Monday, March 19, 2012

Career Opportunities

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard somebody inside a law school complain about the school's career services office I could buy a brand new case book (that's a whole other topic).  Apparently over the last few years just about every CSO out there was staffed by incompetent do-nothings. That, at any rate, has become a popular explanation within law schools for why it's gotten so hard for our graduates to get actual law jobs.

Now it's quite possible that lots of CSOs have been staffed by incompetent do-nothings, but the cold truth of the matter is that a CSO staffed by cardboard cutouts will do just fine when employers are hiring, while when they're not it hardly matters if a CSO is stacked to the rafters with ever-so competent and hardworking people, because career service people can't help students and graduates get jobs that don't exist

It's also true that a good career services office can occasionally dig up job opportunities here and there for particular students and grads those people might not have been aware of otherwise, but let's face it: in the information age, the marginal value that CSOs add must be declining -- which of course hasn't stopped law schools from pouring ever-more resources into these offices, partially because schools have to spend all that tuition money on something, and because all of us are prone to magical thinking (if we just find the right person to run the CSO it can be 1987 or at least 2006 again).

The problem, as cannot be repeated enough, is that there are at least twice as many law grads as there are law jobs. I just went through all the job listings that CU's CSO is currently categorizing as "entry level" positions, potentially available to graduates from the school's last two classes.  For anybody working at a law school who happens to be reading this, I highly recommend undertaking a similar exercise.  Imagine that you graduated ten or twenty-two months ago, and you don't have a law job at all, or you're in a temp position that's about to end.  At all but about four law schools, anywhere from a large minority to a large majority of recent grads are in this position.  Your graduates need legal jobs: where can they find them?

The listings I reviewed included a total of 73 positions. The first problem that should be obvious to any prospective job hunter is that three-quarters of these jobs are outside not just the state, but the entire Rocky Mountain region.  One of the biggest problems in the legal employment market is that you can't just go anywhere to work as a lawyer -- you have to be licensed to practice in a jurisdiction. Most CU graduates are licensed in Colorado, which makes sense: about 40% of  our students are from the state, many more came intending to work here, and, most important of all, law school hiring tends to be intensely regional.

At more than 90% of law schools, even in flush times the chances of getting a legal job plummet for graduates who try to practice outside the region in which a school places most of its grads.  That's where the school's hiring network of alums is located; that's where graduates have personal and professional connections that can help them get a job; and at the very least that's where the people making hiring decisions have actually heard of your school. This is why it's a particularly perverse reaction, especially at a school like CU, for law faculty and administration to complain that our graduates are un- and under-employed because they aren't willing to leave the area.  After all, people came to school here precisely to get a job in the area, and moreover that's where the vast majority of jobs our graduates can get actually are (If you want a mordant laugh, check out this infamous piece of advice from an Emory professor, who chose the occasion of the school's 2011 commencement to advise unemployed Emory grads to look for jobs in, say, Nebraska. The problem with this advice -- leaving aside the awkward detail that there aren't any law jobs in Nebraska -- is that there are no Emory law alumni in Nebraska, which is one big reason nobody in Nebraska has ever heard of Emory, the others being its 1500 miles away and doesn't have a football team).

Thus it's a major practical problem that the 73 jobs uncovered by the CU OCS include 19 in California and 14 in the Washington DC area, but only 18 in Colorado (along with, speaking regionally in the broadest sense, one in Arizona, one in Nebraska, and zero in New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming).  In other words, most of our graduates are not eligible to apply for most of these jobs, since they require that applicants be barred in the jurisdictions in which the jobs are located (This doesn't even consider the further difficulty that, given the overall state of the legal markets in California and DC, the notion that CU law graduates could compete successfully for jobs in these locations would be improbable even if this fundamental barrier to entry didn't exist).

But beyond this, our recent graduates aren't minimally qualified for most of the listed Colorado jobs either, since ten of the 18 positions require at least two years of practice experience, i.e., a standard that no one who has graduated after 2009 could possibly meet.  And, as every recent law school graduate knows, "at least two years of practice experience" ends up meaning, in practice, "at least five and probably seven or more years of practice experience, since there are plenty of people with that much experience who are now desperate to work for 30% less than what a few years ago they would have considered an entry-level salary."

This means most of our recent grads will find in this list a grand total of eight jobs that they are, in the most liberal sense of the phrase, actually qualified to apply for. These jobs consist of:

(1) An assistant city attorney position in a medium-sized town that lists experience as a prosecutor as "desirable." (translation: essential)

(2) A job assisting a sole practitioner with general civil litigation. (probably an eat what you kill arrangement)

(3) A job with an immigration law firm (candidates must be bilingual in English and Spanish).

(4) A job with an insurance defense firm, that requires either a year's practice experience or a clerkship (this would seem to disqualify 2011 graduates).

(5) A job with a firm specializing in family law that doesn't require but clearly prefers previous experience practicing family law. (see job #1 supra).

(6) Three jobs for "tax resolution" positions.  (None of these jobs actually require a JD, and they look suspiciously seasonal.)

