NALP

The law firm on-campus interview process is a peculiar institution. No other industry entrusts its entire entry-level hiring process to a series of superficial 20-minute “cattle call” interviews two years ahead of when the candidate will actually become a full-time employee. There is something contrived about the whole thing. (This old-ish video clip gives a good sense of the inherent absurdity.)

OCI is still underway at law schools across the country. Firms are currently hustling to interview students nationwide, make callbacks, and extend offers within an arbitrary 28-day window (per the NALP guidelines).

As we recently noted, opportunities to participate in OCI — which continues to be the primary entry point for law students into the largest and best-paying firms — are increasingly harder to come by in the current job market. The reality is, most students are on the outside looking in. Most will never be afforded the opportunity to land one of the few gigs that will actually give them a plausible chance of being able to pay off their student loans.

If you are one of the fortunate ones who just went through or is continuing to take part in OCI, we want to hear about your experiences….

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If Socrates was a law professor today, he’d be telling prospective law students not to believe what the blogs say about hemlock.

One expects legal academics to use the Socratic method for teaching students. But when it comes to the subject of going to law school, many of them are engaged in pure sophistry. I think many of them felt insulated from the effects of the recession when only recent law school graduates faced challenging job prospects and non-dischargeable debt loads. But now that law school applications have dropped off, professors are starting to see the barbarians at the gate. For God’s sakes, junior faculty are getting layoff notices, and the ABA just voted to consider dropping tenure as a requirement for accredited law schools. Professors must know that this system of high tuition and no jobs for graduates can’t go on forever.

And so some of them are fighting back. No, not with real reform. But by doing what professors do best: making theoretical arguments largely detached from the realities on the ground. They’re on a public relations campaign of lip flapping, as if the entire crisis in legal education is a media fantasy. For my money, this concerted effort by law school types to fight the war in the press started with Lawrence Mitchell, but we’ve since seen too many bad studies and bad arguments to count.

Today’s entry isn’t even all that bad. This professor spends a large part of his paper detailing the decline of Biglaw hiring that is unlikely to come back any time soon. But at the end, he tries to sound a note of hope — a misleading note of hope — that once again seems to encourage students to go to law school without fully grasping the depths of the problem in the market for legal education…

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* With a sharp focus on the Supreme Court and the legal definition of equality, only one thing’s for sure with respect to this week’s anticipated rulings: at least one group of people is probably going to get screwed. [New York Times]

* And lest we forget, thanks to our society’s near slavish obsession with social media and knowledge on demand, we’ll salivate uncontrollably as we wait for those opinions while the justices blissfully ignore new technology. [New York Times]

* The Justice Department charged NSA leaker Edward Snowden with espionage, and now he’s pursuing political asylum in Ecuador with the assistance of legal counsel representing WikiLeaks. [NBC News]

* Biglaw firms are trying to strengthen their pricing power in a post-recession world, with average rate increases of 4.8% in 2012, and hourly rates soaring in New York City. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* There were some bright spots in the otherwise dismal NALP job numbers for the class of 2012. Biglaw hiring is up, and so are median starting salaries. Sallie Mae is pleased as punch. [National Law Journal]

* If you’re considering law school, ask yourself these questions before applying. You should also ask yourself if you’re cool with unemployment. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* Richard Trenk, author of the “ham-fisted” cease-and-desist letter that’s been read around the world, has been honored as the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s “Knucklehead of the Week.” Congrats! [Star-Ledger]

* There’s no solace for people who have had to pay to have their mug shot “depublished” from the internet. Sorry, the First Amendment allows people to turn a profit off your misery. [Washington Post]

* This lawsuit over unpaid internships filed against Gawker will sting any gossip girl’s heart to the core. But really, isn’t the privilege of working for Gawker enough? This fangirl thinks so. [New York Post]

Why don’t your CSO officers look like this?

The official NALP numbers are out for the class of 2012, and they stink. We’ve known for a while that they were going to stink, but the final numbers stink slightly more than we thought they were going to stink.

While we had been hoping that entry-level hiring would be slightly up for the class of 2012 over the class of 2011, it’s actually slightly down. The overall employment rate for new law school graduates fell to 84.7%. It’s the fifth consecutive year that figure has fallen. The last time the numbers were this low was in the aftermath of the 1990-1991 recession. Things stink.

You don’t have to tell the class of 2012 that their hiring stinks; they’ve been living in it for over a year now. And you don’t have to tell the class of 2013 that their prospects aren’t much better; they’re out of school now, they know. Rising 3Ls in the class of 2014 might be deluding themselves that everything is going to be sunshine and roses for their class, but if they aren’t busy securing jobs this summer, they’ll learn what bitterness and failure taste like soon enough.

