Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Kate Neville, founder of Neville Career Consulting, offers helpful tips for law school graduates who would like to expand their career options.
The year 2009 is well known within the legal industry as the year there were more attorneys laid off than in all of the previous years combined. It is also the year that the number of people who took the LSAT exam reached a record high. Though law school applications have since dropped precipitously, that dichotomy remains a problem. There continue to be more licensed attorneys than there are legal jobs available in the current economy.
These days, when we speak about new lawyers, we tend to focus less on the mere accomplishment of graduating from law school, mainly because the only admissions requirement at some institutions is a pulse, and more on sobering topics like incredibly high student debt loads and rampant joblessness. This is the “new normal” for law school graduates, and it isn’t as appealing as deans would have you believe.
Given the fact that the market for legal employment dropped out from underneath those who graduated between 2009 and 2011 (and continues to falter to this day), servicing high amounts of law school debt is more difficult than ever before. Declaring bankruptcy isn’t a real option for many, and enrolling in income-based repayment is a temporary solution that has been called a ticking time bomb. You just can’t win.
Unwelcome debt situations usually go hand in hand with law degrees, and they can happen to the best of us — even those who were once lauded as geniuses, like Andrew Carmichael Post. In America, even if you graduate from college at 17, enroll in law school at 18, and pass one of the most difficult bar exams in the nation at 22, you’ll still be saddled with unmanageable debt — in this case, to the tune of $215,000.
How in the world will Post be able to shoulder such a heavy debt burden?
And like any business that suddenly finds itself with fewer customers, law schools are looking to entice new students to apply. Because — and it’s always important to remember this — law schools are businesses, at least as much as they are academic institutions.
Will they take a hint from used car salesmen, setting up whacky, inflatable, arm-flailing tube men to draw the eye of passing motorists?
Or possibly Red Lobster, offering shrimp AND lobster with any J.D.?
Or, more likely, will they try to improve their job numbers while offering larger scholarships?
* A case of Supreme Court techciting gone wild: What happens when your book is cited in a SCOTUS opinion, but to express an opinion you’ve never endorsed before? A whole lot of irony. [New York Times]
* The Justice Department is dropping its appeal over a federal order that would allow promiscuous prosti-tots minors to access the morning-after pill. Hooray, over-the-counter emergency contraception for all! [CNN]
* The National Law Journal just released the most recent edition of the NLJ 350. As we saw in the Am Law 100 and 200, “economic wariness” was pervasive throughout Biglaw in 2012. [National Law Journal]
* More women are “bringing home the bacon,” but it’s the cheap store brand because they can’t afford better. It’s been 50 years since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, and women are still earning less money than men. [ABC News]
* When it came time for the ABA to change the time frame for law schools to submit jobs data, it pushed the decision back till August. Adopting the wait-and-see method already, huh? [ABA Journal]
* Jury selection has begun in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, where the verdict will hinge upon George Zimmerman’s credibility. It’s like we’re learning about trials for the first time, you guys. [Bloomberg]
* Because the Senate doesn’t work properly when it comes to doing things efficiently, Obama will nominate three candidates for the D.C. Circuit. The outrage! The horror! The court-packing! [Legal Times]
* Howrey going to sue everyone in time to meet this bankruptcy deadline? When you’ve only got a few days left before the statute of limitations expires, you file up to 33 suits per day. [Am Law Daily]
* Attack of the lawyer glut! If you’re a recent law school grad who’s still unemployed, chances are high that this chart detailing the ratio of lawyers to job openings will make you shed a tear. [The Atlantic]
* Tey Tsun Hang, the law professor convicted on corruption charges after having an affair with a student, is heading to jail for five months. Giving out all of that extra credit wasn’t worth it after all. [Bloomberg]
* Nidal Hasan, the accused Fort Hood shooter, will be representing himself in his murder trial. He’ll use a “defense of others” argument, which seems obtuse given the nature of the crime. [Huffington Post]
* Bradley Manning’s court-martial began with a bang, with the prosecution arguing that the young intelligence analyst put lives at risk, while his own attorney called him a “humanist.” [New York Times]
* Jill Kelley, the woman who helped bring about the downfall of General David Petraeus by exposing his affair, has filed a lawsuit against government officials alleging privacy violations of all things. [USA Today]
The ABA agrees that exploitation of law students and other interns is unacceptable; however, the FLSA uncertainty inhibits law firms from offering students the opportunity to work on pro bono matters in a real-life practice setting. …
Furthermore, in the current economic climate with shrunken employment opportunities for law school graduates, hindering the ability of law students and recent graduates to work side-by-side with experienced lawyers who could provide both strong mentoring and favorable substantive references unnecessarily reduces access for future employment prospects.
