Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The disappeared

As I've mentioned before, probably the most crucial knowledge gap that needs to be filled by people pursuing legal academic reforms is in regard to medium and long-term (as opposed to short-term) career outcomes for law graduates.  Here's a letter that drives that point home with special force. It ends with a request for suggestions as to options -- one which I hope some readers can  answer more usefully than I can:



Professor Campos:

I have a feeling you get a lot of e-mail messages like this, and you probably do not have time to respond to them all, but I thought I would give it a shot.  I will try to give you an abbreviated version.

I graduated from [elite university] with a B.A. in [social science major] in 1994.  I was on scholarship, so I managed to graduate with no debt.  Not that these things matter 20 years after the fact, but I had a 3.6 GPA and a 178 LSAT.  I worked for [politician] between college and law school.  I graduated from [top ten law school] in 2000.  My GPA was a 3.5, which was well above the mean but not good enough for law review.  I clerked for a federal district court judge from 2000-2002, during which time my law school loans were in forbearance.  My point is that, although my resume wasn’t printed with gold ink when I began my legal career, my credentials were good.

After my clerkship, I went into private practice.  I have taken more than 200 depositions, argued motions in court more than 100 times, conducted several multi-day trials, propounded and answered more discovery than I care to think about, and drafted countless briefs, motions, and pleadings.  Most of my work has been in business and real estate law, so I have also drafted stock and asset sale documents, employment and non-compete agreements, employee manuals, sexual harassment policies, commercial leases, finance leases, business formation documents, company minutes, trademark applications, loan documents, and deeds.  In other words, unlike a recent law school grad, I’ve been around the block a couple of times, I have some experience, and I know how to do some things. 

I was laid off in late 2010, and I have been out of work ever since.  There were no accusations of misconduct, no complaints about my work.  The law firm was downsizing, and that was that.

I’m 41 years old, I’ve been out of law school for 13 years, and I do not have a book of business, so evidently, my career as a lawyer is over.  I have a wife and 2 kids who need me to work, but I don’t know how to do anything other than practice law.  Instead, my wife works, and I am a de facto stay-at-home dad.  It’s not that I don’t love being a dad (of course I do), but my family needs my income, and I need to work outside the home.

As depressing as my situation is, I know it is so much worse for so many people.  I have read their stories on your blog and in the comments.  At least I had 8 productive years as a working attorney.  I paid my student loans down from $120,000 to the current balance of $23,000.  As long as my wife has a job, we won’t starve.  And our kids are wonderful.   Knowing how much worse it is for so many people, I feel guilty complaining about my situation.

For most of my career I have wondered, and occasionally asked out loud, “What happens to all the lawyers?”  Just based on my own personal observation, I could see how few lawyers actually made partner.  So where do they go?  Oh sure a few go in house, some end up working for the government, etc., but just based on what I could see and the lawyers I knew, the numbers didn’t add up.  Lawyers just seemed to disappear, like entrepreneurs in Atlas Shrugged.  And then, of course, I disappeared.

Since I was laid off, I have floundered around, applying for jobs, representing a few clients as a solo practitioner (not that that has been lucrative – think very low five figures per year), and trying to figure out “What happens to all of the lawyers?”  Finally, a few weeks ago, a Google search landed me on a scamblog (I don’t remember which one anymore).  That scamblog led me to another, then another, and another, and then your YouTube videos of your interview with Blooomberg Law and your presentation at Stanford Law School.  Then Google searches for “Paul Campos” led me to your blogs, and then I learned who Brian Tamanaha is, and then I read his book.

Yes, believe it or not, I had no idea about the scamblogs until just a few weeks ago.  It seems hard to believe now, but why would I?  I graduated from law school a long time ago now – before law schools produced most of the glut of lawyers.  Times were good when I was looking for a job in 1999 and the early 2000s.  I have been busy – practicing law, having a family, then dealing with my own unemployment (for which I have blamed myself). And after I was laid off, I have had very little contact with lawyers, and I haven’t had contact with law school students or recent law school grads in years.  On the rare occasion that I do talk to a law school classmate or contemporary, no one ever acknowledges any problems – everyone claims to be on top of the world, knocking the ball out of the park.  Now, thanks to the scamblogs, I know that some (many?) of my classmates have to have ended up like me. 

Of course the scamblogs, your YouTube videos, and Tamanaha’s book are no comfort.  Actually, they’re terrifying.  But now, finally, I have some idea about “What happens to all the lawyers?”  At least now I am dealing with reality.  Before I was trying to solve a problem (my unemployment) with bad information.  Now, at least, I know. 

It is tempting to let myself focus on my anger about the injustice of the macro situation and my sadness about the hopelessness of my personal situation.  It infuriates me that my alma mater and the other law schools have essentially ruined many of their alumni’s careers by actions they took after we graduated.  Yet my alma mater still relentlessly solicits me to “give back” – as if I owe them something.  You will not be surprised to learn that my alma mater has never taken any interest in my career – or even bothered to find out if I have one.  As for my specific situation, I feel like it’s hopeless, and I think I am a failure.  I literally have no idea what to do.

My wife has not been especially understanding about my situation.  I think her thinking has been that of course someone with my resume can easily find a job, and since I haven’t, the problem must be that I am not trying very hard, which she resents.  That all changed, however, when I showed her this.  I had printed it out on paper, along with all of the comments that had been posted in the first 12 hours.  It was about 100 pages long.  Someone with better credentials than I is living in his father’s basement and has sent out 700+ resumes with no results.  Somehow it was comforting and made us sick to our stomachs at the same time.  Then there were your comments about how little information there is about long-term career outcomes and your question about what happens after the top law school and the big law firm – yes, FINALLY, someone else is asking “What happens to all the lawyers?”!  Then the comments.  So many comments.  So many lawyers out of work, in debt, with no hope.  The stack of paper alone was enough to bring tears to my wife’s eyes.  When I told her that all of the comments had been posted since 5:58 a.m. that morning, she broke down and cried. 

So, my efforts to keep this brief have failed, but perhaps I can pull it all together with two points.  First, thank you for what you are doing.  It has mattered to me and my family.  And I am sure it matters to many others.  Second, do you have any advice, any at all, for someone in my situation?  I am not like a recent law grad who laments that he/she can’t get a job and doesn’t know how to practice law.  My problem is the other way around: I can’t get a job, and I don’t know how to do anything except practice law.  I cannot hide my J.D. or the 13 years since I graduated law school.  I am a real, live lawyer with a J.D., a license, and years of experience.  But no one will pay me to practice law anymore, and I don’t know how to do anything else.  Yes, of course, big changes are coming to law schools and the legal profession, many reforms need to be implemented, and prospective law students need to be warned.  It’s not that I am not interested in those things, but I have more immediate problems to solve.  I have 2 kids, a mortgage, and 25 more years to work – I can’t waste time being angry at my alma mater, wallowing in my sadness, or pontificating about law schools and my profession.  I need to find a way to earn some money SOON.  Do you have any suggestions for someone like me?   

234 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. And....that letter scares the crap out of me. Since I have found this blog, I have had that feeling more and more frequently. I have been at this for 17 years....I know that I am on borrowed time. Good luck to all.

      Delete
  2. Maybe more people will come out with their stories like this one.
    0Ls have no idea what the future will bring

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  3. Well at least the man had the luxury of practicing law. He just needs to open his own shop. Unlikely that his experience would be much use but at least he can present himself to a client as an experienced lawyer

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    Replies
    1. "He just needs to open his own shop."

      Yeah that'll solve all his problems.

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    2. It's that or choose another career field and start from scratch. I will not pretend to know which option would be better for him. Neither will be pleasant by any stretch of the imagination.

      Delete
  4. General Petya SamanovFebruary 26, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    "When you lose and fail, it is understandable. When you win and fail, that brings madness."

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  5. Congress and the ABA should know what all-comers law school accreditation and universal student debt does to lawyers. It does this!

    Are you happy Leiter? What do you say now Diamond?

    Look at the problem, for here it is.

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  6. A lost decade in the world's worst profession and then tossed aside.

    Good luck man.

    I suspect that many more of us will be joining the disappeared soon.

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  7. Anyone who quotes Atlas Shrugged immediately loses me.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Who is John Galt, anyway?

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    2. I found the Atlas Shrugged reference to actually underscore the problem. This guy formerly was an Ayn Rand pull up your bootstraps type.

      The whole system is so damned broken that even the most driven self-starters are doomed.

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    3. 11:20 am, your biases are showing: Campos' correspondent didn't "quote" Atlas Shrugged; he simply mentioned it without characterizing the work in any manner. Under your reasoning, this mention of Mein Kampf makes me a Nazi.

