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It’s no secret that the job market is in shambles, and the legal job market is really no exception. It should come as no surprise that the market is particularly tough for new graduates, people who a year or two ago could often expect – or were led to expect – to earn over $100K at graduation. So what does this mean?
At PrawfsBlawg, Nadine Farid writes:
So, what does this mean for recent law graduates and those who will soon join them? To state the obvious, they’re existing in/entering an uncertain world, one which might require them to consider, rather quickly, alternatives to planned career paths. More measured cost-cutting approaches by Biglaw and other employers could serve to aid the needs of those ventures in this economy while still bringing in (and perhaps more importantly, training) talented, eager associates and helping to avoid the glut that they would create in the market.
Part of the problem emerges, of course, from the debt associated with law school, which can easily exceed $50L-$100K for the three years required. While it’s hard to have sympathy for graduates not earning six figures, it can be especially difficult to switch careers or adjust to changing economic conditions with such a high level of debt.
Some options might include debt forgiveness for public interest work, although work in the public interest, even with low salaries, can be tough to get at the best of times. Many lenders will grant deferments for lack of work or other hardships, but the interest will still accrue. Still, this may be a good option for some.
The idea of using the time between graduation and a job to do volunteer, pro bono work might be another good option for many young lawyers. At the very least, pro bono work will keep one’s legal skills sharp while building the kind of network critical for future success.
Some may even choose to go solo, but with loans harder to come by, that may be a difficult course to get started on without some beginning capital.
Despite all of this, I think the law is still a good, practical career choice. Despite some attempts to offshore legal work, the highly jurisdiction-specific nature of legal work (especially in the United States) will always make this a niche idea, I believe.
Personally, I’m taking another track: I’m going to grad school after I finish law school in June.
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