In fact, the only people who seem to need to be told that hiring is REALLY, REALLY BAD are American law schools, who continue to make statements and push programs as if getting a job in this market happens in a classroom instead of on a telephone or at a networking event…

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The legal profession has changed greatly over the almost seven years since the launch of Above the Law. Do these changes amount to a paradigm shift? Or are they just a temporary blip that will eventually be reversed?

Professor David Wilkins, Director of the Program on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School, is one of the most astute and well-informed observers of law as both a profession and an industry. In his recent keynote at the NALP annual education conference, Professor Wilkins considered these questions, and also shared his predictions about the future of the legal profession….

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As all sentient beings are aware, we have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad legal job market. According to NALP data, the industry is down 50,000 jobs since 2008 and there is no reason to believe they will ever reappear. If you ignore school-funded positions (5% of the total number of jobs), this market is worse than its previous low point of 1993-1994. In light of these grim economic realities, we feel that potential law students should prioritize their future job prospects over other factors in deciding whether to attend law school. To put it mildly, inputs- (LSATs, GPAs, per capita spending, etc.) and reputational survey-based law school rankings schemes have proved unsatisfactory. Hence our release last week of the ATL Top 50 Law Schools, which is based on nothing but outcomes.

(Although he probably disapproves of all rankings, it must be said that the legal world owes a great debt to Kyle McEntee and his colleagues at Law School Transparency. LST has forced us all to look at the publicly available employment data, submitted by the schools to the ABA, in a more meaningful way. Like all good ideas, it seems obvious in retrospect.)

We received a ton of feedback and comments regarding our rankings and our methodology, much of it thoughtful and substantive. (Our very own Elie Mystal weighed in with this takedown the day after we published.) Quite a few recurrent criticisms emerged from the comments. Of course there’s no perfect dataset or methodology. At best, rankings are a useful simulacrum and just one of many tools available to 0Ls for researching and comparing schools.

What follows are the most common criticisms of the ATL Top 50 Law Firms rankings….

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor is not a fan of the “having it all” concept. As she wrote in her recent (and excellent) memoir, My Beloved World (affiliate link), “having it all, career and family, with no sacrifice to either… is the myth we would do well to abandon, together with the pernicious notion that a woman who chooses one or the other is somehow deficient.”

Even though their panel had the phrase “Having It All” in the title, the participants in an interesting discussion on work/life balance at last week’s big NALP conference would probably agree. One theme that ran through the discussion was that sacrifices, on the work front or home front or both, are inevitable — and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Still, the panel’s emphasis on the need for working parents to rid themselves of guilt didn’t stop some people from shedding a few tears during the discussion….

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Banks need panic buttons. Jodie Foster needs a panic room. I only panic when it’s nine in the afternoon. But the thought that American law schools should have a panic button in their career services office didn’t occur to me until I attended the NALP panel on spotting mental health issue in the law school community.

The panel consisted of Hanna Stotland, a career and admissions consultant; Dr. Nada Stotland, Professor of Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center; and William Chamberlain, Director of Career Services at DePaul Law School.

I thought I was in for a touchy-feely hour about how it’s wrong to exclude the awkward gunner in the front row from all the reindeer games. Instead it was a sobering medical breakdown of the mental illnesses that afflict 20 percent of law students — and what career services officers can do to help stop people from literally killing themselves, which happens at way more law schools than I realized.

And yeah, your CSO should probably get a panic button installed if it doesn’t have one already….

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Your final destination… is not a Biglaw job.

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) has new numbers on the legal job market for recent graduates, and like it has been every year since the start of the Great Recession, those numbers are a horror show. A freaking horror show. They might as well put three recent graduates in a room with one job offer in it, handcuff the graduates to a pole, and give the offer to the one that eats through his arm first.

The other two would then get to leave the room unemployed, with some bite wounds, instead of unemployed with over $100,000 in debt, which is how people are actually leaving law school.

Do you want some good news? The lateral hiring market is hot. NALP executive director Jim Leipold called it a “feeding frenzy” for experienced associates. So if you got a job and held onto it through the 2009 layoffs, pick up your phone. It’s probably a recruiter calling. Congratulations on all your success.

If instead you were not lucky enough to be born five years earlier and have just graduated or are about to graduate, I don’t have anything for you — other than this here hacksaw. Chop, chop….

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Hello again from the 2013 annual education conference of the Association for Legal Career Professionals (aka NALP). People here are very friendly — although, as noted earlier, the law firm folks tend to be more welcoming to us than the law school crew.

That’s to be expected, given our sometimes critical coverage of law schools. We seek to promote consumer awareness when it comes to legal education, but some schools — especially those schools with weaker job outcomes for their graduates — perceive this as an attack.

Yesterday I attended a NALP panel discussion about law school transparency. In the course of discussing what we talk about when we talk about transparency, the panelists provided five defenses that law schools can use when faced with criticism over unemployed or underemployed graduates….

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