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    4. 11:20 AM, you're what is wrong with a lot of things. A perfectly appropos reference to a well-known book, and he's "lost you" because you don't like the book? I can't stand people who draw political lines like that all the time.

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    5. 11:30, the letter writer did not say he is "formerly" a pull up your bootstraps type. Being a "pull up your bootstraps type" and recognizing that there are structural/cultural market impediments to finding re-employment as a lawyer when you lose your job mid-career are not mutually exclusive, nor does recognizing the impediments negate the general outlook that you have to do what you can to help yourself, whatever the obstacles.

      The letter writer strikes a nerve with me, as I was LR at a T14, with a fed. app. clerkship, and have worked in biglaw as a commercial litigator for 11 years. Not a partner, but have substantive expertise that isn't easy to replace and won't go out of fashion. Still, I lose a lot of sleep over the prospect of suddenly finding myself in the letter writer's shoes.

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    6. Anyone who makes snap judgements to ignore the entire picture in from of them loses me.

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  8. Dear Disappeared, I'm really sorry this has happened to you. Too many people I know are in this situation (and I can't help them). This letter (like 11:15) scares me. It's just a matter of time for me.

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  9. Sell insurance. The start up costs aren't much (you probably already own the suits and ties, licensing and liability insurance will run less than a grand in your first year, slightly more in future years). My guess is your former client and contemporary list includes a lot of other people with two kids and a mortgage, which puts you in the sweet spot for that business.

    When I worked in that business former attorneys did better than most, as prospects looked at them as advisers rather than used car salesmen with a better tailor.

    No reason someone like you can't make mid to high five figures in your first year, which beats nothing. If you make it in that line of work you will get into the low six figures again within a few years. If not, you'll have picked up a new marketable skill set.

    Also, you won't have to be an agent forever. Insurance companies love turning agents with JDs into development managers after a year or two. Those guys make low six figures and have job security.

    Look up the highly rated companies that still have captive agents. Call in and see if they are hiring. The cost to bring someone on for them is low, my guess is one or more will give you an interview immediately.

    Good luck.

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  10. How do we get 0Ls to hear this problem? I went from here to TLS and people are still so woefully uninformed .

    Somone posted about Columbia giving you an 80% chance at biglaw. They have no idea about practicing law, biglaw, losing a job and not getting another one.

    I don't know how Lawprof just doesn't give up with discouragement sometimes. But, you know, we can't give up too easily.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or how about this one:
      http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=205049

      "Within a year and half or so I will be graduating with a PhD in neuroscience....
      Ok now that all that is aside, I guess my basic question is whether pursuing a career in patent law is advisable."

      GOOD GOD NO. But to translate this guys post "I want to be in college as long as possible rather than face the cruel world of work".

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    2. Columbia was about a 50% chance at BigLaw in 2012.

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    3. "GOOD GOD NO. But to translate this guys post "I want to be in college as long as possible rather than face the cruel world of work"."

      The unemployment rates for newly graduated life sciences Ph.D.'s are (from a recent article) running 60%.

      That does not mean that the only have post-docs, that means that they don't even have that.

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    4. OL's aren't going to hear this guy, as seen from the comments above about how he had the "luxury" of "getting" to practice law for awhile, and now he should just hang a shingle. 25 year olds can't/won't imagine themselves past the age of 30.

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  11. That e-mail is terrifying.

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  12. Man, fuck I can't even move right now. I hope you are able to get a job and help your family out.

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  13. It's ok to read and love Atlas Shrugged if you are under the age of twenty-two.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is your brilliant take away from this email?

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    2. Anyone older than fifteen who loves that book should be slapped.

      Delete
  14. While I sympathize with the guy's situation, I think his blaming his law school for losing his job a decade after he graduated is a bit misplaced. He may want to blame the real estate bubble, and those who inflated it, for losing a job doing real estate litigation in 2010.

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    1. Once again, you missed the point Mr. Leiter.

      It's not the cause of his unemployment, but the inability to recover from it 2 1/2 years after it occurred despite stellar credentials and a varied skill set. The glut of lawyers means that once you fall -- and most do -- you're a greasy spot on the legal highway with no second chance.

      Delete
    2. ^ this. It's not the failing that's the problem, that's a part of life. It's the tremendous waste of experience and intelligence that this story represents.

      From both a macroeconomic perspective and an individual perspective, this (and millions of similar stories in law and out) is a tragedy.

      Delete
  15. brianleitersrottingteethFebruary 26, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    If you didn't know about scamblogs, maybe there is a slight chance you don't know about doc review. I didn't know about it until I became unemployed. If its available in your market, it can allow for some decent 5 figure income while you figure out what to do next.

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  16. Agreed that the likeliest way up and out of this miserable spot is doubling-down on the solo practice initiative, and to that end, here's something you'll need to overcome: "And after I was laid off, I have had very little contact with lawyers, and I haven’t had contact with law school students or recent law school grads in years." Those people, my friend, are the ones who can and will send you work.

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    1. The problem with telling a person in this position to network, is that there are a million other lawyers like him networking with the same people. That is oversupply.

      Can he get some clients working out of his bedroom? Hard to do. He has some versatile experience. Problem is that you look at corporations and they have few open legal jobs. The ones that are open often require very specific experience.

      Is there a market for him in midsized and small business? Maybe, but how will he meet his clients?

      Not the bar association. If he wants to go to an industry group, he needs to pay $$$$, like $4500 a year to sponsor each group. The big law firms have it tied up so only they can pay the steep toll to get into networking meetings at ACCA and trade associations like the National Retailers. No pay, and he is shut out.

      If he goes to other networking events, he will have to pay to join the organization, pay again for the meeting, and he will meet the junior person at some service provider organization to that industry that is at the meeting because they are also trying to sell something- not much help in getting business.

      Bottom line is that it is hard to network successfully.

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    2. The bottom line is because of the glut of attorneys, any networking meeting is going to be filled with attorneys. It can be a church, a fraternal organization, a community organization, half the people there are going to be lawyers, many underemployed, and there looking for clients.

      Every organization remotely related to any type of law has been infiltrated by lawyers trying to get business. A decade ago it was still possible to use these organizations to meet potential clients. Now all your competitors have arrived before you and are at every meeting where you are trying to meet potential clients.

      It is a story of lawyer oversupply and more oversupply, and a lawyer cannot escape the oversupply, not matter what he does.

      Try calling people you know who are in a position to help - maybe. You are the tenth lawyer call that person has gotten in the last year and the 10th resume, and that lawyer has not heard of a job in the area outside of very junior positions or those for first years in the last 2 years.

      Delete
  17. As I read your email I found myself thinking I recognized who you were a couple of times. Of course I likely do not know who you are, but your story is the same story of other lawyers I have known.

    I have practiced about as long as you have and I have roughly similar credentials. I often sit with colleagues who are junior-ish partners at mid-sized and larger firms and hear their dawning realization that they have nowhere to go if they lost their job at their current firm. I have seen many talented people get pushed out of firms and not recover. Unfortunately, it seems that many of the traits that make one a good fit for practice at a larger law firm make one less fit for the somewhat brutal struggle of solo practice, which seems to be one of the few options available to you at the moment.

    I don't have a message here except to echo that it is high time that people started looking for all of the disappeared lawyers. There are a huge number of them out there.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anybody who is willing to get a nicеly-toneԁ ѕtomach can use this belt.


    Μy weblog - www.Prnewswire.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, nothing takes the sting out of long-term unemployment like a nicely-toned stomach!

      Delete
    2. Eff you Leiter.

      Delete
  19. Well, if he were to get a job in another part of the country could his wife transfer there or work out of their home in a new location?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How would he do this?

      I suspect that if he doesn't figure something out soon, his wife is going to find a better partner.

      Dude, get yourself together . Give up law and figure out something else.

      Delete
  20. Time to look at the bright side. The poster has useful litigation skills, and a desire to use them. The problem is that there is no one who is in the market for all of his billable hours. That means he has to figure out a way to sell smaller chunks of his time, by building a book of business.

    One of the traditional ways of doing this is to find a small law firm with some extra office space. As if they're interested in exchanging office space for services. You're not likely to get referrals from other lawyers unless you're interacting with them as a lawyer. Doing pro bono work can help out here, as well.

    Here's another approach - place a classified ad saying that you're an experienced litigator thinking about starting a partnership on shoe-string budget with a freshly-minted bilingual lawyer with connections to an underserved linguistic community. Each of you has something the other lacks - that's what partnerships are for. You need the partner to communicate with your clients, and your partner needs you for your litigation experience. (I formed a partnership along these lines shortly after I graduated from law school during a recession.)

