Some of you may remember my post on Canadian Woes in the legal market. This story also sounds vaguely familiar:
By the time the parents of Serena Violano were in their early 30s, they had solid jobs, their own home and two small daughters. Today, Serena, a 31-year-old law graduate, is still sharing her teenage bedroom with her older sister in their family home in the small town of Mercogliano, near Naples. Ms. Violano spends her days studying for the exam to qualify as a notary in the hopes of scoring a stable job. The tension over her situation sometimes spills over in arguments with her sister over housework or their shared space. And with her 34-year-old boyfriend subsisting on short-term contracts, Ms. Violano doesn't even dare dream of building the sort of life her parents took for granted.
Serena seems to be [edited per first poster below] doing what she can to get involved in areas such as wills and real estate matters, while her boyfriend appears to be working temporary gigs of some sort. Both are in their early thirties. Both are dealing with a glutted market.
Well, these damn kids just need to want to work hard and just go get a damn job, amirite? The secret to success is to not be "that guy," you know, the one without a stable job. This is clearly the result of too many participation trophies being handed out when they were young. Can I get a "hell-yeah!" around here?
The Wall Street Journal, strangely, takes a different view from my own analysis of the situation:
Their predicament is exposing a painful truth: The towering cost of labor protections that have provided a comfortable life for Europe's baby boomers is now keeping their children from breaking in. The older generation benefited from decades of rock-solid job protection, union-guaranteed salary increases and the promise of a comfortable retirement. All this has allowed them to weather Europe's longest postwar crisis reasonably well.
By contrast, many younger Europeans can hope for little more than poorly paid, short-term contracts that often open a lifelong earnings gap they may never close. Employers in many countries are reluctant to hire on permanent contracts because of rigid labor rules and sky-high payroll taxes that go to funding the huge pension bill of their parents.
Now some people will say "well, that is unionized Europe, so of course all those lazy socialist cheese-eaters have sweet no-work gigs that cost everyone a fortune." However, as we all know, you don't have to look far to find similar complaints here in the good old capitalist U.S. of A. Boomers working long into retirement years with no savings, some hanging on desperately to underfunded pensions. People getting kicked out of work in their 50s due to RIFs in order to keep costs down. People in their 20s and 30s working multiple gigs, with no career stability, who can never seem to break in to that promised "full-time with benefits" job that keeps being dangled in front of them like a carrot. What to do about the situation?
Enter the Law School Cartel, spinning vacuous tales of "million dollar JDs" and "JD Advantage" jobs and Saving Dolphins and BigLaw outcomes, all for the low, low price of $200k in loans that will follow you for the rest of your life. When facing uncertain economic times, however, who doesn't like to hear about 90% employment rates, satisfying careers, and high-median salaries? That $200k will work itself out, somehow.
The simple fact is that the economic landscape has been changing all over, for everyone, yet the Cartel likes to pretend that it is still 1974. Yes, the Cartel likes to highlight International Space Copyright and Internet Sports Law so as to appear cutting-edge and relevant, but truth-be-told, the basic curriculum has not changed in decades. Yes, back in those days, when JDs had not been pumped out 2-to-1 compared to available jobs for years, tuition was low on a relative percentage basis, and technology and outsourcing had not undercut legal grunt-work, yes, there was probably some opportunity. Most of the Boomer lawyers I have met seemed to have "made it" in some capacity, although they will admit (in confidence) that it is a different game now, and even they are feeling the pinch.
I'm sure Serena thought there was some opportunity there, too, but forty years can certainly change the landscape. Lemmings, pay heed to the "big picture" when contemplating law school. Law does not exist in a vacuum (unlike the Law Schools themselves) and it is you, not the ScamDeans, not the LawProfs, who will be contending with a rugged economic market, trying to make ends meet, paying for CLEs and bar fees, chasing clients with actual assets, while legal market share continues to contract.
For those of you who have the resources to weather the storm, more power to you. Some of you are getting the message, however, as evidenced by declining LSATs and declining applicant counts, but more of you need to realize that the law is no safe harbor for the majority of students. Go do something else where you can possibly make some semblance of a career, or at least carry less debt along the way while you are trying to make it happen.
This is not about "working hard and being the best," this is about survival.