You Want Some Advice, Law School Scam Bloggers? Get Off The Couch. It’s That Easy.

Maury is great. But he has no job for you.

Maury is great. But he has no jobs for you.

Alright, I’ve heard. There are too many lawyers and not enough jobs. Law schools painted a rosy picture about how much money first year lawyers make and how easy employment is to find. And apparently law students were dumb enough to rely solely on their law schools when deciding whether it is a good idea to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars and hand it over to them. Adding insult to injury, the young lawyers were left completely unprepared to practice law even after getting that fancy legal education, because most law professors have never practiced a day in their lives and are in no position to teach anyone else how to.

So now what?

Keith Lee over at Associate’s Mind said this:

If new lawyers cannot solve the problem of their own millennial malaise, how do they ever expect clients to trust them with their problems?

Of course, Keith’s post made a few millenials sad. MA (who?) was offended, and thought Keith try and help out, rather than, um, tell them the truth:

So the lucky few like Mr. Lee should try to offer real solutions to graduates. How did you find your job, Mr. Lee? How might your experience help others?

Pull up a chair, kids, it’s story time…

The year was 2010. I got a call from a girl I used to clerk with while working at AnapolSchwartz who just finished law school. At the time, I was working as an associate at a small firm in suburban Pennsylvania as an associate.

“Hey Jordan, it’s Lynda. You remember me from Anapol, right? Do you think we could talk? Listen, the market is brutal out there and I can’t find anything. Do you think I could come in and work in your office? I’ll do it for free. I just need something to do while I look for a job. I’ve called pretty much everyone I know.” She had just graduated from a T2 law school and had slightly above average grades.

I went to my boss and asked if that would be okay. Me and my boss agreed we could use some help, but it wouldn’t be fair to make her work for free, so we decided to pay her $15 an hour on a part time basis and then increase it if she proved to be valuable. Lynda didn’t have an office – just a small desk with a computer on it. It was the only space we had available.

Lynda proved to be a capable attorney and a valuable asset. She was loved equally by the attorneys at the office and by the staff. Soon she was working close to 40 hours a week, but we all knew she was looking for a “real” job that would provide health benefits and a salary big enough to repay the student loans. We bumped her pay to $20 an hour, and were hoping to be able to hire her as a full time associate at some point. Lynda never once complained about the situation, and sponged up every opportunity to learn stuff – “I’ld love to watch the trial, even if you guys don’t pay me. Can I just watch the deposition? I know the client won’t pay for that, but I’d love to see it.” (we always just paid her anyway).

After about three or four months working with us, she came into my office and told me great news: she was interviewing for a temporary position to clerk for a federal judge. Since the judge was retiring, the position was temporary, and he was was willing to overlook the fact she didn’t graduate at the top of her class. Lynda asked if me and my boss could write her letters of recommendation, which we gladly did. She got the clerkship because some of her experience working with us was similar to the cases the judge was overseeing.

While Lynda was clerking, we stayed close. She remained a constant sounding board of mine to bounce ideas off of.

Once it became evident that the federal clerkship was going to end, Lynda started looking for another job. As luck would have it, one of our secretaries left my firm and had taken a position with prestigious a mid-sized firm. The secretary knew the firm was looking for an associate and recommended Lynda. Me and my boss also wrote Lynda glowing letters of recommendation, and lo and behold, she got hired at the firm. She is still there today.

What’s my point?

Lynda could have sat around and complained about being unemployed, underemployed, or written a scam blog. She could have sat on the couch, hoping that opportunity would fall into her lap. But she didn’t. She turned over every nook and cranny, and took advantage of every opportunity that came her way. Making $15 an hour in a small law firm without an office isn’t exactly glamorous. But she turned it into a federal clerkship and then a full time law gig. Now Lynda has the type of job all the scam bloggers feel they are entitled to.

Was she lucky? Did she fall into it?

Nope.

I know this is painful for you to hear, but she pulled herself up by the bootstraps. It took time, effort, and hard work.

The point? If you want to make things happen, get off the couch. It’s that easy.

You’re a lawyer, figure it out.

18 Responses to You Want Some Advice, Law School Scam Bloggers? Get Off The Couch. It’s That Easy.

  1. James says:

    I would bet any amount of money that this heart warming story is at least 50% lies. Such ridiculous pap. When will right wingers learn that one folksy story is not a proper response to a systemic problem?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dear shg, If the author were to “admit” he is a right-winger, he would be “admitting” that he was an intelligent person who doesn’t have his head up his rear.

  3. Anonymous says:

    ^ objectivity and maturity at its finest.