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  21. I am a legal recruiter (formerly practicing mid-law attorney), and I have encountered versions of this story so often that I am almost numb to them. One thing that I would recommend to the author is to investigate some of the new alternative practice models, like Axiom Legal, where they engage highly qualified attorneys to do high-end temp work. I readily acknowledge that this is sub-optimal, but being able to earn more than the low 5 figures may be attractive in what is an unfortunate situation. (and no, I have no affiliation with Axiom, but it is one of the very few models that seem to be growing while the rest of the industry is contracting).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is Axiom legal exactly?

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    2. Axiom is a temp agency but they have relatively little legal work.

      Delete
  22. No, 11:55, it's my trivial reply to 11:20 that ended up as a separate comment.

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  23. I also don't have a message here except to reiterate that it is high time that people started looking for all of the disappeared lawyers. There are legions of them out there.
    I know so so many highly intelligent, talented people with years and decades of biglaw experience either completely unemployed or woefully underemployed as inhouse counsel in small, unstable companies. This is the truth. This letter exemplifies the long term job prospects for most lawyers.

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  24. Why does your writer measure credentials with reference to law school? He's been out of law school for more than a decade, that's far too long for anything related to law school to still matter. I assume when he mentions the basement dweller's credentials, they're also of the law school variety.

    What your writer needs to understand is that firm lawyers use grades/law review/clerkships/etc. as a proxy for something they can't otherwise measure. Beyond that, they don't care whether you have a 4.0 or a 2.0 because it isn’t relevant to their business. These credentials are for the first few years after law school. After that they matter little. Your writer mentions all the things he’s done, but I suspect that’s the problem. Firm lawyers 10 years out of school with a hand in everything and no clients to their name usually aren’t very good at practicing law. They get passed around from practice to practice and firm to firm because they too competent to fire, but not really all that useful relative to a brand new law grad. The problem with being that guy is eventually the economics no longer make sense. Your writer needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask himself why he has no clients after a decade in law and why he makes any reference to law school credentials. I’ll grant that it’s a bit unfair that what leads to success in law school and in practice have little to do with one another, but that’s more of a problem for the thousands who never get a shot at firm practice than for your writer. He appears to have had every opportunity to figure this out over many years. At some point, time runs out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait, you are blaming him? He can't get a job due to oversupply. Is this a difficult concept to grasp?

      Delete
    2. He can't get a job because he has no skills or clients a firm will pay for. He had 10 years to figure out how firm economics work, which is more than your average law grad will ever have.

      Delete
    3. True, but he didnt expect the real estatemarket to collapse. No one expected the Great Recession to completely change the demand for legal services.

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    4. I'm also curious how he has such a breadth of experience in both litigation and transactional fields. I assume this guy didn't work at a large firm (which is probably why in-house isn't an option).

      Delete
  25. This story extends well beyond the law. There are many "disappeared" non-lawyers as well. There is a silent crisis among professional-management class members who are at or approaching middle age. They are losing their livelihoods in droves, for largely structural reasons, and these jobs aren't coming back - at least not fast enough to save most of them.

    Of course many younger aspirants to this class will never find work commensurate with their qualifications at all, including many who read this blog.

    Common sense dictates this is not a sustainable situation, socially, politically or economically. But how it all plays out, and over how long a time frame, is impossible to predict. (And in the long run, of course, we're all dead.)

    As for the OP, the advice to "go solo" is all well and good, but there's only so much work for solos in a particular market, and many folks aren't cut out to make it as a solo from scratch (i.e. with zero book).

    I think he needs to accept that his legal career is probably over, and try to do something else, probably something far less "prestigious" but maybe with some actual social utility. At 41 he's not too old to start over. His situation is far from good, but for many others it is even worse.

    I sympathize greatly, OP, but if it's any consolation I'm even older than you and expect to be joining you in the not-too-distant future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "As for the OP, the advice to "go solo" is all well and good, but there's only so much work for solos in a particular market, and many folks aren't cut out to make it as a solo from scratch (i.e. with zero book)."

      Solos are going down the tubes, too. All I'm hearing in the field is solos complaining that other solos are moving into practice areas they never touched before, stealing business and bidding the rates down.

      A friend of mine is a probate judge and gives out a lot of state-paid work: $35/hour to prep for court and drive there, $55/hour for courtroom work (which rarely lasts more than 30 minutes) and $0/hour for driving home. He is getting letters from solos as much as 75 miles away looking for this work, and says his list is now ten feet long in a single-spaced, single column.

      TOO. MANY. LAWYERS. FOR. THE. AVAILABLE. WORK.

      Delete
    2. New York's appointed counsel lists are the same.

      There are a lot of ham and eggers out there making $40k with no health insurance. These are guys who've been doing it for 20 years.

      Delete
  26. FYI, there is some longitudinal data on the career outcomes of law school graduates.

    It is called "After the JD".

    http://www.nalp.org/afterjdmonographs

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    Replies
    1. There's also the UVA study.

      Delete
    2. From 2003? 450,000 new lawyers have been added since then.

      Delete
  27. I've got no good suggestions, but I'd like to wish the OP well. This isn't a situation I'd wish upon anyone, not even law professors and deans.

    (As an aside, to all those people who wish hell upon professors and deans, put yourself in their situation.

    It's easy to Monday-morning quarterback and say, "I'd expose the scam!" or "I'd shut down the school!"

    But how many times have you walked past some injustice in your own lives without stopping it or saying anything?

    We're all human, and we're all suffering. Increasing the misery of others will never improve your own situation.)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Maybe if the great majority of those deans and professors hadn't been so appallingly indifferent to the fates of their students they would actually warrant some of the sympathy you seem to think they deserve.

      Delete
    2. It wasn't indiffernce. It was outright manipulation of the truth. A completely different story.

      Delete
    3. Fraud: (1) a false statement of a material fact,(2) knowledge on the part of the defendant that the statement is untrue, (3) intent on the part of the defendant to deceive the alleged victim, (4) justifiable reliance by the alleged victim on the statement, and (5) injury to the alleged victim as a result.

      Delete
    4. "But how many times have you walked past some injustice in your own lives without stopping it or saying anything? "

      True, but 95-99% of the US population doesn't have their protections. Remember, in ordinary industries Campos et al. would have lost their jobs long ago.

      Delete
    5. "But how many times have you walked past some injustice in your own lives without stopping it or saying anything? "

      Whatever gets you through the night, bro.

      Delete
  28. One of the little hard truths that the law school recruiters don't tell you is that unless you are a judge, a law professor, or work for the government, if you are an attorney, you are in sales. Period.

    You can work as an associate in a law firm for a few years, but then you need a book of business, or finito, generally speaking. (You can try to get an in-house position, but that requires essentially making a sale to the company hiring you.)

    This explains some of the confusion on the TFL thread about VAPs - where some commenters expressed surprise that since VAPs had demonstrated that they were "good lawyers" through their academic work, that private firms still weren't interested in them. Private firms aren't interested in "good lawyers" - they want lawyers who can bring in business.

    I came to work for a technical consulting firm in a fairly senior position, and rapidly learned that:

    1) All prestige, power, and bonuses in the firm came from bringing new work into the firm;

    2) No prestige, power, and bonuses in the firm came from actually doing the work - being able to bill to somebody's else's project and doing a good job kept you from being fired, but that was about it.

    Somewhat to my surprise, I was able to bring in a reasonable amount of work, and even enjoyed sales (sorta) - but I bailed into a straight salaried position after a few years at a different company.

    Watch Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross - that's the skill you need to succeed in the legal profession, outside of a few niches.

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    Replies
    1. This, without the Orwellian tone, is what the writer needs to understand. Bringing in business isn't some side line, it's the most important part of any good lawyer's practice.

      Delete
    2. It's true. The managing partner at my firm is barely competent as a lawyer (to his credit, he would probably not deny this) but he brings in the clients. Hence the title "Managing Partner" and corresponding share of the profits.

      Begging the question, why didn't I just go into sales and skip law school entirely?!?!?

      Delete
    3. The fact is that it is extremely difficult to get into the position of having portable business after 10-12 years of litigation practice as associate/counsel at a top large lawfirm. Your rates are so high that none of your friends and associates at that age have matters valuable enough to justify hiring you or your firm. You write, you speak, you raise your profile, and some business may flow from that to the firm. But none of any of that business is going to leave with you when and if you get canned unless you are surpassingly special. I've been 11 years in these firms and that's how it goes.

