Advice for an undergrad

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theswimmingviolinist

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Advice for an undergrad

Postby theswimmingviolinist » Fri Mar 08, 2019 10:57 am

Hi everyone,

I'm a freshman undergraduate who is considering a career in law. After conducting some research on law schools and potential careers I stumbled on this forum. So, here's my dilemma. I know the job market for attorneys is terrible, that many (especially in litigation) are overworked and underpaid. I don't want to be graduating law school one day with $100,000+ in debt and without a job, and then if I'm lucky enough to get one, only make a max of $60,000. I spoke to my friend who's a paralegal and she helped me a lot with understanding the inner politics of the courtroom, and just how rare it is that lawyers are actually able to make a difference in a flawed court system. I'm not deterred from pursuing a career in law but I'd like to know a few things to help me get into law school land a job one day:

1. What are the most demanded fields of law today?
2. What's the likelihood of being able to work in litigation?
3. Do I NEED to go to an Ivy League in order to increase my chances of getting a job? What law schools should I be looking at?
4. How can I explore the types of law I might want to get into now? I have friends with connections to different attorneys and the best I can come up with is meeting for coffee and just talking.
5. What should I do this summer for an internship? 'I've read that interning at boutique law firms might be helpful in that I'll learn the paperwork and preparation involved before going to court, but I've also read that it might just be a big waste of time. I worry that all I'll be doing is getting people coffee as they ignore me in the office. How can I gain experience and learn whether or not this is right for me?
6. ATTORNEYS, is there a way an attorney could rise above the politics of courtroom? (ex: donating to judges' campaigns to buy them off in a court case-- can't believe that's not illegal, by the way. I was horrified to learn that people do this.)

Thanks to all.

Sincerely,
A prospective candidate

cavalier1138

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Re: Advice for an undergrad

Postby cavalier1138 » Fri Mar 08, 2019 11:08 am

1. It changes over time. I think biotech regulation is expanding right now, but next year, it could be something else. This isn't the right question to be asking. You should be asking yourself what your own interests are, not trying to mold yourself into someone you think will be more "hireable."

2. I have no idea how to answer this question, because "litigation" is an insanely broad field.

3. No. The Top 13/14 schools are not all Ivy League institutions. But yes, there are major differences in employment outcomes. The law schools you should be looking at will depend entirely on what kind of practice you envision having.

4. Your idea of getting coffee is the best thing you can do right now.

5. You should do something that interests you. You're a human being, not a resume-generator. Working in a firm may help you learn whether you like a particular area, but the practice of law isn't the same as what you do working adjacent to lawyers.

6. Don't take a specific sensational story of unethical conduct and apply it to the entire profession. That isn't how court works.

And to answer the question you didn't ask: don't go straight from undergrad to law school.

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nealric

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Re: Advice for an undergrad

Postby nealric » Fri Mar 08, 2019 11:11 am

1. It depends what you mean by "in demand." Other than patent law, legal specialties generally don't require any specific background. Someone with an electrical engineering PhD who wants to do patent prosecution will have a very easy time finding a job, but patent prosecution is a volume business that tends to have its upside capped, so there is a trade off even for those folks. For junior lawyers, the most in-demand things are not specific specialists (you can't have all that much of a specialty other than patent as a new grad), but grads with elite credentials.

2. Quite high, depending on what sort of litigation you want to do. Anybody with a bar card can do personal injury cases if that's what they really want. On the other hand, if you want to litigate monster cases like Apple v. Samsung, you need high-end credentials to get to the sort of firm that handles cases like that.

3. The "Ivy League" is a sports conference, though the schools in it that have law schools tend to have good ones. However, keep in mind that Stanford (non-Ivy) is a better law school than Cornell (Ivy). Nevertheless, it would behoove you to go to a highly ranked law school (top 14 or 13, or even higher depending on who you ask). It will make your post-graduation prospects MUCH better.

4. Making connections with attorneys is a great place to start, but you don't have to worry about specialties all that much. Most lawyers do not know what they want to specialize in when they start law school (I didn't), and in many cases your specific niche will come to you by happenstance.