  4. S.C. says:

    I’m applying to law school right now. And what am I seeing? 55 – 60 percent of law grads in the class of 2012 getting jobs as lawyers. Does that mean the other 40 – 45 percent didn’t work hard in law school? Does that mean they didn’t network? Did they just sit in their apartments watching TV and smoking pot while the interest on their loans piled up?

    You know someone who did well out of a tier 2 school. That’s great. Undoubtedly hard work does pay off sometimes. But sometimes it doesn’t. How many unemployed and underemployed grads haven’t gotten that big break they were hoping for, despite working 24/7?

    I think what the scambloggers are complaining about is the insanely high cost of a legal education combined with the ABA’s seeming willingness to accredit any old dump as a law school, despite the fact that the legal job market is shrinking. Several schools have also been caught playing with and, in on case, straight up fabricating job placement numbers. Your anecdote doesn’t address these very real problems.

    I’m very happy with the school I’ve decided on, and I’m confident about my job opportunities as a future lawyer. But I worked hard to get a solid LSAT score and did my research on job placement before applying to law schools. Maybe the law students who couldn’t be bothered to do their research deserve to be jobless – but then, maybe a law school that places 35% of its grads into legal jobs doesn’t deserve to exist.

    • I have another secret for you, but you’re probably not going to like what I have to say…

      No one cares where you went to law school. Your ability to fix a client’s problems, and give them good advice, are what is important. I have never once had a client ask where I went to law school. Not even an institutional one.

      A “highly ranked” law school can’t guarantee you a job, let alone a career. Where you go to law school means very little in the grand scheme of things.

      • S.C. says:

        I know that in a practical sense, ability is far more important than the name of the school on your diploma. But every scrap of evidence I’ve seen suggests that students coming out of either the most elite schools or schools that have a corner on their regional markets today have far better employment prospects than the rest. And I’m sure your clients don’t care about your alma mater once you’re established – but how do you make a name for yourself or build a reputation if you’re just starting out? But all this talk is based on one incoming law student’s research, so maybe I’m wrong.

        And please don’t assume that I’m not going to like the advice I get. I’m not some entitled rich kid. I work hard, and I plan to work hard for a job throughout my law school career. I think the same goes for almost every single students in the upcoming JD class.

      • Ehhhhh…

        I’ll use my market (Philadelphia) as an example. Bigger firms that care about “pedigree” aren’t going to turn away graduates of our local schools (Villanova, Temple, Widener, Rutgers) because some kids with fancypants degrees are applying here. They figure you are just applying to work in Philadelphia because you couldn’t find a job in New York, D.C., or Boston. And of course, there is a chance you won’t stay in biglaw forever, even if you make it.

        Smaller firms don’t care even an iota where you went to law school. They prefer local graduates since they are not a flight risk, and all their contacts are in the area.

        I’d put more emphasis on going to law school in the area where you want to practice, not the U.S. News ranking of the school. The geography is more important, believe it or not. Outside Yale, Harvard, Stanford, the name on the degree just isn’t all that important, and it gets even less important as you progress in your career.

      • Keith Lee says:

        Jordan’s response @ 7:42 AM is sooo true. Every lawyer I’ve ever spoken with has been unanimous in their opinion that outside of the elite schools. Harvard, Yale, etc., people are FAR better off going to a regional school in the forum state of where they want to practice.

        That should be painfully obvious, but apparently it isn’t.

      • @Keith: Yep.

        Temple Law was the right choice for me because I wanted to practice in Philadelphia, where I grew up. It’s also a state school, meaning cheaper tuition. I have absolutely no regrets about going there, and I was not at any disadvantage whatsoever with out of state lawyers who went to “higher ranked” schools.

        When I got my first job in 2008, my boss’s biggest concern is that I was “too Philly”. He wanted to hire someone who had more ties to Delaware County. (keep in mind Delaware County is about 30 minutes from Philly) He was worried I was a flight risk, and would be back in Philly as soon as the opportunity arose. He ended up being right.

        I was the first hire and last hire the firm ever did out Philly.

  5. 2013 grad says:

    Jordan,

    I just took my last school exam and googled “just finished law school” and this site came up.

    First, your “thanks for playing” comment was hilarious.