      Delete
  29. The author has a tough situation. It is very difficult to leave the big firm insurance defense life and make it as a solo practitioner. He may be able to do it, but he would need have courage and some capital.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I have some solid suggestions for you pal. Number one: stop looking for work, stop looking for someone to hand you a job. You have credentials, you have experience, sack up and start your own practice focusing on personal injury, real estate, whatever. Stope sending resumes from home in your boxers and go to some bar association events and network, hand out business cards, earn referrals. Go to Realtor association events, get a website, buy Google adwords etc. Stop bitching and get out there and MAKE IT HAPPEN. This country no longer rewards workers it rewards rainmakers. So what are you going to be? A lowly temp doc review bitch or a badass motherfucker with brass balls? The choice is yours pal. It's all about whether you have the nuts to market yourself and your new practice like a stud.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 12:42, Spoken like someone typing from home in his boxers ... but with BALLS OF STEEL!!!!

      Delete
    2. Disgusted by the truth. @ 12:21 was right. The most successful lawyers aren't the smartest lawyers. worker bees get a very small fraction of the honey. The C- student surfing facebook in law school who brings in the business will one day be your managing partner. I employe several attorneys who went to way better law schools than me and were on LR etc. but couldn't sell food to a Somalian.

      Delete
    3. Well that could because most Somalians got no bread, yo.

      Delete
    4. 12:42 may not be tactful, but I think it's the right mindset.

      * OP has significant legal skills, but no one will hire him.
      * If he wants to work as an attorney, the only option is to go solo.

      I mean, he even said he made 'very low 5 figures' as a solo. That's probably better than half of all solos!

      Delete
    5. "I have some solid suggestions for you pal."

      (followed by generic same old same old)

      Delete
  31. While I'm sure this kind of thing is happening everywhere, I'd be interested to know what jurisdiction the Letter Writer is in.

    If he's willing to relocate, he might try talking to a recruiter with connections in the Delaware market. BigLaw refugees with commercial-lit experience seem to make out all right there. Just a thought.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His wife is supporting the family. Unlikely they are moving.

      Delete
  32. "...and I don’t know how to do anything except practice law." Think outside of the "I only know how to be a lawyer" box. Think of your transferable skills to other organizations. Do you write clearly? Think about becoming a Technical Writer. (Minutes ago I got out of a meeting on procedures manuals and the lament was the lack of clear, persuasive writers to work with our accountants.) Think of tutoring high school kids or college kids in writing assignments they have. Do you negotiate well? Think of becoming an arbitrator. Were you a "rainmaker" for your prior law firm. Did you bring in business? Think about a sales role of some kind. Think of what skills you use that are part of lawyering and then what to do with them to earn money other than being a lawyer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the advice, but no one wants to hire an attorney for anything other than being an attorney, because it's assumed that person has no real interest in the position and will bolt at the first chance of a law job. And they're right--attorneys studied to be attorneys, not writers or salesmen. So, unless you're actually hiring yourself, personally, I suspect your advice is rather useless.

      Delete
    2. If you think it's easier to get an arbitrator job than a regular lawyer job, you have no freaking idea about anything. EVERY aging lawyer/former lawyer wants those jobs! Why not tell him "just go become an Article III judge"?

      Delete
  33. Axiom is a company, (not a firm), that sells mostly mid-level legal services. Its attorneys take assignments, often on-site within legal departments, that are consistent with their practice experience. It engages salesmen to sell legal services, and attorneys to perform the work. Its website has much more information, and I expect that there are other companies who have similar operations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I was not familiar with them. I only knew about doc review groups.

      Delete
  34. LOL @ 12:47 P.M.

    The poster at 12:42 P.M. is Duke Nukem, Esq.

    ReplyDelete
  35. A buddy of mine works at the private high school we both attended. He tells me that they recently hired 2 alums with law degrees: 1 as an assistant principal/school administrator, 1 as a teacher.

    If you went to a non-public school (whether it be catholic, jewish, non-secular, etc.) I'd reach out to the people in charge. No, it wouldn't be great money. But it would be approximately $50k a year with summers and weekends off to spend with your kids.

    Best of luck to you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  36. While you figure out what to do next, why not become an LSAT instructor to make some extra money? Every prep company around would hire a 178 for $50-$100 an hour. Won't take up much of your time and you could make $1000+ extra a month for your family.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Going off of that, screw the test prep companies. Put a listing up on the job boards at whatever colleges are near your home. That way, you can somewhat set your own hours for even further flexibility.

      Delete
    2. Yes, let's help everyone go to law school if it makes us a buck or two!

      Delete
    3. Riiiiight. Because this guy should prioritize Campos' mission over his family. There's no way you're older than 25.

      Delete
    4. Do those companies even hire people with 20 year old LSAT scores? Seems unlikely.

      Delete
  37. With law school applications falling through the floor, one presumes that the LSAT prep business is also foundering. Is there really that much current, unfulfilled demand for instructors?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see posts monthly on my school's symplicity.

      There are so many parents out there who think their kids are special snowflakes and will shell out several grand for test prep.

      These LSAT test prep classes are still filled to the brim.

      Delete
    2. LSAT test taker numbers should be updated with Feb exam data in the next week or so. 2013 application cycle likely saw the lowest volume of LSAT takers since 2000.

      http://www.lsac.org/lsacresources/data/lsats-administered.asp

      Delete
  38. I am also floored by this email and wish I had useful advice for OP. I would join the chorus encouraging him to start a solo practice. My friend who went from a mid-size firm to in-house jumped ship two years ago and started his own solo in his early forties ($0 book of business to start). It's been a bumpy ride but he's doing well and things are looking up for him. He loves it.

    And to all the 0Ls out there, take a good, hard look at his LSAT score. If you think you're invulnerable because you nabbed a high 170 and an T-whatever acceptance and the word is your oyster well, remember, in advanced global warming all of the snowflakes - even the most special snowflakes - melt.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Heeelp! Im stuck in the bathroom abd someone shut the light and locked the door. Some sick animal took a huuuuge "Seton Hall Law" in the second stall. The lowlife coward that did this didnt even have the decency to alert Facilities Management

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is the Valvoline Dean the phantom crapper who keeps leaving these foul drops everywhere?

      Delete
  40. The letter writer is making a huge, huge mistake by repeating over and over again that he has no book of business and implying he cannot get one. Literally no firm in the entire nation wants to hire someone utterly dependent on others for work. If you show zero interest in getting clients, you will NEVER work again. You must get some clients, even a small number of them on small matters. The very fact that you have any clients, no matter how small, will be enough to get you an interview or second interview. But if you have no clients and show no willingness whatsoever to get them, you will never get a first or second interview. Let me put it this way: you must create the PERCEPTION that you can get many clients. Once you create the perception, then you can get that first job. Once you get that first job (and are no longer unemployed), you'll be a far better position to get a government or in-house job. Do everything you can to create the perception. I know one guy who ran and was elected to a school board, and told potential employers that he was doing it just to raise his profile and get more clients.

    If you truly do not want to create this perception, then give up on the law. You can volunteer for a politician's campaign and meet people who, after they get to know you, can give you a PR job or a political staffer job. You can go be a salesman. You can get a real estate license and be a retail broker. You can form a dating service and charge people for introductions. You can do tasks on TaskRabbit.com. You can try to win on a game show. (Don't laugh, I know five lawyers who won significant money.) You can buy stuff on sale and resell for more money on Ebay.

    It is ridiculous, self-pitying, and self-defeating to say you literally can do nothing but practice law. There's your mistake, buddy. Practicing law, by definition today, means getting clients. So, everyone's definition today, you can't even do that. Your total lack of enthusiasm for creating a perception that you can get clients is proof that you don't even know how to practice law.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Recently had a conversation with an undergrad professor of mine who is a partner at a mid-sized firm in NJ. He is currently being recruited by the state's biggest firm. Why? He has a great book of transferable business.

    He went to Rutgers undergrad, Seton Hall Law (at median, graduated about 12 years ago). The moral of the story? Lawyers disappear because they're not good at being lawyers. They were good at taking tests and got in to great schools, but if 10 years out you can't demonstrate to firms that you can generate revenue for them through your book of business you're of no use.

    Unfortunately, it's impossible to know if you'll have this skill set prior to embarking on the legal journey.

    ReplyDelete
  42. "I’m 41 years old, I’ve been out of law school for 13 years, and I do not have a book of business..."

    Something else is going on here. You don't go through 13 years of relatively solid practice and have no portable business. Hell, even after three years of shitlaw, I had a reasonable book of shitlaw business. You know, the clients I had made friends with and who would follow me wherever I worked.