5. You are a freshman in college. It doesn't really matter. Do what edifies you. If you have a burning desire to see what law practice is like, a summer gig at a law firm wouldn't be terrible, but you are likely to be doing menial tasks that may not give you the most accurate picture.

6. I would think things like donating to judge's campaigns as an effort to curry favor are the exception rather than the rule. There are professional ethics rules for attorney behavior before judges, and improper conduct could be grounds for disbarment. Obviously, some jurisdictions are better than others. Note that in federal court, judges are appointed, so this isn't even a possibility. Also keep in mind that most lawyers don't first-chair a trial for many years after graduation (if ever), and even most litigators will only try a handful of cases during the course of their career (exceptions for those who do criminal law and those who try very small cases like small claims).

theswimmingviolinist

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Re: Advice for an undergrad

Postby theswimmingviolinist » Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:02 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:1. It changes over time. I think biotech regulation is expanding right now, but next year, it could be something else. This isn't the right question to be asking. You should be asking yourself what your own interests are, not trying to mold yourself into someone you think will be more "hireable."

2. I have no idea how to answer this question, because "litigation" is an insanely broad field.

3. No. The Top 13/14 schools are not all Ivy League institutions. But yes, there are major differences in employment outcomes. The law schools you should be looking at will depend entirely on what kind of practice you envision having.

4. Your idea of getting coffee is the best thing you can do right now.

5. You should do something that interests you. You're a human being, not a resume-generator. Working in a firm may help you learn whether you like a particular area, but the practice of law isn't the same as what you do working adjacent to lawyers.

6. Don't take a specific sensational story of unethical conduct and apply it to the entire profession. That isn't how court works.

And to answer the question you didn't ask: don't go straight from undergrad to law school.



Thank you for your advice. I know my questions were vague, I lack the information to ask better ones so I appreciate your direction. It's encouraging for me to hear that donations to judge's campaigns isn't prevalent. However, (according to the one paralegal I spoke to, at least) there are other accounts of the prosecuting attorney, defense and judge all grabbing lunch together and talking about cases. In one particular instance-- "This guy about to come in owes the court $x but has a car? Let's take his car." According to her this kind of situation happens all the time. (She works for an attorney in circuit court) Granted, I spoke to one paralegal. Her word isn't gospel and I surely can't take one instance and apply it to every situation but I don't want to naively believe that it never happens. Also, I've read about people taking time off to work between their undergrad and law school. What are some things one could do in the interim? Regarding my interests in law, I like constitutional law or criminal justice. I'll probably never find a job in those fields so I'd rather prepare myself for a future rather than something that's going to dead-end me in ten years. Plus, I don't know all that's out there and I just want to explore to find a proper niche that's hireable.

theswimmingviolinist

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Re: Advice for an undergrad

Postby theswimmingviolinist » Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:08 pm

nealric wrote:1. It depends what you mean by "in demand." Other than patent law, legal specialties generally don't require any specific background. Someone with an electrical engineering PhD who wants to do patent prosecution will have a very easy time finding a job, but patent prosecution is a volume business that tends to have its upside capped, so there is a trade off even for those folks. For junior lawyers, the most in-demand things are not specific specialists (you can't have all that much of a specialty other than patent as a new grad), but grads with elite credentials.

2. Quite high, depending on what sort of litigation you want to do. Anybody with a bar card can do personal injury cases if that's what they really want. On the other hand, if you want to litigate monster cases like Apple v. Samsung, you need high-end credentials to get to the sort of firm that handles cases like that.

3. The "Ivy League" is a sports conference, though the schools in it that have law schools tend to have good ones. However, keep in mind that Stanford (non-Ivy) is a better law school than Cornell (Ivy). Nevertheless, it would behoove you to go to a highly ranked law school (top 14 or 13, or even higher depending on who you ask). It will make your post-graduation prospects MUCH better.

4. Making connections with attorneys is a great place to start, but you don't have to worry about specialties all that much. Most lawyers do not know what they want to specialize in when they start law school (I didn't), and in many cases your specific niche will come to you by happenstance.

5. You are a freshman in college. It doesn't really matter. Do what edifies you. If you have a burning desire to see what law practice is like, a summer gig at a law firm wouldn't be terrible, but you are likely to be doing menial tasks that may not give you the most accurate picture.

