Thursday, March 1, 2007

New Format

I'm thinking of changing things around here to focus more on my search for employment. Do not worry, I still plan on commenting on Britney and Anna Nicole if the mood suits me.

Basically, I think I would really be doing my readers who are considering law school a disservice if I didn't make an attempt to portray what it's really like for those of us not in the top 15% of the class to get a job, particularly in a depressed economy.

Looking for work has managed to take over my life and overshadows my attitudes about everything, particularly towards those I interact with at the law school. There are literally moments when I feel I could fly into a blind rage at any second if one more person tells me how happy they are their firm paid for BarBri, PMBR, the Bar Application, their bar exam hotel or any other little detail which I am left struggling to figure out how to afford myself. I am growing tired of feeling like a second class citizen in a school I pay just as much to attend. And the reality is, when you do speak to the "chosen few" about the reality of your job situation is puts them into shock, since it seems like a dirty secret that everyone is too ashamed to talk about.

So I'm going to try to put my situation out there. While I do still work for the same firm, when I finally stood up for myself and the abuse I was taking I walked away from near certain semi-lucrative employment. I know this was a decision I made, and as such the situation I am in currently is the result of that choice, but to some extent that makes it more difficult for me to accept. I don't think one should be faced with choosing 2 more years of verbal and emotional abuse or employment, call my crazy.

When I started law school I knew jobs paying 120K were hard to come by, and I knew that wasn't what I wanted to do. I seemed to have this deluded idea that the minimum I'd be making would be 60K no matter what I did, and for the cut in pay I'd be able to enjoy my work. The harsh reality is I have extremely intelligent friends being offered jobs for 35K with no benefits, and a Career Services Office telling them to take any offer given to them since they are lucky to get anything in this market. Of roughtly 200 graduates last year from my law school, 35 who passed the bar are still unemployed. Employers are not shy about the fact that they used to pay more but they know people have to take jobs for 35K, so that is what they offer now.

Basically, this promises to be a memoriam of my slow descent into insanity as Exams, Graduation, PMBR, BarBri and the Bar come and go, while I am left considering why I spent the kind of money I did to take a test I could very well fail, when a definite career (or a job of any kind) is now where in sight.

20 comments:

John Roberts said...

The worst thing about law school is that no one ever talks about how awful it is, but instead puts on this brave face.

Kudos to you for breaking the silence.

The Gare Bear said...

Hey Hey, now! What's this about finding a job in the depressed job market. Why, when the stock market crashed the other day, they said it was a minor blip because the economy was relatively robust. What gives? Any chance you can make a legal career of exposing government lies and taking the liars to task?

I have some thoughts similar to yours as I am currently unemployed after 29 years of nearly solid employment. Check out my recent post at nailpolice.blogspot.com. I'll discuss some similar issues. By the way, I found your website through my son's blog competition. I found the competition quite interesting. Seems to me you could get another chance if he knew you couldn't post due to net difficulties.

Hang in there. Don't get depressed.

Dangerous Mind said...

Seriously, if someone had told me two years ago that I would be making the same $35K/year after law school that I was making before (except now $150K in debt), I would've never wasted the money. For as "rewarding" as law school may be, essentially doing the same thing after graduation that I was doing as a paralegal would be a lot sweeter if I hadn't wasted all that time, money, energy, and stress on school.

Amanda said...

Thank you so much for this post. I am considering law school, but I think I may be considering it for the wrong reasons (not knowing what else to do but feeling like I need something more than a BA to get a decent job, wanting to make lots of money). Like you, I thought it would be guaranteed to at least get a job paying 60K out of school, but I had no idea it could be as low as 35K (or zeroK if the job market sucks). Your post made me realize that I need to rethink my rationale for going to law school and taking out a ton of debt when I'm not even sure it's what I want to do.
Having said all of that, I wish you luck in your job search.

madlawblogger said...

...That post gives me the icky feeling...

Harmless Error said...

If I had been blogging one year ago, I would have written this post. Idea for idea, if not word for word, as you are a better writer than me.

All I can say is that even if you enter the depths of depression and despair, and find yourself unable to focus on studying for the bar half the time you should be studying because you think there's no point since you'll end up on your parents' couch (as I was for 4 months), it will be ok. You are clearly talented, articulate, and passionate. Employers can't ask for much more than that.

Elle Woods said...

Amanda-If I can convince one person to stay out of law school I will be happy.

Mad-Get out now. Seriously. I'll even take you out for celebratory drinks. Unless you're planning on moving or being on Law Review just get out now.

Everyone else (including ALL the emails I got)-thanks for the encouragement. The response to this post was comforting, but also shocking in it's volume. I have a pad of paper I've been carrying around with post ideas for basically a series on this, I'm kinda excited.

angela said...

Wow. This post was a total reality check. I knew that the job market could be steep for those who weren't able to obtain Law Review status, but I had no idea it could be that bad. I have to agree with madlawblogger - I got an icky feeling too. I think it's called fear.

Elle Woods said...

In fairness I think the Michigan market is worse than most of the country. So it might not be the exact same for you.

Paul said...

I know several members of the class of '06 who are still looking for employment--both JDs and LLMs, and at least one more who got a 'fellowship' run by school. Hell, I know a guy who's the editor-in-chief of a journal who still doesn't have a job...

Meagan said...

