Seeking a future career in justice? Good luck.
The truth is unavoidable. Half of law graduates today are knee-deep in six-figure debt and jobless in an over-saturated market. Students face more pressure than ever to stand out amongst their peers. Employers are extra picky, hiring those who have graduated at the top of their class at a top ranked school. Students also rely on who they know to get them an “in” at a firm. Otherwise, it’s a matter of hard work and persistence in order to find a decent job.
Even though the inescapable reality is that the job market for law school graduates is dismal, there are still students enrolling. In a recent article, “For Summer Law interns, the Livin’ Is Easy,” the WSJ sheds light on the sleep-away camp experiences of summer law internships. These interns get to know their potential future employers over nine weeks of organized playtime; including baseball games, kayak trips, and going to live music. It may sound like a fun time, but then what? Perhaps it’s experiences like this from which law students’ unrealistic dreams are born.
In this interview, I spoke with a lawyer based in New York City. In contrast to the lavish summer camp experiences mentioned in the WSJ article, her expectations going into law school were far more realistic. She knew it would be a hard 3 years, and her work is paying off.
LUCIE BEATRIX: What horror stories do you know about law students who can’t get work after graduation?
Jen Schoch, Esquire:
Less than half of the students I graduated with have jobs at all; many students moved home with their parents and work in retail stores or as unpaid interns. One girl I went to law school with took a job as a lawyer – she was offered $35,000 per year with no benefits — not even health insurance.
Are the employment statistics schools put out sometimes deceiving?
JS: Yes. Today’s students expect a job to fall into their lap. That will not happen. To become a gainfully employed lawyer, a law student needs to HUSTLE for a job.
What could law schools do to prevent over saturation in the job market?
JS: Law schools could admit fewer students, but that’s just asking them to voluntarily reduce their revenue, which they would never do. The parents of today’s aspiring lawyers need to stop encouraging the students to attend law school – becoming a lawyer used to be a very stable career choice, and many parents aren’t aware things have changed. Aspiring lawyers should do a better job of reading the news and researching job prospects before starting law school!
What do you suggest for someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
JS: If you want to pursue a career in law, you absolutely MUST understand that there are no jobs. You should NOT take loans for your education – I started law school with a 75% scholarship and a guarantee that I could work as an attorney for the firm where I worked as a paralegal.
I ended up with some loans, but they were very low and I’m now employed, so I can afford to pay them back. Law school is a professional school, and should not be entered into without professional experience at a law firm prior to law school. That is to say, if someone wants to become a lawyer, they should work as a paralegal or a legal secretary to get their feet wet first.
Jen also emphasized to me the rewarding experience that comes with practicing law. Lawyers can help advocate for underrepresented minorities, disadvantaged women, and the elderly. That kind of life-changing work can be fulfilling. Despite working long hours, Jen loves what she does.
Perhaps the human aspects of law work outweigh the multiple reasons not to go to law school. If students are aware of what they’re getting themselves into, then they should go for it. But, if it’s just a way to pass some time while trying to figure out what they actually want to be when they grow up, then there are a million other better ways to spend the time and money.
Or, you could just skip the entire school thing altogether. I’ll let you know how that turns out…
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