Monday, March 16, 2009

The Professional

I'm starting a new job on Monday and I'm looking forward to it. It took a while to find a permanent position...I was doing some temporary legal work - document review - for a few months as I looked, but even that dried up in this economy. I can't imagine what it would have been like to have attempted to stay up on my bills in DC, NYC, LA, or San Francisco, but luckily I live in Baltimore, which is about as cheap as cities on the East Coast come.

A lot of people go to law school because they can't think of anything to do with themselves after college. Plenty of people go because they've dreamed about it for years, too. Ultimately, only about 10% of law students enjoy the experience. I knew one guy at William & Mary who had no idea that anyone else wasn't having a great time. Nice kid, if a bit on the doofy side. The problem with all of these new lawyers is that there's only a certain number of entry level jobs in the legal world. Most employers are looking for 1-2 years of experience. I just passed that threshold in the last few months, although my experience was far from ideal. If you graduate from the top 10% of your class, you can generally pick your own job. Then there's the other 90% of us...where you need to either have connections or really kill yourself finding a position. I didn't look while I was in school, concentrating on graduating (the hardest challenge of my life). I did pass the Bar on the first try, though, and arranged a very cool internship with a State's Attorney's Office while I was waiting for my results. I got to work on a few trials and generally kicked ass (including essentially directing the prosecutorial strategy for one murder trial) but ran up against the Maryland budget shortfall, and never got the chance to be hired as I was something like third in line.

After work as a paralegal in all but name (and for lower pay than a paralegal) for six months, living at home with my folks in Rockville, I got hired as a proper associate in Baltimore. The problem was the firm...shady and without any support or organization. My boss was one of the worse human beings I've encountered, although far from the worst (he was more of a delusional, lazy megalomaniac than a psychopath). In a firm with the room for a maximum of 3 associates at a time, 6 left in one way or another over the course of 10 months, including me. Not my favorite memory, and it stays off of my resume.

So, what happens to people who aren't like me, in the sense that they actually had to take out and not immediately pay off loans in order to pay for their schooling, but who are like me in the sense that their careers don't rocket into the stratosphere from the point they graduate? In this economy? Without even document review work to fall back upon (a very boring job, but stress free and reasonably paying)? Hard to say. I guess they have to choose between living on their own and paying back their student loans, if they can even afford to do either.

The worst part is that everyone who does pay for law school thinks that they'll make back that money without a problem. They see it as an investment. In the meantime, more than 3,000 lawyers were laid off from big firms in the last month or so - and here, I'm talking about the grizzled veterans and the top-of-the-class kids.

These days, I wonder if it's all just another pyramid scheme, with 10,000 new suckers every year. The market is so flooded it might as well be called Atlantis.

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