Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Post by I'm Not Atticus Finch -- Want to Be a Lawyer? Work at it First.

Want to Be a Lawyer? Work at it First.

Oh Special Snowflake, my Special Snowflake, how you rush off to Cooley without any forethought. Law school has been jokingly referred to as the last refuge of the vaguely talented, and it has traditionally served partly as a way station for those uncertain about what to do with their lives. Now a legal education typically comes with $150,000 in student loan debt, so it’s too expensive a choice for those who do not want to spend their careers practicing law. Graduate from Yale, or Harvard Law, and you will have a nifty social signaling tool, but this valuable effect probably disappears somewhere between the top five to fourteen law schools.

My law school lemming, I cannot look at you and tell if you will be successful in the practice of law. I can only tell you that the days are over when you can be a brilliant introvert, who surfaces from reading case law to disappear when it comes to interacting with the public. Instead successful lawyers combine a number of traits. They are; knowledgeable about substantive law, skilled at civil procedure, have good to excellent people skills, are reasonably glib and quick on their feet, exhibit the ability to make and close a sale, and maintain the resulting relationship. They should mostly enjoy the practice of law, and be able to tolerate the parts which are disagreeable to most people. They are good negotiators and competent business people. Family connections to obtain a first Attorney job and other opportunities will greatly help. Finally they also should have what is commonly referred by Professor Bill Henderson as "Fearlessness" or what Allan Dershowitz calls Chutzpah, and what most people call "balls". Most of us who practice law do not perfectly match this entire description.

It would be helpful for the would-be law student to have a reasonable appraisal of their strengths and weaknesses before they chose to plunge over the cliff. However there is no standardized way to figure out prior to attending law school whether you will even be good at digesting case law, and engaging in legal reasoning. Back in the 1980s, John Delaney who taught at NYU wrote the work books "Learning Legal Reasoning – Briefing, Analysis, and Theory" and "How to Do Your Best on Law School Exams". If you sat down and worked your way through all the essay assignments in both of these books and then had a lawyer friend review the assignments in order of completion, you with probably get a realistic answer for whether you might do well during your first year in law school. Since I have not tested this method on a large, representative sample of pre-law students this remains only a theory. Let me therefore move on to what you definitely can learn prior to law school.


Finding Out If You Really Want To Be a Lawyer Prior to Law School

Let me acknowledge first, that we are graduating close to twice the number of JDs each year then for whom there are full time lawyer jobs. I will concede that someone who utilized all of my advice may still end up unemployed. But before taking this risk, you can find out if 1) You want to put up with being a lawyer, and 2) If you have some of the people skills to succeed, and 3) you can test your family connections, and networking abilities to line up pre-law school paralegal jobs and internships.

Students who want to become doctors and nurses volunteer and intern in a number of placements, so should you. It always amazed me at law school, how many of my fellow attendees had never had any such experience. Some ended up loving the practice of law, others became rapidly disillusioned. By the time you show up as a One L, you should have at the very least, lined up a series of paid and unpaid jobs and experiences that have helped you confirm that you really want that law license.

Here’s a good first question. Can any member of your family or friends of your family help get you a low paid job with a lawyer or law firm? If not can they help you get a legal internship, say at the local prosecutor, public defender, or legal aid office? Predictably, social connections make the world go around, and if they can’t, you’ll have to depend on selling yourself from day one. It’s useful to know this before law school. For example, suppose you are in the bottom half of your law school class but friends and friends can help you line up summer employment between 1L-2L and 2L-3L because, they’ve done it before. If they can’t you are going to have to get your first lawyer job through either networking/salesmanship or high class placement. If you don’t have connections, good law school grades, or sales or networking skills, law school graduation will likely end in unemployment.

Without family connections, you are going to need some talking points when applying for legal jobs and internships. Good grades are always a plus, but let me give you a couple other quick ideas. Lawyers are always notarizing documents. If you have a couple hundred spare bucks become a notary public and bring your stamp to the interview. It requires a room temperature I.Q. but will save many employers much time, if you can help them churn out documents. Fluency in a much used language like Spanish will also markedly increase your value as a paralegal. In my experience, there are plenty of Latino clients and potential clients who cannot speak directly to their lawyers. If you have a fluency in another language such as Chinese, where there is such an immigrant community even better. You can talk your way into an immigration law practice. If you can brush up your language skills in college it’s a very transferable skill. I can’t tell you how often in public defender offices the official translator doesn’t show up in time because of other commitments, and being able to handle the client yourself would be of great help.

A course in accounting can help you work with financial records, and even with billing on slow days. Being skilled in computer repairs/programming also helps. You might help a firm by building spreadsheets and court exhibits for them. Good proof reading and typing skills can be useful, at least for the older attorneys who went to law school before word processing became common. If the firm handles Personal Injury cases, and you have a background with medical records, or courses in anatomy and physiology, you may have a selling point.

