Sunday, June 30, 2013

2012 Law Grad: Case Study

"2012 Law Grad Happy to Work in His Hometown," by Jo Mathis (Washtenaw Co. Legal News)

A former colleague forwarded me this article. It is apparently second in a series of three articles profiling young lawyers and law students trying to make it in the legal profession. I couldn't find the first article in the series because the paper isn't indexed very well. However, the young attorney that is profiled seems to have a fairly typical story -- if not better than most since he actually passed the bar exam and is actually practicing -- so I thought perhaps our readers would like to leave some comments about what this young lawyer did right, wrong, and his likely career path. Overall, a great little article but not likely to be read by many pre-law students since it is in a legal newspaper so let's give it some exposure.

Here are some vitals although I would encourage you to read the full article.

Name: Jeff Alber

Hometown: Chelsea, Michigan (Outside Ann Arbor, Michigan)

Undergrad Degree: Albion College (Private) Political Science Degree

Law School: University of Detroit Mercy School of Law (Private)

Bar Passage: Passed Michigan Bar First Attempt (55% Pass Rate)

Student Loan Debt: $150,000 but parents paid it down to "only" five figures

Relationship Status: Girlfriend (thinking about law school)

Legal Career Goal: Return to his hometown of Chelsea, Michigan, to practice law preferably with local four-person established firm in town

Back up plan: Hang a shingle in town

What he is currently doing: Of counsel with desk in conference room of the local four-person Chelsea law firm

How he ended up in law school: Not clear. He was going to attend The Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan but took the LSAT to give law school a shot instead. 

Money Quote: "'I still don't know what political science means,' he said. 'I wasn't sure what I was going to do.'"

Big Law Aspirations: None. Worked lots of small firm connections during law school. 

Money Quote: "'In law school, there's no emphasis on being a small solo practitioner or small firm lawyer in a small town. It's all, 'Oh, you're going to graduate. You're going to work for Honigman, you're going to be an associate, you're going to bust your ass and you're going to be a partner and that's the way it is.'"

Job Offers: Went on job interview when he had no work to do and was offered 65 hours a week for $35,000/year

Money Quote: "'The (office manager)....said, 'This job is long hours, there's no money, the benefits are bad, the boss is a jerk, and it's horrible. Is this something you want to do?'"

Clients: Doing contract work from local attorneys who he networked with in law school, overflow work with firm he is of counsel for and networking at local bar association

Does he like it? Seems to, at least for now. He mentioned his best friend is a sous chef. I wonder if in the back of his mind he is wishing he went to culinary school instead.

Money Quote: "'There are days I get a lot done and I do it well and I'm happy. And there are days I'm just struggling over some innate project and that's frustrating. But for the most part, I love it.'"

Does he think there are too many lawyers? He says college is overrated and he wishes he had a tangible skill that he could go anywhere with.


  1. Good find.

    He seems to be a glutton for punishment. There are plenty of jobs that pay $35K per year, and don't require you to work 65 hours a week. FWIW, here's what he did right:

    He was smart enough to come from a family with money. Because we all choose which income bracket we are born into, right?!?!

    In the end, this kid is actually doing better than most TTT grads these days. At least, in terms of finding an attorney position. Plus, it certainly helps when one's parents pay at least $51K of their student loans for them.

  2. He can borrow more Title 4 money and go back to culinary school at night and get his cooking credentials and then write his ticket as a short order cook making six figures in any law school cafeteria in the country.

    With his spare money he can invest in gold, and as the price goes up in the gold and silver market he can anonymously sit back and torture the poor people online with his poison pen :)

    1. ^ It's funny that you think I "tortured" you by simply asking you to get a job and be self-sufficient. Oh, the humanity!

      The price of gold has actually been plummeting, and no one is happier about it than I. It just means that I buy a few extra oz on the first of each month.

      Would you please stop posting here? As I recall, you were expressly BANNED by the moderators. I guess their roach-filter needs a few updates.

      You should stop obsessing over your critics and get a government job.

  3. At least he has a desk. Seems to be able to take care of himself in terms of generating work, which is what you need today to be a lawyer. If this ends up with him making $35,000 a year, I guess it goes farther in Michigan's depressed economy, but not really worth the debt or three years of opportunity cost for most people.

  4. This is off topic, but it is an Amazon review of Brian Tamanaha's book by none other than Brian Leiter.

    "I would certainly encourage a prospective law student, especially one not likely to get into one of the very top schools, to read this book."

    (Brian Leiter, University of Chicago 2012-05-10)

    Just putting this out there and I hope the Adjunct Law Professor, who skunked just about everyone around here to date, will be able to reconcile all of this in a reasonable way, and with her ready opprobrium of Leiter held in check.

    All of us are upset and tend to lash out, and as far as I go the Adjunct Lawprof and others are retrievable.

    Just sayin'

    1. ^ JFC, people!

      Ban the fucking roach from the site already! Do you really want to go back to the days of roachpoems about farts, and YouTube roach links about poems?

      This isn't complicated!

      1. Identify the roach's IP address from its comments.

      2. Ban the roach's IP prefix.

      3. End of roach comments.

    2. So the troll has been the Adjunct Law Prof all along?

      What a Woman!

  5. He should see if his law school has an opening for legal writing instructor or legal community outreach officer. Pay a little more.

  6. Everytime I see the Dwayne Johnson story about "in 1995, I had $7 in my pocket, by '96 I was wrestling in flea markets for $40/night" [and now I'm on Forbes Most Powerful List at #25], the only thing I can think is "he didn't have a negative $125,000 valuation to climb out of." Remember, any climb that starts on the positive side of valuation is a 20-year-head-start from a graduate-LS-start (i.e. -$125,000.00).

  7. I get the vibe from this story that if this young attorney had a do-over he would have chosen culinary school.

  8. "And there are days I'm just struggling over some innate project and that's frustrating. But for the most part, I love it.'"

    Please tell me it's the original article's reporter, and not the recent law grad, who doesn't know the difference between the words "innate" and "inane".


  9. fuck culinary school. go to art school or beauty school.

  10. CBS Evening News. Law Students struggle to find work:

  11. I know the partners at the firm. Good people. He can make a good comfortable living working with good people there.

    he will definitely do better than most law grads. in a few years, he will have no regrets about culinary school, assuming he does his work well.

    1. He seems like a nice young man and I do wish him well. Like I said, he had realistic goals for a career. It would be nice if the reporter did follow up with the young attorneys she profiles a year or two down the road.

      The sad part about these giant student loan burdens is that you have to commit to a career path that leaves you indentured. Later if you realize you made a mistake and would like to go in a different direction, it is almost impossible because of the burden you are under.

      The other said part about the legal market to me is that young attorneys like this one are trying to build a career with a head wind blowing at them because of the oversupply of lawyers, decline of middle class, etc. A young person in a different career may be building a career with the wind at their back making the money and advancement easier.

  12. Nando's blog was hacked lol

  13. What, everybody MISSED this part:

    "Before his parents decided to help him out, his law school debt totaled $150,000. Though the debt now is "only" in five figures, it's still daunting. It also keeps his motivation high."

    His PARENTS slapped 100k on a loan all at once. WHAT A SUCCESS STORY OF BEING A RICH KID!! WOW. Fabulous. Need-based student aid is a f'ing joke. I see this all the time.

    Over the age of 24? It's 2009? Great! Here's your 150K loan, with in-school deferred interest, which is actually just a subsidy to wealthy people who get an interest free loan for three years, when the obligation was always being assumed by another. F this country.