Law Students

I previously wrote about the depressing prospects for graduates of all but the top ten or twenty law schools (“Two Law Grad Markets”). And yes, these were statistical generalizations, and the experience of specific individuals with particular skills and backgrounds will always be different, pro and con. But as an industry, if you care about our supply chain for talent, many law schools are burning platforms.

There are actually some closely connected problems driving this dynamic:

  • More JDs are being turned out each year than there are (a) full-time, (b) long-term jobs, (c) requiring bar passage, (d) at current salary levels;
  • perhaps the primary reason for the mismatch between supply of JDs and current demand for them (about two supplied for every one today’s market is demanding) is that clients increasingly resist paying for junior associates, which makes it uneconomic for firms to invest in traditional training;
  • but/and at the same time, every sentient observer is painfully aware that vast segments of the U.S. population — consumers and businesses alike — remain underserved by lawyers.

This would prompt any economist to ask, almost instinctively, “Why isn’t there a market-clearing price where supply and demand can meet?” Which is another way of asking, “What if there were a way to address both these problems at a single stroke?”

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In case you’re not aware, law school costs a lot of money. Just one year of legal education can run the average law student more than $50,000. Many, if not most, law students take out loans to cover the costs of law school, but some are lucky enough to have their educations paid for in full by their parents. The students in the latter group are beholden to their parents and can’t run the risk of making them angry, for fear of getting cut off financially.

Of course, today’s incredible tale deals with a law student in her 20s who pissed her parents off so badly that they refused to continue paying for her prestigious law school tuition. This girl did what any law student with cash flow problems would’ve done: she became a prostitute.

This law student cum lady of the night came across some choice clientele, as one of her top johns, a man in his late 60s, was a lawyer at a prominent firm. You can guess what happened next: the lawyerly lovers created a sex contract, and the relationship quickly soured. As it turns out, notwithstanding Fifty Shades of Grey (affiliate link), sex isn’t quite so sexy when it’s wrapped in a condom of legal terms.

The pair ended up suing each other, and now we’ve got a juicy judgment for you to feast your eyes upon…

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Would you like fries with your entitlement?

Back in March, we brought you a story about a law student gunner who questioned his way out of a summer job with a law firm. It was awesome and awful, all at the same time.

Today, we’ve got yet another law student employment train wreck. When you’re searching for a summer job in this economy — or really, any job at all, even after graduation — you don’t have very much bargaining power as to your starting salary. Apparently some law students aren’t familiar with this fact.

Pay close attention, 1Ls, because this is a teachable moment. If you want to negotiate for a higher salary, please don’t tell a law firm managing partner that you consider his firm’s summer wages to be on par with those of a “McDonald’s hourly worker”…

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* When it comes to billing rates, starting at the junior level, female law firm partners are still lagging behind their male counterparts by an average of 10 percent less. Boo. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Just in time for the graduation of one of the largest law school classes in history, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the legal sector is shedding jobs. That sucks. Sorry Class of 2014. [Am Law Daily]

* Law school deans are dropping like flies. Since last week, at least three have announced their intention to leave their positions. We know of one more that we may discuss later. [National Law Journal]

* If you want to work as an attorney, your odds are better if you go to a Top 50 law school. Seventy-five percent of Top 50 grads are working as lawyers, compared to 50% of all others. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* The verdict is in on the latest Apple v. Samsung patent case, and Apple is probably pretty miffed it was awarded only $120M this time, since lawyers for the company requested billions in damages. [Reuters]

* Laura LaPlante, a 3L who was set to graduate from U. Chicago Law on June 16, RIP. [Chicago Tribune]

I get at least an email a week from law students seeking advice on what they should be doing to secure a law firm job involving China. This post is my once and future answer to those emails.

Two kinds of firms have a China law practice: mega firms (I began my career at one) and high end boutiques (I founded one). A small number of in-house lawyers also do China work, but nearly all of these lawyers went in-house after working for a mega firm or a high end boutique. Both kinds of firms generally interview only law students with top grades from highly rated law schools.

This means that entry-level China law jobs in the United States are generally limited to only the best students at the best schools. On top of this, most mega firms do not have recent graduates work on international law matters because they believe associates must first master corporate law or tax law or dispute resolution or labor law or IP law or whatever before being tasked with the additional layer of complexity of an international matter.

