Jim Leipold

Back in April, we brought you a story about a family who had written to Dear Abby, an advice columnist, about their child’s law school loan debt. Apparently the mere thought of assisting their darling daughter with the repayment of her $100,000+ debt load was just too much to bear. The daughter had already ruined her own life, so why should they ruin theirs too? And yet, tens of thousands of students are still willing to look this student loan debt problem in the face and laugh.

Yes, in a time where the Executive Director of the National Association for Law Placement is forced to write entire columns about the fact that there is no conceivable way he could describe the current entry-level job market as “good,” others are still considering applying to law school.

For example, today we found out that the matriarch of another family sought wisdom from an advice columnist as to whether her husband should go to law school. How did she respond? Let’s just say Dear Prudence is a little more in tune with the realities of today’s legal job market than Dear Abby will ever be….

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* Oh, by the way Dewey & LeBoeuf partners, the little contribution plan you signed that received court approval last week might not protect you from your former landlord’s claims for back rent. Hope you’ve all got an extra $45 million sitting in the bank. [Am Law Daily]

* Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Bernette Johnson will finally get to claim her seat as chief justice of the state’s high court after official judicial recognition — on both the state and federal level — that the year 1994 does indeed come before 1995. [Bloomberg]

* No matter how hard law school administrators wish it were so, or how much they beg Jim Leipold of NALP, he’s never going to be able to describe the current entry-level legal job market as “good.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* NYU Law School is changing its third-year program in the hopes of making a “good” market materialize. If you ship students to foreign countries for class, maybe they’ll get jobs there. [DealBook / New York Times]

* “[W]e’re determined to do everything we can to help them find jobs and meaningful careers.” We bet Brooklyn Law’s dean is also determined to avoid more litigation about employment statistics. [New York Law Journal]

* Has the other shoe finally dropped? After the Second Circuit ruled that YSL could sell monochromatic shoes, the fashion house decided to drop its trademark counterclaims against Christian Louboutin. [Businessweek]

We haven’t had a good New York to 190 post in a while, and maybe there’s a reason for that. While many associates (and partners) feel that they’re long overdue for a raise, starting salaries have grown stagnant in New York — and across the country, for that matter. Remember back in 2007 when we first reported that Simpson Thacher raised incoming associates’ base salaries to $160,000? That was five years ago, and these days, you’ll be lucky if you’re making what you would’ve been taking home before that $15K salary bump.

While that $160K sweet spot for first-years is still the norm in many large markets, it’s no longer as widespread as it once was. In fact, that figure represents only 46 percent of first-year salaries in firms with more than 700 lawyers — and that percentage has been on a steady decline since 2009, when layoffs and terror ran rampant in Biglaw.

Sorry about that tiny pink paycheck of yours….

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Don’t look so sad; it is possible to bounce back from a career setback.

Last week we covered news of associate layoffs and summer associate no-offers over at Winston & Strawn. We heard primarily from sources who were upset over the news, and because the firm declined to comment on personnel matters, we didn’t hear Winston’s side of the story. But now, thanks to some helpful sources, we have a few pro-Winston comments that we will now share.

First, the number of “stealth layoff” victims may have been overstated. According to word on the street among Chicago associates, “while some people were let go, 30 seems pretty high.”

Second, it seems the layoffs were focused in Chicago; other offices may have escaped relatively unscathed. According to a source in Winston’s New York office, “nobody has heard about layoffs” there.

Third, the changes to the timing of associate reviews — which were viewed by some as ominous, perhaps laying the groundwork for additional cuts — may actually be quite innocent. Said a source: “The review cycle was also moved forward for some classes and back for others, but it is part of a general re-vamp of the evaluation process, and I’m not convinced there are any sinister motives behind it.”

Fourth, although the firm’s Chicago office doled out a relatively high number of no-offers — about 10 out of 30 summer associates did not get offers of permanent employment — we hear that this was primarily a Chicago phenomenon. As noted by a commenter, “The offer percentages are, to the best of my knowledge, significantly higher in the other offices.”

