Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Further consequences of the unraveling of the market for law grads

The NY Times reports that some of the young lawyers who were made permanent offers after their second year summer associateships in August 2008 (for permanent jobs in 2009), only to have them rescinded or deferred, are finding satisfaction in public interest law.

Young Lawyers Turn to Public Service

"With offers of employment made in August 2008 and the full force of the recession hitting in October, many big law firms — like Latham & Watkins, where Mr. Richardson was a summer associate — had to re-evaluate the job offers made to members of the class of 2009. As a way to keep their costs down while holding on to promising associates, many offered the graduates the chance to take up to a year off before starting as associates, complete with a stipend of $60,000 to $75,000. They could travel, do research, or choose — as many did — to work in the public sector.

"With the deferral year ending, some of these newly minted lawyers are surprised to find themselves reconsidering their career goals and thinking about staying with public interest law. When Latham & Watkins asked Mr. Richardson to defer his start date until at least October 2010, he took his interest in environmental issues to Resources for the Future, a nonprofit policy group based in Washington, where he did legal research on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and climate change.

"Now, despite heavy student-loan debt and a family to support, he has decided to say no to Latham and stay with public interest law, even though it pays far less.

“This is an amazing work environment,” said Mr. Richardson, who graduated from the University of Chicago Law School. “I’m working with a lot of really smart people and getting published. I’m not sure if there’s anywhere else I could do this, at least at this point in my career.”

"Mr. Richardson claims that everyone he knows has at least considered staying in public interest — and law school faculty members confirm that they are seeing a growing interest in that field."
"David Stern, executive director of Equal Justice Works, an organization devoted to getting new legal talent in the nonprofit and public sectors, notes that the pay gap between public interest and private firm work is steep. “The gap is multiples of the public interest salary, with a public interest attorney starting at, on average, $35,000 to $39,000 a year,” he said. “In a big law firm, these attorneys are starting at $140,000 to $150,000.”

"Someone who took a stipend from a law firm and then opted for public service law could also find themselves negotiating a payback plan for the stipend; policies differ from firm to firm on whether or how much of a stipend must be repaid."

Update: Steve Leider points me to this Atlantic column, pointing out that lawyers deferred from BigLaw jobs and being paid to do pro bono work are now volunteering at public interest organisations and displacing other lawyers who would have worked there...Money for Nothing

Here are some earlier posts about unraveling of the market for lawyers.

1 comment:

dWj said...

The biggest practical problems, as I see it, with matching algorithms are informational. Here you see people finding they really like something that wouldn't have been high on their preference lists if you'd asked them two years ago what they wanted to be doing. This kind of thing isn't easy to accommodate, or even terribly easy to model. I think this is one of the places work should be done in the next couple years. (And maybe I'll do it -- today's my first day of classes in my PhD program! I'm glad it's finally here!)