So you may have heard that there are some worries about the legal job market right now. On the other hand, you may have locked yourself into your panic room at the first shudder of Bear Stearns (way back in the aughts) and are just now be stepping back out into the sun, blinking away tears, and stopping first at MSS. If that’s the case, I advise you to round up some more freeze dried food and other necessities and relock that steel door. For at least another half a decade.
Those of you who have been out in the real world, though, probably have some inkling that things are not great for recent law graduates. Of course, I have no better idea than you about what’s going on in the real world, and read all the same blogs and other internet garbage to get my information second hand. So I will leave the discussion about how the world actually is to those who know better than I do.
What I can speak to is how the unrest in the legal world is trickling down to the law schools, and affecting things like summer employment. Or at least (and here is my disclaimer) I can tell you what the experience is like for ONE 1L at ONE law school. To further the disclaimer, I am relatively sure that my experience is a good deal different for current 2Ls and 3Ls. Plus, I can imagine that the opinions of 1Ls also vary with ranking of school and average student debt.
In fact, I encourage any other law students who may read this to chime in with any comments about their views of the issues. As LSAT takers think about putting themselves HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of dollars into debt, it’s incredibly important that they get true information on whether or not that money will ever be earned back.
One last clarification: as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I fully intend on going into public interest after graduation. Which is not a market unaffected by the whole “economy collapsing” shenanigans, but is definitely a career path that has been affected in a much different way from those more lucrative fields. So if you are looking to go to law school purely to make oodles of money, you may want to find some other law student friends to let you know how they are feeling about that trajectory.
So, after all those build-ups and disclaimers, I will admit that finding summer employment does not appear to be incredibly difficult for most of the 1Ls at my school. I’m sure this is partially because my school has a guaranteed summer funding program, which provides a stipend for law students who choose to do public interest work during the summers after their 1L and 2L years. From what I understand, many schools have these sort of programs (Georgetown and NYU are two random examples), and I am sure it makes it much easier for us to get jobs. Not having to pay someone probably ranks pretty high on any given employer’s “pro” list.
A few of my classmates have even gotten jobs at either firms or with a non- corporate employer that is still able to pay handsomely. Not many, to be sure, but from what I understand not many 1Ls get firm jobs during even the best of times. Although, since I did not go to a single firm event, let alone an interview, I cannot guarantee that these students with the posh summer jobs did not just happen to have a connection at the firm. However, I can definitely say that it happens.
At the same time, our employment futures are not all sunshine and happiness. For starters, it is pretty taboo to ask 2Ls about their summer employment situation (let alone the supposedly permanent jobs of the 3Ls). From what I understand from alumni friends, a mere few years ago 2Ls were all too happy to talk (aka brag) about their big bad firm jobs and ridiculous expected paychecks. Their stories were the morsels 1L’s lived upon and dreamed about one day telling. Today, it feels weird to ask about employment, and only ok to discuss it if the person you are talking to brings it up first.
Thanks to that shadow, I am actually not very sure what the employment situation of the big kids is like. I know for sure of a handful of people who have firm jobs, but for the most part I just don’t know. Although, based on what I can read on the Internet, chances are there are more than a few people who were hoping to work at a firm, but are spending the summer in the public sector instead.
What does this mean for you? Well, if nothing else, you should have another year or two before you’ll really have to acknowledge that the Big Law world is falling to pieces, and it will not be a big point of stress during 1L. At the same time, just because people aren’t worrying about it doesn’t mean it won’t be a problem in the future. And there are more than a few hints that it may be a problem sooner than later.