Law student grad get job

There’s been no shortage of stories in the mainstream news and the blogosphere about law school graduates being unable to get a job as lawyer.

Rather than any fault lying with the law grads it’s the responsibility of the law schools who duped the students into coming to law school representing that they had a good chance to get a job. The latest comes from Solo Attorney David Anziska, who has filed 14 class actions against law schools for misstating employment numbers. Attorney Sam Glover in the Lawyerist characterizes Anziska’s actions as “Law Schools Under Siege.”

Unless Anziska is bringing in the cavalry and figures out a better basis for damages than saying a ‘law grad is working at Starbucks,’ we’ve hardly got ‘law schools under siege.’

Anziska may be bringing the class actions for publicity and may escape with a class being certified, if he’s lucky, and and a nominal settlement, but any good trial lawyer would have a field day deposing the putative class representatives on the reliance and damages issues. Law professors may not be the best trial lawyers, but law school deans and trustees know where to find good trial lawyers among their alumni.

I’m not buying the damages when it’s never been easier to get a job as a lawyer than it is today.

  • The ability to network while in school and upon graduation has never been easier. You have a computer and the Internet for research, email, and networking. I had Martindale-Hubbell at the public library to prepare me for knocking on law firm doors (that’s how I got a job when all the firms in town told me there were no jobs). Today you have LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging, Twitter, and more to network with your target audience of leading lawyers.
  • If you’re like most law students and don’t have a clue how to network through the Internet, figure it out or ask for some help. Despite my overtures to students at Seattle University, the University of Washington, and other law schools, I have never had a student take me up on my offer to help.
  • Don’t wait for graduation. Build your network through the net throughout law school. How many recommendations on your completed LinkedIn profile do you have from law school and college professors, employers going back to high school, and colleagues. How many alumni events have you attended – even if it means bar tending or waiting the tables at the event so as to meet lawyers. How many blogs from practicing lawyers do you follow? Do you engage those lawyers through your own blog? Connect with them on LinkedIn? Follow and engage them on Twitter?
  • Don’t wait for people to post internships. Go ask for one where you want to work, work for free, and let them know that no one wants the internship more than you and that no one will work harder.
  • While you’re knocking on doors and bar tending after graduation, work for free. I worked for the public defender’s office for free doing research, briefs, and memo’s while my job hunt was underway. People at the court house knew me as a PHD – poor, hungry, and driven. Working for free showed my future employer I was driven to succeed and was not going to say no.
  • In your free time, knock on the door of the law firms you most want to work at and ask to meet the partner you’d most like to work with. When the receptionist asks if you have an appointment, tell her or him no. When they let you know that the firm is not hiring, tell them that’s okay, I still want to meet them. When they tell you it will be a couple hours, tell them you’ve got time to wait. You will have piqued the curiosity of the partner who will want to see exactly who this nut is?
  • When the partners tell you they have nothing for you, but they are impressed by your ambition (no one will have done this to them before), go back again and again – about every 2 to 3 weeks. It took me to the third visit to the firm which hired me to get a ‘buy signal.’ It took 5 visits to get a job. A job that paid more than any associate had ever been paid in the town.
  • Your competition sucks. How many law students in the community you want to work in, for the firm you want to work at, and in the area of law you want to work are going to do the above? None. Do it and you shine like a star.

Good lawyers are champions for the people they represent as lawyers. Good lawyers get outside their comfort zone once a week. Good lawyers aggressively and zealously represent their clients.

Start behaving like a good lawyer would as a law student and a law grad and you will have no problem getting a job.

Relying on someone to feel sorry for you or, like Anziska, expecting jurors making $35,000 a year at age 50 to have sympathy for you, is not the path to success.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Tulane Public Relations

  • Jacob Kuykendall

    Hi Kevin! My name is Jacob! Can you help me find a job?

  • Mitchell Davis

    By reading this article I can tell that Mr. O’Keefe is one of those rare go geters. He would likely succeed in almost any venture that he undertook and, in the right fields, will certainly earn a very good living. I am a chiropractor and have noticed that people like Mr. O’Keefe usually do very well, but most people are not like him.

