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In Tight Market, Law Grads Seek Work in OK

Posted Oct 4, 2007 11:32 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A tight legal market for law students who aren't graduating from the nation's most elite law schools or at the top of their class is apparently prompting many to seek work in Oklahoma. Some may also think—correctly—that law firm jobs there offer good long-term opportunities for training and growth, as well as a good life in general, a local lawyer says.

Applications from out-of-state students are up, for instance, at Crowe and Dunlevy, reports the Journal Record, an Oklahoma City newspaper.

“That tells me two things,” says William Hoch, chairman of the law firm's recruiting committee. “One, the legal markets are drying up on the East and West Coast. But it also tells me that people are looking for a different place to practice."

One caveat: A law student who sends in one of the 600 or so applications the firm receives annually needs to know why he or she went to law school. Crowe routinely asks, and some applicants can't answer.

It's also a good question for individuals to ask themselves before law school. While top dollar for first-year associates at big-name firms in the nation's major cities is around $165,000, lawyers in Oklahoma can expect starting salaries of between $30,000 and $100,000, according to Hoch. And not every law graduate gets a job, he notes.

Legal salaries aren't keeping pace with inflation and the cost of legal education, says Gina Rowsam. She is assistant dean for the Professional and Career Development Center at Oklahoma City University School of Law. That school's 2006 graduating class reports a median income of about $50,000. However, recent federal loan forgiveness legislation could boost the value of take-home pay for some, she tells the Journal Record.

Similarly, Stanley Evans, assistant dean of students at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, says an average OU law grad salary last year was around $62,000, the newspaper reports.

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