That's it.  In just the last couple of years, CU and the University of Denver have graduated a combined total of several hundred current members of the Colorado bar who at this moment don't have real law jobs (again, a real law job = full-time long-term employment requiring a law degree).  This figure doesn't even take into account all the recent grads from genuinely national schools who have gotten Lathamed, or just struck out at OCI, and who have wandered into our fair state, looking like updated refugees from the Joad family, assuming the Joads had picked up some Oakley sunglasses on the road west.  Nor does it include all the licensed Colorado attorneys with five and ten and twenty years experience who have gotten bounced from their positions in the last few months and are looking for work, or who hate their current jobs so much they're willing to take a pay cut at a new one. Etc.

Add all that up and the number of licensed Colorado attorneys (or aspiring attorneys) currently looking for legal work surely runs well into four figures, while the CSO can't find 20 lawyer jobs in the whole state.

This is a reminder that at all but a handful of law schools, many if not most of the people in every graduating class leave law school without jobs, and will have to try to enter a market in which there are very few entry points for people in their position. It's also a reminder of how it's mostly irrelevant to most law schools and most law graduates whether or not big law hiring bounces back to the level it was at five years ago.  If less than ten percent of your graduates get jobs with big firms -- which has always been the situation at more than 80% of law schools without regard to the business cycle -- then the real question is always going to be what happens to that vast majority of your class that doesn't get a job through OCI.

And the answer to that question has become: They'll enter an employment market where they will need a lot of luck to get any kind of real legal job at all, let alone one that will allow them to actually pay back the six figures-plus of educational debt the typical graduate now incurs for the privilege of obtaining a law degree.


  1. Career services was useless at my Tier 2 school 20 years ago. 90% of its effort went into an OCI program that featured large firms and government agencies that had very stringent hiring requirements (usually top 20% to get an interview, law review to get a job offer). And of course the law review students could have found jobs without any help from career services. Like I said, useless.

  2. Do you tell this to first year students?

  3. So why have a CSO, if all you really need is an organizer of OCI events?

    Oh yeah. I forgot.

    But God help us all if someone were to go against this entirely necessary regulation in order to gain a price advantage against his competition!

  4. The job listings Prof described are quite characteristic of my quickly dropping t1 school. But again, I bet most of the trap schools do the same: flood simplicity with useless jobs so it seems like something is out there and the student is just not networking hard enough.

    I can't believe I wasted my youth on this shit.

    Btw, LSAT tutor jobs really?

  5. I wonder how/when it came to be standard practice to measure employment rates 9 months after graduation. Was it ever customary to measure employment AT graduation?

    On the one hand, there is the bar exam to consider. Graduates who pass the summer exam won't be sworn in until around December.

    On the other hand, 9 months is enough time for graduates to become employed at jobs they would never have thought acceptable while they were actually still in school.

    Still, I think this should have been a red flag for me way back in 2002 when my school reported 9 month employment figures to my 1L class. Graduates who are actually in demand tend to have jobs secured prior to graduation.

  6. I can't believe I wasted my youth on this shit.

    This is why I drink.

  7. BOOM. Outstanding post, LawProf.

  8. Btw, LSAT tutor jobs really?

    Good luck. I spent nearly a decade doing hiring/teacher training for Kaplan, and I told people over and over again that your odds of actually getting to work for me were pretty slim (at least in the competitive NY metro area where I worked).

    First -- for me to even talk to you, you had to have a score of 164+. That immediately eliminated something like 1/3 of the people who walked in my front door.

    Next, you had to be willing to work for ~$20-25/hr and understand that there were no guaranteed hours. While you could get as much as 25 hrs/wk during our really busy season, it was going to be more like 3-7 hrs/wk. That would usually send another 5-10% out of the door who were only looking for FT work.

    Assuming you had the scores and wanted PT work, you then had to go through an "audition" where you got to speak for 5 minutes on any non-academic topic of your choice. "How to make a PB&J Sandwich" or something. This was just to make sure you weren't a socially inept weirdo and had a really basic public speaking ability. Again, this would lose another 10ish% of people.

    So by now we're actually getting to the teacher training classes, and 50% of potentially interested folks already haven't made it.

    Teacher training was 5 once-a-week sessions of 4hrs each where we covered the essentials of the curriculum and basic process of how to teach a Kaplan class. Although paid, it was always set to whatever the state's minimum wage was. Completing this program successfully would require the 20 hrs with me and anywhere from another 20-40 hrs of prep work (also paid at minimum wage). I can say with all honesty that I fired something like 50-75% of all LSAT trainees during this process (or they dropped out when they realized they couldn't hack it, or were unwilling to do the work to be able to hack it).

    In a decade of running teacher training, I twice had trainees with 180 LSAT scores. I fired both of them.

    Believe it or not, being able to teach LSAT for Kaplan, at least in the northern Jersey market, was not an easy task and took just the right combination of intelligence, humor, charisma, and a willingness to whore out those skills for like $25/hr.

    All told, when someone walked in the front door of my office and said, "Hey I'd be interested in teaching for you guys" there was something like an 85-95% chance that they wouldn't make it.

