Unemployed

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s new column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

First, a story; then, an attempt to find a job for an unemployed former editor-in-chief of the Chicago-Kent Law Review.

Here’s the story: After I wrote The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law, I thought about how to maximize sales of the book. I had the clever (if I do say so myself) idea of sending free copies to the editors-in-chief of a bunch of law reviews. I figured that those folks were likely to (1) read a book and (2) be “opinion leaders” on their respective campuses, so word of the book would spread.

But there was a fly in my ointment. If you send a law student a book, the student is likely to read the book and pass it on to a friend, who will do the same in turn. That generates readers (which is nice), but it doesn’t generate sales (which is nicer).

How do you prevent this?

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Are you ready for some stop-gap measures?

Given that law schools keep pumping out more graduates than the market can handle, the state of Oregon is trying an interesting approach to deal with the mass of lawyers being unleashed into the system. Following in the footsteps of Georgia and Utah, Oregon will now require new lawyers to enroll in a year-long mentoring program.

People sitting for the February bar were informed that they will be subject to this new requirement. The goal of the program is to provide some guidance for all the unemployed law graduates, especially those who are thinking of going out there and hanging a shingle.

Because, you know, it’s not like three years in law school actually prepare you to start a career…

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Like many of you, I read the epic New York Times article on law school debt over the weekend. To answer the most consistent question I’ve received in the past 36 hours: no, I don’t feel like I’ve “won.” And I don’t feel like the NYT has somehow validated some of my commentary over the past two years.

Because the New York Times article, by David Segal, simply captures a story that everybody who has been paying attention already knows: law students are getting themselves into serious debt problems, with no plan for how to pay the debts back. This we know.

But there are things we don’t know. How do you get prospective law students to pay attention to the harsh economic realities before they sign up for law school? What can be done to make those economic realities a little bit less harsh? And what can be done after somebody makes a ruinous investment in higher education?

Now, as far as getting prospective law students to pay attention, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe a big-time article like this in the NYT helps. We already know, however, that unless it shows up in the U.S. News Law School Rankings, prospective law students don’t really care.

So let’s focus on the other questions…

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So lawyers, if you’ve recently been laid off or have been out of school for over a year without a job, it’s probably time to look at your résumé and take out any reference to the fact that you’re, you know, “dynamic.”

Sure, you might be. But so is everyone else. And, more importantly, nobody cares anyway.

LinkedIn’s analytics team reviewed 85 million LinkedIn profiles and came out with a list of the most “clichéd and overused” phrases found on people’s resumes.

As they succinctly say, “You know what they are — those ambiguous ones that really don’t tell you anything.”

Here are the 2010 top 10 buzzwords used in the U.S., according to them….

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Brandy Kuentzel, laid-off K&E lawyer turned reality TV star.

Apologies for this very belated coverage of the season finale of The Apprentice, which aired last week. Alas, no member of Team ATL — not even Marin, our resident reality TV addict — actually watched the show. The final episode was a bit like the proverbial tree falling in the forest without anyone around to hear it.

But it seems numerous ATL readers tuned in, even though ratings for the show are down 75 percent since the premiere season. So here’s a post, triggered by your many email pleas for coverage.

We extend warm congratulations to Brandy Kuentzel, the Chicago Law alumna and laid-off Kirkland & Ellis associate who emerged victorious in the reality TV competition. In the finale, Kuentzel defeated a fellow lawyer, Clint — a 40-year-old SMU Law grad described in his NBC bio as “living off of credit” — for the opportunity to work for Donald Trump.

One Brandy fan gave us some background on her: “She went to University of Chicago, started at Kirkland SF as transactional associate. After she got laid off, she started a mobile truck cupcake business.” (Digression: Why is driving a cupcake truck such a popular fallback option for lawyers? See also Kate Carrara, of Philadelphia, and Lev Ekster, of New York.)

Continued our tipster: “Brandy has an insane background story. She’s from Alaska, and moved out at an early age to self-finance her education, after graduating as valedictorian of her high school. Oh, and she is insanely hot. Google her.”

As you can see from her photo, Brandy is most definitely a hottie. But, interestingly enough, Brandy Kuentzel wasn’t quite as smoking hot back in her law firm days….

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The following will shock no one who has been paying attention to how law schools are trying to openly game the U.S. News law school rankings and mislead prospective law students. When it comes time to collect employment data, law schools are selectively surveying their graduates: they’re seeking survey responses from employed graduates, while ignoring graduates who are unemployed. They’ve been playing this game at least since the recession started.

And now we have evidence. A tipster emailed pretty much everybody in the legal blogosphere spilling the dirt on how his law school is trying to inflate employment statistics. He claims that the directive from his law school is not at all subtle. If you are employed, the school hounds you to complete a graduate employment survey. If you are unemployed, the school would like you to ignore it. That way, when the school hears from U.S. News or NALP or the ABA — or Law School Transparency, which just issued another request to law schools for more comprehensive employment data — law school officials can throw up their hands and say, “It’s so hard to get our graduates to fill out a jobs survey.”

Still confused about how law schools massage the facts? Let this tipster explain it to you….

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This year The Apprentice, a television show in which contestants compete for the privilege of working for Donald Trump, features 16 who are down on their luck, having lost previous jobs or otherwise having to start anew. No fewer than five of them are lawyers.

– from Trouble with the Law, an article about American law school graduates “finding that their chosen career is less lucrative than they had hoped,” in The Economist.

We’ve already titillated you with an interview of one of the Apprentice contestants, former Clifford Chance associate James Weir. Now we’ll get our first look at the rest of the contestants on tonight’s premiere of The Apprentice, which this season is built around a recession theme (and stocked with a number of layoff victims, including laid-off lawyers).

Click on the liveblog below to experience the glory and majesty of Donald Trump, Donald Trump’s hair, and the recession-aided desperation of strangers.

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The new season of The Apprentice: Recession Edition premieres tomorrow night on NBC, and if you weren’t planning on watching it because it’s the 87th season and nobody cares, you just might want to reverse course. No fewer than five unemployed lawyers — cupcake-wielding Brandy, ex-beauty queen Nicole, fashion-obsessed Mahsa, old person Clint, and Prince Harry-lookalike James — are competing to be Donald Trump’s main minion this season. Above the Law scored an advance interview with one of them.

James Weir, 31, was a second-year litigator in Clifford Chance’s New York office before getting laid off because of the economy back in October 2008.  Unable to find work, this Duke undergrad and ’06 Georgetown Law grad became a “couch surfer” (according to his Apprentice bio), brazenly unafraid of bedbugs (I asked), who spent his time applying for jobs, watching a lot of Netflix Instantly Viewable, and learning to stain furniture (presumably on purpose).

In our brief interview, James reveals ATL’s role in his casting (!!), shares the two things he wishes he said on air, and tells us what his mom really thinks about all of this…

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I hope all of you had a fine long weekend. I also hope at least some of you have some skills at building infrastructure.

But maybe you have some legal skills. If you do, the market for your talents is ever-so-slightly recovering. The latest jobs report shows that the American economy stinks as a whole, but less so for lawyers. Am Law Daily reports:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly employment report for August was released early Friday and the news was still a bit glum overall — the U.S. economy lost a total of 54,000 jobs. But the news for lawyers and legal industry employees was a bit brighter.

The legal sector handed out 1,000 jobs last month, marking the second straight month of improved numbers for the industry.

Yay! Let’s welcome these new people to the party…

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