    While this is a very sad story, it's clearly not 100% the fault of the economy. This guy had over a decade to make friends, build up business (and don't tell me he never knew that was the name of the game), and he failed at it.

    I too would fire a 13 year veteran who was bringing in no business to the firm. What deadweight that is.

    Sorry. Little sympathy here. Like yesterday, the real victims are the thousands who never even got one law job, not who worked for 13 years and all but paid off their loans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. At least he had an opportunity to do what attorneys are supposed to do. Many who don't get that law job could have ended up having better careers.

      Delete
    2. The clients may be clients of someone else. To steal the clients a lawyer needs to essentially defraud the people he is working for.

      It is a different thing to bring in clients of his own.

      Delete
    3. Ever worked in a firm, 2:15? When lawyers walk, the clients who enjoyed working with them walk too. There is no such thing as someone else's clients except when it comes to figuring out originations etc.

      A client is a client is a client. There's no "hands off" shit. This is business. Clients want to come with you when you leave? You say "fuck yeah" and no "ooooh nooooo i can't because they belong to the firm that just fucked me out the door."

      No wonder this board is full of losers who never succeeded in law (a/k/a "sales")

      And even if that was not the case, 2:15, if you can't make any friends and any connections in 13 fucking years, you're doing something wrong.

      There's more to this story than the writer is letting on.

      Delete
    4. 2:27,
      I'd also add that it's the client's choice who they hire to represent them.

      Delete
  43. There are 56 jobs for attorneys listed on USA jobs. Of course more are available with state and local gov'ts. Someone with the sterling credentials this guy claims to have should be able to get one of them unless he is mentally ill, has a substance abuse problem or some other issue.

    Its one thing to say the average lawyer has trouble finding work. But someone who claims to have extraordinary credentials and yet is unable to find a job is either lying about his credentials or has some other problem.

    While I think Paul Campos is doing a good thing overall, he is very ready to believe anything that supports his position regardless of how lacking in credibility the source is.

    As a law professor Campos should understand that the reliability of evidence needs to be evaluated. Emailed statements from someone you've never met or statements made anonymously on an internet bulletin board are not credible no matter how consistent they are with your point of view.

    Moreover, one cannot generalize from a few anecdotes to the experience of lawyers nationwide.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha - a whole 56 jobs across the entire federal government? Sweet!

      Getting a federal attorney job is almost impossible these days. Do you know how many people are applying for those 56 jobs (which likely have some type of priority for veterans and existing Fed employee transfers)? Probably 5-10k applications.

      Delete
    2. Almost all of those 56 jobs will be filled by HYS elite types with spotless, picture perfect CVs.

      "Yale or fail."

      Delete
    3. I agree with the broader point that LP doesn't always vet sources very well on some issues. If you read this guy's story more closely it sounds like he was probably working for a shitlaw firm as it's hard to develop that breadth of experience working at Biglaw or midlaw.

      Delete
    4. State government jobs will not be Yale or fail.

      Delete
    5. They'll just be "Top 14/top of your class at a lesser school or fail."

      Delete
    6. 2:03, I'll spell out what others are too polite to spell out.

      y o u a r e a f u c k i n g i d i o t

      For every attorney job on USA jobs, there will literally be thousands, if not tens of thousands, of applicants.

      Those with military experience - and believe me, there are thousands of vets from Iraq and Afghanistan who were there from 2001 until 2004 who went to law school for free via GI Bill and who have five years of legal experience - they will get priority. Like, absolute priority. If a retarded qualified vet applies, then no non-vets even get a look in.

      You think this clown has more than a 1 in 50 chance of a premium federal job?

      Go fuck yourself, moron. Stop spreading misinformation, get with the program, and grow up.

      And 2:23? State government jobs are Yale or fail. In fact, they are Yale+connections or fail. You have no idea how state government hiring works for JDs - it's political to the fucking extreme, plus hyper competitive.

      It's sad that idiots still see the government (at any level) as a fall back plan for when your JD doesn't work out.

      Government is extremely competitive. The feds are more exclusive than NYC Biglaw. State government often similarly so.

      So much bad advice on this site.

      Delete
    7. 2:23 here: It is most definitely not Yale+connections or fail........You're telling me that a state government in Texas is going Yale over UT? Or in NC Yale over Duke? Get a clue. There's not that many Yale grads who are looking for shitty state gov'ts jobs across all 50 states.

      Delete
    8. Yes, 2:39. I'll concede that it's not Yale or fail, since other more local schools get a look in, but it's all about connections at the state and local level, and that's something that's harder to get than Yale.

      And there is no point in this clown looking for state jobs in all states, as with no local connections and good words from high-ranking state attorneys, he's got no chance. He has no chance in his own state, for god's sake, let alone shotgunning every state with applications in the hope that someone wants to hire a failed unknown from thousands of miles away instead of the daughter of one of that state's supreme court justices.

      Get a grip.

      PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: THE GOVERMENT IS ***NOT*** EASY TO CRACK, NOR A FALLBACK POSITION WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS.

      Delete
    9. @ 2:03 - 56 jobs!! Why isn't anyone covering this huge upswing in the legal market?

      2:23 couldn't have said it any better. You are a moron.

      Delete
    10. (And 2:23, "Yale or fail" doesn't literally mean that. It's just that Harvard doesn't rhyme with much, and neither do many of those Ivy league prestige factories. The term generally means that if you dón't have Harvard, Yale, or a handful of other hyper-exclusive colleges on your resume, you need not apply.)

      Delete
    11. While I don't agree that state government is necessarily Yale or fail, people with credentials like the this guy are often seen as overqualified/flight risks for "lesser" jobs, much like attorneys applying for non-legal jobs are.

      Delete
    12. Five years ago, it was impossible to generalize from a few negative anecdotes by the graduates of increasingly well-regarded schools that the employment market for new graduates was in free fall, and may never have been as good as those graduates were led to believe before matriculating.

      People like you were wrong about that, if you even cared enough to form an opinion. In the absence of real longitudinal data about the career arcs of American lawyers, we can give Campos and this emailer the benefit of the doubt, no?

      Delete
    13. Doing a search for "lawyer" on usajobs, I got 84 results, some of which appear to be multiple openings. BUT: many are highly specialized, for example just taking randomly this listing for FERC:

      https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/313957500

      How many people coming from outside of DC or at least outside of the energy industry, will have FERC-specific legal and regulatory experience?

      I worked in DC for four years in the mid 2000s. Though I was not working as a lawyer, I knew many lawyers (from law firms, lobbyists etc.), Congressional staff and federal employees. When you work in DC, that's common ... it seems like half the town went to law school.

      A legal job in the federal agencies, at least the prestige ones, is at least as competitive as the private sector and yes it does matter where you went to school for those jobs. It's not like taking a civil service test -- often, you apply directly to the agencies.

      Also, many eventually leave those jobs especially if they are at regulatory agencies and take their "DC connections" to the private sector ... so the jobs are sought after for that reason.

      Also take note of application periods for federal jobs. It's common knowledge DC that if a job has an opening period of a week or two, it's usually posted as a formality. The agency already knows who they plan to hire, they are required to post the position.

      So whether 56 jobs or 84 ...

      Delete
    14. Also, this guy's corporate and real estate law experience is not going to be relevant or valued in most government jobs. Everyone has litigation experience (if they have experience at all), so that isn't going to make him stand out either. There are hundreds of experienced and non-experienced lawyers vying for each of these openings. Why does the EPA want to hire someone with 13 years of real estate experience when they can get someone with 10 years of environmental law experience instead?

      Delete
  44. Am in the same boat from a T5 law school. My law school has almost doubled their class size since I graduated and also never asked what I was doing.

    Most of my classmates are in the same boat I believe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hence I believe the poster. I am older than this guy and have some very prestigious credentials - teaching, partnership/ counsel positions at big law firms. As the TFL link from yesterday's post on this blog points out, the currency is portable business and not credentials.

      A lot of the older grads from Harvard do not have jobs. Luckily some of these are women and either have husbands to support them or were never intent on working in Biglaw.

      The only people in my T5 class who were smart were the ones who left for med school. Those few people still have jobs while the ones who stayed in law largely don't.

      Delete
    2. What percentage are you suggesting are unemployed (including say short-term doc review assignments in this category)?

      Delete
    3. Fuck off, Boomer:

      "Hence I believe the poster. I am older than this guy and have some very prestigious credentials [BRAG] - teaching [BRAG], partnership/ counsel positions at big law firms [DOUBLE BRAG]. As the TFL link from yesterday's post on this blog points out, the currency is portable business and not credentials.

      A lot of the older grads from Harvard do not have jobs. Luckily some of these are women and either have husbands to support them or were never intent on working in Biglaw.