    But hey, you're a CSO posting for law students. They got in and they made it through, so they must be able to be good LSAT teachers and tutors, right?

  9. Dear LawProf,

    Once again, A great post. I am a 3L at a T50 school, and most of my classmates similarly believe that the CSO offices is ineffective. This belief is grounded in the fact that the assistant deans of career services seem significantly overpaid -- both making over 90k a year -- for the poor results they achieve and the services they provide.

    Each year that I've been in law school, my school's OCI has gotten smaller. Fewer 2Ls and 3Ls are getting firm jobs through that route, so many of my classmates are left to fend for themselves for smaller firm jobs and government work. So beyond OCI, what does my school's career office do? Primarily the following:

    1) Tell students that the need to learn how to network and blame our inability to line up a job with poor networking skills
    2) Forward a bunch of out-of-state federal job postings, many in DC, that are ridiculously competitive and that almost no students outside of the very top of the class (who already have a firm job in-state + a clerkship) have a chance at. I've seen several DC job postings that say that they want exceptional academic achievement, Law Review, and where 800+ people applied for 2 openings the year before.
    3) Invite students to come in for a resume refresh, and then suggest that the reason a certain student has yet to find a job is because his or her resume uses too many bullet points or is in the wrong font.

    But even worse, I think the real resentment against career services is that they are in fact the ones at the very heart of the Law School Scam. Many students believe that career services lies and lies through its teeth to serve its own interest. The inflated $100k+ median starting salaries and 90+% employed after 9 months after graduation stats are based off of numbers fed into and massaged by the CSO. So in a nutshell, not only does the CSO not appear to be doing its job well, it deliberately misrepresents employment prospects to 0Ls and current students.

  10. Never forget that your CSO probably feels this way about you:

    " Hello, Students:

    This is my final attempt to gather information about summer employment data from you. Between the two classes I received about 90 responses total. Thanks to all of those respondents! I would like to share this insight with you, though. “A little birdie” stopped by my office after I sent the last e-mail and informed me that there was some type of agreement among several of the 2L’s and 3L’s to refuse to supply this information in some form of protest against Career Services not “doing our job” — apparently misconstrued as “finding people jobs.”

    In looking back at the responses we’ve received so far I noticed an important trend. The names of the respondents were familiar to me for the most part. In other words, those who responded had actually used the services of this office. Many of the responses identified Symplicity, on-campus interviewing, other career contacts as their summer job sources. The student feedback from the students who have actually used our services and attended our programming has been good. Unfortunately, there is a large segment of you who we would help but we’ve never even met you. Therefore I make the following offer to everyone: please come into our office to make sure that the application materials you are sending sound, that you can interview effectively and that we can help you with contacts. If you choose to respond and provide real-world data, I would greatly appreciate it. No matter what, though, our offices are open to all students who seek help in this process. All are welcome."

  11. Someone finally mentioned this situation, in a broad forum. My CSO was worthless; they often handed you hard copies of documents such as "What you can do with a law degree, other than practice law."

    Furthermore, SEVERAL of my former classmates said, "Career Services only cares about the top ten percent of the class. They devote most of their energy to helping those students find jobs, when they are the ones who need the least help landing employment."

    I remember signing into Simplicity as a student at Third Tier Drake, and looking for entry-level jobs. Of course, about 2/3 of those positions required 2-3 years' experience. Apparently, the sewers of law were (willfully) unaware of this situation. How the hell is a second or third year law STUDENT supposed to have 2-3 years experience?!?!

  12. What makes me furious about LAW SCHOOLS complaining about CSO's:
    1) The constant cry by law prof's that law schools are "graduate" schools, and therefore, should not teach any practical skills.
    2) Those same law prof's complaining that CSO's can't get students law jobs (that usually require skills law prof's can't/won't teach.)
    3) Law prof's and CSO's complaining that is the the students fault they cannot find jobs.

    I feel bad for the students...

  13. I always read that CSOs only care about the top 10% of the class. Well, I was in the top 10% of my class, and I can tell you that, at least at my school, they didn't care about me either.

    Just to paint the picture: I'm from a working-class background. I never knew any lawyers or really anything about the law. Basically I was just one of those noobs who went to law school for no good reason other than that it is supposedly a versatile degree. (Luckily for me, this was 15 years ago; I read this blog and shudder, thinking, "There but for the grace of God . . . .")

    Anyway, after doing well in my first semester, I thought to myself, I'll go and ask the CSO about my career options and what kinds of classes I should take next year.

    After looking at my transcript, the head of the office looked at me with undisguised dislike and told me that it didn't matter what classes I took and that I didn't need her help. Then she went back to her busy schedule of giving students great advice like, dress nicely for interviews and don't get drunk at your firm's summer barbeque.

    I'm doing fine now, in a job I like, but needless to say it was no thanks to the CSO.

    1. Im good at math and have the ability to statistics related program. I also got admitted to a 3rd tier law school. Which would you choose to do? Which has better job outlook, as i enjoy both subjects?

