It’s Sunday, FML

Posted in Uncategorized on June 20th, 2010 by bl1y

I decided to spend some time this afternoon looking through some of the ABA’s job resources.  I know, getting advice on how to land a legal job in this market is about as useful as taking a film class to better understand the plot of Avatar.

But, not everyone is so down about the recession.  Cheryl Rich Hessler, president of Lawternatives, created a video discussing looking for jobs in a touch market: Back to the Future: Rediscovering the Basics of Job Search in Tough Economic Times.  Hessler describes herself as an optimist, but not naive.  She sees a “silver lining” in the legal job market, a chance to return to the old school methods and “doing what works.”

Spoiler alert:

Hessler’s silver lining is working harder to earn less.


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This Ship Be Sinking …And Burning

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14th, 2010 by bl1y

David Hechler at Corporate Counsel reports that 20-25% of current attorneys want out of the business.  The other 75-80% are unemployed and want in.

The massive law firm layoffs were not merely a result of decreased work, that’s only half of the story.  Law firms hire knowing that they suffer from fairly high attrition rates.  In a good year, when there are jobs in finance, consulting, and other lawyer-friendly industries, a firm may see 10-15% of its attorneys jump ship.  So, they hire knowing that they’ll lose people along the way.  But, then when the economy tanks and no one can leave their law firm, the firm finds itself over staffed.  Even if work remained at the same level, you have too many people and layoffs are still necessary.

So, then the axe falls.  And, while layoffs are not strictly merit based, there’s no denying that merit has some role.  The superstar associates aren’t going to get cut.  It’s somewhat merit based, but not entirely, since the whole thing is comparative.  Law school grades are also merit based, and someone’s always at the bottom of the curve.  But, you’d be wrong in thinking the 10-25th percentile at University of Chicago or Northwestern were idiots.  The people who were laid off were not necessarily weak links, simply the weakest links.

But, what many law firms may not have considered is who jumps ship in a good economy.  The smartest, hardest working associates, building up the most experience and connections are the ones who have the easiest time leaving the firm.  They’re the core of the people who bail out.  So, law firms that laid off associates likely laid off the people who would have stayed at the firm their entire career, and kept people who would have left.

Guess what’s going to happen now that the finance market is starting to recover.

I feel sorry for the people who were in the middle of the pack, didn’t get cut but might not be able to find a better job.  They’re going to be stuck with workloads that should be handled by twice as many attorneys, and their bosses aren’t going to be quick to bring on extra help.  Lawyers are risk adverse, and so they will be slow in hiring.  And, laid off attorneys aren’t gaining experience, so there isn’t going to be an abundance of midlevel associates to hire anyways.

Basically, law firms just really screwed themselves, and their remaining associates.  So…yeah, na-na na-boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo.

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The Dark Side of the Recession

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8th, 2010 by bl1y

For years law firms have been actively trying to bump up their diversity credentials for a number of reasons, to draw in clients with minority executives (because we all know minorities are racist, just like white people), avoid negative publicity, and to attract top legal talent (Ivy League schools are extremely liberal).

But, it seems that the recession is hittign diversity initiatives particularly hard.  From the ABA Presidential Diversity Initiative Report:

While law firms have increasingly come to recognize that diverse corporate clients and international markets often require lawyer diversity, the recession is drying up monies for diversity initiatives and creating downsizing and cutbacks that may disproportionately and negatively affect lawyer diversity—thereby undoing the gains of past decades.

One of the purported goals of diversity is to fight stereotypes.  It’s pretty hard to keep a prejudice when you’re working in close quarters with someone.  You’ll see the good work they do and find it hard to maintain your prejudice when confronted with contrary evidence.

So, while diversity initiatives may be useful in getting minority attorneys into firms to begin with, retention shouldn’t be much of a factor.  But the ABA Presidential Diversity Initiative thinks otherwise.  Given that no law firm wants to expose itself to an easy discrimination suit, they should be thinking twice before laying off a disproportionately large number of minorities.  If anything, we’d expect to see firms hanging on to minorities more.

Why are they more likely to get laid off?  The answer is diversity.

Whaaat?   …Let me explain.

Diversity is what gets many minorities their jobs in the first place, not merits.  Firms hire minority attorneys with poorer credentials than they would consider from a straight, white male candidate.  If all minority candidates were hired on their merits alone, then they wouldn’t need diversity initiatives.  These initiatives exist only because they can’t get hired on their merits.

The same thing basically happens with law school admissions as well.  Law schools mostly just look at GPAs and LSAT scores when admitting students; two numbers that indicate absolutely nothing about the race of the applicant.  But, law schools know that looking only at test grades will result in too few minorities getting accepted, so they lower the bar until their diversity quota is filled.  The process is repeated in law firm hiring.

(I’m not arguing that minority students are inherently less intelligent.  Most of the reason their test scores are lower is because they come from poorer families and have less educated parents.  But, the solution to that is to be found in early education, not law school admissions.)

Enter the recession.  Law firms are reducing their work forces and even students with good grades from top schools are being given the axe.  You can bet that if you’re laying off Ivy League grads, you have no place in your office for a substandard attorney hired through a diversity initiative.

Disproportional minority lay offs should concern us, but not because it hurts law firm diversity.  We should be concerned because it shows that minority attorneys hired through diversity initiatives, who have had a chance to work with law firm partners and prove them selves capable are still coming up short.  Obviously diversity hiring doesn’t do squat but put sub-par attorneys in jobs they have no business being in.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #8

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on January 11th, 2010 by bl1y

There’s too many God damn law students.

The New York Times has reported that since The Economy Happened there has been a 20% increase in LSAT takers. Naturally, this is leading to an increase in students applying to law school (some schools have reported more than a 50% increase in applications).

On the other end, law schools are not rapidly expanding their lecture halls and hiring new professors. Nope, the available seats in good law schools is going to remain pretty much the same. So, getting into a decent law school is going to be a lot harder, and you can expect your future class mates to be even more competitive and douchebaggy.

Just to make things worse, third and fourth tier diploma mills have been cropping up all over the place thanks to the ABA practically endorsing degrees not worth the Kinkos paper they’re printed on. And unlike the good schools, they will be more than happy to widen their doors to take in more suckers. So, if you go to a mid-ranked school, when you graduate you’re going to have a huge number of kids from crappy schools competing for the same jobs.

Now, you might be thinking students at shit schools won’t hurt your job prospects, but some 30,000 students graduate from TTTs every year, and the numbers are going up. A 20% increase in those students, means another 6000 hungry lawyers in the job market. If you only have to compete with the top 5-10% from those schools (and you probably will), that’s 300-600 fewer job opportunities for you.

If you happen to be one of those TTT students…I’d feel sorry for you, but I don’t feel sorry for dumbasses who should have known better than to go to such a shitty school in the first place. However, I will offer you a gratuitous hottie as a consolation prize.

And look, she’s upside down! It’s practically a metaphor for how the rest of your life will turn out if you decide to go to law school.

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