Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Final Countdown

As we get ready for the New Year's countdown, and to say goodbye to 2010, 2011 will be ushering in a new reality for law grads: true unemployment.

As a 3L, I have the opportunity to talk to many of my classmates about their job search and prospects for the coming year. The forecast is grim. This is no exaggeration: I know of two (2!) law students graduating from my second TTTier law school in 2011 who have jobs lined up and both of them are patent-bar eligible. (Which introduces an interesting conundrum - people who are patent bar eligible are the only people who seem to be able to make law school work at a non-T14 these days, and yet they are the very people for whom law school is essentially a waste of time, as they could make a fine living without the three-year hiatus from the work force. Rendering law school a good idea for... essentially no one.)

I'm sure that there are a few people with job offers lined up that I don't know about, but none of them are friends of mine. The strange thing is that those of us who don't have jobs lined up really don't have anything tangible we can do about it. The school tells us to send out tons of resumes, but there are no employers for a 3L to send resumes to. When I ask people where they have applied, the response is always an embarrassed shrug. And I totally understand the awkwardness because it counters everything we are told about a bad economy: "Don't be complacent, don't be shy, network, etc..." Local governments are on hiring freezes and we are not in an area with big federal placement, the private firms are really only hiring from top schools, and public interest organizations are mostly hiring people with experience... there's really not much to do. There's a sort of purgatory consisting of a ton of people who need jobs and would love nothing better than to send out tons of resumes but really don't have anywhere to direct that energy.

I know that many people were counting on job fairs or OCI to get the ball rolling to an extent. No such luck. I have already written about the pathetic number of employers hiring 3Ls in OCI. The job fair numbers were equally pitiful. I know of a handful of people who did screening interviews and no one who got a callback.

The most annoying part by far is listening to the 2Ls who think that the world is sunshine and roses because they got an offer to work for a DA's office in an unpaid internship this summer. THAT is their evidence that the job market is turning around. I actually overheard a 2L with a position like that saying that she couldn't understand why the 3Ls can't find jobs because it was just so damn easy for her to find a "job" as an unpaid hack. (I may have added the last part.) I wish I could take pleasure out of the rude awakening she is about to face, but it's just too tragic.

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone! I will be enjoying my respite from law school with a nice chilled bottle of five dollar champagne. Cheers!


  1. Even the patent field is in the toilet. I know many, many individuals in patent law that were downsized recently and are not able to land on their feet. In fact, I am one of those individuals, despite having multiple graduate degrees in a desirable area of science. Despite all the degrees and all the debt, I have been working as a contract attorney for the past 3 years with no benefits, no job security, no respect, no paid vacations. Find another career. I just want to emphasize that patent law is not the gravy train that everyone thinks it is. In and around 2000 during the tech boom, things were very good, but not anymore, especially with all the patent prosecution outsourcing to India.

  2. Thanks for the info. Sorry about the misconception. Patent-bar people do seem to be doing better in my class, but when we are talking about only two people that hardly makes a pattern.

  3. At my TTT, we had kids who near the VERY top of the class who were looking for unpaid clerkships and internships at graduation. At some point, you need a PAYING job. Plus, it seems that some law school "whiz kid" ends up failing the bar exam. Simply put, this is a terrible gamble.

    When lemmings approach me about law school, I sometimes tell them, "If you are okay with an additional $70K-$120K in non-dischargeable debt - and pathetic job prospects - then go ahead."

    At least, you can afford a $5 bottle of wine. Many recent JDs can honestly not afford a Happy Meal from McDonalds. How is that for success?

  4. Nando, it's all thanks to a little Christmas money. :) Not that it is what I should be spending my money on, but I am choosing this moment for a $5 splurge.

  5. At my top 100 TTT (not sure if 1st or 2nd tier because - let's be honest - tiers really don't matter), OCI was a joke. Our top law review kids got token interviews and no callbacks. A select few now have internships lined up next summer, but it's basically the top 3-4% and that's that. A 3L I know at a different fine institution of higher learning has no job lined up after on-campus stuff fell through, and he's a go-getter with upper-class connections.

    Anyone who says the answer to all this is "networking" is a royal dumbo.

  6. @4:23

    Sorry to hear about the bad luck. Everyone told me to do patent law, but I couldn't get any traction when I was in law school several years ago. Market was bad even then, and my grades and TTT status didn't help.

    I hate hearing about people who "made it" only to get soaked later. Yet a lot of people (including professors) act like patent law is still the gravy train. Keeps people enrolling, I guess...

  7. Original poster here again. I've given up hope of ever making partner at a big firm. After 8 years out, the allure of working for some big firm does not have the appeal that it once did when I was a bushy-eyed law student. It's funny how one's definition of success changes from law school to later in one's career. I just want to work for myself or have an equity interest in a firm. I can't stand the prospect of having some partner-jackass controlling my destiny, i.e., unemployment. I'm hoping that at some point, once I can get my debt down to a manageable level, I can open up my own patent/soft IP shop in a smaller market and supplement that work with other stuff that comes in the door, i.e., collections, PI, etc. I'm just sick of working for other people. I used to be in the sciences where job security was excellent. There's definitely a basis for keeping people on in the sciences after they've learned the ins and outs of your scientific research. Unfortunately, that's not the case in law where fungibility rules.