Of course, after our story we also received additional criticism of Winston, to which we now turn….

Please note the addition of multiple UPDATES, after the jump.

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Last month, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) released information about the overall employment rate for the class of 2011 — information that seemed dismal, at best. The American Bar Association then followed up with its own employment data, and it was “just as dire” as everyone expected, if not worse.

We know that the overall employment rate for the class of 2011 is lower than it’s been in 17 years. But even members of the class of 2011 who managed to secure employment have been screwed. Median starting salaries for new law school graduates have dropped by 35% over the past two years.

Since prospective law students are not great with facts and numbers, NALP was kind enough to put together some pretty pictures to help people understand….

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We try to provide some balance in our coverage of law schools. Last night, for example, we posted our latest round of law school success stories, to balance some of the more depressing fare in our pages — such as the $10K a year lawyer job being offered to Boston College Law School students, which the law school defended vigorously.

At the same time, we have to report the reality that’s before us. And that reality isn’t always pretty.

Which brings us to today’s topic, the latest employment data from our friends at the National Association for Law Placement (NALP)….

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This is Elie Mystal, coming to you live from Austin, Texas, and the 2012 conference of the National Association of Law Placement. It’s my favorite annual conference, because every year, NALP just gets all the law school career services officers and all the law firm recruiters in a room, and tells them all the trends in legal hiring. We’re not talking about anecdotal evidence or law firm spin. It’s the one time each year we get to look at some hard numbers.

And in case you live under a rock, let me tell that every year since the recession, the numbers get more and more terrible. Looking at some of these statistics is as close as you can come to physically witnessing a dream die a horrible, mangled death.

This year, the numbers are worse than ever! And that’s the good news. NALP’s Executive Director, Jim Leipold, thinks that we’ve probably “hit the bottom” in terms of new associate hiring, with the class of 2011 suffering the absolute nadir of this process. While he doesn’t know if things will get significantly better any time soon, he figures they pretty much can’t get any worse.

Yay!

Does anybody want to hear the bad news?

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Obtaining a summer associate position at a major law firm remains difficult. That’s the upshot of a recent report (PDF) issued by our friends at NALP. You can read summaries of the report at the NALP website and at the ABA Journal. This quip, by NALP executive director Jim Leipold, pretty much says it all: “This is not a hot recruiting market.”

Given that employers are still in the driver’s seat, at least when it comes to entry-level recruiting — recruiting of lateral lawyers, whether associates or partners, is a different kettle of fish — you’d think that law firms would use this opportunity to experiment a bit with fall recruiting. There are some interesting alternatives out there to the standard model of 20- to 30-minute screening interviews, typically held in the summer before or early fall of the 2L year, followed by callback interviews at the firms. E.g., JD Match (disclosure: a past ATL advertiser).

But law firms, as we know, are a conservative group. They tend to stick with existing models, even if those models are imperfect.

Well, most law firms. Nobody ever accused Quinn Emanuel of not daring to be different….

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“[T]he new NALP numbers confirm that the job market is terrible for young lawyers (aka the “lost generation”).” I wrote that last year about the class of 2009.

And last year things were way better than this year. This year’s NALP employment numbers are out, and they show that the class of 2010 had some of the worst employment outcomes of the last 20 years.

No wonder people are suing their law schools. Going to law school turned out to be a terrible decision for many of them….

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Breaking news: law school is expensive. Really, really expensive. Much more expensive than it used to be.

Are there still people out there who don’t know that? I mean, we’re certainly at the point where you don’t deserve sympathy if you go to law school without understanding the financial ramifications of your decision. The truth is out there, people.

And the truth hurts. The Hartford Business Journal (gavel bang: ABA Journal) reports that law school debt has reached a beyond ridiculous, all-time high…

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