  • Mitchell Davis

    He may not be that smart, but some of the most successful people are not highly intelligent. Like a lot of very successful people he works very hard, thinks outside the box, and is persistent.

  • Mitchell Davis

    Kevin got you. He is even offering you his cell phone number. Personally, I think you crossed the line by calling him a liar and I don’t think he should help you.

  • Mitchell Davis

    It is worse in my profession, chiropractic. Most graduates owe about $150,000.00 and there are not many jobs. You have to go out and hustle for business. There are a lot of people out there who need lawyers.

  • Sean Murphy

    Mr. Okeefe, I love your advice. I recently graduated from law school and I am currently looking for work. This is not my first or even second career. In fact, at the moment, I own a small real estate appraisal business. It has been my experience that persistence generally pays off. I have land some of my largest clients by stopping by once a month to touch base until they gave us a shot. I was wondering if you had any advice on how to find work in another state. I am originally from Massachusetts and have taken the Bar there. I should know in May if I passed. The job market in Massachusetts seems to be pretty tight so I have been considering other states. I have narrow my choices to Washington State and the D.C. area. My wife has a lot of family in Washington State and I may be one of the few people who like the whether there (part of my childhood was spent in Ireland). I am a Navy veteran and DC seems to favor veterans and Massachusetts is only a train ride away. Do you have any suggestions on how to find work in those states while living in Southern California? Thanks

    • BlytheSurvived

      Like you, I’m from Massachusetts and I went to law school in DC. I moved to Washington state recently because I interned for a firm in Seattle and had better luck getting interviews. I graduated from a top-tier law school in D.C, have completed four unpaid internships, dual licensed in Washington and Oregon, but am unable to find a firm out here that is hiring. I wish I had a place to recommend to you but Washington and DC (where I moved from) are oversaturated.

    • Thanks Sean. No magic formula for you on connecting from afar. I can share things I do in business development that I would do job hunting.

      One, find or make a job in area of the law/industry/consumer need that you love. Don’t chase a “job.” Very easy to say, and I know hard to do.

      Two, start making a list through research online of the lawyers you’d give your right arm to be working with and learning from in that area. Dream big.

      Three, start following those lawyers. Their blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. Engage them via these mediums. If the opportunity avails itself, be vulnerable and let them know why they are following and engaging them.

      Four, start listening via an RSS reader (feedly, flipboard etc) to sources (blogs, news sites etc) and subjects (keywords and key phrases) that are relevant to your niche. Start sharing things you see as valuable on social media.

      Five, get a home base started that demonstrates your passion. A blog that demonstrates you are following other’s insight and commentary on your niche. Share those things you find in your RSS feeds and offer your take.

      A soft sell like this, which does take time to do and for it to work, is probably more effective than the direct, “are you looking for someone?”

      • Beth Thomas

        Kevin,
        Your profile says you started as a lawyer in Ireland before moving to the US, I have recently moved from England to California with an undergraduate degree in British law. I am keen to find a job out here for a year or two before taking a Masters and the Bar exam. Do you have any advise on how to sell myself as an international lawyer?

      • Leon

        First of all I am not involved in law, I run a business development company in the UK – where everyday I fight for new business and sales.

        I just couldn’t help myself stepping in to DEFEND Mr Kevin OKeefe from all these NEGATIVE IDIOTS that are never going to get jobs with their stupid “I’ve already been defeated and no one is going to rescue me” mindsets – PATHETIC.

        Mr Kevin OKeefe has clearly tried to breathe some positive life into a clearly competitive industry by offering stellar traditional advice that will work in ANY industry or chosen profession such as – WORK HARD, KNOCK ON DOORS AND DO YOUR ABSOLUTE BEST – WITHOUT COMPLAINING.

        Mr Kevin OKeefe is not your FATHER and he is definetly not your MOTHER. So stop whining you silly little babies and get out there and HUSTLE!