      The only people in my T5 class [BRAG] who were smart were the ones who left for med school. Those few people still have jobs while the ones who stayed in law largely don't."

      Boomer, is this about you?

      Delete
    4. 2:36,
      No thread would be complete if Old Guy didn't insist on inserting himself into it.

      Delete
    5. 2:36 You missed the point- that these credentials are very often useless today.

      This is about a huge percentage of the lawyers I graduated with and a huge percentage of the lawyers from my law school similarly situated. A huge percentage of former biglaw lawyers are similarly situated.

      It not everyone. Some lawyers have jobs. But it is a lot of people unemployed.

      Partner or counsel at a big law firm? Watch the internet. Bet on how soon that person will disappear. That is the story for so many people.

      Anyone who thinks that unemployed grads are lying about their credentials has not experienced the horrible market for midlevel and senior level lawyers with very good credentials.

      The point is that there is no credential that makes a difference 10 years down the road other than portable business. Teaching, being a partner or counsel - none of it is important in holding a legal job in a law firm. It is about as good as adding a piece of toilet paper to your resume in most specialties today.

      One thing matters and that is portable business. This isn't a brag. It is a statement that a past top law firm partnership or counsel position and teaching position at a top law school are both useless in the job market.

      The one exception I see is in areas where there really is a demand. Employment law right now is one of those areas. Maybe if a lawyer is an expert in derivatives or money laundering, there is a also job for that person without business.

      Other practice areas - they are declining and lawyers with great credentials are not going to have law firm jobs without a client basen sufficient to pay that lawyer's salary and overhead and maybe for much more.

      Delete
    6. In the area where I practice, most people who made partner and held onto their partnerships were of course white males, but many of them are not from the top law schools. They do not have the top records. They do have the ability to get and hold onto clients. That is the name of the game. It not credentials 10 years down the road. In fact there is a credential glut, so that the credentials are watered down to useless without the portable business.

      Some practice areas are easier than others to get business in. People in service areas like tax or environmental may be at a disadvantage in developing their own business.

      Delete
  45. If the letter writer lives in California, I would recommend regularly checking the website of the California AG, which does hire people from time to time. The pay is modest, but it would be a decent job and his credentials and experience would likely make him a competitive candidate. Also, I would recommend checking the California HR website and doing a search under "attorney" and "counsel". (It's a very primitive search tool, bear in mind.) Also, he has enough experience to apply to be an ALJ. Last thought--workers' compensation defense pays pretty decently and may be worth looking into.

    ReplyDelete
  46. P.S. Here's the link to the California HR attorney vacancy page:
    http://jobs.spb.ca.gov/wvpos/search_p.cfm
    Note that you have to take a brief online "exam" to get on the eligibility list, basically a skills and experience assessment. The letter writer would probably qualify as a level III or IV.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Emailer:

    Work your network of friends. I think your position is very similar to a woman who quits a firm job to raise her kids and wants to go back several years later. I know of someone exactly like that who was able to get an in-house gig because her kid was pre-school friends with a senior counsel at the company. She attended Maryland for law school and had maybe 2 years junior associate experience before the kids.

    Moral of the story: work your PERSONAL network in addition to your professional one. You have to know other lawyers.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I finished law school at the same time as the OP and spent the past 12 years working in variuos state govt positions. We recently posted an ALJ position and had to re-post due to lack of interest from qualified applicants (min 5 yrs practice and admin law experience). This week another position opened (although part-time). Keep an eye on state and local legal positions. Someome with your qualifications should draw interest.

    ReplyDelete
  49. brianleitersrottingteethFebruary 26, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    I do have sympathy for the emailer, although I'm sure he doesn't care that much about what the people here think about his situation, only about how to get out of it.

    I apologize for the advice being stupidly offered here as if such great ideas had never occured to you. I know what it's like to truly be stuck.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I know someone with a law degree from a South African law school who has never worked as an "attorney" in his life. Was at Bear Stearns doing fixed income. When they crashed he went to Deloitte roughly 2 months later.........And that was at the bottom of the market.

    This emailer's credentials are far superior than this guy's. Why the opposite result? I suspect it's either a work product, ambition, or personality issue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I suspect it's either a work product, ambition, or personality issue."

      ^^^^^ THIS ^^^^

      Delete
    2. Keep believing that fantasy and get back to us in 10 years when it happens to you anyway.

      Delete
  51. Hey Emailer:

    If you're asking for career advice from this blog, with its chorus of misinformed kids, you are either desperate or as stupid as I think you are.

    (And commenters, do you really think that Emailer has not thought of applying for government jobs, networking, etc?)

    What's the real deal? Are you a known local sex offender or something? Convictions for shoplifting, complete with a mugshot on the local news a few years ago? What gives? Your story tugs on the heartstrings of many a commenter here, but I think many of us as asking those awkward questions that you don't want to answer, and which are keeping you from full time employment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It also makes me question his judgment that he would think that Campos would somehow have answers for him. This isn't a flame against Campos but he's a lawprof, what the fuck would he know about finding a job?

      Delete
    2. I think the result this person is talking about is pretty normal. I am surrounded in everyday life by lawyers who ended up like this. As I go to each college reunion more and more people end up like this.

      It is the tournament guild that DJM talked about. Nobody realized it when they accepted a place at a top law school. They thought they were going into a limited entry guild because that is the way entry level jobs are handed out.

      It is almost like the Picture of Dorian Gray. Not what is seems to be. Outside beautiful, but a few years down the road the inside is rotten for all but a select few. That top undergrad and top law school degree does not get a lawyer salvation later on. Most go to hell even with these degrees.

      Delete
    3. Oh, that wonderful guild theory that DJM bored us with a while ago. Thanks for reminding me how disconnected she is with reality.

      Delete
  52. It's tough out there, but all this evidence by anecdote is relatively useless. For every example like this guy, I can certainly come up with an equal example of someone with a JD who is successful and likes their job (I'd include myself). Just like that example wouldn't prove that everything is rosy, posting anecdotes like this do no prove that everything is bleak. There are good opportunities out there, just not enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It makes you think a little harder about the idea of law as a career in which one's lifestyle improves in accordance with one's skills and experience.

      Not to mention the "lifetime of benefits" one sees just from having a JD, job or no job.

      Delete
  53. I have a book of business - a decent one. We went out and built out own firm and we are doing pretty well. But - we have seen lawyer after lawyer who cannot bring in business. Some cannot do it without their BigLaw brand behind them (this applies to a lot of BigLaw rainmakers) others could not get the business no matter how favorable the circumstances.

    Why we are good at getting high value business is not clear - I can't put it in a bottle - I'm not sure it can be taught because I have tried. The things that bring in clients are in many respects intangible. But in the past firms placed more value on the grinders (we grind the business we bring in - mostly) and not just on rainmaking. As the rewards in legal practice have gone increasingly to the rainmakers - and the number of potential grinders has soared due to over-recruitment by law schools - the profession has moved towards totally rewarding rainmaking - not doing the actual work.

    I cannot tell from this posting whether this lawyer is a good grinder. He may be fundamentally pedestrian as a lawyer - a guy who is good at getting it done, but nothing special, or a skilled and original practitioner. But at the end of the day by his own admission he has struck out as a business generator.

    I don't think those who condemn him for being a poor rainmaker are being fair - it is a mystery as to why some people succeed and other fail. But while there are too many lawyers chasing too little business skill as a rainmaker is the only real thing that is not fungible to firms

    ReplyDelete
  54. Anonymous @1:46 says: "Lawyers disappear because they're not good at being lawyers."

    False. The fundamental problem here for many senior associates and junior partners is that "being good at being lawyers" isn't enough. Biglaw firms promote and evaluate associates based on how good they are at being lawyers, but the game changes almost immediately when you make partner. Suddenly, you need to bring in business, which is a completely different skill from being a good lawyer (and one that Biglaw firms often discourage junior lawyers from developing in various ways). It's rare to find someone who is great at both. It's somewhat like a software company telling top computer programmers that they all must start working in sales after nine years of programming.

    This has been a structural problem in the way Biglaw firms work for a long time. But some larger trends have made it much worse. When demand for Biglaw services was booming, it was relatively easier for a new partner to capture a piece of the growing pie. Law firms were also more willing to tolerate service partners who took years to slowly develop the kind of reputation that could generate business over the long term. (Almost nobody does this overnight, no matter how slick of a salesman one imagines oneself to be.)

