It's a great discussion to have.
Here is an excellent article on the need for legal services for the underserved middle class (by ABA Journal):
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Underserved Middle Class Provides Opportunity for Recent Law Grads, Ex-US Attorney Says (August 22, 2012)
The ABA article is utter hogwash, as this practicing solo lawyer in NYC points out nicely:
Anyone who thinks that "going solo" or "hanging a shingle" is some kind of viable alternative to striking out at OCI/Biglaw needs to read the above articles very carefully. As a practicing attorney, I can back up this quote 100%:
I've spoken with many lawyers, many readers. You know who you are. You know that I know the truth. The business of criminal defense is dying. It's awful. It sucks. And you're hanging on by a thread, if at all. Yet, most put on their game face, talking themselves up as if they are somehow beating the odds, knocking down the world, making a killing. Nobody wants to tell their brethren that they're in the same boat, struggling daily to cover the nut and praying that the next phone call isn't another nutjob or desperate defendant without a dime to his name.
It's not that there is a shortage of criminal defendants, though crime is significantly down and serious crime even more so. There is a shortage of criminal defendants who can afford to pay for a lawyer. Sure, there are some lawyers who are doing well, but you can count them on your fingers and toes, without resort to dropping trou. And there are a great many criminal defense lawyers, exceptionally good ones, who fight over crumbs these days, because that's all they can do to survive.
If you miss Biglaw via OCI, please, dear God, have the good sense to drop out and cut your losses.