18 October 2012

Please Remain Calm: Legal Jobs in a Stagnant Market

by Terry Falk, Assoc. Web Editor

           Mark Twain famously said that there were three kinds of lies: “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” 
The Wall Street Journal released a study this summer showing that last year’s law school graduates, nationwide, “had little better than a 50-50 shot of landing a job as a lawyer within nine months of receiving a degree.”  Forbes magazine stoked the fire the next day, citing the WSJ study to deliver “the message that law school is no longer a sure bet when it comes to employment security and financial prosperity.”
When, in the history of the world, has a job search of any kind ever been a “sure bet”?  In the post-apocalyptic-recession economy, we as law grads are going to have to bust our humps and use our intuition to find work.  That work might pay, as Forbes points out, in the low-to-mid five figures.  It only turns into opportunity, if you allow it to.  Duquesne Law’s own Dean Gormley put it best in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed, responding to Post-Gazette’s coverage of the dour statistics for law grads:  “College degrees and professional education require savings and sacrifice.  [T]his has always been the case[.]”
© piek.org
            The worry about post-law school employment is far from new.  If you have the time, or a masochistic streak, Google things like “law school employment statistics” and find rambling blogs from three years ago penned by angry law school grads who just can’t seem to translate their six-figure degree into paying work.  I won’t provide links.  But, if this is how you choose to spend your time after graduating from law school, it’s no wonder you’re unemployed.
Granted, the numbers do not lie.  The idea that little more than half the nation’s legal grads are employed as full-time lawyers is daunting.  But, the one thing that stats do not measure is hard work.  For everyone who is currently in law school and takes heed of WSJ’s report, it means that in this brutal legal market you have to work hard to place in the top 50 percent of your class, advocate for yourself, and interview well.  If you aren’t on law review (I’m not), then do something else that sets you apart. [Insert shameless plug here: Why not write for Juris?].  Taking these reports with anything more than a grain of a salt and assuming that the poor market renders your job prospects to a 50-50 chance, gives you no hope.  In fact, it probably lessens your chances of getting a job to zero.
            A lawyer that I worked for before coming to law school told me that a J.D. is like having an expensive hunting license. You don’t eat unless you know how to hunt.  The WSJ and Forbes figures show that.

Law school is stressful enough, kids.  Please, remain calm.