Craptastic Job Market
Everywhere you turn, it seems the amazingly craptastic job market for lawyers is making the news. Today’s Wall Street Journal article (“Law Grads Face a Brutal Job Market”) points out that 2001 graduates had about a 50/50 chance of landing a job. This is a swift kick in the crotch to those graduates who now have six-figure student loan debt they have no way of paying and little hope of negotiating.
A friend of mine has done battle with Sallie Mae for basically her entire 4-year career. The first job she landed paid so little she qualified for (but didn’t receive) the low-income deferment. When she was laid off, she applied for unemployment deferment and was denied. The second job she got paid even less and Sallie Mae still wouldn’t help her. On numerous occasions she said, “I want to pay something. I just can’t pay you the amount your asking for.” And on each of those occasions, she was ignored or passed along the chain of powerless call center employees who stubbornly refused to transfer her to someone who was empowered to help. Now, she’s been laid off again and is fielding a half-dozen calls a day from Sallie Mae.
The market has dramatically contracted. The tidal wave of new graduates that resulted from law schools’ aggressive recruitment efforts are crashing on shores with precious few job opportunities. New lawyers are shouldering oppressive student loan debt and entering a market poisoned by the implosion of white shoe law firms, online self-help legal services, and nonlawyers freely engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. With little hope of the legal profession ever expanding to accommodate the flood of new graduates, it seems they’re all screwed.
This is why the notion of starting your own practice right out of school should be supported by law school career services departments. I’m not suggesting law schools encourage students to hang a shingle right out of school, but certainly don’t insist it’s impossible. It IS possible, and apparently for at least 45% of new graduates, it’s among the only option.
Update 2/4/13: Things aren’t getting any better. Law School Applications Fall as Costs Rise and Jobs are Cut; New York Times