  8. I practice intellectual property in Canada. Patent law is a dead end here too. You can make money if you are in a big law firm that has few big clients. You can forget it if you are trying to provide IP services to individuals. People neither have $3,000.00 (or a desire to spend it) for patent search, nor do they have $10,000.00 for a basic utility patent. I saw a guy on Thursday last month. He is an engineer with a few mechanical inventions. Makes $800,000.00 through his main business, but would not pay $3K to do a patent search and an opinion. Sells his products overseas without a contract or an IP license. The fact that he is going to get sadomized is the only satisfaction I can get. Dealing with people like him is humiliating experience – they make me feel useless con artist who tries to sell last year’s snow.

  9. Rose,

    The other day my wife posted a status update on Facebook about her job and some ignoramus on her friend's list wondered why she was even working because he thought that my career in law raked it all in! This is what we're up against and blogs like these debunk those myths!

  10. Just to let you know, student loans CAN be discharged if you have a medical disability. They don't want you to know that, but it's true.

  11. Just lurking here. If I were a recent law grad I would do pro bono work for whomever needed it until I established a paying clientele.

    You don't need jobs, you need clients. There are a lot of people with legal problems.

  12. January 9 @1:48

    Great idea! And moonlight playing xylephone on your ribcage for a few extra pennies, and picking through garbage cans for a meal.

    Really, the starvation process begins as soon as that diploma is in your hand.

    Everybody seems to forget that a car needs gsas to run, and a human body needs food to survive.

    And yes, it is THAT BAD!

  13. I came across this blog after the NYT article caught my eye. I'd been toying with the idea of applying to law school and taking the patent bar if my other plans didn't work out. Thank God I got into vet school. I can't imagine suffering through 4 years (or even 3!) to know that there was nothing at the end of the tunnel! I'll keep you guys in my thoughts. That is truly horrible especially not having any clue going in.

    It's a pain to get in vet school and there's a lot of heartbreak with rejections... but with so few schools and only 2,500 graduates nationwide every year it really helps your job prospects once you do get in. That is so awful that they care more about making money through the schools than job security for the profession!

    Even the cousin that was talking me into law school didn't get to stay at the firm he had a job at. I forget what he's doing now. Another relative went to a newer low low low tier law school and never could pass the bar. :(

  14. January 9, 2011, 7:55 said: "Just to let you know, student loans CAN be discharged if you have a medical disability. They don't want you to know that, but it's true."

    I practice bankrutpcy law. There is a limited exception that allows for the discharge of student loan debt, but it requires much more than simply a medical disability. You almost have to be in a vegetative state in most jurisdictions (perhaps a slight exaggeration, but not by much).

    Also, bankruptcy attorneys are in high demand throughout the country right now. Check out firms that represent consumer/debtors as well as creditors.

  15. I think we need to come to grips to the fact that we are a lost generation. There are riots in Tunisia this week- highly educated graduates who can't find work to make a decent living. In interviews, they refer to themselves as Tunisia's Lost Generation. The same thing is heard in Iran, Ireland (post "Gaelic Tiger" boom) and other Mediterraneans. I am preparing to become an expat. Bidding my time doing doc review until I can get gig at an ngo anywhere overseas. I can't live in this country anymore. I was a Peace Corps volunteer who returned from Africa solely to get a law degree. Many volunteers remained to relief with relief organizations. I am soooo sorry I came back. I won't make that mistake again.

  16. The problem for 20-somethings is that their parents came of age in a time when credentials guaranteed the good life. They've been indoctrinated in the idea that a JD or MBA is valuable.

    But nowadays the most important thing a young adult can have in an entrepreneurial streak. Even with an MBA or JD, you need to be an entrepreneur and market yourself. Counting on career services is like counting on the tooth fairy. Or like expecting that, upon high school graduation, you can get a 40K union job in a steel/auto factory. Those days have passed.

  17. came upon this blog from the new york times article on investing in a law school education.

    i graduated from the university of north Carolina law school in 1963. got a job with an accounting firm and an llm in taxation from new york university. worked most of my career as a tax director for various corporations. I'm now retired.

    in those days there was little risk in a law school education since the three years at unc cost less than ten thousand dollars in total.

    you all have my sympathy and concern.

    my son's fiance is a dental student at the university of Pittsburgh. it cost eighty five thousand dollars a year. scholarship aid is minimal even though she has limited funds. i suppose it's worth the risk since she wasn't making very much in her last job as a dental assistant.

  18. @9:41: That is precisely the problem, and the reason why in addition to prospective 1Ls we also need to reach the parents themselves so they can stop pressuring their kids into law school. That sounds lame, but people have a lot of influence over their kids.

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