20140111-122837.jpgImagine a law school applicant getting accepted to law school and making a counter-offer to the school’s standard tuition. A counter-offer that’s maybe half the rack rate, a counter-offer to pay tuition over the next 10 years interest free, or a counter-offer to pay for two years and get the third for free.

It’s not that far fetched. The Puget Sound Business Journal’s Ben Miller reports that Washington state’s three law schools are scrambling to get law students.

With enrollment down 33%, Seattle University, the state’s largest law school, is looking to open a branch in Alaska (the only state without a law school), the University of Washington is offering in-state tuition to out of state students, and Gonzaga is offering a two year program.

It’s a buyer’s market. At the same time, at least one law professor has predicted that by 2016 the number of law jobs available will exceed the number of new grads.

Perhaps you want to apply to law school, see which ones you get, see what you can get for tuition, and then make the decision whether to go. If you can work part time in the day or evening to support yourself while in school and get a job in the law in 2017, that’s not all bad.

Of course, you’ve got to really want to be a lawyer. Many people do and love the law as a career. If not, certainly head in a different direction.

20130218-223557.jpg Dan Massoglia (@jujueyeball) is a 2L at IIT Chicago-Kent by way of the University of Virginia. He’s studying, primarily, labor law and media reform. Massoglia is also involved with various social justice causes in Chicago.

I met Massoglia through the net when I asked on Twitter if any law schools were highlighting their alumni on social media. The idea being that leveraging the law school’s brand, the school could showcase their alumni to the legal and business community while also endearing alumni to the school for fund raising.

Massoglia responded that Kent Law does and that he initiated the program. I was impressed and wanted to learn more. Here’s the story that can serve as a role model for other law schools.

In the spring of last year, while running for a position as a 2L class representative, Massoglia pitched the idea of expanding the Student Bar Association (SBA) to include a new media component with the purpose of helping make Kent a leader in the emerging area of social media and the law. Eventually, rather than becoming a 2L Rep, Massoglia was given the responsibility of starting and directing a Social Media group for the SBA.

The goals were two-fold, per Massoglia. In the micro sense, having an active presence on social media was a no-brainer. The SBA’s Facebook and Twitter (@KentLawSBA) advertise events by student groups, provide up-to-date information about job postings, share legal news, highlight student and alumni achievements, and highlight important speakers or conferences at Kent.

On a larger level, the new media initiative hopes to emphasize and shape the relationship between social media and the law, and is developing a number of projects to do so. As the Internet changes society–and as lawyers increasingly utilize social media in hiring, casework, advocacy, and public relations–Massoglia believes law schools and law students have a duty to be on the forefront of this change.

Different teams manage different elements of the new media group, which is split between Facebook, Twitter, and other projects. There is some specialization within–the Facebook team, for example, has individuals dedicated to getting and posting photos from school events, finding and sharing “jobs of the day,” and performing other roles as need requires.

Subject to certain guidelines, all members may post legal news as they see fit, and the same is true for student events, alumni news, and reminders about school deadlines. Groups communicate by way of email with periodic in-person meetings, and while Massoglia bottom-lines the project, so to speak, things run fairly smoothly on their own with minimal interference from Massoglia beyond his own postings and general reminders about PR and social media best practices. Student groups and individuals have started reaching out to them with content, making the group’s job that much easier.

Massoglia reports directly to SBA President Emily Acosta, who has been excited about and receptive to the program. The SBA at large as well has been pleased with the results. Likewise, a couple of team members and Massoglia work with the Alumni Association and Career Services Office to ensure that their institutional interests are heard and respected, their programs are shared, and that notable events (a speech at Kent by Justice Kennedy, for example) are live-tweeted.

On an operational level, team members have access to the medium on which they primarily work. The Twitter team has the password to twitter, the Facebook team has administrative access to the Facebook–that sort of thing. The group toyed early on with the idea of using HootSuite or another third party service to manage their content, but given the relatively low volume they decided against this approach.

The new media initiative has done well, the SBA’s response has been very positive, the Alumni Association has been eager to work with them, and the group is in regular communication with the Career Services Office. Starting from zero in early August, their Facebook page has 266 likes and and 116 followers on Twitter. They have engaged with firms, local blogs, alumni, and students in the process.

