How realistic is some of the stuff I'm hearing about jobs...

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Pablo
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How realistic is some of the stuff I'm hearing about jobs...

Postby Pablo » Sun Jul 21, 2013 6:58 am

I really would like to go to law school to achieve my dream of becoming some type of litigator working for civil justice/rights/ect. (most probably as a criminal defense attorney). I keep hearing all these horror stories about how public interest and government jobs aren't available anymore because the market is so saturated with JDs and this is very disheartening to me. I am left wondering if it will even be possible to do what I have always wanted to do. Although I also can't help but feel like many of the people who are telling these horror stories and ominously warning of the dangers of going to law school are the people who consider law school a success only if it leads to a big law firm job and are the people who saw law school as a means to make it rich. Yes expecting to get paid is justified with how much law school costs and the debt one takes on, but it is not my life's dream to not be in debt. It is my dream to be a criminal defense attorney and i'd rather be that if it requires some debt than a debt free non-attorney. So I am just left wondering is it possible for me to become a defense attorney right now going to schools like Rutgers, UConn, Chicago Kent, Cardozo, Wisconsin, Illinois, ect? I don't need a job at graduation, I've spent my whole life looking hard for jobs and I'll do the leg work, but if I do the leg work can I get there in the end? I always figured I would go to a law school where I can get a lot of practical training and experience, do my best to try for moot court, and then go work as a public defender or prosector to gain experience. Eventually I would like to go into business for myself, I would love to be a solo attorney and be my own boss. Can someone please tell me if this is possible?

(And if you wouldn't mind explaining your reasoning I would appreciate it, Thanks)

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ronanOgara
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Re: How realistic is some of the stuff I'm hearing about jobs...

Postby ronanOgara » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:19 am

The problem with good criminal defense firms is that they are usually small (which correlates with lower salary) and that they rarely do entry-level hiring. You can be a criminal defense attorney from any school though. Seriously, look it up...some of the better known criminal defense attorneys as of late went to lower ranked schools. O'Mara went to FSU, and Jose Baez went to St. Thomas, I believe. Whitey Bulger's attorneys, JW Carney and Hank Brennan went to BC and Suffolk respectively. I know BC is higher ranked, but it's not top 14. Most criminal defense attorneys simply just work in the area where they went to law school.

You're best bet is to figure out where you want to live and then pick a school in that area and attend for as cheap as possible.

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Opinions_R_Us
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Re: How realistic is some of the stuff I'm hearing about jobs...

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Sun Jul 21, 2013 10:01 am

Bomnom wrote:I really would like to go to law school to achieve my dream of becoming some type of litigator working for civil justice/rights/ect. (most probably as a criminal defense attorney). I keep hearing all these horror stories about how public interest and government jobs aren't available anymore because the market is so saturated with JDs and this is very disheartening to me. I am left wondering if it will even be possible to do what I have always wanted to do. Although I also can't help but feel like many of the people who are telling these horror stories and ominously warning of the dangers of going to law school are the people who consider law school a success only if it leads to a big law firm job and are the people who saw law school as a means to make it rich. Yes expecting to get paid is justified with how much law school costs and the debt one takes on, but it is not my life's dream to not be in debt. It is my dream to be a criminal defense attorney and i'd rather be that if it requires some debt than a debt free non-attorney. So I am just left wondering is it possible for me to become a defense attorney right now going to schools like Rutgers, UConn, Chicago Kent, Cardozo, Wisconsin, Illinois, ect? I don't need a job at graduation, I've spent my whole life looking hard for jobs and I'll do the leg work, but if I do the leg work can I get there in the end? I always figured I would go to a law school where I can get a lot of practical training and experience, do my best to try for moot court, and then go work as a public defender or prosecutor to gain experience. Eventually I would like to go into business for myself, I would love to be a solo attorney and be my own boss. Can someone please tell me if this is possible?

(And if you wouldn't mind explaining your reasoning I would appreciate it, Thanks)


I would never advise someone to abandon a dream but I think that when pursuing a dream, you should do so in the context of reality. I have been a lawyer and am now a judge who has watched the profession go through its ups and downs for 34 years. For the last 23 years, I have been hiring young lawyers out of law school as either a District Attorney of a fairly large jurisdiction or as an appellate judge so that is my context for the observations and advice I am about to make.

First, you don't need to go to a T14 school to score a job in your area of interest (or for that matter to get a job in BigLaw). If you do well at any of the schools you name or even at any of the T100, You will be a competitive candidate.

Second, "competitive" in this context is a relative term. The national economy is still in the crapper and, without getting into any political debate on the subject, the fact is that the economic signs are mixed and there is no real recovery in sight yet. This means that those legal sectors that depend on a vibrant economy are not doing well (most BigLaw practice areas) while those that thrive in a bad economy are doing fine (e.g. bankruptcy and financial litigation/foreclosures, and administrative law). With the economy down, crime tends to go up so you would think that there would be a need for more prosecutors and public defenders and you would be right but since they are funded by state and local governments and since tax revenues drop when the economy does, there have been hiring freezes and even layoffs in most of those offices for the last few years even as the workload has increased. Also, with fewer legal jobs out there, there is also less turnover of young lawyers leaving the public sector to make make their fortune in the private sector.

Putting the above together, it is still POSSIBLE to get your dream job assuming you did well in any of the law schools mentioned but I wouldn't say it was likely. Those who have the best chance are those that get their foot in the door by doing some sort of internship/externship while in law school. They give a prospective employer a look at what you can do. If you go to law school in a state that permits 3Ls to practice under the supervision of an attorney, you can really get a chance to show a public sector employer why they should hire you so you may want to look at a law school in a state where you can do that. My experience is also that law grads who can afford to be patient after graduation have a better shot at their "dream" job. As I mentioned, turnover is lower but not non-existent so the job search takes longer (a year or more isn't that unusual these days) but if you have student loans to repay, you may not be able to afford to wait.

My bottom line gratuitous advice that you can take or leave FWYTIW:

1) If you are absolutely certain that being a lawyer is what you really want to do with your life, by all means go to law school, but;

2) DON'T go into massive debt to do it. Most legal jobs are just is not a good return on a $250,000 investment.

3) DON'T go to any law school if you have to pay sticker. Thanks to the easy money available in the form of student loans, increases in law school tuition have far outstripped the pace of inflation and, in my view, what you get - the complete inability to actually represent a client without additional training - is just not worth what they charge. Go somewhere you can get a decent scholy even if it is a lower ranked school.

4) Resign yourself to the fact that you may not have a job immediately upon graduation and that you may have to spend more time than you think on "doing the leg work" as you put it but if you are really sure that this is the only career that will leave you fulfilled and you have the credentials, the patience and are willing to hustle, then go for it. Just do it with your eyes wide open.

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DCDuck
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Re: How realistic is some of the stuff I'm hearing about jobs...

Postby DCDuck » Sun Jul 21, 2013 10:16 am

A lot of my classmates who couldn't find work have hung out their own shingles and are doing criminal defense work. That's a tough road to take right after graduation and probably close to none of them are doing high-profile or civil rights cases (except 4th amendment. Lots of those cases!). But it is possible. See the threads on going solo right out of school. Lots of good advice about it.

And while you may not dream of living debt-free, you probably will when you have $150k in non-dischargeable debt.




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