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  14. My anecdotal experience was also that they only cared about the top 10%. A friend who was in that group and who already had a summer associateship with a particularly prestigious biglaw firm complained that they kept contacting her to show her other open positions. Those of us outside the top 10% never heard a thing, and when talking with them we basically never heard from them unless we went in to talk to them, in which case we got a packaged speech.

  15. I was a top 20% student at a school very similarly ranked to CU who graduated in 2009. My CSO experiences were limited to a resume review over the phone, OCI (which I received no call backs), and then several meetings that I scheduled where I was told to research firms that had practice areas I liked by looking through Martindale and to “network.” I received little no guidance. Maybe I was naïve, but I thought that CSO’s job was to really go to bat to help the students get jobs. I had friends in undergrad that had career services find otherwise “unopened” positions for them, called in favors to get students jobs, spoke on students’ behalves to employers, etc. My law school basically told me to google firms and send in my package. This was right before/as students were starting to realize that there were no jobs. However, I was continually told that the “good jobs were still out there” and that with some hustling I could snag one. None of those jobs ever appeared. Without a job at graduation, I moved back to my home state, Colorado. Eight months later, still unemployed and now a member of the Bar, I received my first contact by CSO, the employment survey. I honestly answered with my unemployed status and submitted the survey. A few weeks later, right until the 9 month employment deadline, CSO left me two messages to call them if anything in my employment status had changed. Since I was still unemployed I did not return these voicemails, assuming that my survey answers should continue to stand. In response I received an email from CSO stating: 1) If I did not update my survey, since they could not reach me, they would not use my completed survey (mind you there was nothing to update) and 2) If I did not respond with an update of my employment status, they would remove me from the CSO listserv and restrict my access to the jobs posted on their online database.

    To this day I am shocked and appalled that my law school attempted to find a loophole to not include my unemployed data in their statistics and the fact that the school threatened to take me off the listserv/restrict my access to jobs because I did not update a survey that needed no update, thus making it even more difficult for me to find a job. Also, not until I called them out on these actions did they even offer to help me with my job search.

  16. And those eight jobs need to be shared with all of the graduates of the University of Denver - also looking for a job!

  17. Colorado (and DC) have easy admission on motion standards. So, really, underemployed Wyoming grads etc. are competing for those jobs as well.


  18. OK, I need some advice, so I'll ask here since Career Services is useless.

    I am a 2L on law review at a T10 school, so I guess if anyone could get a job it would supposedly be me. I want to do public interest and I have an internship at the federal PD this summer (trust me though they won't hire me on after law school). I want to work in New England when I graduate, but from the online searches I do it just really seems like THERE ARE NO JOBS. PERIOD. If I want to follow my public interest dream, I will probably have to expand my search nationally. The other problem that has been consistently mentioned here is that being a lawyer totally sucks and I'm really not sure at this point that I even want this career :(

    So, here's what I was thinking: instead of taking out loans for next year to finish my law degree, what if I put them towards a 2-year program in nursing in my home state? The cost of the associates RN would be about the same as finishing law school, and it would be far easier to get a job afterwards, probably starting at about 50k (someone can tell me if I'm being overly optimistic). The scholarship and loan forgiveness programs for nurses are also much more comprehensive than LRAP for law school.

    So do I finish law school and take the risk I won't get a public interest job, or any job, or do I cut my losses now and work towards a more certain career as a nurse? I really appreciate thoughts that anyone may have.

  19. Here's to the The Ghost of Tom Joad...

  20. Like with any good con it's all about exploiting hope.

    The marks want to believe that they're different from blue-collar stiffs b/c they grew up in comfortable bourgeois homes. That willingness to believe obscures critical thinking and makes them easy marks.

    First you distract them w/ useless mumbo jumbo, and package it in a way that implicitly promotes the idea that learning nonsense magically transforms a person into a lawyer--the gates of the kingdom will be yours upon learning the super-secret handshake. Of course, it's all bullshit, but it's what these kids want to hear--in truth they have no idea why they want to become lawyers.

    It's a top down con, that preys upon the unrealistic hopes of bourgeois kids operating on the playing field of a declining nation.

  21. 10:57 -

    The money you've paid to date is a sunk cost. Don't let it impact your decisions.

    It sounds to me that if you had to do it all over again, you wouldn't go to law school. It also sounds like you want a job where you directly help people.

    I wouldn't be flighty with the next move. If you really want to be a nurse, then go be a nurse. If you want to help people and the ideas of law and nursing are just vehicles for that interest, make sure you know what you're doing before you leap.

    Assuming you really researched the day-to-day of nursing, and like the profession (warts, unfriendly doctors, demanding patients and all), I'd encourage you to get the RN.

    RNs are in demand, and will be further in demand. It's also clear that you're bright, and I presume ambitious. I don't think you'll have a problem in any career you select. Just make sure you know what you're getting into this time around before you leap.

  22. @ Anonymous, MARCH 19, 2012 10:57 AM:

    My sister is in nursing. At some point over the last sixteen years she transitioned from a floor position to administration. Her employer is currently paying for her to earn a Masters (night & weekend classes).

