I posted this on the Law School Admissions forum (I was angrier, but it was pretty much the same thing), but I thought it might be useful for people on this forum as well.
I was arguing that I would rather have a full-time legal job in a small market than be a legal temp doing doc review in NYC or DC.
I know a lot of you want to end up in a larger market, but I hope this helps someone out there and hopefully expands your horizons.
No one wants to end up sitting in a dungeon doing doc review, but I suspect that a lot of those people are tied to their particular metropolitan areas because of marriage/children/family. Most of us are young and can move around. So, get up and check out other parts of the country!
Alaska has the 3rd fastest growing/healthy economy in the country, a 7% unemployment rate, and projections only foresee future growth. Lawyers can fill jobs in unconventional positions such as Native American/Tribal Law, Energy Law, or Natural Resources Law. Alaska also has to import all of its lawyers from the lower 48 because it does not have its own law school. It is tied for the 3rd (with Delaware) least-competitive legal job market in the country.
Wyoming has the 2nd fastest growing/healthy economy in the country, a 6% unemployment rate, and a $0 corporate tax rate (and is thus becoming an increasingly attractive area for employers). There are only 2.6 lawyers per 1,000 people in Wyoming (compare 8 lawyers per 1,000 people in New York) making the legal market fairly ripe. The average attorney in Wyoming makes just a bit under $100,000 annually but the cost of living is much lower than the big market areas like New York or DC. It is the 9th least competitive legal job market in the country.
North Dakota has the fastest growing/healthiest economy in the country, a 3% unemployment rate, and has the 6th least-competitive legal job market in the country.
Nebraska has the 5th fastest growing/healthiest economy in the country, a 4% unemployment rate, and has the least-competitive legal job market in the country. Less people pass the Nebraska Bar each year than are required to fill the legal positions that open up every year in the state. Nebraska is the only state without a "lawyer surplus".
Vermont has the 21st fastest growing/healthiest economy in the country, a 5% unemployment rate, and has the 2nd least competitive legal job market in the country.
Wouldn't you rather be out on an Alaskan glacier or skiing in Vermont than doing doc review in a crowded office in New York? I would.
As for money, loan repayment isn't as scary as everyone says it is. Everyone has bills they pay every month, this is just another one. If you choose an IBR (Income-Based Repayment Plan), make $40,000 a year, have a fixed interest rate of 7.9%, and have $200,000 in loans, your monthly payment is just under $300. The above calculation is a "worst case scenario" as many of us will not take out that much in loans, will have Stafford loans with a lower interest rate, and/or will make a higher salary than $40K. Some of you may not believe me, but this is really enough money to live comfortably on, especially if you live in one of the above states because their costs of living are relatively low. Personally, I'd rather have a full-time legal job in Nebraska than a doc review job in New York, and the former will pay better, too.