        Well done Kevin for trying to install some positivity into these worthless people posting negative replies.

        Although i have no experience in law I clearly now know why none of these people have jobs.

        Kind Regards, Leon V

  • BlytheSurvived

    I’ll agree that candidates have to use those tools that you are recommending. That generally they will open otherwise closed doors. The assumption you are making is that there is a door to open. Law firms just are not hiring post-graduate first year associates. Period! I’ve personally gone to every law firm in my area and introduced myself. I’ve had coffee or lunch with partners at a lot of those firms by using LinkedIn, Facebook, even Instagram. Everybody is happy to wish you well but nobody has any openings for inexperienced first years. So before blaming the law student, hire a few.
    We can have a debate on whether the work is there or whether the model could be improved. The fact that so many people can’t find jobs while big firms overpay and overwork first year associates suggests that a compromise could be made. My best-friend has highlighted that, that he would gladly cut his pay in half and hire me if he and I could both work only 10 hour days. His day would go down by five hours and the firm would get five more hours of productivity at the same rate (minus benefits), but firms aren’t doing that.

    • Some law grads are getting jobs. I admit that far fewer are than years gone by. That doesn’t mean you quit trying. My point is that there are things at your disposal that can advance the cause significantly – especially when everyone else is not using social effectively.

      It’s much the same with lawyers. It’s probably less than 1% of lawyers using social effectively, yet a good number of lawyers are concerned they do not have enough work.

      Don’t get me wrong, times are tough.

  • Mr. Success

    People who whine about the things they don’t have instead of doing everything in their power to make things happen, will never be great at anything. Will live in a pragmatic economy. You are not automatically entitled to a law job with big cash just because you went to university! Are you crazy!!! wake up people! Its supply and demand, and you need to put “yourself” in a position of demand if you want to loosen that noose around your neck!!!

  • Mr. Success

    It might not be a “good time”, but this is not the time to give up either!! If you tell yourself that you will fail, guess what, you will fail.

  • AlohaNicole

    Great article. I interviewed for a job after my 1L year, and the partner said, “It’s a tough time for getting a job. Does that worry you?” I didn’t blink an eye, “not for me.” He said, “I like your confidence.” He offered me a job. Anyway, I don’t let my average grades or the job climate bring me down one bit. I have what it takes to be an awesome litigator, and that I know. I am very confident! Kevin love this article, and love your attitude!

  • B

    This is ludicrous. You say a lot whilst saying nothing at all. You know nothing. Keep your speculative nonsense to yourself.

    • Just met on an unrelated matter with a business development executive with one of the leading universities and law schools in our country.

      He feels bad that their law students are not being made aware of how to use the Internet for networking, reputation building and building relationships. He acknowledged that if the students were and learned how to network through the net during law school, their law grads would have a huge leg up over grads from other law schools.

      That’s him, not me.

      I wrote this post a couple years ago and law grads are no more equipped to use the Internet to get a job than they were then. That’s a terrible shame.

  • Naomi

    I was a new grad when I wrote this comment and I am now two years into a job that I got using every trick in the book. Ultimately, I got the job because of who I knew, not what I did. I clerked, I picked up part time work and, to get my current job, I worked for free for 6 months. If I hadn’t had my husband to cover the bills and encourage me, this would not have been possible. Not everyone’s husband makes the money mine makes. Not everyone has the ability to do what I did. I was fortunate, I am grateful.

    I still stick by my original post. I know that lawyers are not good at math, but you (and the old school lawyers on this post) should really look at the economies of scale involved. The cost of law school 30 years ago (1985) averaged $2K a year at public law schools in California. Now, it’s $50K. The average starting salary that same year was around $20K. Now, it’s between $45-60K. Considering the cost of everything else has risen as well, I don’t think you fully understand (or care, as I said in my initial post), how much more financially devastating the decision to go to law school can be for many. Moreover, when you went to law school, a part time job could’ve easily covered the cost of all (if you lived at home) or most of the tuition that you had to pay. That is no longer the case. When I started (2008), the admissions office made me quit my job. I lived as poorly as possible, clerked for every attorney who posted an ad, had a large scholarship, and still wound up with significant debt.

