starry eyed wrote:you seem pretty bright and appear to have business knowledge, why don't you just hang a shingle?
Thanks. Hanging out a shingle is very tough. The toughest part isn't screwing stuff up and/or paying for malpractice insurance like a lot of people think. Handling cases is actually pretty easy--easy enough that like 80% of law grads could
figure out how to do at least some level of shitlaw and scrape by at about $50K per year--if
they could find anyone to teach them (and, of course, assuming that there was actually enough of a market out there to demand all these services--which there isn't).
But that's the real problem...finding someone to teach you how to do it. Law school itself is virtually useless in this regard, as most of your time is spent briefing the facts of 100 year old cases that nobody uses anymore and then regurgitating what happened to your professor the next day. This is the kind of ivory tower circle jerk you're paying $200K for. And law firms and government agencies don't want to pay you while you learn, even though it would barely cost them anything. But if the legal industry replaced the third year of law school with like a year-long apprenticeship program, almost all law students would be prepared to start their own practices by the end of the year. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to run your average law firm. Not everyone is cut out for huge securities cases or commercial law cases, etc., but a lot of areas of law are fairly simple in that your average TTT grad would do fine if he or she were just able to find someone to properly train them.
And then the second problem is establishing your presence in the market. This takes more advertising dollars than virtually all law grads have at their disposal. And good luck getting a small business loan with $200K of school debt. "Attorney" and "lawyer" are #4 and #6 respectively on the list of most expensive Google adwords, and "mesothelioma" and "personal injury" are not far behind. And anyone will tell you that Yellow Pages ads are basically like throwing your money down the drain these days. You get clients from Google and word-of-mouth, and for the latter, you need prior clients referring others. It can be done, but it takes a very long time.
What people have to remember is that the economic dynamics of the legal job market are a lot different than most other professions. A lot of firms bill by the hour, so there's a lot of pressure to amp up the "prestige" of the actual work you do so that you can charge a higher billing rate--while at the same time inventing bales and bales of monkey work and makework to keep more and more prestigious attorneys busy. Even the most menial tasks are dubbed "legal work" so that they can be billed out at a higher rate because a "prestigious attorney" is doing it...even when most novice paralegals could do a similar job.
So what you end up having is a lot of work to do where almost anyone could do it after a few months on the job, and yet there's no need for having people with tons of experience work on it simply because they demand more pay and a nearly fresh grad could do the same job. That's where you get the disposable associate. Hire a bunch of people, churn 'em and burn 'em, and hire new ones. Who cares what happens to the ones that you conveniently "don't have enough work for" when they get expensive? Biglaw artificially restricts labor supply by setting arbitrary "GPA cutoffs" and pretends like only a small percentage of people can do the work--and this ups starting salaries. But there's no one looking out for the people who miss out on this opportunity. The labor supply is nearly infinite, and people are basically begging for volunteer jobs.
See, in other industries, businesses hire you, expect to pay a little bit for your training, and help you grow into your role by slowly promoting you up the ladder. This kind of loyalty has faded a bit after globalization, but it's still somewhat true. Only in the legal industry are fresh grads berated for not knowing anything and told "we can't afford to pay for your training--go volunteer somewhere for a few years while the interest on your debt spirals out of control, and get back to us."
I wouldn't have a problem with any of this if law school tuition wasn't such a huge scam. I mean, if any generation needs some hazing and some obstacles to overcome, it's this one. If any generation needs to experience shitty unfairness and learn to grind through it regardless, it's this one. That's not the sinister thing about it. You'll never hear me complain about the expected workload personally, either in law school or as an associate at a firm. I expect to work 60 hour weeks, etc. I like it...I left my old job because I hated being bored all the time with nothing to do. No, the evil and sinister thing about all this is saddling people with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt for a nearly useless three years in the prime of their lives, knowing that there's absolutely no way over half of them will ever repay it--ever. So there's two solutions: 1) reduce law school tuition by 75% across the board, so if you burn out, your life isn't financially over, and 2) cut the number of law grads in half from where it is right now, so like medical school, there's a much better alignment between the number of people who graduate and the number of legitimate jobs out there.
These problems and obvious solutions have been very clear for at least 10 years, if not more. And yet there's only been a few fringey-type changes. And law school tuition continues to skyrocket. So it's patently clear that the "leaders" in this industry simply do not give a fuck.