    My wife is a prosecutor with six (6) years experience. My sister makes twice (!) as much money as my wife does.

    I graduated with a JD in May. My income thus far is $5k.

    I too have thought of nursing. Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.

  23. Here's to the The Ghost of Tom Joad...

    Amen, Crux.

  24. 10:57, I would say go for the RN. It sounds like it's a field you're interested in, and there are plenty of nursing jobs available. The worst would be to finish law school, take out the third year of debt, and THEN find out you can't get a legal job and have to go back to nursing school, at additional cost. You can always go back and finish your law degree later, if down the line you hate nursing and there is a sudden explosion of legal jobs. That probably won't happen! So, go for the better career, I say.

  25. It's called a 4th Turning........


  26. Sounds like the CSO position needs to be outsourced to a headhunting firm.

  27. For anybody operating at a law university who happens to be examining this, I suggest starting a identical training.

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  28. Potential RN here - Thanks 11:03 and 11:18 for your thoughts. I've worked as a personal caregiver in the past and enjoy taking care of people. Although it's not the most intellectually stimulating thing in the world, I've come to realize that law isn't either. Also, nursing offers many opportunities for further schooling and increased responsibility/pay down the line. And maybe I can actually benefit from the parasitic baby boomers instead of being exploited by them.

    I thought briefly about becoming a nurse before law school, but wasn't thrilled at the idea of having to do undergrad over (oh, the irony of going back to that path now!) I remember my mother telling me that I was way too smart to be a nurse and that I needed to do something higher status, to do justice to my intellect. All I can say now is HAHA, what a sucker I was!

    I don't want to jump into something I'm not prepared for, but it just seems that all things being equal, spending the money on a useful degree just might make a lot more sense than finishing law school and having extremely limited job prospects.

  29. If you have completed 2 years MAYBE you should finish. That way you have completed your degree even if it doesn't lead to employment. Anyone without family connections or who does not fit in to the extreme super elite level shouldn't go to law school and any 1L's not at the very top of their class should drop out but 2L's might want to finish.

  30. An actual comment on article entitled "Greedy Law Schools Taught Students Too Well" (

    "Law students expect too much - they think they somehow deserve a six-figure salary at big city firm practicing the kind of law they want to practice right out of law school. There are plenty of jobs for lawyers available in smaller cities and towns but these students think the only place for them is in a big city with access to all it's amenities. Sorry, kids, but there are a limited supply of six-figure salaries out there in NY, LA, Chi-town and Miami. Get a grip."

  31. to the potential rn- it's not as easy to land a nursing gig as you think it is. everyone wants people with experience. if you've got experience, jobs abound. if you don't, you might be up a creek. just for fun, search job postings for the hospitals you may see yourself working for when you complete your nursing degree.

    also, many of the best hospitals prefer (read- demand) bsn and not just rn.

    there is no, NO, magic bullet in this economy.

  32. There is is some good news on the transparency front; It appears that schools will not have to report salary information. Theat will prevent any distortions from low numbers of responses.

  33. That will prevent

  34. At my school the 10 employee CSO could have consisted of 1-2 full-time counselors and an outside event planning service hired during EIP. Aside from being generally useless, they actually had a negative impact on the performance of some students. CLS, in an effort to maintain the illusion it's being equal to HYS, refused to make detailed bidding and GPA cutoff data easily available. For example, they refused to circulate electronic copies of GPA data. This meant students working outside of NYC were unable to view the data between the time they got their 1L grades and the bidding data. Additionally, the GPA data they did give was unhelpful and their counseling services were not much better. All this was to maintain the myth that CLS students don't have to worry about getting a biglaw job from EIP.

    People in the office acted very strangely. They were very defensive and would respond to detailed inquiries about firm hiring cutoffs with "don't worry about it." One got the impression that there were more things they could have said/done, but they were either too lazy or were being told by some higher authority to act as if there was no recession.

    In other news:
    Nothing new here, but we still have a ways to go to get back to 1996-2001 levels of 100,000 LSATs per cycle.

  35. Great post. I think it's among your top 10 best.

  36. (Hope you don't mind the link whoring, LP)

    A while back there was some discussion on Prawfs blag about getting a compliance job. A commenter said that a JD wasn't useful, and a law professor responded with the standard "at least one person has done it!"

    So, I went on Monster, searched for compliance jobs, filtered for entry level positions, and as anyone reading LP's blog can guess, a JD didn't appear to at all help your chances.

    You can read the job descriptions and analysis of a freshout's prospects here:

  37. As for LSAT tutoring, having done it for a year, I'll share my thoughts.

    The money per hour is great. The problem is that you can't get many hours.

    I worked for Kaplan in Tuscaloosa, which meant we were basically just teaching Bama undergrads. For one of the LSATs we had enough people to justify two sections, but the rest of the time it was just one section. Combined, the classes are 24 hours of instruction, plus practice exam proctoring, a reduced rate for prep time, and you could get about an extra half hour each day for helping students before or after class. There are 4 exams a year, so you're looking at maxing out at maybe 175 hours for the year.