There are plenty of for profit schools that will sell you expensive paralegal courses. I’d go to your local community college and pick up a few paralegal continuing education credits. Paralegal degrees can be a very expensive proposition, so the point, is to not to go heavily in debt before law school but get a smattering of experience that will allow you to obtain internships and then paid paralegal gigs by assembling your talking points. After a couple of internships, a future employer is not going to give a shit that you don’t have a paralegal degree if you can quickly and competently fill out a HUD-1.

You are probably unlikely to get a paid part time or summer paralegal job right off the bat, so you will need to start with an internship. If you have great connections and get a paid job in a family firm, ignore the first sentence. If you are lucky you may have a father, mother, uncle, or aunt, who is a lawyer, and can teach you along the way. I can’t stress enough the value of such an opportunity. What should you look for in an internship? The answer is an experience that closely mimics the responsibilities of a paid position. In other words something, with a bit of stress, responsibility, deadlines, and difficult client contact. For example if you are only going to follow an attorney around for a summer, you will learn something, but you will not have contact with any of the challenges that make law so rewarding, or alternatively so stressful. For example, answering the phone at legal aid (if they haven’t been completely overwhelmed with law students) will give you some experience dealing with people with various legal crises in a wide variety of areas. You’ll also start to develop a bullshit detector, which is very valuable.

When lining up jobs look for the lawyer who gives you some leeway to do things rather the Attorney who never allows you to touch the steering wheel. Some attorneys are control freaks, but if they only allow you to say copy documents, you’ll never get useful experiences that will tell you if you can put up with the law as a 30 year career. (I should warn you however that as a solo, I spent so much time with the toner, that Xerox should award me an LLM) The most skilled paralegals in my humble opinion handle real estate transactions. It features a mixture of some legal knowledge, tight time deadlines, and occasionally abrasive emails and phone conversations with other paralegals and attorneys.

You won’t get that true law experience until you spend a full day arguing with someone at another law office about small points related to a civil case/closing/or real estate transaction. Volunteer to help draft your attorney’s cease and desist and collection letters using his prior correspondence as a model. Nothing will teach you more quickly how to start channeling the curious mixture of aggressiveness and legal formality that makes up legal practice. But before being a complete dick to some deadbeat, make sure you consult the Federal Fair Credit Act first! Being a successful lawyer requires not only knowing where the line is, but how to approach it, without sliding over.

I don’t know how many internships or paid paralegal jobs you should work one before you have the experience to know whether you want to devote your working life to the law. I would say a minimum of two placements, perhaps a year of time with at least one of these internships/jobs involving challenging work that closely resembles the stresses that you see in law practice.

I’ll finish with a UPS analogy. I once worked as a UPS Helper before Christmas. The driver tells me the door; I take the package and sprint, drop it off, and repeat a couple hundred times a day. It was relaxing in a way. The Driver was actually pleasant because he wanted me to stick around through Christmas Eve when a lot of the helpers quit. No problem, UPS might be worth looking into for a job. 90K a year for hard work sounded very good. So after Christmas I worked presort unloading trailer trucks. We would have to move 800 to 1,200 packages per 4 hour shift, with a supervisor yelling at us for moving too slowly. I then realized it would take 5-6 years if I did well to move from pre-sort, to sorting and loading trucks, to driving on weekends while making yourself available on short notice for short term driving assignments. All of this was expected before becoming a full time driver with a route. I also realized I wasn’t a particularly good driver, and didn’t want to spend 5-6 years trying to climb this career path, so I left pretty quickly.

I wasn’t upset at UPS. Rather, when I had obtained a fuller UPS experience, and not the Disney version, I realized that I didn’t have the fire in the belly or ability to drive the Brown mobile. I actually got paid to learn this, rather than go to "Brown" University, pay for an expensive degree, and then learn the career wasn’t for me. Sure, as an Attorney you will never have to move twenty, seventy five pound packages in a row, but as a worker’s comp lawyer told me, you will have to shovel the shit, and by shit he meant the inexhaustible number of motions, briefs, letters, and hearing preparations, that he had to carry out to be able to represent his clients well against other attorneys who were constantly trying "eat his lunch" for their clients. Before risking unemployment with $150K in student debts, you should have at least one of these experiences, prior to law school, that imitate the legal version of presort, and then ask yourself if you really want to practice law through better or worse. The United States has enough dissatisfied lawyers, know if you will be one of the exceptions before you show up for your first class in Civ Pro.

64 comments:

  1. "...the days are over when you can be a brilliant introvert, who surfaces from reading case law to disappear when it comes to interacting with the public."

    This describes LawProfs to a T. Even the most gregarious, outspoken LawProfs who claim to "love" teaching actually prefer to sit in their offices and get paid to write articles while simultaneously surfing the net to try to out scambloggers. Even if you have to give a presentation at a conference, this is still something a skilled, moderate introvert can do easily.

