- Blogging gig: Comedy required, law degree optional; What data should law school rankings consider?
Around the Blawgosphere
Blogging gig: Comedy required, law degree optional; What data should law school rankings consider?
Posted Mar 22, 2013 7:30 AM CST
By Sarah Mui
"Since Bitter Lawyer is a humor website, you must either (1) be funny or (2) know funny when you see it," the post / want ad said. "Law degree optional. If you have the skills, vision, and drive, we don’t really care whether you are a lawyer."
The pay is $750 per month to start, plus extra pay based on the amount of content the editor writes personally. The estimated workload is 10-15 hours per week. The post has additional details.
What rankings criteria really matter?
This year, the U.S. News & World Report rankings had more year-over-year change than usual—affecting schools in the Nos. 50 to 150 spots most—because of more refined jobs data. Job placement rates now count for 20 percent of a school’s overall score, and permanent, full-time jobs that require bar passage or for which a J.D. is an advantage are given greater weight.
But is 20 percent even enough weight to give job placement? And would you throw out some criteria completely? Above the Law's Brian Dalton asks the question and links to a survey that allows readers to rate the relative importance of various criteria—such as faculty scholarly productivity, tuition, and library resources—and add their own comments.
One metric that Dalton would like to see tracked? Relative federal student loan default rates of graduates. "This would be a stark, telling indicator of ROI and how well alumni were prepared to face the rigors of the job market," Dalton wrote. But it's not possible, based on the way this data is currently tracked. "Stats for individual institutions within a university system do not exist, at least as far as the [Department of Education] is concerned. In other words, for the purposes of tracking the default rates at, for example, Harvard, the DOE lumps all the alumni of the business, medical, law, divinity, and all the other grad schools into the same hopper, with no way to untangle the data. You’re doing it wrong, government."
'Is this how kid lawyers think?'
In a post at Defending People with the title above, Houston criminal defense attorney Mark Bennett was shocked this week when after reading an email exchange between a lawyer he knows and a new law graduate seeking a job.
The recent grad emailed the lawyer near close of business Friday, and the lawyer responded within an hour. He invited the lawyer to come in Monday to talk and explained to him that while he didn't have a position per se, he was looking for "someone who is considering starting a solo practice but doesn’t have the capital to get an office, supplies, malpractice insurance, etc. I have a lot of overflow right now, but given that we just opened our doors last year, I can’t pay someone $85k a year, salary, and benefits. Maybe soon, but not right now."
The new grad declined, saying he didn't have an interest in a solo practice.
"That made my jaw drop," Bennett wrote. "Scott Greenfield keeps telling me about the entitlement of the slackoisie, but I didn’t believe it—the young lawyers I deal with regularly show no character defects (though I may unconsciously select for initiative; nobody without gumption is likely to spend more than a minute on the phone with me)—until now."
And good luck finding that high-paying job when first starting out, Bennett writes. "Being paid $85K a year to learn your craft is not 'opportunity.' It’s the gravy train. Maybe [Kid Lawyer] will find that ride on the gravy train that he is looking for. But such rides are few and far between nowadays, and a lawyer with no interest in working for himself isn’t going to be much good to anyone else for anything but contract document review (not that there’s anything wrong with that—there are documents that need reviewing)."
Bennett also offers to connect lawyers in the Mid-Atlantic states with his spurned colleague, if they're interested in the opportunity he presented; or, he says that young lawyers in Houston interested in such an arrangement should contact him, because he has "given some thought to creating an incubator for criminal-defense lawyers here."
Differentiation is not limitation
There's no harm in saying on LinkedIn, your law firm website bio or in your "elevator speech" that you have a particular litigation specialty, Edina, Minn.-based marketing consultant Sally J. Schmidt writes at Attorney at Work. Nor will it force you to limit your practice to one narrow specialty if you don't want to. It won't discourage potential clients from hiring you to litigate in other areas.
"You don’t necessarily have to limit your practice, but you do need to limit your marketing focus and messages," Schmidt writes. She muses that perhaps lawyers think that "by defining or limiting the scope of their message, they will lose out on opportunities: 'If they think I do ‘X,’ they won’t send me ‘Y.' The reality is, if you are completely undifferentiated from other lawyers, people won’t send you 'X' or 'Y.' "