I'm also a 3L, and in the bottom half of my class at a "regional" school. I've been lucky to get offers because I worked my butt off while I was in law school (20 hours a week at law firms while taking a full courseload), but I have a friend who does much better than I do, is an editor at one of the secondary journals, has passed the Patent Bar, and cannot find a job to save his life. Part of it might be the field he's looking into (IP, very competitive), but part of it is stupid luck. It's not as easy as the top 15% make it seem, for sure.

Elle Woods said...

I worked my ass off too. 25-30 hours week while full time in school. I'm not saying it's that easy for the top 15%, but it certainly doesn't hurt their career chances.

Wolfrham Hart said...

I was tired of my career and wanted a change. I wanted to be a lawyer because I love to solve problems, help people, and had a genuine interest in legal issues. I figured a modest $45,000 job was what I wanted and would be a huge pay raise compared to my IT career.

I got onto law review, got published, did Moot Court, was active in student government, but I was average to bad on exams so I graduated in the bottom half of the class. I passed my state's bar exam in 2005. Aside from temp job doing document review for 3 weeks I'm still looking for work after 18 months.

I realize I didn't do my part by graduating in the top third of the class and our state's economy sucks. Yet the dirty secret of law schools is they let in far too many students for the profession to handle. As a professional school I'm amazed by such short-sightedness. In 2001 the Occupational Handbook said lawyers would grow at an average rate. In 2007 the book says competition for jobs will be fierce due to law schools pumping out graduates. If every law school closed for 5 years the job market might balance itself.

If you're thinking of going to law school, don't do it. The degree has devolved into a uber-liberal arts degree. It looks nice, but won't get you anywhere easily unless you're a prototypical student. If you're not in the top third of the class the job hunt gets exponentually more difficult.

The massive student loans don't get discharged by bankruptcy. I don't know how I'll be able to pay them back. I don't know how I'll make any living: I'm overqualifed for other types of work so Starbucks won't even hire me. I am licensed to practice law and my W2s say I live in poverty. I have no idea how many '05 grads are still looking for work. 2006 grads are out there now. Soon '07 grads will be in the job market. I honestly don't know what I'm going to do.

I don't want to scare people. I'm not saying my story is typical. But if you want a grad school perhaps you should get an MBA. You should definately take stock in your present situation before going through the expense and pressure cooker that is law school.

Essien said...

Goodness - this is a very interesting lot of comments. I currently have been accepted to law schools in Canada. I've managed to make connections at some firms in Toronto - building my network (one of my ref letters is from a partner at an IP firm I'm interested in - she's a good friend of mine.). I've been building my "wise-team" and "advocates" for getting in and getting out. My intention is to be in the top 10% of the class, but what does intent mean or matter? I just pray I am. My LSATs were ok, at 84th percentile. My GPA going in is 3.8 out of 4. I'm also a mature student - I owned my own business for 7 years as a chiropractor, and have a family of 3 kids and a wife. (There's a lot on my shoulders, true). Currently I make about $80,000 CAD, plus bonus, but am definitely banking on corporate law offering a better potential.

I hear that 1st year associates in Toronto (on Bay Street)make aabout $90K, and it goes up about $10-20K per year thereafter.

Am I way off on my perceptions? AmI missing things? Is Canada's (and Toronto especially) situation different than the States?

woland said...

*thank you* for posting this. I'm a 2L at a very good canadian law school (sorry Essein - the problem exists here as well, and is actually worse in that you can't be called to the bar unless you article. Nothing quite like the gnawing fear you live with until that's settled...). Decent grades, moot, journal, grad degree, work experience, networked my *** off, and nothing yet, certainly nothing that pays as well as the job I left to go to school.

My school's placement rate is the highest in Canada, but only 40-50% get jobs through OCIs. Almost all the rest find work *eventually,* - and some get great jobs - but the stress and sense of failure in the meantime is vicious. I've been in the "real world" for a while and had my share of successes and failures, but *nothing* that feels this overwhelming.

Good luck to everyone who is looking - I'm trying hard to hold on to my sense of self-worth, and wish the same for all of you.

Elle Woods said...

Essien-everyone plans to be in top 10% of their class. My GPA at University of Michigan was that high (despite constant partying), and my LSAT was higher. I'm just saying. Don't think that because you're smart you'll be top 10%. Law school grades are ARBITRARY. My contracts grade during 1L was based on a 60 question multiple choice exam, 5 questions seperated an A from a C.

E. McPan said...

The market is bad pretty much everywhere. I know former editors of a well-quoted journal plus a year of clerking experience who ended up going solo because they needed to eat. I'm looking forward to my imminent unemployment, too. Perhaps we could open a firm together.

Elle Woods said...

We can open it up in the law center pictured in the previous post.

never give up, never surrender said...

Dear Elle,
I've been where you are. I should tell you that you will probably find yourself even more depressed at graduation and while studying for the bar. Graduating from law school was a very depressing and anticlimactic experience for me, and many of my classmates. Whatever you do, don't despair, don't give up, just stick with it until the Bar is over. Find someone to talk to if you need to keep your sanity. There will be light at the end of the tunnel.
I know there are other comments here that indicate the job market is pretty hopeless. But to you I would say, keep looking and be willing to start at something different than you expected. I landed a job at a state government agency, and it has been much more fulfilling than I expected. It took me 3 months after the Bar was over to find the job. You just have to keep looking, and eventually the right opportunity will come. I don't mean to sound "pollyanna-ish," but please don't throw in the towel. It's worth it once the job is in hand.

LawNut said...

I'm so glad that someone decided to post this. Law school is such a farce for so many people - I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels despair regularly.