    That is why everyone flocked to the LawProf jobs - where else can a bookish academic make this kind of bread outside of the university environment, without having to leave the comfort of the bubble? This also explains why the claim that LawProfs can just go get Parterships at Cravath are all the more worthless puffery that falls like a house of cards. Yeah. You go do that. Let us know how it goes.

    There is nothing wrong with being an introvert - but you have to understand that American culture rewards extroversion more often than introversion, even in cases where the extrovert is completely and utterly full of sh*t. People just want to be told what to believe and to be able to feel good about it, and the sales job goes more smoothly in the hands of a extrovert.

    Lemmings, pay heed to the OP, and make sure you match up your personality accordingly so as to get the best mileage for you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Read this, take heed, and save yourselves three years of misery and a lifetime of debt servitude, Lemming. This is a free public service. Do not fall for the "It won't happen to me" trap. If you do so, then you have only yourself to blame for your own stupidity. The information is now out there and abundantly available to anyone with an inclination to perform any online research when making such a HUGE financial decision.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The OP captures an important point - lawyering is a sales job.

    Get a job as a salesman - if you aren't good at it, it is very unlikely that you will have a successful law practice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And if you're good at sales stick to it. Save the law school tuition and opportunity costs. You can sell an unlimited number of widgets but if you sell what lawyers sell - their time - there are only 24 hours in a day.

      Delete
    2. Good salespeople are fairly rare I think. If you're good at sales, you'd be better off just going straight into business rather than wasting 3 years and $150k+ at law school.

      Delete
  4. This emphasis on connections is inaccurate. Most people who get big law jobs or federal clerkships out of law school get them based on academic credentials. Most people who find follow up law jobs after that get them through postings on the internet. If you have top schools or sometimes a top record at lesser schools and you look hard enough, you can get a legal job.

    There are plenty of lawyers who relied on T5 or T14 law schools to get hired - no connections needed and no connections helpful in getting hired. They are looking for your experience at your level - you get hired. If not, forget it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not true: top schools and top grades won't get one a job if one is past one's late twenties. I'm the fucking poster boy for that. The dean of my law school—yes, one of the prestigious ones—even discouraged me, in my third year, from becoming a lawyer, as he said that my age would keep me from finding work.

      Delete
    2. It is just as true by the way in undergrad, with jobs. If you are a big client of an institution, sure, your kid may get an interview or a job, but most of the people who get legal jobs were highly qualified anyway.

      After years of working in big law, the only connections I have seen that work are having business, even if it comes from a parent or spouse, or marrying someone at the firm who makes partner. Both of these things only work for the well thought of who can get a job on their own and only if the person is well thought of enough by others at the firm to make the grade anyway. The connection may cause the connected to beat out another highly qualified lawyer for the partnership.

      Delete
    3. I believe the author was discussing what a OL could learn before going to law school. There are very few law schools (HYS) where you can get a job without good class placement. You will not know what your class placement will look like until you attend school, so you need to know whether you can get a job based on other qualities.

      Delete
    4. I agree that with big law, connections are of limited value. Most firms have anti-nepotism policies and the fact is, if you didn't go to an elite school or make law review at a good school, you aren't getting hired by a white shoe firm no matter what kind of contacts you have. However, with other jobs, contacts can be critically important. For example, I work in a state government office with approximately 25 other attornies. I would estimate that 20 of us (including myself) had contacts at the time we were hired.

      Delete
    5. I did go to an élite school and did make law review. But I couldn't get an interview. Whatever policies they may have, big law firms simply do not consider people past their late twenties.

      By the way, some well-connected dumb bunnies from the bottom of the class did get hired at white-shoe law firms.

      Delete
    6. It is definitely harder if you are an older law graduate. Early 30s would not make such a difference. If you are pushing 40 or older and trying to get an entry level job as a lawyer, it is going to be hard in this legal job market of severe oversupply of lawyers.

      It is the same for lawyers who are trying to practice in their 50s and 60s. It is very hard if the lawyer is not in a supervisory position.

      The fact is that lawyers do not want to supervise their peers and do not want to supervise lawyers older than themselves. In a market of huge labor oversupply, the lawyers making the hiring decisions can and do do exactly as they please.

      Your troubles are a function of the lawyer oversupply. Years ago, women who went to second tier schools late in life got good jobs and had good careers. True no more in this drastically transformed job market.

      The merger of all the midsized firms into larger firms means that older lawyers are not hired as associates or generally as counsel without portable business. One more reason why it is lousy idea to go to law school, even an elite law school like a T3. Once you don't make partner and have to leave that job or the next one before you get a job, you are dead in the water, your career is over, especially after age 45,

      Delete
    7. Indeed, people past their early thirties shouldn't attend even a Yale, to say nothing of a Valpo. Age-based discrimination will keep them out of the legal "profession".