    I don't think I have to tell even lawyers that this is not many hours. As a college senior, it was more money than I could drink away, but as a real life adult you can't pay rent on that.

    You can get more time doing tutoring, but I think at most I'd have 2 students per exam getting about 20 hours each. We're not even up to a tenured law professor's workload.

    It would be a good way to supplement your income if you've got a solo practice or something, but it's not a full time job.

    And, there's three more hurdles. Even a huge state university only really needs 1 LSAT instructor. If someone already has the job, tough noogies.

    Second, prep companies want people in the top 5%, and often in the top 1-2%. If you didn't break 165, don't even bother, and even then, someone else might already have the job. No one's going to fire a good teacher to replace their 169 instructor with a 171 guy.

    Finally, it's been at least 4 years since you took the LSAT. You might not have any record of your score. They might let you take a diagnostic test, or waive that if you went to a T14, but maybe not. And even if you get over that hurdle, you still have to get your actual LSAT skills back.

  38. 11:41 You'd have much more security and more intellectual challenge as a CRNA. You might consider this.

  39. Lawprof:

    I have a history question. Before I started Northwestern law ('01 grad), my dad ('70 Iowa law grad) told me to expect, based on his experience, that 1/3 of the class would flunk out by the end of 1L year because that is how law school works. Of course, that wasn't the case at all.

    Did law school truly work that way a generation ago? If so, it saved at least two years of tuition/opportunity cost for a lot of people who were always going to have trouble making it as lawyers. Of course, it is more profitable to allow poor performers in 1L to pay for two more years of school, but it might be good for all concerned if the F rate went back to the old days (if it ever was that way).

  40. 3:28: I can't speak to how things were at Iowa 40 years ago, but 25 years ago at Michigan basically nobody flunked out, and I had the impression things had been this way for quite a while. Of course we had all heard the story about the Harvard (?) dean telling the entering class to look to your right, look to your left, a year from now one of you won't be here, and when the dean gave his welcome speech to the entering class he said "look to your right, look to your left, three years from now all of you will have jobs." And he meant jobs as lawyers.

    So I don't know when law schools, or at least elite law schools, basically stopped flunking anybody out. Interestingly, I gather the only school that does this today is Cooley.

  41. "If big law does not hire you, you can always get a job as a public defender or a legal aid attorney.”

    Does anybody remember that old chestnut, which a couple of decades ago was heard almost as frequently as that beloved favorite: “There are plenty of things that you can do with a JD besides practicing law?”

    In fact, there was a certain truth to the statement until around 2002, especially if you were licensed in a big state, or a state with good reciprocity arrangements, and were not particular as to where you were willing to work. Now, of course, these jobs have become extremely desirable because of their relative job security and access to loan forgiveness programs. They have also become extremely rare due to round after round of public sector austerity.

    When I graduated, in 1998, there were 10 applicants for two openings in the appeals division of the public defender office that hired me. Though my law school performance was undistinguished, the boss saw something in me and I was able to beat the odds and snag one of the openings. In 2009, the same office posted for two more openings and got 400 applicants, odds I never would have been able to beat.


  42. It makes sense that the true elite schools such as Michigan and Northwestern would not flunk out students since they have the elite students. Why would Harvard flunk out students unless they were complete screwups? It is the 2nd tier public schools like Iowa and CU that probably should be thinning the ranks of students. The bottom tier of schools shouldn't even exist.

  43. To the potential RN: sounds like you should not throw away a third year of law school tuition, but make very certain that any loan forgiveness programs that you might be able to use as an RN will apply to ALL your educational debt, not just additional debt incurred for the nursing degree.

  44. 15 years ago at Michigan, no one flunked out, and there were a couple that tried. One of my class mates basically didn't come to class the sixth semester, and they basically gave him the diploma.

    The version of the joke I heard was "What do the top of the class and the bottom of the class have in common?-- they're all lawyers when they graduate."

    The thing is, none of this would matter if EVERY single (full-freight) student wasn't paying tuition dependent on getting a big law job. I don't even know how I'd cope knowing that with my undistinguished grades I couldn't be a lawyer.

  45. @12:21: The data is more encouraging than it might look at first glance. There has been a significant trend for retakes since USNEWS changed its median LSAT policy/schools stopped caring about retakes, so LSATs being administered that are equal, to say, the 2000, actually represent a significant decline in law school applicants. I can't remember the exact ratios but the number of LSAT takes per student has risen significantly the past few years.

  46. This is good news because it means people are thinking seriously about whether law school is for them. That can only be for the good; for the students themselves, for schools in the long run, and for the profession.

  47. There certainly has to be some pressure on the bottom-feeders to fill a class capable of passing the bar. How can law schools were there in 2001?

  48. With regard to flunking people out, Western State does a decent job (38 people out for academics and 1/3 of the 1L class gone in total after a year):

    I have taught the LSAT and other tests for Kaplan. My thoughts reflect those of BL1Y. We had a slightly heavier LSAT load, so that helped, and I had already cross-trained on several other tests, so I could teach 15-20 hours in a good week. But when I talked to a large southern city's Kaplan center about teaching the LSAT full-time, the pay was $35k per year.

