This site is about cold, hard reality – not the way we wish things were. I am not the boring commencement speaker at your upcoming (pathetic) graduation ceremony. Today is May 2, 2010. Close to 45,000 of you will soon graduate – 13 days to be exact. According to NALP, ABA-approved law schools pumped out 43,587 graduates in 2008.
http://nalp.org/uploads/08SelectedFindings.pdf (page 2)
What does that mean for you? And what do you have to look forward to? Well, you can practice toiletlaw in “inexpensive” cities such as Chicago, New York, and San Diego for $10-$15 an hour.
Two years of civil litigation experience could land you a job making $10 an hour in the dirt cheap city of San Diego. Expect LOTS of competition for this job.
Research attorneys can now make the princely sum of $10 in Chicago!
As a soon-to-be law graduate, you will NOT even qualify for many positions, as some firms want litigators with years of experience – for the princely sum of $15 per hour. For instance, personal injury and criminal defense trial attorneys can now command the huge sum of $15 an hour - in New York City!!
Well, you could still find jobs such as this one – if you don’t mind working for $12 an hour, at 40 hours a week, for this personal injury firm in lovely Piscataway, NJ.
But, fear not. You can practice in the basements of white shoe firms, toiling away on document review projects for a scant $20 an hour. Plus, maybe these cosmopolitan areas are not to your liking, in the first place. Well, you could work in the urban blight known as Albany, NY for the afore-mentioned $20 an hour, as a temporary/contract attorney. You even get to make more than $10 or $15 an hour.
However, you will find it increasingly harder to find contract attorney positions as many Biglaw firms are opting to hire foreign attorneys AND non-attorneys to engage in American legal work. See ABA “Ethics” Opinion 08-451.
What is this? Even experienced law firm associates cannot get hired for free!!
I suppose, if you like dealing with small clients who inevitably have constant, NUMEROUS, HUGE legal problems, you can always go solo. (This option is best for those who are not partial to eating or paying bills.) And, don’t forget your ethical and legal obligation to continue zealously and competently representing your clients' interests – even when they can no longer pay you for your services.
Are you upset that law school did not pan out the way you planned? Are you disappointed that you are in the top quarter of your third tier commode and just as unemployed and – in many cases – unemployable as the kid who finished last in the class? Oh, that’s right! Law schools only train you “how to think like a lawyer.”
Perhaps, you will chalk this up to personal failure. Maybe, you will consider this an expensive lesson learned.
What can you do about it? Here is a suggested program of recovery: (a) start looking for non-legal positions right now – if you have not done so months ago; (b) DO NOT, under any circumstances, accept non-paid legal positions – you did enough of this in law school and now student loans are coming due; and (c) ignore the platitudes and excuses put out by your Career Services Office, i.e. “Well, the economy is weak right now, but we think things will improve shortly. Keep plugging away, try to ace your classes this semester, and network.”