    Second, your comment about getting off the couch and creating your own opportunities is 100% correct. At the same time I can see how people are really pissed off. I mean the lengths these schools went to manipulate the data was ridiculous. GW hired like 20% of its class to manipulate their data and they are a top 20-25 school. Villanova just straight up admitted to lying about its statistics. Back in 2009 when I applied, I googled everything I could find about law school and could only find “Anonymous” blogs about law school. How much weight are going to give someone’s comment when they are not going to put their name on it (kind of like my comment here I guess). I also talked to five practicing attorneys(some being recent graduates), multiple students, and to the schools themselves. My school claimed 95% employment in a letter they sent us to induce us to come. I figured they were puffing a little bit, maybe 8-10%. Now, the ABA requires schools to report the actual number of students with a full time job in law 9 months after graduation and my school barely got 50%. I mean that is just complete BS to send prospective students a letter claiming 95% employment at the height of the recession when it was probably around or even less than 50% even having a job in law. I mean it is just so despicable.

    Third, however, your comment that no one cares where you went to law school is wrong. All of the large firms care. I am about to graduate from a T2 school and it is painfully obvious that large firms want nothing to do with us. Even still, large firms prefer T2 over T3

    And even in the schools you mentioned above large firms seem to care a lot that you went to Temple or Villanova instead of Widener.

    Morgan Lewis
    Villanova Attorneys 64
    Temple Attorneys 52
    Widener Attorneys 7

    Blank Rome
    Villanova Attorneys 37
    Temple Attorneys 60
    Widener Attorneys 6

    • Big law firms care. Less so the longer you are out.

      Small law firms? Meh. The girl who works with us went to, I forget. Somewhere.

      • 2013 grad says:

        I agree with that, and overall I agree with your main point, which I think is – yeah the job market sucks – yeah you were lied to -get over it and do something about it. Many recent grads are apparently just sitting around and emailing resumes, which is not going to cut it.

        The numbers that my school released for class of 2012 also showed that over 20%(50 people) had no job at all. And not one started a solo firm. There is a row in the data for solo practice showing ZERO. That is kind of pathetic too for anyone who passed the bar.

        I mean, starting a solo practice and failing is better than doing absolutely nothing. Employers don’t want to hire because you have no experience that they can sell and immediately to make a profit. So go create some experience. File a bankruptcy case pro bono and put that on your resume. Sign up to represent people in tax court or criminal court. There are lots of opportunities if you want to do that or something like Lynda.

    • Just so we are clear here, I am not suggesting that every recent graduate with a law license should open up a shop. That’s a terrible idea.

      However, I do know the one place you aren’t going to find a job is the couch. Go to bar association meetings, buy lawyers lunch, go to the bar, do anything you can to be out and about. Pick up per diem work, or do a small pro bono case. At least that will give you a fighting chance.

  6. David says:

    Your story actually seems to be a good illustration of a) how hard law school grads have to work to find jobs in today’s market and b) how big a role luck plays. This attorney seems to be exceptionally motivated, but also had the good fortune to have a connection at your firm and then got exceedingly fortunate that a job opened up at just the right moment at a firm where she had a good reference. (And it sounds like there were some lean years in between.) So, good for her, seriously. But it’s not like her hiring created a new job. She got a job that otherwise would have gone to someone else who might have been every bit as dedicated and hard-working but was still out of luck. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. No matter how hard graduates network, the supply of legal graduates is too high and the demand for them too small for most of them to get real legal jobs. And here’s the important part: These students were lied to, mostly but not exclusively by law schools themselves, about what their job prospects would be like. Scambloggers are seeking to provide prospective students with something they deserve to have: accurate information about their career prospects. And we can suspect that the law school transparency movement is having a major effect because law school applications have dropped by 10 percent or more for three straight years. By providing students with a more balanced picture, scambloggers are doing society a major service by directing promising young minds to industries where their talents can be used more efficiently and their skills will be more in demand. The huge mass of underemployed JDs in America represents a profound waste of human capital that serves as a drag on our economy.

  7. You offer some interesting insights into the jobless situation for recent law school graduates. Someone who is out and visible is more likely to encounter a “lucky” opportunity.

    The misleading placement statistics aside, another problem you’ve previously mentioned is that many law school graduates don’t truly want to be lawyers. The system for admission into law school is very different than other professional schools, many of which specifically require or prefer work experience in that line of work.

    For example, to be competitive for med school admission, applicants must have volunteered or worked in hospitals or other medical clinics They must have been around sick patients and bodily fluids. Many premed students who sincerely thought they wanted to be doctors soon realized otherwise when they were around blood – much better for them to learn now than late in med school.

    The ABA could require similar work experience for law school applicants. They could require 2000 hours (one year) of paying work as a legal assistant. Perhaps some portion of it could be met with volunteer work. Some law schools might not like this requirement, as it would probably reduce applications. But it may result in more satisfied graduates in the long run.

    I think websites like yours do a service to prospective law students by showing them the challenges involved in starting a law practice. They should be required reading before taking the LSAT.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: