Raising the Bar: Pulling out the stops in a rough economy

In today's economy, it's becoming increasingly difficult for lawyers to find jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected employment statistics for lawyers suggest that the numbers of new graduates looking will exceed the number of jobs. I've been asking friends what they've been doing in the meanwhile to find employment. 

Hanging your own shingle

According to the BLS, 26% of lawyers are currently self-employed. Self-employment gives new lawyers an opportunity to make a name for themselves and gain experience. However, the lawyer won't have the resources that an established firm could provide, and will not have guidance on avoiding the pitfalls and mistakes that many new lawyers make. Bar licenses can be pulled immediately after they are issued, so it's important to stay on top of all the ethical guidelines. Some Continuing Legal Education sessions will offer on how to hang out your own shingle, as will many universities. 


I know several new attorneys that have found clients or temporary work on craigslist. Be very careful when searching for jobs here, though. There have been recent scams where a post will offer employment, then direct the would-be employee to a website asking for credit card or other personal information. Never give out any more information than is necessary to directly contact the person placing the post. Never wire funds or submit to background/credit checks before you have met the person. 


Many larger firms are hiring contract lawyers to do discovery processing. It's not glamorous, but it will pay the bills and allow you to put the name of a prestigious firm on your resume. 


According to the BLS, many recent graduates of law school are finding work in areas where traditional legal training is an asset, but unnecessary. It suggests that lawyers are obtaining administrative, managerial, business positions in banks, insurance films, real estate companies, government agencies, and other areas that have growing employment opportunities.


Considering how much debt that we're saddled with, this is painful to contemplate. But if you cannot find a paying position, it may be useful to take an internship in a place where there may be future jobs. Several current attorneys that I've spoken to have suggested applying for internships or jobs at the Public Defender's, District Attorney's, or if you're in a civil track, your state's Legal Services office. Even if it doesn't lead to a paid position with that employer, it's excellent experience that can still help you down the line. 

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