      Delete
    8. I agree that connections are less important for Big law jobs immediately out of law school. This applies though to less than 10% of the law graduates who get jobs. The rest of us need connections, real connections and not the networking with other un- and marginally employed law grads that is advocated by the placement offices.

      Delete
    9. The number of people who get jobs that make a law degree economically worthwhile long-term without going to a law firm of say 50 or more lawyers or federal clerkship is quite small. Sure some people get to go to the government and some in house and make good careers as lawyers. However, the numbers of people doing that without ever going into a 50 plus lawyer firm is pretty small. Sometimes you may be talking about a person coming from a highly regarded specialty boutique law firm or federal clerkship. But straight government or straight in house and a career where you are paid over $95,000 ultimately is very rate without that law firm experience. What I am saying is that other 90% you are referring to will mostly not make a decent living at practicing law. Most will be in the bottom quartile or half of lawyers and many will drop out. Of course, you have a few people who can make it starting in solo/ dirt law, but those people are few and far between.

      Delete
    10. Imagining The Open ToadFebruary 17, 2014 at 3:17 PM

      "What I am saying is that other 90% you are referring to ... Most will be in the bottom quartile or half of lawyers "

      Now what was that I've heard about lawyers and math?

      ;-)

      Delete
  5. The problem is lawyer oversupply. You can be an introvert doctor and make a good living. You don't need to be a salesperson to make a good living as a doctor.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm not a notary public, but I am fluent in Chinese and Spanish, and I have experience in accounting and computer programming. And a degree in law, with excellent grades. I'm still out of work.

    For the purposes of finding a job, connections easily trump skills.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, that statement about being able to speak foreign languages helping w/ legal jobs is bogus and should be removed. I speak four languages and my first job out of law school was at the DA's office for $13,000 a year. You may be able to get jobs, but they sure as hell won't be well paid. The United States does not need people who speak foreign languages. I learned that the hard way. Best to go to Europe, where the ability to speak more than one language is appreciated.

      Delete
    2. Yes, the ability to speak multiple languages (and I speak more than those two) is more appreciated in Europe. Unfortunately, getting the right to work in Europe would be very difficult for me.

      Delete
    3. Law schools still think it's the 1980's. In those days, a foreign language would be seen as a great asset at a law firm. Now, firms either have offices in foreign countries or an association with a local firm. In other words, they have access to native speakers and don't need your linguistic talents in the US. The only law jobs where a foreign language might be seen as an asset is (1) immigration law, (2) inhouse with a multinational (which means they could move you to an overseas office), or (3) with some government jobs, like with the Dept. of State. Numbers 2 and 3 require a lot of experience and good to fantastic academic credentials.

      Delete
    4. Knowing multiple languages seems to mark one as a pointy-headed intellectual—not an endearing trait in the cookie-cutter legal racket.

      Delete
  7. Excellent advice that almost no special snowflake Future Student Loan Conduits will follow.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm a big fan of this movement, but something I wonder if people are actually writing to try to prevent potential future law students from making a huge mistake or simply to get off on telling future lawyers how stupid they are. Why start off with calling people lemmings and special snowflakes? It makes the article annoying to read and insulting those who you are trying to reach isn't a very effective strategy for getting someone to change their mind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get what you're saying but the fact is that this info has been out for so long now that people deserve to be called "lemming" or "snowflake," if they fail to realize what a bad decision law school is at this point in time (and likely for the next decade), in light of the oversupply of lawyers, high tuition, and lack of jobs.

      Delete
  9. i forgot where i read this from, but there was an attorney who did late night UPS shifts to make extra holiday money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or perhaps someone at UPS who practiced law by day in order to make some extra money.

      Delete
  10. Great advice, and this post should be required reading for all aspiring law students or students who are merely law-school curious.

    Yes, you MUST try before buy.

    You must have worked in a law firm (preferably one large and one small), interviewed in depth at least 5 solo practitioners or microfirm lawyers who have been solo for 10 years or less, and then interview at least 5 solos who are going it alone right out of law school. You must also write a college-level term paper of at least 25 pages (with citations to authority) on Tort Reform in your dream jurisdiction, and another such paper on the incidences of depression and alcoholism in the profession.

    The part in the post about matching your personality --which must a blend of "Always be Closing" hyper-salesmanism, ultra-aggressive, curmudgeon, and warrior-- has always been relevant. Only communicating this pearl of wisdom to you in this day and age is hopelessly dated. You see, this post is actually unintentionally pro-law school.

    If you happen to be the truly odd bird that has (1) tried the legal world before going to law school, (2) truly likes it and wants more, (3) survives law school and passes the bar, and (4) then has the requisite salesman/warrior/hyper-aggressive personality, guess what?