    Bottom line: You’re not speaking from a place of experience because you can’t. You graduated a long, long time ago. Yes, you graduated into a recession, but you didn’t graduate into a recession with 4x the debt of a potential starting salary. The job market sucks MONKEY BALLS. Maybe, just maybe, going to law school is not the best choice when you don’t have connections, family money and/or didn’t go to a T-14.

    It’s hard as hell. My best friend had to move to Alaska (she went to Vanderbilt ) to get a paying job in the legal field (after working for free in NYC and Denver with NO resulting job).
    I have friends who have lost their homes and their marriages over this and I did go to a T-1 school. There’s always the temptation to draw lines in the sand (those who started between 2007-2008 probably didn’t see the writing on the wall as the economy tanked mid-08, and those thereafter “deserve” this market), but the truth is law school, like college is unsustainably expensive. The market is moving into a correction phase and many of the lower tiered diploma mills will fold, but the cost/value ratio that law school provides needs to be evaluated.

    I’m still disappointed that you haven’t re-evaluated your position, but empathy is not something lawyers are known for…

    • I try be empathetic, it’s a skill we continue to develop for life. I have not practiced law in 16 years so don’t blame lack of empathy as being a character trait of lawyers. You’ll find many fine lawyers with great empathy.
      My choice of a title may have been a poor one. Perhaps some of the things I said were harsh. I must have known this when I wrote the post that I would hurt many recent law grads who were struggling. I am sorry for that.
      I spent about $8,500 a year in tuition. I was not smart enough to get into a public school, they required higher grades and LSAT scores in the day when more people were applying to law school. I did not get a job and we lived with my wife’s parents while she looked for and found a job as a nurse. A part time job would not have covered our loans.
      I worked for free and then found a job for $500 and 6 months later one for $1,500. I felt like a millionaire and I’ll confess I got the job only because they knew I would keep coming back a couple times a month until they gave me a chance — I narrowed down the firm I wanted to work at to one, and no one was hiring in the town of 45,000 anyway.
      The job market sucks. It is hard to get jobs. But that does not stop law grads who are passionate, hungry, and driven. I was at Michigan State Law School the week before last and was blown away by what students had accomplished in getting jobs and clerking opportunities through people they knew. They knew them because of what the did to network online through blogging and other social media. Will they struggle ahead? Sure. But they were not looking for sympathy — or even, empathy.
      I totally agree there will be more shakeouts to come. In legal jobs and in law schools.
      But lawyers and law grads cannot expect to be exempt from the struggles of Americans. People who have worked for decades have lost their pensions. Mid-tier execs are being laid off for younger people and overseas outsourcing. Bankruptcy, foreclosures and losing marriages are happening to people who never could have expected it.
      Lawyers, unfortunately, need to expect this as a possibility and must expect to hear of it from their clients in practice. Life and the practice of law is tough.
      I am sorry if I offended you and that you feel I am lacking empathy. I try to do the best I can and there will be many times when I could have done better.
      I wish you success in the challenges that lie ahead.

  • guest

    You’re an out of touch overprivileged asshole.

  • Ariq

    I agree with Seacrest on this, and can’t understand what your point is regarding your friends with a BBA making twice as much as you. If you obtain a law degree (or any degree beyond a BBA degree) and spent 100K+ in loans to obtain that higher education degree, you expect that when you graduate law school and begin working, that your salary is higher than that of your friend who hasn’t obtained a higher degree and education.

    And any argument that you should incur tens of thousands in loans to obtain that higher education degree since you desire to become a lawyer bc you enjoy the field of law and not bc you’re seeking the prestige and higher salary that should come along with that higher eduction, is simply ludicrous and absurd.

    In truth, any law firm you work for shortly after you graduate law school, will almost assuredly acquire more income (and probably close to twice as much) from your billed hours than the amount of income your friend’s employer is making from your friend’s billed hours. You and your friend’s salaries should be reflected accordingly. Due to the endless amount of competing attorneys available for hire and desperately seeking your associate position, firms take advantage of this fact to live their pockets with more cash.