6. I would think things like donating to judge's campaigns as an effort to curry favor are the exception rather than the rule. There are professional ethics rules for attorney behavior before judges, and improper conduct could be grounds for disbarment. Obviously, some jurisdictions are better than others. Note that in federal court, judges are appointed, so this isn't even a possibility. Also keep in mind that most lawyers don't first-chair a trial for many years after graduation (if ever), and even most litigators will only try a handful of cases during the course of their career (exceptions for those who do criminal law and those who try very small cases like small claims).


Thank you for your advice. Patent law is something I'd like to explore because it's more of a niche and could increase my chances of getting hired. I surely hope it's less than it seems. Thanks for the direction!

objctnyrhnr

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Re: Advice for an undergrad

Postby objctnyrhnr » Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:44 pm

My biggest piece of advice for say a freshman realizing they wanna do law is this: you aren’t gonna try to get a job out of your UG degree. The only thing it’ll give you is a GPA. So pick a Major with that in mind. Although I did quite well, in hindsight, I may have majored in sociology or something.

This advice might not hold as true if you wanna go into intensive IP law. Then it’s possible UG major matters.

nixy

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Re: Advice for an undergrad

Postby nixy » Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:51 pm

Re: your preferred jobs - there are actually lots of criminal justice jobs. Not that getting any job is a cakewalk, but there are a lot of ADAs/PDs out there. Now if by criminal justice you mean prison reform or Innocence Project kinds of things, that does become tougher. But criminal justice is a huge field and demand for attorneys doesn’t fluctuate that much.

Yulilo

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Re: Advice for an undergrad

Postby Yulilo » Tue Mar 12, 2019 6:42 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:My biggest piece of advice for say a freshman realizing they wanna do law is this: you aren’t gonna try to get a job out of your UG degree. The only thing it’ll give you is a GPA. So pick a Major with that in mind. Although I did quite well, in hindsight, I may have majored in sociology or something.

This advice might not hold as true if you wanna go into intensive IP law. Then it’s possible UG major matters.


I'll echo this advice. I was a CompSci major in College and I honestly wish I had realized I didn't like IP earlier in undergrad and done something easier. I still did well enough to land decent money at NYU but the hit it took to my GPA kept me out of HYS and kept me from getting more money from CCN.

TL;DR Don't pick a STEM degree unless you are 100% committed to Patent work.

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Re: Advice for an undergrad

Postby Bingo_Bongo » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:05 pm

theswimmingviolinist wrote:Hi everyone,
6. ATTORNEYS, is there a way an attorney could rise above the politics of courtroom? (ex: donating to judges' campaigns to buy them off in a court case-- can't believe that's not illegal, by the way. I was horrified to learn that people do this.)


That's actually not as cut and dry as you think. There are all sorts of situations where that would absolutely be illegal under the ABA model rules of professional responsibility, and Canons of Judicial Ethics, but it is fact specific.

there are actually lots of criminal justice jobs. Not that getting any job is a cakewalk, but there are a lot of ADAs/PDs out there.


There's actually a lot more biglaw jobs out there than there are ADA jobs.

Depending on your jurisdiction, OP, getting a job as an Assistant DA or Deputy DA may be very competitive. There's only so many places that hire prosecutors. For example, if you're in the Los Angeles area, you'll be looking at LA County DA, Orange County DA, or Ventura County DA. Literally three places. You might look at Riverside/Santa Barbara counties if you don't mind traveling quite a bit. Each one of those offices will be hiring around 4-10 Deputy DAs for Post-Bar. Compare that to how many law firms are in Los Angeles offering SA positions.

If you want a job as a DA or Public Defender, be sure to get a whole bunch of experience doing that while in law school. It's that experience that gets you hired more so than the prestige of your school or grades.

nixy

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Re: Advice for an undergrad

Postby nixy » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:15 pm

But virtually every county in the country will have ADAs/county attorneys and a need for public defenders (admittedly not every jurisdiction has formal PDs as opposed to some kind of appointment system). As of 2011 there were 2,330 state prosecutors offices.

I also didn’t say there were more of those jobs than biglaw jobs. And no, they’re not always easy to get. They’re just not remotely the kind of unicorn jobs that the OP suggested.



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