    There ain't any paying work for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, that advice may be fine for the great unwashed, but of course I don't need it. After all, I got a $1000 non-renewable scholarship from Indiana Tech, and Vermont Law School waived its application fee for me. That shows what we already knew: that I'm destined for wealth and status and glory. ♪ I'm a special snowflake, short and stout… ♪

      Delete
  11. As someone who has beaten the odds and survived as a lawyer making a decent living for decades, I still think this is important advice. Being a lawyer is not simply doing a job - it is something you are 24/7, especially as you gain seniority - so you'd better want to be a lawyer and know what it really entails. Moreover, the legal profession is overpopulated with outright assholes - most of whom IMHO had no idea what they were getting into when they went to law school - got the law degree, often from a T14 school, got the job, made partner, but absolutely hate being a lawyer (the smart ones from HYS guess early and become law professors (writing scholarshit is a further avoidance)). These are the screamers that associates and paralegals are terrified of, the phone throwers, the flaming assholes. They make legal practice miserable for even those who would otherwise enjoy it.

    Pushing for law school applicants to have some sort of pre-law practice exposure to the law and legal practice would be a huge help to reducing this problem. Even looking for something like the to business schools (used to) do, at least 2 years of real work experience post college would be a big help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I majored in accounting and subsequently earned a worthless accounting degree from a worthless college, that should be closed down. But, I digress. Anyhow, while I was earning this worthless degree I took one valuable business law course from a seasoned attorney. To put it straight, he basically talked us out of the legal profession and I recall one time he talking about asshole partners who since knowing the law, knew how to be complete assholes and make the associates lives miserable without it being any form of illegal sexual or racial harrassment. In other words, they knew how to push the buttons down to their breaking points.

      Delete
  12. From the ABA Journal:
    24 percent of JDs who passed the bar in 2000 aren’t practicing law, survey finds.

    Money Quote: "Among [2002] graduates of the top 10 law schools, only 16.8 percent were working in large firms of more than 250 lawyers in 2012, compared to 55.3 percent in 2003 and 28.7 percent in 2007."

    http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/twelve_years_after_the_jd_20_percent_arent_practicing_law/?utm_source=maestro&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly_email

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That money quote is powerful stuff. Naive applicants to law schools - even top ones - should mull that one over before paying a dime of tuition.

      Delete
    2. Of course, some of those graduates landed cushy positions as law profe$$ors…

      Delete
    3. Imagining The Open ToadFebruary 14, 2014 at 4:30 PM

      I think popular press articles do a poor job of discussing the background for this survey.

      For example, if of the "Wave 1" respondents in 2003, over 55% were in large firms, the survey is clearly NOT following a representative group of year 2000 graduates (not 2002, by the way).

      It doesn't even seem like a representative group of top 10 LS grads. For 55% to be in large firms after 3 years? I don't think the top 10 school average even 50% placement into biglaw, do they?

      This sort of survey would be more useful to have taken a slice out of the Y2K grad class from schools in the 60-80 rankings. Schools many people still think of as "good enough". I'd love to learn the outcomes for those folks 13 years later...

      Delete
    4. People who go to law schools ranked 60-80 are nuts. Those schools were never a good bet and today only a sucker or fool would attend.

      Delete
    5. And tens of thousands of suckers and fools do attend schools ranking in that range or even far lower.

      Even 30 isn't good enough. And I have my doubts about 20, 15, and 10. Hell, for some people, even Yale is a bad idea.

      Delete
    6. The placement in 250 plus lawyer firms may have been higher than now for the class of 2000. Also, some grads were placed in midsized firms which merged into large firms after 2000. So the placement numbers for recent grads were likely stronger than they are now.

      The rankings of the schools they attended or the top law firms where they worked don't help older lawyers who are forced out of their jobs. Even a Yale Law degree is likely not to help you if you lose a job at age 52 and your employer does not give you enough time to land in another full-time permanent job that is remotely comparable to a job that would be considered acceptable for a first year graduate from Yale Law School. The acute lawyer oversupply is leading to very frequent job losses for lawyers of all ages, no matter how strong their academics or employment history. The acute lawyer oversupply means that an experienced Yale Law graduate who is over the age of 45 or so may well not find a real legal job after that job loss. By real legal job, we are talking full-time, permanent and paying more than $145,000 as an employee and after the employer covers its share of Social Security and 80% of family health insurance costs and pays state unemployment and where applicable state short-term disability. A self employed person would need to earn a lot more to make that same amount.

      Delete
    7. The numbers for Top 10 grads working in big law seem realistic to me, for a pre-recession graduating class. The real eye-opener with those numbers is how few were left five years out, never mid ten years out.

