Around the Blawgosphere

Blogging gig: Comedy required, law degree optional; What data should law school rankings consider?

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An item cross-posted at Lawyerist and the humor blog Bitter Lawyer announced this week that Bitter Lawyer is looking for a new editor. Lawyerist Media acquired the blog in 2011.

“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.’ “

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