  49. Looking at those LSAT numbers again, and a 22k drop bests the next closest drop (1995) by 8k LSATs administered. That's huge, and surely things like this blog help. Keep up the good work.

  50. Actually, 25k/11k. I'll stop spamming.

  51. Excellent post. I hadn't though to look at the figures in terms of posted job openings, but it's very eye opening. In the past I've calculated and estimated that fewer than 54% of all JDs who graduated over the past 40 years work in the legal profession (at jobs of varying and unknown quality) and that perhaps fewer than 27.5% of all recent graduates obtain "real law jobs", but perhaps its' even worse than that.

  52. The one thing I've felt CSO offices really need to be doing is reaching out to large non-law employers (places that would normally recruit at solid undergrad fairs, consulting firms, local employing industries, etc.) and network on behalf of the school and the profession.

    LawProf is right; CSO offices can't just whiz-bang jobs into existence. The first step is that they should admit and face that reality, that telling people to "network" is not a viable solution to broad systemic problems. A better one (though not, by any means, a cure-all) is to try and force open doors to change the image of what law grads can offer non-law employers.

    Right now, people are reluctant to hire J.D.s for non-law jobs despite the proclamations of the administrators who live in LSD-laced clouds. J.D.'s are perceived to be 1) combative and looking to sue people; 2) always looking for that six-figure law job that surely is around the corner; and 3) J.D.s will be poor workers because they will be doing [x] and not practicing law.

    The CSO could try, sincerely, to rebut these absurd myths and get local people hiring J.D.s for solid non-law jobs. It's truly odd - and against everything our schools teach - that an HR department, for example, would rather hire a 95 IQ person with an associates degree when they could get an above-average-in-intelligence, hard-working J.D. with experience in employment law for the exact same amount of salary. People need to be weaned off the myth that all we want to do is sue and make bank.

    I really just want a job that lets me pay the bills without going insane. I would venture to guess 70% of law graduates would forgo the bar and/or tear up their license to land a permanent 40k non-law job. CSO offices, IMO, could help bridge those gaps in understanding, so that I'm not looking for a temp gig until Big, Law, and Firm opens up, but rather looking for a real job, period, law or not.

    Yet all I seem to see from my own CSO is an attempt to stay within yesterday's paradigm: OCI, craving legal job openings like gold, panels from legal superstars (whoa, we had a grad draft a treaty!?! maybe me too!), and soirees with nervous 50-year old government attorneys whose offices aren't hiring for the next 5 years.

    Shifting from this paradigm would, of course, be an admission that something is terribly wrong (not just the students' networking skills) with the current system, and that there really aren't enough law jobs to go around, meaning that I have a better chance of sleeping with Jessica Biel after she sees me argue like Clarence Darrow in front of the Texas Supreme Court.

  53. At my 4th Tier school, we still practice flunking out about 1/4th of the first year class (each person who sat to my immediate left in each of my first year courses either flunked out or dropped out.) In my experience these were smart kids with bad study skills who wouldn't join study groups.

  54. Connections are everything in this market.

    What's the difference between me and the fellow classmate of mine who has been unemployed since May 2010? The people I met.

    Most of us don't have tremendous connections through our family. And when we do, those connections often are nowhere to be found when it matters most.

    About 8 months after graduation, the head of the CDO at my school put me in touch with an alum who had a particular interest in helping young lawyers get jobs. We had coffee and bonded--that coffee was the most important 2 hours of my legal career. If I hadn't met the alum, I don't know where I'd be. He invited me to all kinds of events, introduced me to all of his friends from our alma mater, and eventually one of those friends came through for me.

    So what can a CDO do in this wretched environment? Start developing relationships. Real alumni relationships. The CDO should not lose touch with all of its grads. It should stay in touch as much as possible, and then use those connections when it matters.

    In the good times, the CDO didn't have to do much. Basically as long as you didn't fart in OCI you could get a job. Things are different now, and it's not good enough for these people to tell students to "network." Law students, by definition, have no network. This is where the CDO can help.

  55. Damn it, I farted in OCI but I thought I nailed the interview.

    Am I sunk? I had a protein shake about an hour before the interview :(

  56. I go to CU and was told by career services that only 3.9% of '10 grads got their job through OCI. Not exactly sure what they do, honestly. I know CSO is hiring though. I'll probably apply after I graduate.

  57. I graduated from CU in 1982, and the job market was not particularly good back then either. However, during my third year, I was offered and accepted a job in Alaska.

    Alaska does not have any law schools, so just about all of its lawyers are imported from outside. The bar was difficult (based on the California bar) and has a low pass rate. Plus the climate is bad enough that no one will stick around for a long time unless they are well paid.

    I practiced in Alaska for ten years, when family matters caused me to return to the awful awful job market in Colorado. Law practice in Colorado really sucks, especially when compared with practice in Alaska. Alaska has a small bar, and I always had interesting cases and good clients. The pay was better, too.