Specifically with regard to Alumni, the group shares achievements of Kent alums on Facebook and Twitter. Much of this comes via Acosta and the Alumni Association, but the team is always looking for ways to expand their access to this news.

Early on, there was a dedicated team for LinkedIn, but this has proved difficult to utilize effectively for a number of reasons, not least of which time and the fact that Massoglia’s experience is primarily with Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, the new media team has prepared a “Student Spotlight” series which consists of short posts from students about their legal experiences.

The sooner lawyers realize social media is future, the better, per Massoglia.

I’d welcome hearing about the social media initiatives at other law schools. Know of any?

Online learningI was having dinner this spring with, among other folks, a couple law school professors who taught at a good state school in the Midwest. I asked them if they had fears and trepidations like lawyers and business people do as to what they future may hold.

One of the law prof’s said absolutely, online education.

Last year he attended a online class on artificial intelligence co-taught by Stanford University computer science professor Sebastian Thrun and Google’s Peter Norvig. He was one of more than 160,000 students who took the class.

What made him most afraid was his belief that we were going to see rockstar professors being paid handsomely for teaching huge online classes. If we can have rock star athletes like LeBron James making millions, he said why not professors making millions by attracting large enrollment.

The U.S. News & World Report’s Ryan Lytle (@rlytle) reports that it’s not just law professors, a recent study reflects that college professors as a group are fearful of online education growth.

The report, which surveyed 4,564 faculty members, reveals that 58 percent of respondents “described themselves as filled more with fear than with excitement” over the growth of online courses within higher education.

The fears of college faculty are sustained by the consistent rise in popularity of online education during the past decade. The number of college students enrolled in at least one online course increased for the ninth straight year, with more than 6.1 million students taking an online course during fall 2010—a 10.1 percent increase over fall 2009, according to a separate Babson report.

Despite the majority of professors believing online classes have resulted in inferior education, 40 percent of full-time professors reported that online courses have the potential to match in-class instruction for learning outcomes.

Like in face-to-face learning environments, the success of the course is dependent on the quality of the instructor, Julanna Gilbert, executive director of the Office of Teaching and Learning at the University of Denver, told Lytle.

Per Dan Johnson, a senior lecturer at Wake Forest University, in order for faculty members to fully embrace online education in traditional settings, they must stop resisting these changes in technology.

The Internet has proven to be a disruptor for all industries and professions. Looks like college education, and law school in particular, is going to be no exception.

I just finished speaking with a class at the University of Washington Law School.

Law school placement internet
(Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
It was class for mostly 3L’s entitled ‘Practical And Professional Responsibility Issues in the Small or Solo Law Practice.’ The course description in the catalogue:

This course examines the practical, ethical and personal issues which are unique to small firm and solo law practice. Issues to be explored include capitalization and financing of the small/solo practice; selection of practice focus; marketing; client relations; trust account management; advertising; limitations on multi-disciplinary practice; and the recognition and amelioration of common personal issues such as professional isolation, stress management and integration of one’s personal and professional life. Classes will be presented by lecturers, guest lecturers, and panels of practitioners, with small group participation/interaction.

As I have been for the last three years, I was invited to come in and speak on how lawyers can use the Internet for professional development (getting to be a better lawyer) and business development (getting a job or getting clients in an area you want to work in – area of practice or location).

Rather than being ahead of the curve in their use of the Internet, most of the students were behind practicing lawyers in how to use the Internet to accelerate relationships and word of mouth referrals. Ironically, all of them agreed it was referrals and a strong word of mouth reputation that drove a good lawyer’s practice

Afterwards out in the hallway (where you get to know students and their struggles), students came up to me and asked why doesn’t someone like me teach a semester long class or do a semester or year long clinic on how to use the Internet in the ways I was trying to cover in 2 hours. Students told me that no one had told them how to use the net this way. One student told me he felt so far behind the times.

I explained it’s tough for someone like me to dedicate the time. I also explained when I have offered similar things to law schools I met a wall of bureaucracy and skepticism. “We have some courses on stuff like that. Our placement office uses the latest technology. Our students do not get jobs and grow as lawyers through the Internet.”

