Can you go from unpaid legal work to good paying legal work?

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jwinaz
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Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2012 6:03 pm

Can you go from unpaid legal work to good paying legal work?

Postby jwinaz » Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:12 am

Just curious. I've been reading that there are unpaid types of legal work that you can do after graduating from law school that would give you legal work experience. I'm assuming these are not ideal in the sense that they are back-up type options for folks who did not otherwise land desirable, gainful employment (such as a biglaw position or a clerkship, etc.).

Still, I'm wondering if these experiences can normally lead to solid/good legal work later? Will an unpaid legal internship [insert any other unpaid legal position], for example, get you a job in a mid-law firm later or maybe a prestigious public interest agency?

Does anyone know what usually happens after these unpaid internships & positions?

Pokemon
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Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:58 pm

Re: Can you go from unpaid legal work to good paying legal work?

Postby Pokemon » Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:21 am

I have met with people who made it up, lateraled up,call it what you want. But all the stories are from before 2008.

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somewhatwayward
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Re: Can you go from unpaid legal work to good paying legal work?

Postby somewhatwayward » Tue Sep 25, 2012 9:19 am

The only way you can really consider this is if you have very limited or no debt. From time to time, people start out volunteering and then get hired by the non-profit or government agency they were volunteering for, but it is the exception, not the rule, and for months they can't make payment on their loans, so even if they get a forbearance, interest is accruing. Plus, how do they eat and house themselves? Plus, getting a volunteering gig is hard. NJ once posted something for an unpaid intern to assist the DA's office and received like 60 applications for one unpaid position. That's how bad it is out there right now.

Do not go to law school with the plan of volunteering afterward and getting a job that way.

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squ1rtle
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Re: Can you go from unpaid legal work to good paying legal work?

Postby squ1rtle » Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:11 am

I know someone who graduated law school, passed the bar, and interned (for free) 40 hrs a week at the county DA's office for nine months before being offered a paid permanent position. She said she had to wait until someone resigned, retired, or quit before they had money in the budget to offer her a position. She also said she was lucky because the person before her, worked for over a year for free before a spot opened.

So it is possible to leverage an unpaid internship into a permanent position, but you better be dedicated and ready to be working for free for the long haul.

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somewhatwayward
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Re: Can you go from unpaid legal work to good paying legal work?

Postby somewhatwayward » Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:52 am

squ1rtle wrote:I know someone who graduated law school, passed the bar, and interned (for free) 40 hrs a week at the county DA's office for nine months before being offered a paid permanent position. She said she had to wait until someone resigned, retired, or quit before they had money in the budget to offer her a position. She also said she was lucky because the person before her, worked for over a year for free before a spot opened.

So it is possible to leverage an unpaid internship into a permanent position, but you better be dedicated and ready to be working for free for the long haul.


Yes, it is possible, but as I was pointing out to jwinaz in another thread, what is important is not whether it is possible but whether it is probable. Volunteer work turning into a full-time long-term paid position is not probable. Throwing in a couple anecdotes obscures the general point that it is not a good plan to go to law school with the intention of securing a legal job that will pay off your loans by volunteering after law school. No amount of hard work and dedication can change that fact.

Anonymous User
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Re: Can you go from unpaid legal work to good paying legal work?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:59 am

I volunteered full-time for a year at my "prestigious" PI agency as a pre-law and got an offer to return after law school (as an attorney) at the end of it. It was hell, people told me I was crazy/stupid for doing it, but it paid off in the end. If you really want to do something and volunteering is the only way to get there, I would say do it if you can handle not having money/feeling very insecure for a long period of time. I had parents support me in pursuit of my dream, but after much conflict and almost getting thrown out of my house. Mind you this all happened when the economy was at its worst, so the impact was probably 10x.




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