    Now that the pie is shrinking, equity partners at Biglaw firms are scrambling to hold onto their piece, and it's all about preserving short term equity partner profits rather than investing in an enterprise that succeeds over the long term. They're doing that by cutting costs (i.e., firing associates and service partners), as well as trying to "buy" growth through acquisitions of lateral partners with established books of business. This has created a kind of bubble for lateral partners, as firms desperate for short-term revenue growth bid up the price of these books of business on the lateral market.

    The status quo is great if you're a partner with an established book of business (until the bubble pops). But it's terrible right now for senior associates and junior partners. Many more are going to be left out in the cold.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Also, from all the advice given I think the best one is to partner with some recent grads. Many are entreprenuerial and willing to beat down doors for business, but they're also a danger to their clients without proper supervision. If you can't figure out where to find these folks, just contact your local law school's CSO. If they're good, they'll make sure to connect you with the students most likely to succeed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I disagree. I don't think going solo is the answer here. From his email, it seems like he needs secure income and probably doesn't have the capital necessary to start a firm- either by himself or with recent grads (who will have NO capital to contribute).

      Delete
  56. brianleitersrottingteethFebruary 26, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    The attacks on this guy are insane. If the market were not so saturated, this guy would have a job, that's the point. So would you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please tell me a market, ANY market, that continues to support ineffectiveness? And a decade in with no book of business or network is a sign of ineffective lawyering.

      Delete
    2. Maybe to you. What about in-house guys? What about small niche specialties that rely on corporate?

      Delete
    3. Actually, Mr. 3pm, that's not the case. The case is that if he was a competent, likeable attorney, he would have been able to walk away from a 13 year career with at least one client, and perhaps enough connections to make a shitlaw office work well enough to bring in maybe $30-50K, more when he was established.

      So the problem here seems to be with the writer, not the market. I could understand if he had one or two years of experince, but 13 and clients?

      That fuck up is on nobody but him. And consequently, he was rightly fired.

      Delete
  57. Anyonymous @ 3:02: "Please tell me a market, ANY market, that continues to support ineffectiveness?"

    Growing markets support a great deal of ineffectiveness, and shrinking markets kill off even the effective.

    The world's most effective buggy whip maker couldn't sell any today. And there were plenty of ineffective builders, realtors, and mortgage lenders who made huge sums of money in the real estate market before it crashed.

    The most relevant fact right now is that we are in a market that is shrinking. Lots of good people will suffer from this, and it's obnoxious for the people who flourished when the market was growing to assume that others are just "ineffective" when the market turns south.

    ReplyDelete
  58. I suppose I can understand (though not agree with) the attacks on this guy. But let's remember he is a victim of the same perpetrators, just in a different form. If law schools didn't excrete so many grads into the market, there would be room for this guy somewhere. The cause for his suffering and that of new grads is the same. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Somebody smart somewhere said that. And his situation exposes just another part of the scam: those lucky few who do start off in strong legal careers often fizzle out--likely through little fault of their own. Just saying this guy is a friend not someone to beat down in my opinion. The stories of the failed long term outcomes need to be told as well.

    ReplyDelete
  59. "...For every example like this guy, I can certainly come up with an equal example of someone with a JD who is successful and likes their job (I'd include myself). Just like that example wouldn't prove that everything is rosy, posting anecdotes like this do no prove that everything is bleak..."

    Let's assume this is literally true (i.e. for every example of failure like the OP there is someone who is successful so 50% long-term success rate).

    Even if that is the case, spending 3 years, hundreds of thousands of dollars, lost opportunity pursuing other endeavors, etc, is all that worth it for a 50% chance of long term success? (Or better yet a 50% of failure like the OP?)

    This of course assumes that LONG TERM success, if reasonably defined, is anywhere close to 50%. I suspect it is not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course $150K in debt is not worth a 50-50 chance of success.

      But the guy who wrote to Campos has THIRTEEN YEARS OF "SUCCESS" - he won the lottery! He had his chance, and second chance, and third chance, and tenth chance, and the firm kept him on.

      After 13 years, if you have not made partner and have zero business to your name, you should be canned. It's unfortunate that he was not canned earlier and had the opportunity to change careers before he got so old.

      Delete
    2. I would not agree with the statement that law school only gives you a fifty-fifty chance at success. Particularly if you eliminate schools with terrible numbers (Florida Coastal, American, etc.), your chances for success will be higher. You also need to factor in that the market right now is in particularly bad shape. Law school enrollment is declining and there will be better access to employment once the smaller class sizes take effect.

      Finally, smart people avoid $150K in debt by finding scholarships and attending lower cost schools. I have little sympathy for people who thought taking on $200,000 in debt was a good idea.

      The scenario students should shoot for (and can have), is this - is $100,000 in debt worth a 80% chance of success? With the 20% downside mitigated by IBR.

      Delete
  60. This is really scary. I'm shaking at the knees and sweating at the palms. The law school bubble is bursting at the seams, and no one seems to care enough to do anything about it because they are feeding the capitalistic greedy machine that's always money hungry. There ought be more regulation or some law against this.

    What are the law schools going to do if more applications start dropping off to oblivion? That will put them out of business right? So that means the law professors will join the unemployed ranks of out of work lawyers--this is not going to be pretty!

    ReplyDelete
  61. It isn't that he has no book of business, he likely has too little or an inadaquate book of business. 100 clients is better than 1000 with a 10 percent pay rate, but neither is sufficent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I do not have a book of business"

      That's clear to me.

      Delete
  62. I agree this person is a victim of the scam. If there were a balance of supply and demand in the legal profession, there would be a job for this lawyer. The balance is not there. There is an acute oversupply of lawyers. 1.5 million people are not going to get enough business to survive if there are only 500,000 or 750,000 law jobs that lawyers work in a least one hour a week, including temp jobs.

    ReplyDelete
  63. updated LSAC app cycle numbers

    http://www.lsac.org/lsacresources/data/three-year-volume.asp

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Applicants are only down by 18.4% and applications are down 21.8%

      There are still way too many people applying and going.

      Delete
  64. Man forget this loser. My Dean has assured us all that:

    "A legal education is important preparation for a wide array of career choices, including employment in highly competitive jobs and fellowships in legislative and political offices, in federal agencies, in the many public-interest, trade-association, corporate offices and international organizations in and around Washington."

    That's too many opportunities, I wish my options were more limited.

    http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-11-09/opinions/35505835_1_law-school-legal-education-career-choices

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The comments sure set the horrible record of WCL straight.

      Delete
    2. I feel bad for those commentators. So bitter they can't even see the great opportunities available to them.

      Delete
  65. As a late 90's graduate of a TTT law school, I personally know at least 30% - 40% of the graduates are either outright long term unemployed, or are barely scraping by keeping a roof over their head (especially when servicing their student loans).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Emailer Run!!!!!! Run Away from this Blog!!! For this is the realm of the scammed and a place where indebted souls come to commiserate and wallow in an ever growing ocean of despair.

      Law Prof should place this inscription above the blog:

      "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here"

      Delete
    2. Yeah just don't give up hope. Hang out a shingle, work hard enough and your invaluable JD will open all sorts of doors.

      Delete
    3. I'm sorry, I meant to say 30% to 40% of my graduating class in 1999.

      Delete
  66. Can you imagine a medical practice not hiring a brilliant surgeon because he doesn't bring a 'book' of business with him?

    I thought for a minute I had stumbled on a review of Authur Millers' 'Death of a Salesman'. Now our snappy career lawyer has to have a 'smile and a shoeshine'?

    These stories are about an industry that has destroyed itself. The writer doesn't realize it but the monkey has just died and fallen off his back. Go somewhere there is a chance of having a middle-class lifestyle (Houston comes to mind) and get a job with a decent company and build yourself a career.

    ReplyDelete
  67. MY GOD, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS BLOG OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF DAYS.

    YESTERDAY, WE WERE TOLD TO FEEL SORRY FOR VISITING ASSISTANT PROFESSORS (I.E. NEWBORN SCAMMING LAW PROFESSORS.)

    TODAY, WE ARE TOLD TO FEEL SORRY FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS A REALISTIC CHANCE OF A LIFE AFTER LAW.

    US? WE ARE AT LEAST $100K IN DEBT, NO FUTURES, NO JOBS TO PAY OFF OUR LOANS, AND WILL NEVER HAVE THE KIDS AND FAMILY AND FREEDOM THAT THIS GUY COULD ENJOY IF HE JUST OPENS HIS FUCKING EYES.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree somewhat. The VAP shit was ridiculous and I think it highlighted the internal tension law prof feels i.e. he is a prof and he hates to see young profs getting the shaft.

