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Underserved Middle Class Provides Opportunity for Recent Law Grads, Ex-US Attorney Says

Posted Aug 22, 2012 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A practice representing the underserved middle class could result in a fairly decent income for new law grads, according to an opinion column by a former U.S. attorney.

The National Law Journal article by former prosecutor and Miami lawyer Kendall Coffey explains the economics. “The reality is that with prudent office economics, recent law graduates could earn decent compensation and launch successful practices, with the opportunity to continue to earn more,” Coffey writes. “Rather than work for a law firm at high rates, of which two thirds goes to the employer, new lawyers could charge much lower rates and keep the earnings for themselves. Rates of between $50 and $125 per hour would make new lawyers affordable to the middle class while providing the lawyers with enough income to succeed.”

But a desire to serve the middle class isn’t enough, Coffey writes. Law schools need to revise their curricula to include more classes on law firm management and more clinical offerings. And volunteer lawyers are needed to provide mentoring and training for new law grads.

“Law school deans preoccupied with rankings and prestige may be reluctant to emphasize middle-class lawyering,” Coffey says. “But leaders of the bar are well-positioned to emphasize that placing many graduates in successful careers is more important than placing a few in traditional law firms. While prestige is nice, it does not pay monthly mortgages, much less student loans.”

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