    All in all, my ten years in Alaska were the most interesting years of my professional life.

  58. 6:44--
    This is because no one wants to live in Alaska.

    Alaska sucks and Colorado rulz. Stupid supply/demand making it impossible to earn a decent wage in a nice place...

  59. Literally saddest thing I've ever read:

    "OK, I need some advice, so I'll ask here since Career Services is useless.

    I am a 2L on law review at a T10 school, so I guess if anyone could get a job it would supposedly be me. I want to do public interest and I have an internship at the federal PD this summer (trust me though they won't hire me on after law school). I want to work in New England when I graduate, but from the online searches I do it just really seems like THERE ARE NO JOBS. PERIOD. If I want to follow my public interest dream, I will probably have to expand my search nationally. The other problem that has been consistently mentioned here is that being a lawyer totally sucks and I'm really not sure at this point that I even want this career :(

    So, here's what I was thinking: instead of taking out loans for next year to finish my law degree, what if I put them towards a 2-year program in nursing in my home state? The cost of the associates RN would be about the same as finishing law school, and it would be far easier to get a job afterwards, probably starting at about 50k (someone can tell me if I'm being overly optimistic). The scholarship and loan forgiveness programs for nurses are also much more comprehensive than LRAP for law school.

    So do I finish law school and take the risk I won't get a public interest job, or any job, or do I cut my losses now and work towards a more certain career as a nurse? I really appreciate thoughts that anyone may have."

  60. To West @ 10:16 p.m.:

    Completely agree with everything you said. CSOs should be doing exactly what you said: networking (yes, I said it) like crazy with non-legal employers to show them that JDs are great hires.

    On a related note: the bar-affiliated attorney assistance programs (the ones that assist with lawyers transitioning to new careers/fields) should be doing this exact thing too.

  61. "Stupid supply/demand making it impossible to earn a decent wage in a nice place..."

    Believe it or not, that was my point. Even 30 years ago, one had to go to a less desireable place to make a decent income. Now, part of the reason Alaskan firms recruit from the lower 48 is becaue they know they can pay someone recruited from outside less than what they will pay one of the locals -- at least for about a year.

    That being said, Alaska had its advantages. One of the attorneys I worked with would get up early in the morning, get in his plane, fly out to the bush, fish for an hour or so, hop back in his plane, and head into the office. Just try to practice law like that in Colorado!

  62. CU's CSO, back in 2004-2005, gave me the very very fine advice that, if I wanted to work outside the Denver metro area, I was free to look for my own job postings, as they didn't really deal with jobs in other western states. They couldn't even handle getting me a list of alumni in Arizona. Complete farce of an office, and deserves to be shut down. (And, really, we alumni suckers deserve to have any fees that went to that office refunded.)

  63. "probably an eat what you kill arrangement." LOL... That is pure gold. Very rich Law Prof.

  64. Awesome article. I don't come by the blog as much as I used to since I'm over my "Pissed I Ever Went to Law School Stage and Sick of Being Labeled a Dropout" stage, but it's good to see that transparency is starting to happen. I fell for these tricks of "90% employment" w/o knowing what went into that 90% - hopefully no other kid will fall for the same trick I did (even though I know they will).

    The two women in my Master of Accounting program that run what's essentially the CSO here have gotten 95% of us FT audit/tax/consulting jobs and we're spread out from LA to NY to Atlanta. Different structure to the field yes, but still impressive in this economy. If CSO at the law school I went to did half the work the women here do, alums would be in a much better position.

  65. At anyone thinking of becoming an RN,

    The nursing market is just as oversatured as the law market. To find an RN position good luck. It's very competitive and can take easily over 9 months to find a job. It's very hard to get into an RN program in some states.
    A large portion of RNs quit because of working condtitions. The shortage of RNs that one hears about is based on a PROJECTION based on what could hypothetically occur ten years in the future. Don't go to nursing school because you think it's easy to find a job. That's like going to law school because you think all lawyers rich...

  66. The issue with Law School CSO's producing very little to no results for their students goes further than them simply concentrating on the top 10% (which in itself is a lie too). In recent years (especially post 2008) Law Schools were saturated with applicants looking for an "unbreakable" career in law coming from industries ranging from finance to education. These folks were enamored with the belief that Law could provide a bulwark of endless employment and a prestigious designation that follows with the letters "ESQ" being placed after their names. Naive in their beliefs from what they learned from media and entertainment, the pipeline of employment was being (and going to be) suffocated by a flood of overachievers. At our firm in Northern VA we have the luxury of picking from a lego box of over qualified individuals. The metro DC area is the greatest testament to why many post grads SHOULD NOT apply for a JD. My fellow associates and I have dubbed it the Capital of SPA's (Special Projects Attorney...very fancy description for "temp"). My roommate from 2L and 3L is a criminal attorney in the area as well and all I can say is that he is thankful to be practicing in a state that has harsh laws against DWI/DUI offenses in both the state and federal systems or he would truly be out of work.

  67. Looks like this one job is very interesting. I love to preserve the environment and I hope I can be able to help some environmental laws.


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