    • “You expect that when you graduate law school and begin working, that your salary is higher than that of your friend who hasn’t obtained a higher degree and education.”

      Tell that to my brother-in-law who is a family practice doctor. He makes far less than many of the people who he graduated with from college who did not go onto near a decade of medical school and interning. He’s also making less today than he did 15 years ago because of the changes made in the healthcare and insurance industry.

      Why do it? Because he wanted to be a doctor.

      Getting a law degree is not a license to earn money than your friends you only went to college. I’d hope we still have lawyers who find intrinsic rewards in being a lawyer – I know I did – even when I was stressed because I was not earning as much as friends who only had an undergrad degree.

  • Blogging could help build a good reputation also.

  • Just Blogger

    Although you have good intentions, your post is naive. As is the case with most people in your generation, you seem to fail to understand how the economy and the normative expectations and working-presumptions have changed. Per capita debt, cost of living, and inflation continues to increase while disposable income decreases. This is underscored by increasing talent as well.

    Furthermore, this recession has affected the entry-level market and youth more than laterals and experienced attorneys – so I don’t blame many people in the older generation for not truly grasping what is going on since they haven’t gone through what the youth is going through today. This is the worst recession since the Great Depression. In other words, all previous recessions that people have lived through aren’t as bad. The Department of Labor has indicated that there are more law graduates than available jobs and that will remain the case until 2022. So all that technology and networking can’t change the fact that positions aren’t available. Was this the case in the 60’s- 2008? More graduates than jobs? I’m not asking this in a condescending manner. In fact, I’m asking this in a naive manner because I cannot readily find information on past stats.

    So your examples of the past, including your friends starting up their own practice working day and night come with a caveat and aren’t really feasible now. It was a great deal easier to start a law practice back then with lower costs, higher disposable income, and less competition. In fact, I can guarantee you that your friends would’ve had a much more difficult time accomplishing that goal – if at all possible. Not to mention how globalization is increasing competition.

    I think most in the entry-level would say that they would rather have dealt with Shepardizing and job opportunities than internet technology and no job opportunities.

    Law schools aren’t to blame. It’s the ABA who they should be suing. Law schools are merely following the guidelines created by the ABA. If anyone is at fault – it would be the ABA for making false representations. Nevertheless, the market has settled a bit more since 2011 and ’12. Buyer beware holds true.

    This isn’t the America you grew up in. It’s much more cut throat and ruthless for lower disposable income than when you were an entry-level attorney.

    • Thanks for the comment. I would not dismiss the views of mine and others as naive. We are keenly aware of the economic situation facing Americans. It’s not easy. Know also when I started practicing it was no Camelot.
      My point is that few law students, recent grads and lawyers even attempt to make use of the Internet in an effective way.
      Why not get known regionally or nationally in an area of the law you are passionate about while in law school? While in law school why not build relationships with the business leaders and other influencers in the community in which you want to work? How about relationships with lawyers and law firms you’d love to work for?
      Times are rough so law students ought to be using the tools at their disposal. Those who do will be at an advantage as 99% will not.

      • Just Blogger

        Thanks for the reply. I get your point and believe it is a valid one. Far few people probably utilize the internet in an effective way. However, all the effective use of the internet cannot change whether opportunities exist or not. If there are more graduates than available jobs, effective use of internet can only do so much – if anything. The news of the horrible condition for entry-level attorneys is finally getting across to America where law school enrollment has dropped by half. This is great news.

        However, those that entered law school in 2008 (when the entry-level market was at its highest) and then graduated in 2011 (when the entry-level market was at its lowest in history since statistics for these things have been recorded) are somewhat out of luck having been duped by conditions that weren’t created by them. Why should they suffer delayed adulthood because of the sins of their fathers?

