The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Employed After Graduation? Does Babysitting Count?

Posted by demkid on January 11, 2011

I highly recommend this article, published in the Times on Saturday.  It discusses the terrible position many new law graduates are in, burdened by heavy debt loads and with meager employment prospects.  It also gets into the fuzzy math law schools use when calculating the employment percentages of their recent graduates, in an attempt to hold or improve their positions in the annual US News rankings.  Some highlights:

A law grad, for instance, counts as “employed after nine months” even if he or she has a job that doesn’t require a law degree. Waiting tables at Applebee’s? You’re employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You’re working, too. Number-fudging games are endemic, professors and deans say, because the fortunes of law schools rise and fall on rankings, with reputations and huge sums of money hanging in the balance. You may think of law schools as training grounds for new lawyers, but that is just part of it. They are also cash cows.

There were fewer complaints about fudging and subsidizing when legal jobs were plentiful. But student loans have always been the financial equivalent of chronic illnesses because there is no legal way to shake them. So the glut of diplomas, the dearth of jobs and those candy-coated employment statistics have now yielded a crop of furious young lawyers who say they mortgaged their future under false pretenses.

Apparently, there is no shortage of 22-year-olds who think that law school is the perfect place to wait out a lousy economy and the gasoline that fuels this system — federally backed student loans — is still widely available. But the legal market has always been obsessed with academic credentials, and today, few students except those with strong grade-point averages at top national and regional schools can expect a come-hither from a deep-pocketed firm. Nearly everyone else is in for a struggle.

Even students with open eyes, though, will have a hard time sleuthing through the U.S. News rankings. They are based entirely on unaudited surveys conducted by each law school, using questions devised by the American Bar Association and the National Association for Law Placement. Given the stakes and given that the figures are not double-checked by an impartial body, each school faces exactly the sort of potential conflict of interest lawyers are trained to howl about.

Critics of the rankings often cast the issue in moral terms, but the problem, as many professors have noted, is structural. A school that does not aggressively manage its ranking will founder, and because there are no cops on this beat, there is no downside to creative accounting. In such circumstances, the numbers are bound to look cheerier, even as the legal market flat-lines.

“This idea of exceptionalism — I don’t know if it’s a thing with millennials, or what,” she says, referring to the generation now in its 20s. “Even if you tell them the bottom has fallen out of the legal market, they’re all convinced that none of the bad stuff will happen to them. It’s a serious, life-altering decision, going to law school, and you’re dealing with a lot of naïve students who have never had jobs, never paid real bills.”

As a recent law school graduate and new attorney, I’ll just offer this advice: Know what you’re getting yourself into.  If you do, you shouldn’t have any complaints once you’re out in the real world.

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One Response to “Employed After Graduation? Does Babysitting Count?”

  1. Mireya said

    It is actually a nice and helpful piece of information.
    I am happy that you simply shared this helpful info with us.
    Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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