Reason Not to Go to Law School #47

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on May 23rd, 2010 by bl1y

The legal hiring donut.

Wow, look, two pink slips.  One for me and one for…hm… T-Pain.

I missed the boat, and
I’m unemployed, and
Moved in with the parents and gotta take the bar again,
Should’a been king of the world pullin’ one-sixty kilo,
Maybe happened for you, but not for me-oh.

Never thought I’d miss the boat,
It’s one big downhill road,
Sally Mae, stop calling meee.

This question comes from a reader, “That Guy,” who posted it in response to Reason #42 Not to Go to Law School.

I find it surprising that you know of people who were unable to find big law employment at NYU a T5 (T6) school. As someone questioning whether to go to law school, BL1Y, is it true that you’re pretty much fucked if you can’t land a big law position right out of law school since most big firms don’t hire unemployed recent gradates?

Yeah.  Pretty much.

Law firms have two roads in, you can either be recruited from your law school, or you can join as a lateral hire.  Law student recruiting usually goes through an on campus interview (OCI) week  where you’ll get a job for your second summer (few firms hire summer associates in their first summer).  At the end of the summer, you’ll probably get an offer for full time employment after graduation, starting around October (but with deferrals January, or even the next January).  In a good economy, about half of the firms that do on campus interviews will also consider 3L students who either didn’t get an offer from their summer gig, didn’t want to take it, or did a non-firm job for their summer.  Doesn’t mean half of the 3Ls that are looking for jobs will find them this way, just that half of the firms are willing to hear them out.

Then there’s lateral hiring for experienced attorneys.  These positions are aimed at either midlevel or senior associates, and typically ask for 3-5 years or 6-8 years of experience, and they generally are seeking people with very specific backgrounds, such as 3-5 years of international natural gas pipeline contract litigation experience.

This creates a gap for people in the 0-2 years experience range.  You either have no experience, or what little experience you have is fragmented across a dozen areas of law, so you don’t have in depth knowledge of anything.  There’s not really anything you bring to the table that’s different than a fresh graduate.

But, hiring a junior associate outside of the normal model creates a lot of extra work for law firms.  You’re not fitting into the training schedule they had set up and all the little meet’n'drinks they plan for the new arrivals.  Why bother with making special accomodations for someone when there’s a hundred clones that are less trouble?  Plus, you have the smell of unemployment on you, so firms will suspect there’s something wrong with you.  It’s like having a dry spell and then trying to get laid.  Girls can tell, and they assume there’s a good reason other girls have been staying away from you.  Why risk it?

That’s not to say there are zero law firm job opportunities for these people, but they are extremely rare.  And, when they do pop up, the people with 3-5 years of specialized experience are going to be your competition, not just other people who missed the law firm boat.

And don’t think you can go to a midsized firm, get some experience, and then transition into big law.  The type of work you do at a midsized firm can be entirely different from big law work.  You’re not going to be handling any multi-billion dollar mergers at Fred and Jack’s Law Firm and Tire Center.  It’s not just years of experience, but the kind of experience you’re getting.

I hope this helps you make your decision.  If you’re still on the fence, try to come up with two good reasons you want to be a lawyer.  If you can’t, that’s a good sign you should be doing something else.

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Where are the Data, Cripes!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18th, 2010 by bl1y

Ann Bartow over at the Feminist Law Professors blog posted the list of lateral law faculty moves this year (via  It’s hard to get Professor Bartow’s take (because she didn’t provide commentary) on the fact that the list showed only male professors, but she did put “Cripes!” in the title of the post, and tag it as “The Overrepresesentation of Men” and “The Underrepresentation of Women,” so I think it’s safe to say she thinks that there’s some sort of gender discrimination going on in lateral hiring.

But, before we can legitimately start throwing out accusations of discrimination, we should answer two important questions.  (We can, of course, have illegitimate accusations without any sort of analysis or rational thought.)  First, is there a non-discriminatory explanation; and second, do these moves tend to benefit men?

Without conducting a rather intensive study, we can’t tell why only men were moving.  Maybe it is discrimination, but maybe it’s just that men are generally less satisfied with their jobs.  Maybe very few women even attempted a lateral transfer.

However, based on the list alone, we can look at whether these moves benefit men.  I’ve assumed that professors prefer to teach at better schools, and have used the US News and World Report rankings as a way of judging whether they moved to a better or worse school.  There are plenty of problems with the US News ranks, but I think they’re still useful here.  Only four moves involved schools within 10 ranks of each other So. Cal. to Texas (+3), and UVA to Michigan (-1), Arizona to Florida State (-9), and Marquette to St. John’s (both ranked 87).  Even if US News does not reflect law school quality, it is safe to assume that professors care somewhat about perception of quality and prestige, which the US News rankings are a perfect judge of.

I wanted to do a straight numerical analysis, but many of the moves involved schools without a number rank because they are T3, T4 or have never been scored.  I’ve also decided not to consider two of the moves at all: Professor R. A. Duff moved to Minnesota from the Stirling Philosophy department, and Professor Jeremy Waldron is moving from NYU to Oxford.  I’m just not really sure what to do with either move.

So, looking at just the moves between T1 and T2 schools what do we find?  7 professors made downward moves, with an average loss of 20 ranks, while 6 made upward moves with an average gain of 25 ranks.  More moved down, but the upward moves were better.  I think we can call this a wash.

Now let’s look at moves involving T3, T4 and unranked schools.  Professors from LSU (75), Alabama (30), Capital (T4), and Bloomington (23) moved to unranked schools.  I don’t know whether to call the move from Capital a gain or a loss, but for the other three this looks like a pretty significant drop.  There was also one professor going down from a T3 (Texas Tech) to a T4 (Texas Wesleyan).  If we treat unranked schools as T4, we saw two professors drop 3 tiers, one drop 2 tiers, and one drop 1 tier.

And here are the upward moves: Texas Wesleyan (T4) to Gonzaga (40), Florida International (T4) to Indianapolis (87), Michigan State (T3) to Kansas (65), South Texas (T4) to Loyola (T3), and West Virginia (T3) to Villanova (61).  One professor jumped 3 tiers, one jumped 2, and the rest moved up by 1.

It’s also worth noting that three professors moved to tenure track, which is generally considered a pretty important advancement, but each of those moves involved a significant drop, LSU (75) to Charleston (Not Ranked), American (45) to Depaul (87), and Bloomington (23) to Elon (Not Ranked).

I think the moves down look a bit worse than the moves up, but not by a big enough margin, and the sample size is too small to draw any reliable conclusions, except one: Ann Bartow gets stirred up too easily.  It is interesting that out of 25 lateral moves no women were listed.  But, there’s not enough data to support any claim of discrimination, and not even really enough to back up a blog headline of “Where are the Women, Lateral Hires Edition, Cripes!”

My guess is she just got an early start in the race to be offended.

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