Fewer Law Firm Options for New Grads?

Some say they couldn’t find law firm jobs. Others say they didn’t want to.

But the bottom line for a small fraction of the nation’s newly minted law school graduates is a nontraditional business job that has only a peripheral connection, at best, to practicing law, reports the Recorder (sub. req.) in an article reprinted by New York Lawyer (reg.req.).

Some 15 percent of all graduates accept a business job, according to NALP statistics, although this includes those who take in-house counsel positions as well as those who do something entirely different.

One who pursued this nontraditional career path out of necessity is Jason Luros, a 2007 graduate of Golden Gate University School of Law. Although he was in the top 20 percent of his class and had several legal internships on his resumé, he discovered what the legal publication describes as a “feeble job market” awaiting him. Small law firms of five to 30 attorneys interviewed him, but had no openings, he recounts. “All the opportunities that I heard about required active bar membership and a lot of experience.”

Luros is now working as a financial planner, and says he hopes eventually to make a salary equivalent to what a big-firm lawyer gets.

Some experts disagree, but Jeffrey Brand, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law, says Luros’ experience may be the start of a bigger trend—at least for students graduating from law schools that aren’t among the nation’s most elite. Because of economic factors, he says, a number of law firms are scaling back job offers to new graduates.

Alumni report that even large national firms increasingly are looking to hire experienced attorneys, rather than new graduates, either as lateral associates or on a contract basis, Brand says.

For those who can command a big-firm job paying up to $160,000 or even a bit more, though, pursuing a nontraditional career can be a choice rather than a necessity.

Rachel Knight, for instance, says money wasn’t what motivated her to accept a job as a fellow at a local legal aid society working to set up legal-medical partnerships, after she graduated in 2005 from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley.

Knight advises: “Work in a firm for three years, pay all your debts, then go do what you want. … We’re our own biggest obstacles.”

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