      On the other hand, the figure for those not practicing law (24%) -- which seems to be for all 2000 JD grads, not just those from Top 10 schools -- sounds way too low to me, and definitely sounds like it did not come from a representative sample. Across all law schools from top to bottom, I would have expected that number to at least approach 50% even if the post-2008 recession had not happened in the intervening years. In the current economy, I wouldn't be surprised if the percentage was even higher than 50%.

      I don't think there has been a single year since 1990 in which the percentage of law grads who found real, full-time attorney positions out of school has been any higher than about 75%. For pre-2008 graduating classes, 24% sounds like the number who dropped off within a year or two after graduation, not ten years out. Even before the 2008 recession, people used to say that 50% of law grads weren't practicing ten years out. That always made sense to me. Between people who drop out of law due to lack of job opportunities (in addition to the quarter of the class or so who never got their foot in the door, there are others who did have jobs but practiced law only briefly and marginally), people who found they hated being lawyers or just got burned out, and people who started seeing the out side of "up or out" towards the end of their first decade out, 50% seemed realistic. The ten-years-out number will undoubtedly be higher for post-2008 graduating classes, if the percentage of people who can't find a real first job in the field at all is now around 50%.

      The bottom line: I can't believe that 24% numbers came from a representative sample; it's way too low. The sample has to have been slanted towards those had experienced some intitial success out of law school. I'm struck that the 24% would make sense as the number who found real full-time legal jobs but later dropped out, if the survey completey disregarded the 25% of so or JDs who weren't finding legal jobs even back then. Add them to the 24% and you're talking around 50% of all grads, which sounds a lot more realistic to me.

      Delete
    8. The numbers of experienced lawyers working in full-time permanent jobs as lawyers many years out of law school - 10 years, 20 years, 30 years would show a huge drop even from the top 10 schools, the farther people get from law school graduation. That is the scam. Even a top 10 or top 5 school or Harvard or Yale Law School in no way guarantees that a graduate will find a job when that person is older. The scam means that older lawyers from top law schools will not get hired and cannot earn a living as lawyers. That Harvard or Yale or other top 5 or top 10 law school degree is useless because the person is over 50 or over 60 - no takers at all when that person applies for a job. Not even a single interview. Plan on early retirement - very early retirement - with your top law school degree, because if you lose your job, which most lawyers do, no will hire you after age 50 and forget working at all in your 60s. It is mandatory retirement very early for most lawyers, and of course, it is perfectly legal. What the EEOC calls disparate impact discrimination. You know what - the EEOC looks the other way when they see disparate impact age discrimination. So yes, your top law degree is useless when you are older, and there is no a d__n thing you can do about it.

      Delete
  13. Is this the great Atticus Finch who wrote Planet Law School?

    ReplyDelete
  14. 10:11, great and sound advice. It never gets easier. As a fed and municipal employeewith 33 years experience, I strongly recommend that aspiring lawyers ask prospective employers about the number of applications they receive for each position. For example I used to work for the Philadelphia District Attorneys Office. They received over 6000 applications for about twenty positions give or take when I got hired. (I am no special snowflake just an ex-JAG). At the Coast Guard where I work now we got over 200 hundred applications for one JAG position in the second accessions board in 2012. I could go on and on but are you willing to wager 150K or more against odds that are almost insurmountable. Even a GS-12 position in Baltimore that was only a temporary fill had 200 folks, many of whom went to GW and UVA banging on our door. Can you beat their resumes? Ask yourself that question. Federal attorneys are generally pretty willing to provided those numbers during informational interviews.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another CG JAG (funded student) here: this year at the district office, where we didn't post job openings- we received 50 plus of applicants for 2 unpaid, unadvertised internships over the summer (from top law schools, no less, including HLS, etc.). I second the notion that the fed gov't and military jobs are just as competitive as the biglaw jobs out there-

      Delete
  15. People at the second-tier U of Virginia and third-tier George Washington are not getting jobs, yet lemmings and special snowflakes fancy that they'll do better with a degree from one of the US's 180 or so fourth-tier law schools.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Imagining The Open ToadFebruary 14, 2014 at 4:34 PM

      What? What are you talking about? GW and UVA get their grads jobs!

      After all - you can see them, there, working in their respective law school LIBRARIES.

      (For exactly 1 year, that is - the length of time required to report those jobs as "full time, permanent, JD required").

      (I don't know about 2013 class, but for 2012, according to Kyle's website GW and UVA were among the top 5 in terms of percentage of class with school-funded jobs.)

      Delete
    2. UVA, literally the most overrated school - in ALL disciplines - in the entire US.

      Delete
    3. Those jobs are for as little as nine months. Somehow the duration just happens to coincide with the time at which the ABA collects data on employment.