When you graduate from Harvard Law School, they give you little inflatable sharks that you are supposed to wave around when your school is called. I don’t know who “they” is, but I know they do it to reinforce the fact that as a Harvard lawyer, you are expected to go unto the world and wreak havoc in a relentless, remorseless fashion. HLS is a pretty messed-up place.
I know at other law schools students wave gavels. NYU Law grad Joe Patrice claims that they didn’t wave anything at his graduation… though he is usually drunk and not to be trusted. Western New England Law grad Staci said simply, “My school probably couldn’t afford anything to wave around.” Then she made the “wait, don’t post that” face, as I laughed and laughed in an elitist cackle.
The point is: graduating classes sometimes have little emblems or signs or things they bring to commencement to signify the careers they are about to start.
But for the law class of 2013, what careers are we talking about, really? Gavels and sharks seem a little too ambitious, no? Perhaps they should be waving around boxes of ramen? Maybe they should do what this college kid did below?
Paging the next Aquagirl! Where are you? (Click for the image for the post.)
* Obama might have found out about the IRS scandal “when it came out in the news,” but the Office of White House Counsel knew what was going on weeks ago. Hooray, a new reason for people to lose their sh*t. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through ridiculously expensive litigation: making up almost two percent of our GDP, our legal system is the most costly on earth, which isn’t exactly something we should be bragging about. [Corporate Counsel]
* “It’s no surprise these lawyers would want to get off this sinking ship.” It looks like things are going just swimmingly for Steven Donziger now that John Keker’s out as his defense attorney in the Chevron fraud case. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* “Fantasy sports is usually the first and last thing I’ll do each day.” Here’s some proof that there’s such a thing as work/life balance in Biglaw… which is only applicable if you’re a partner. [Am Law Daily]
* Law school enrollment is down, and so is tuition revenue, so the legal academy is now selling new degrees. It’s only a matter of time before they market employment timeshares. [National Law Journal]
* On the bright side, if you’re still looking for a job, our own David Lat has some advice on how to get one (and how NOT to get one). We miss summer associates’ misbehavior. [U.S. News & World Report]
* Congrats are in order for this weekend’s graduates, including the first graduates of LMU’s embattled law school — they won’t let a lack of ABA accreditation rain on their parade. [Knoxville News Sentinel]
Living in a post-Oprah Show world is tough for people like me. Oprah was the one who convinced many that no matter what happens in your life, it’s not your fault. There’s always how your mother treated you, how you were bullied in third grade, your bad relationships, and, of course, the law school that held a gun to your head while showing you fake statistics and promising a job handed to you at the same time you shake the dean’s hand and receive your degree.
While I believe anyone stupid enough to choose a law school based on their job placement statistics should never, ever, ever, be a practicing lawyer, there are many of you out there. Even though you should run as fast as you can to another profession or career, I want to help you at least try to find a legal job so in a year you can realize that the real problem is that you never wanted to be a lawyer anyway — you were just looking for some easy cash, like everyone promised.
As a favor to you, and for the five-figure fees I receive at ATL for writing this column, I provide these little nuggets of weekly advice which are both appreciated (privately) and excoriated (anonymously). I realize one of the problems that causes seemingly intelligent people with law degrees to respond with unintelligible rants about how I “don’t understand” is that I am actually working, as a lawyer. As misery loves company, there is the notion that because I’m not sitting in my parents’ basement lashing out at the computer screen in an effort to convince people not to go to law school, I am just wrong.
So before you throw in the towel and go to that world of becoming a social media rock star, I want you to know that I’m not the only one out there giving you advice that does nothing but anger you. There’s also Anna Ivey….
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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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