So what are the options for a law student who wants to practice China law?

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Edward Snowden

* When asked whether she thought Edward Snowden was “a whistleblower or a traitor,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg politely declined to answer — justices of the Supreme Court don’t just give previews of their opinions. [CNN]

* Ed Siskel recently left his role as deputy counsel in the Office of White House Counsel. It’s anyone’s guess which Biglaw firm added Gene Siskel’s nephew to its practice. Hopefully it’ll get a thumbs-up. [Politics Now / Los Angeles Times]

* It’s a “tale of two law schools”: the kind that place their students in jobs and the kind that let them languish in unemployment or underemployment. More on this tomorrow. [National Law Journal]

* Two NYU Law students’ emails were subpoenaed after they denounced the business activities of one of the law school’s trustees. Now, we’re not going to say that the school picked a side, but… [DNAinfo]

* Congrats, you can “Like” General Mills all you want without fear of arbitration. The company was so overwhelmed by negative consumer response that it withdrew its new legal terms. [New York Times]

After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee accepted a position as president of what was then called Washington College. By all accounts, he served the school well and had a nice end of life. After his death, Washington College was renamed Washington & Lee.

Today, many black people attend the university that bears Marse Robert’s surname, so I guess we won. But a group of black law students at Washington & Lee Law School is getting really sick of the university’s consistent, stars-and-bars waving support of Lee’s legacy and the whitewashing (no pun intended) of what that legacy represents.

They’ve got a list of some very specific “demands” for the Washington & Lee administration…

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Law school graduation is coming up and that means it’s time to engage in duplicitous backstabbing of everyone you call a friend in a mad scramble for graduation week event tickets.

That’s why the process of selling graduation week tickets has to be managed with a level of procedural fairness normally reserved for stock quotes or Miley Cyrus tickets. It’s also the reason everything can quickly descend into a lower circle of hell if someone feels they’ve been screwed over for tickets.

That’s what happened when a top law school accidentally gave the LLMs an early bite at the grad event ticket apple. And what they tried to do next lit up a hornets’ nest of entitled tools….

(Please note the UPDATES added below.)

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Spring has sprung, and you know what that means: we’re now seeking submissions for our annual law revue video contest. Last year, 19 law schools submitted 30 videos for the contest. Some of them were funny, some of them were “meh,” and some of them made us want to close our heads inside of our laptops. You do NOT want to be in the last category.

But if you think you can carry a tune or tell a joke, we ask that you send us your very best law revue videos so that we — and the Above the Law audience — may pass judgment upon them. Prepare yourselves for the worst, but hope for the best (that’s what we’ll be doing, since we expect we may be seeing some twerking this year).

Those responsible for the winning video will get Above the Law t-shirts and the pleasure of knowing they’re the envy of all their law school brethren. As for the losers, well… how embarrassing for you.

Before you start sending us your videos (and some of you have already tried), we’ve got some rules. As future members of the legal profession, we hope you’ll be able to follow them….

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Non-lawyers are often surprised to learn of the lockstep salary schemes of large law firms and the near-perfect information we have about them. (Recall Kevin Drum’s befuddlement at the bi-modal distribution of law graduate salaries and the “weird cultural collusion” it suggested.) Even annual bonuses are frequently spelled out in what amounts to public memoranda and are typically some variation of the “market” dictated by our Cravath overlords. Of course, there are some “black box” firms and a few gilded outliers such as Wachtell Lipton or Boies Schiller, but generally speaking, the world of large firms practices a degree of relative transparency around compensation that is unsurpassed outside the public sector.

In order to distinguish among firms, we have to look to the margins. For example, law firms vary quite a bit when it comes to paying for the bar and living expenses of incoming associates. Some firms may reimburse for covered expenses after the fact; others may pay some expenses directly to the provider. Some may give a stipend to cover living expenses, whereas others may offer the ability to take out an advance on salary.

Greater transparency (or, at least, aggregated information) on these questions might make one firm’s offer more attractive than another’s, or perhaps even give an offeree some basis for negotiating a package upgrade (but of course tread very lightly there)….

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