      Imagine the ignominy of graduating with $200k or more in debt from one of these "prestigious" institutions only to go straight back to shuffle papers in the admissions office for $10 per hour, being seen every day by familiar faces from subsequent years—only to get the sack nine months later and find out from the scam blogs that one's job was just a ploy by the law school to bolster its "employment" figures.

      Delete
    4. Is UVA not considered a top notch school anymore? My brother in law is a tenured professor there and makes at least $250k per year. He's affluent, even for Charlottesvilke.
      I thought UVA was a guaranteed path to riches. Maybe it's a guaranteed path to riches for the professors?

      Delete
    5. They now have women at VMI. What next, men at UVA?

      Delete
  16. I shall never forget graduating in 1993 tip top of my class from a T2 school.....63K in the hole to student debt....the director of the placement office was a royal b**ch....they knew the scam, I didn't....I was one of the lucky ones, I got a job for 75K a year in LA. I went back to tell the royal b**ch that I landed a job....so she said...."so we can report that...." I was so naïve back then. I should have never let them know I got the job so they could use that to bolster their US News rankings. By the way, it lasted all of 2 years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The dean of my law school sent out a letter imploring graduating students to fill out a survey about employment and salary. I was only too happy to report being unemployed. Let them report that, the bastards. They never did a goddamn thing to help me to find work.

      Delete
    2. And most grads are not simply "unemployed." More accurately, they're damaged in their ability to seek other employment. Damned these schools.

      Delete
    3. By the way $$63,000 is a hell of a lot of money for 1993, that would be over $100,000 in todays dollars considering the normal rate of inflation. You got screwed and you didnt have access to the kind of information people have today. Law school and college has been a scam since the mid 1980s.

      Delete
    4. Indeed, the law degree is a decided disadvantage for the purposes of finding work other than as a lawyer. I've taken the goddamn thing off my résumé.

      Delete
  17. I do not see a problem with a school reporting accurately that you got a job. The statistics are not supposed to count only those jobs you got with the school's help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The schools lie. It doesn't really matter what you report to them.

      Delete
    2. Do you think that my law school is going to report my unemployment? I don't.

      What they want are reports from those who do have jobs. They'd prefer not to hear from me at all. And I'm willing to bet that my copy of that survey will accidentally fall into a wastebasket or a paper shredder.

      Delete
  18. I think it is really important to know the data on employment outcomes for law and for other professions before you go to a professional school. There is important data just not available, but based on what is available, you can make a much more informed decision about what to do with your life.

    The median income of lawyers in the U.S. is much lower than for doctors and dentists. It is about on a par with pharmacists and lower than for nurse practitioners. In fact, if you factor in self-employed income and lack of benefits, it is lower than for most experienced public school teachers, based on published salary data, after 20 years of work. That is because most teachers get high benefits and most lawyers don't. People ought to know that before you expend your Harvard or Yale undergrad or summa cum laude undergrad at a lower ranked college, along with high standardized test scores on law school.

    Secondly, there are many missing law graduates. Less than half of all law graduates in the last 40 years are employed as lawyers. Where are the other 768,000 law grads who are not employed as lawyers now? What type of living are they making? No one knows.

    Third, there are many more licensed lawyers than jobs in the U.S. 1.25 million licensed lawyers for what the BLS says is 732,000 jobs.

    Fourth an unknown percentage of those jobs are short-term Pick up the want ads. Maybe half the jobs advertised for lawyers are temp jobs.

    Maybe you can get similar numbers for other lines of work. Study drop out rates and study the want ads for temp vs. permanent work being advertised.

    Finally, the top law schools are placing large number of graduates into up or out jobs. These jobs do not retain older lawyers and do not hire older lawyers except in very small numbers. Where are the top law school graduates who were forced out of their law firms on account of up or out 10, 20 or 30 years later? No one knows. What is the impact of up or out on the job market for graduates of top law schools 10 , 20 or 30 years out if none of the large law firms, that is the jobs that actually pay good salaries, will hire most older law graduates? How many other types of jobs are available for these experienced law graduates 20 plus years out? We don't know.

    Be suspicious. Things are not as they appear to be. Many Americans are unemployed and underemployed long-term. You could be one of them if you take your Harvard or Yale undergrad degree or summa cum laude undergrad degree and high test scores to a top law school -even to Harvard or Yale Law. There are no guarantees in law and a high level of unemployment and underemployment among graduates 20 plus year out of law school, even Harvard or Yale Law School.

    Let me tell you from actual experience, if you are older, in your 50s or 60s, your cum laude Harvard Law degree followed by and Article 3 clerkship and a job at just one V10 law firm, where you lasted years, will not get you even a single job interview. Don't believe me? Send out 250 resumes without a single call back with that record. You will see.

    There is enough out there so people should be very suspicious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel like a fool. I can't stop telling myself that there must have been a way to obtain accurate information about professional prospects five years ago, when I decided to study law. I really didn't know that I'd be closed out of the "profession" because of my age.