      This emailer I feel bad for him. Unlike the would be scammers, I mean VAPs, he just wants to keep working. If he can get a job that makes 40K doing law stuff and he just isn't taking it cause he thinks its below him, well then he's an idiot cause it clearly ain't.

      Delete
    2. Stop already with the caps.

      Delete
    3. There are two levels of the scam. First are people who never get real law jobs. Second are those who get those jobs but do not keep them.

      This blog is focusing on both groups. If you are in the first group you do not want to hear about the second. The truth is that a number of the second group (we do not know what number) ends up just like the first group - totally unemployed - a few or several years down the road.

      There may be a big difference in economic opportunities between people who went to top colleges and those who didn't. A 40 year old from a top college has a median expected income of over 6 figures, and may not be shocked to earn $40,000 in an expensive big city where new grads of his college routinely make much more.

      Someone who went to a state school and lives in a less expensive area - you can live on $40,000 as part of a two income family, and do okay. $40,000 may be breaking the bank if you are just out of college in your less expensive area.

      You are talking vastly different costs of living and vastly different age groups and expectations among people reading this blog. What is a goldmine or great salary for some readers is a disaster for others.

      Delete
  68. It is sad to read this story but you have to keep trying. I know securing employment is like finding water in the middle of a desert these days but you're not alone.

    If law doesn't want you, like many of us, either make it want you or leave it...and leaving it is not such a bad thing.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Since 2010 is an awfully long time not to work. Maybe real estate is a possibility with some real estate experience. It is unbelievable with a federal appellate court clerkship not to be able to work as a lawyer.

    That is the scam.

    For people to say there is something wrong with this guy he has no clients. Many clients will not leave a big firm. They like the name. They like the security of a big firm.

    If the guy had been able to land someplace, maybe he could have taken a client.

    That being said, his job search could be more active.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Highly unlikely this guy was at a big firm with that breadth of experience, particularly having done both transactional and litigation work.

      Delete
  70. I actually Googled "But I did everything right". That's how I discovered the scamblogs.

    ReplyDelete
  71. I would suggest a complete career switch. HVAC repair work is steady (can't be outsourced), requires not too much training, and has a "much faster than average" job outlook, per BLS

    ttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm

    ReplyDelete
  72. Morse Code,

    Still here? I found some data for ya pal:
    http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/manuscandtablesMonahanandSwanson.pdf

    Nice little study about a group of people from a lesser school than the OP who are pretty close to his age.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 72% response. The other 28% likely had bad outcomes. This was also before the economy fell flat and when there were 225,000 fewer law grads.

      Delete
    2. Fair enough. But give some credit to the fact that what few studies have been done show that all is not as doom and gloom as ILSS makes it out to be.

      Plus, I'm not sure what you mean by 225,000 fewer law grads. If that's the number of grads since 1990, wouldn't you need to account for the number of retirees, deaths, etc.?

      Delete
    3. Actually even DJM admitted the response rate was exceptionally high for a study like this.

      Delete
    4. The Virginia study was done in 2007. The group is a little young to be paying for the college of their children, so they are not yet facing acute economic pressure. Many of the women have quit/ worked less to take care of kids.

      Fast forward to 2013 and college costs have skyrocketed. Women who were working part-time or caring for kids would probably under severe pressure to get full time jobs to pay for college.

      There are more lawyers now and fewer jobs.

      The picture may be quite different if you went back to these same people today. It would be interesting to see the result.

      2007 when this survey was done the economy was still going strong. Even real estate was strong.

      Delete
  73. A big part of the problem is every sizable law firm applying the up or out policies and none of them hiring or retaining lawyers over the age of 40 except in insignificant numbers.

    I don't understand why class actions based on age discrimination have not been brought against every one of the major law firms.

    I have seen the EEOC statement that they will not apply the concept of disparate impact discrimination to employers that apply bona fide seniority policies. I looked at some of the cases and surely was not convinced based on very limited research that this policy of the EEOC was well founded based on the law.

    Why do we not have class action age discrimination suits against all the major law firms? There is no question that up or out policies have a disparate impact on older lawyers in a profession with a huge surplus of lawyers and limited numbers of high paying jobs outside the major law firms.


    Honestly, putting the brakes on up or out and requiring these law firms to have age balanced workforces would kill the top law schools in placement. You would have a third or a quarter of the first year openings there are now in these firms. Would people flock to Harvard for a 22% chance at a Biglaw job or federal clerkship if 78% of the class ends up making $55,000 a year?

    Maybe employment lawyers reading this blog can answer the question of why these big law firms have not had the pants sued off of them based on age discrimination.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe you can not cut and paste the same dumb shit on every post Old Guy.

      Delete
    2. Do you really believe asking an employment lawyer to comment on the legality of large law firms' refusal to hire over 40 lawyers without business like the letter writer
      is "dumb shit"?

      If you are not a grad of a law school that places into top law firms this is something you could not care less about.

      For the top law schools, up or out policies where new lawyers can place into large law firms in significant numbers are a key to survival.

      The only way the numbers work so that significant numbers of first years can be hired is to keep most older lawyers out. That is the problem the letter writer is having.

      Delete
    3. 7:10 Similar class action challenging the FBI's up or out policy based on age discrimination:

      http://www.newyorkemploymentattorneysblog.com/2011/01/agents-sue-fbi-for-age-discrim.html

      Maybe these FBI agents are the real "dumb shit(s)". Maybe their lawsuit has no bearing on age discrimination as a result of up or out policies. You know better as an expert in this area.

      Delete
  74. Not to pile on the guy and its a tangential issue but he still seems a little ignorant. There were employment issues and a glut of attorneys back when he graduated too. Just not for the top 20 schools or so. He thinks this glut was created in a few years?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As someone who graduated from a t14 around the same time as the letter writer, I can attest that I too had no clue that there was a lawyer glut until a couple of years ago. Everyone I knew from my class easily got the job they wanted. And I didn't really know people from low-ranked schools. I didn't even know Cooley existed until I ended up working with one of their grads in my first job (even Cooley grads were getting some jobs back then!) It was only after the market crash in 2007-08 and my own struggles trying to switch jobs that I realized there was a glut. If I hadn't been looking for a new job I might have gone even longer without knowing about the glut.

      Delete
    2. The lawyer glut got worse about 10 years ago when the up or out policies switched from a year or two for most law firm lawyers to move to new jobs to a policy of outright layoffs. There are economic layoffs, stealth layoffs, layoffs with 2 or 3 months notice. Any layoff that does not give the lawyer enough time to find a job is a disaster waiting to happen - another potential lawyer disappearing from the profession.

      Delete
  75. "If you read this guy's story more closely it sounds like he was probably working for a shitlaw firm as it's hard to develop that breadth of experience working at Biglaw or midlaw."

    Ah, yes. He certainly deserves to be unemployed and put to death, then, doesn't he? Only those who have purveyed the halls of BigLaw have the right to have jobs...The rest should just die.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure that's exactly what that poster was suggesting.

      Delete
    2. With a federal district court clerkship, he could have gone to a lot of firms back then. He has a very strong academic record.

      Delete
  76. Hi this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors
    or if you have to manually code with HTML. I'm starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    My blog post ... the rapid fat loss handbook

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, not having enough money for food due to student loans will result in rapid fat loss.

      Delete
  77. To the OP:

    I'm really sorry this happened to you. It's really shitty but I'm glad that you found this blog. Also, I'm glad that you realize that your career as a lawyer is over. I don't know you beyond your letter, but I know that if my job ends,I will likely never practice law again. I have a very niche corporate practice and if something happens to the company (and it's only a matter of time), I too will have to make some mid-life career change. I'll share what I have thought about doing if my current world ends:

    1. Teach writing and technical writing at a junior college or university. There always seems to be a need for writing instructors and the presumption is that lawyers write well. Law school VAPs will not descend to the junior college level no matter how hungry they become, so at least you won't be competing with ex-law professors.

    2. Find a trade. From my discussions with folks in the business, H-VAC installation and repair is a stable business even in a bad economy.

    3. High School teacher. Many states have a quick licensing procedure for people who have been in other professions. At least you can get your license quickly and get on the roll to be a substitute teacher.

    Best of luck.

    ReplyDelete
  78. I have so much sympathy for this man. It's so hard out there--I was un- and underemployed for several years, and it often felt like I would never work again, as a lawyer or otherwise. I had no great interest or emotional investment in continuing as a lawyer, but non-legal employers were absolutely not interested in me, -at all-. I recently lucked into a unicorn of a legal job, but if I hadn't, I would probably have had to move across the country so I could live with family. I wouldn't wish this kind of situation on anyone. Best of luck to you, sir.

    ReplyDelete

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