directly after they graduate from law school — i.e., how can law schools make sure that their graduates have skills that are valuable to future employers.

IAALS gathered a diverse group of lawyers to discuss the issue. Present were public defenders, judges, former ABA presidents, attorneys general, public interest lawyers, general counsels, Biglaw partners, and small firm lawyers such as myself and fellow Above The Law columnist Carolyn Elefant. We were there to give our perspectives on what were the skills we thought were necessary for new lawyers. Obviously there was strong general consensus as to what skills were necessary for new lawyers to have.

Or not….

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According to the Department of Labor, 14 million people in our country are unemployed. And with a surplus of lawyers that reaches into the thousands in almost every state, unemployment is a serious problem for the legal profession.

Unfortunately, we all know that Biglaw firms — and surely other firms, as well — are avoiding these attorneys like the plague. We spoke about this industry-wide issue back in late 2009, noting that Biglaw firms weren’t exactly keen on hiring associates that had previously been laid off. In fact, one recruiter we spoke with told us that approximately 80 percent of employers specifically requested résumés from attorneys who are still employed.

Facing these seemingly insurmountable odds, what’s an unemployed attorney to do? As it turns out, President Obama wants to lend a hand, but only if he can get Congress to pass this jobs bill….

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