      Delete
    2. Not everyone is closed out. Some people do okay. Problem is that those at the top - top grades, boards, records, law firms - can and do easily lose all and have no career left sooner or later.

      A very high percentage of the undergraduate class at Harvard, Yale and Princeton went to law school - mostly top law schools - at least until recently. More recently, some these schools that previously made the information public no longer publish the law school admissions data for their undergrads.

      Anyway, it is easy to go to one of these top law schools and end up empty-handed in terms of a job or a career.

      The problem is that many people, if they knew the probability of a bad outcome, would chose a different career than law. The early experience of high placement for top law schools right after law school graduation is not representative of the longer term outcomes for graduates of these schools.

      The information gap, as Elie Mystal calls it, is to blame for many choices that turned out to be terrible choices for experienced law grads from schools as good as Harvard or Yale, law school, undergrad, or both.

      I could shoot myself for choosing law, but it would have been hard to get information on outcomes back then. Maybe a lot of time in the library (before the days of the internet) would have provided hints that law was less attractive and stable than it appeared to be and gotten me to chose a different career. Needless to say, I did not do the diligence and had good years in my early years of practice, when the legal job market was better and the legal profession less oversaturated.

      Of course, the legal profession has deteriorated in recent years, which is a big part of the problem we all face.

      One of my experienced doctors, in a good specialty, always says "Who knew?" about the decision to purse that career.

      Delete
    3. By the way, I am talking about either tax, litigation, corporate and securities experience or real estate - summarizing the unemployed colleagues who went from many years at big firms, including partner and counsel slots, after Harvard or Yale Law and in some cases Article 3 clerkships and one case Harvard Law Review, to being unable to find a job in law. None of these people made enough to retire when they were thrown out. They made enough so they would not starve and had savings to carry them through. None were partners in V10 firms, but some were partners in very prominent firms and others were long time counsel or senior associates beyond 10 years in V10 firms. I don't know what is going on with the experienced legal job market, and why it has contracted so much, but whatever it is, it is awful.

      My suspicion is that years and years of up or out working in a way that people are not finding other jobs (this trend is only a decade old - before then up or out was applied so most people got jobs) has killed the experienced job market for almost all but the very young who are coming directly from big law or the few people who have post-big law jobs and the time to interview directly into another legal job. Anyone else - without the time to move to a new job - is screwed so to speak. Now time may not even help because there is such a backlog of top lawyers who have been up or outed.

      Delete
    4. Now this is a little offtopic but from what I've been reading much of BigLaw itself has been run as a scam for quite some time. Associates work very long hours of course, but much if it is work which should be done by less qualified workers. Much of it just pure unnecessary makework. All of this done to boost up billable hours way beyond what is necessary. This article last month from Above the Law shows what happens when this scamtastic billing model is accidentally applied to a totally inappropriate situation:

      http://abovethelaw.com/2014/01/why-you-dont-want-a-biglaw-firm-to-handle-your-landlord-tenant-case/

      All this wouldn't be news to many commenters here of course, but came as a bit of a surprise to me. Big Law, the dream of so many lemmings and the justification for grossly overpriced law school tuition, itself a scam in large part. And now clients are wising up, and Big Law is suffering.

      Delete
    5. Over-billing by law is routine. As a former defense lawyer, it always amazed me how some lawyers managed to bill 300 plus hours no a regular bases every month, yet rarely were seen in the office on weekends or late in the day. I would guess that many time sheets are potential Rico actions for the fraud being perpetrated. I just handled a simple arbitration claim and the arbitrators individually managed to bill about four times what seems reasonable under the circumstances. Why does this happen: (1) Because self interest usually trumps integrity among lawyers and (2) because many lawyers are narcissists. This is simply a profession filled with dirt bags. Lawyers deserve the terrible reputations they have as far as I am concerned. I've made a lot of money in this profession, I've been lucky in that respect, but dealing with some of the disgustingly terrible people you have to deal with in this profession pretty much convinces me the money was not worth it and I would rather have just been a Federal Employee, making a decent GS civil service wage, which I started out as out of college. I could not imagine dealing with the dirtbags in this profession for minimal pay and huge amounts of debt. It would be enough to drive any man into a deep depression.

      Delete
  19. Imagining The Open ToadFebruary 17, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    8:00 AM yesterday asks, "Secondly, there are many missing law graduates. Less than half of all law graduates in the last 40 years are employed as lawyers. Where are the other 768,000 law grads who are not employed as lawyers now? "

    What? Haven't you seen the memo on the lawyer suicide epidemic? Seems we're offing ourselves in droves.

    I'm in need of some cheap CLE (to finish the 2013 requirements I'm, uh, a bit behind on). Every course I can find starts with an obligatory 30 minute video on raising suicide awareness within the legal profession...

    ReplyDelete