Sunday, October 3, 2010

Career services steps up to the plate

Career Services counselors nationwide finally seem to be waking up to the reality that they have sat idly by while 50% or more of their recent classes graduated jobless. I was initially interested to see that someone in my school's office still has a pulse and is doing some flailing about to broaden the “opportunities” available to law student paupers.

While the bulk of a career services counselor’s time is spent trolling non-exclusive, publicly-available job boards and copying and pasting the postings to the school’s own job board, I was intrigued to note that my school’s office has given up on offering students a position within the law. Just look at a recent smattering of re-posted job listings from the school’s board:

Congressional campaign filed intern:

Field interns will work alongside staff on a fast-paced, high-energy campaign. Interns will be assigned leadership roles in all of the campaign’s field operations. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about field strategy development and implementation, and communicate directly with voters. As a field intern, you’ll gain valuable professional experience by working directly with staff to identify and mobilize voters to ensure victory on Election Day.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

• Organizing and managing voter contact events.
• Taking an active role in volunteer recruitment, management, and retention.
• Helping maintain voter database.


Ideal candidates will be hard-working and possess strong communication skills. Candidates should be outgoing, have a positive attitude, and the ability to work effectively in a fast-paced environment. Proficiency with Microsoft Office is highly desired.

Where’s the J.D. requirement? Where’s there even the requirement of ANY degree, period? Where’s the validation for my three years’ worth of invested time and $100,000 tuition? Most importantly, where’s the pay? Oh, wait, not only are law grads still being pushed into unpaid internships, but now the search for some kind of “employment” for students has become so desperate that students are encouraged to do volunteer door-knocking for political campaigns as a way of finding “work.”

What else do we have here, on the front page alone? Several more unpaid local government internships, public policy fellowships which do not require a J.D. and which are only vaguely related to the law, work as an actuary (also not what we went to law school for), and several writing competitions. Writing competitions on a job board? Does having students slave away on a mock law review article that only three people will ever read, in the hopes of winning that coveted $500 prize, really count as “employment?” Does career services feel good about throwing this nice, juicy bone to starving, unemployed law grads? They need to start ginning up more $4,000, 13-week “law fellowships” where unemployed grads are farmed out to local courts in exchange for a few thousand bucks and a temporary “employed” status mark next to your student record. For statistical employment reporting purposes, of course. At least taking that particular brand of blood money from the school had the potential to give you some legal experience.

Not content to spam writing competitions with a copy of your 2L journal article, or to take an unpaid internship at local insurance company (in the marketing, not the legal, department)? It might also be a good idea to consider vaulting into another miserable, dying industry: journalism. Yes, despite the fact that you went to law school to leave your undergraduate woes and unemployability behind, you can revisit all of the angst and freshman politics by applying for a position as a columnist at the University’s free daily newspaper. The position is prominently featured on the law student job board. Not only will you get to mold the impressionable young minds of the six students who actually read your column, but you will get to join a noble and erudite group of hungry young minds who seek the truth through the press. You took First Amendment Law in law school, right? I’m sure your experience with freedom of the press will be invaluable in this exciting new position. Don’t worry that it’s unpaid…the experience alone will provide ample reward. Plus, your contribution of one short column per week will allow career services to count you as “gainfully employed” for statistical reporting purposes.

A less skeptical (read: gullible) law student might look at this grab-bag of unpaid, volunteer opportunities as a law school’s honest attempt to keep their unemployed graduates busy and productive. Everyone knows the economy’s in the toilet and, despite some false reports that legal hiring is picking up, there are still many tens of thousands of desperate graduates out there flooding every opening with applications. The death cries of the past few classes of law students have been fairly successfully swept under the rug by law schools, who are boasting robust new 1L class sizes. There are a record-number of LSAT-takers this year for schools to look forward to in the upcoming recruiting season. Big firms are able to report “more offers, fewer layoffs” because summer class sizes have been gutted and payrolls have been drastically thinned. It’s easy to claim 100% summer offers when you’ve reduced the number of positions by 75-90% overall. Still, record numbers of chipper young 1Ls have trotted off to their first month of classes, and na├»ve 0Ls are in the process of applying and hearing back from their “dream” law schools. While many schools, like mine, forbid 1Ls to meet with career services until their second semester (so they can concentrate on Torts and Contracts, you know!), it will only be a few short months now before these slightly-less-fresh faces appear at their counselor’s door. Luckily, there will be little bad news to report to these young saps. The economy has recovered, the offer rate at firms is up, and even the 60% of students who recently graduated without a job will have been able to find exciting new opportunities in “related fields” like local government, actuarial science, and even journalism. See, youngster? There is absolutely NOTHING to worry about!


  1. I do this, and can tell you that I am 100% certain attaching legs to yard signs and cold calling little old ladies does not qualify as "professional experience."

    I'm doing it because I'm hoping to get a spot as a legislative aid in the next Congress. The $37k paycheck would suck pretty hard, if it didn't come with a very generous loan repayment assistance from my school.

  2. Ha, dropped out of law school years ago and I am now an actuary. I'm happy with the move, demand is good and you can live anywhere you want. I started a consulting firm about 10 years ago and make a good living. You can bill about the same as an attorney - $200 to $400 an hour.

    So not a bad exit route.

  3. Law is a very lucrative field, huh? I mean, lawyers are happy to take on an entire divorce case for $300. I have seen experienced criminal defense lawyers JUMP at the chance to be a low-level trial judge. I have seen others practically kill themselves to land in a PD office, making $43K per year.

    And, yet the lemmings continue to jump off the cliff - so they can acquire this credential. It is sheer madness and stupidity!

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