        Moreover, one would think law firms would adapt their hiring practices and mechanisms but instead they further entrenched themselves in pre-Recession hiring criterion. Now regional law firms have Harvard kids applying to them. Law firms finally smartened up and realized they just need paralegals to do traditional associate work or outsource work – lots of those attorney jobs are not coming back.

        In terms of building relationship with firms and business leaders – they can like you, respect you and even agree with what you have to say, but if they don’t have the money or business priority to hire you then they won’t. Instead, they would much rather take your analysis and legal advice for free. I thought we abolished slavery over a century ago!

        Passion is good, but pragmatism is even better. Unless senior attorneys
        start to view the legal profession as a fraternity where they assist and mentor young attorneys with opportunities, then they shouldn’t point fingers at young attorneys as some entitled group of individuals because the facts and numbers show it…what young attorneys are going through is far worse than your Camelot. At least you had more opportunities.

        • Good discussion. Some law grads are getting jobs and it is not just grads from certain schools going to certain cities or to certain size firms. Is their a job for everyone? Unfortunately not. But knowing there are some jobs a law grad needs to set themselves apart. If there is better and faster way to go so than the net, I am all ears. In addition, firms are looking for grads who are innovative and doing the extraordinary. One Michigan State Law grad got a job with a leading Detroit firm because of his blogging and the fact that he showed them he knew business development already via online relationship and reputation building.

          • Just Blogger

            Great discussion indeed and great point. Understanding business development is a great approach to knocking on the door of a firm. One just hopes that the person they are talking to at the firm understands the innovation or vision rather than simply going with “what works.” Firms are notorious for their traditionalist approach to business, which isn’t necessarily wrong either. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

            I don’t think there is a faster way than the internet, unless the legal industry works collaboratively. Providing opportunities to young attorneys similar to how the medical field has residency for entry-level doctors would likely be the best for all, including clients. However, I’m not sure the private-side has the resources nor the business interest to do so.

            Perhaps, the public-side needs to take the lead in providing jobs. After all, it was FDR’s New Deal legislation that got America out of the Great Depression, not cutting government programs and spending. Perhaps redirecting funds to entry-level positions within government so that entry-level attorneys can acquire training that is marketable to the private side is a feasible initiative to fill in the void. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it and history has provided a shining example of how our Nation got out the Depression.

          • I fear the public side. It will be slow, poorly planned, and executed by people who have not had jobs as lawyers. It can also serve as a crutch.
            Engagement through the net is open and transparent. People get to know people. There will be no fooling the lawyers that law students connect with, it’ll be the real deal.
            Law grads ought realize that being a lawyer is a very tough job. Getting a job, though hard, stressful and requiring a little innovation will be far from the hardest thing they do in their career.

          • erik

            I am not a lawyer, for the past 7 years I have processed thousands of online uncontested divorces in the state of Texas. I have been asked by several law firms to instruct them how to generate leads online and offline. Looking around at their current efforts I have to say that almost all firms have no clue how to generate leads other than old school methods. They piece meal, hiring marketing firms to brand, web design firms to create beautiful (non converting) websites and SEO firms to optimize their website for the name of their firm.

            Their is a need for young tech savvy Lawyers to bring a new set of skills to the firm and set up proper lead generation systems for firms that don’t know what they are doing. If you can generate leads for a firm you now have currency and leverage that no one else can bring to the table.

            Some of the stories here are heart breaking to say the least. I would be willing to donate my time and years of experience to help a small group of fresh lawyers learn lead generation and recognize firms in their area and field that need their help now.

          • Thanks Erik, your point is really well taken about law students being trained to use the net effectively. Some of that is already taken place at Michigan State’s Law School. Looking to train students remote or in a classroom setting down in Texas in a few sessions? I know a few folks down there.

          • erik

            I would do it online, I actually live in Canada…I have seen what they teach in Law School. I would love to see the Michigan State’s Law School course outline for lead generation, I doubt that teach real direct response style lead generation,. It is very competitive online, unless you are doing it every day it is hard to keep up with the changes.

            I would take about 7 eager students who have some knowledge of the web and see if I can give them the skills to get hired.