I wonder if what I am really getting is ignorance. Do law school leaders, deans, professors, and especially, placement officers, know how to network through the Internet to grow professionally, to build relationships, and to build a stronger reputation? Have any of these folks been out using the Internet like this of late? Do they have a reason to do so personally?

If these folks did know how to network through the Internet to accelerate relationships and a reputation, wouldn’t they be neglect if they didn’t share this knowledge with law students?

After all, I was told an out of state law student at UW pays $35,000 per year. And I’m told that this is one of the less expensive public law schools for out of state students. A student from Washington chimed in that in-state tuition was not far behind.

If law school placement offices don’t know how to use the Internet for networking, don’t they have an obligation to either find out how – NOW – or get people in to help them, and in turn their students?

We’re talking about using an RSS reader, LinkedIn as a network, blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms on the net to grow as a lawyer, to get the job you want, to do the work you want, and to serve people.

If we’re training lawyers to help people by doing good legal work, we sure as heck should empower lawyers to connect with people so they can serve the public we are dedicated to serving as a profession.

I’ll bet I can visit any law school website and it’ll have language about training students to make a difference, to serve people, and to make the world a better place. But is the school really delivering?

The economy is not great. The law school here has told students the economy is the worse since the early ’80’s. Okay. That’s reality. Deal with it.

As a law school placement office or law school dean, start exposing students to things that will help them – and the public.

The Internet, used effectively (not websites, which most all the students this AM thought was the most important tool to connect with the public), is one powerful thing. It’s being used by everyone to get more done in less time. Why not law students and recent law grads?

Mark Cuban (@mcuban) wrote yesterday about the coming meltdown in college eduction.

At some point potential students will realize that they can’t flip their student loans for a job in 4 years. In fact they will realize that college may be the option for fun and entertainment, but not for education. Prices for traditional higher education will skyrocket so high over the next several years that potential students will start to make their way to non accredited institutions.

While colleges and universities are building new buildings for the english , social sciences and business schools, new high end, un-accredited , BRANDED schools are popping up that will offer better educations for far, far less and create better job opportunities.

As an employer I want the best prepared and qualified employees. I could care less if the source of their education was accredited by a bunch of old men and women who think they know what is best for the world. I want people who can do the job. I want the best and brightest. Not a piece of paper.

If you as a law school dean or placment officer won’t act for the law students, do it to save yourself and your law school.

Make your law school and your school’s degree relevant and valuable for law students and grads.

Sure, get them a degree, teach them the law, help them understand how to think like a lawyer. But really become relevant and valuable by helping your grads serve people, to become even better lawyers, and to earn a living doing what your grads want to do. As with everything today, it’s going to take using the Internet.

It is possible. What are you waiting for? If you don’t act now, aren’t you being neglect in your duty to your law students, the state (if state funded or owned), your board of trustees, your alumni, and the public?

law school rankingsSam Glover posted at Lawyerist this morning, ‘US News Best Law Schools is Out—How Did Your School Do?’

Like SuperLawyers, the annual US News “best law schools” list is a source of smug satisfaction for some, and outrage for others. If your law school is in the top [arbitrary number], you probably smile to yourself even as you decry the problems with the rankings to others. (Like coaches of losing NFL teams, I assume the deans of “rank not published” schools will be looking for work shortly.)

How do you feel about the annual US News law school beauty pageant?

I’m not smug nor am I outraged. I don’t care about the rankings of law schools.

For 99.99% of law grads and lawyers, where their law school is ranked doesn’t matter. Law school is an enabler, your law school does not endow you with anything. A law degree is worth what you make of it.

A law school with a particular ranking does not entitle you to a job at a law firm which allows to to do the type of work you want to do, for the type of clients you want to meet and interact with, and which allows you to grow as a lawyer and a person.

That job is obtained with a little strategic planning, with fire in your belly, and with persistence. Persistence the most important of the three.

I know there are law firms, judges, and in-house counsel who won’t hire you unless you come from a law school of a certain ranking. That’s their problem, not yours. It’s certainly nothing to lose a minute of sleep over nor incur more in student loans because you ‘had to go to a top ranked law school.’

I went to the University of Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento for two reasons. One, they would take me. And two, it was much warmer than Wisconsin where I grew up and it didn’t snow 3 feet a year as it did in South Bend, Indiana where I went to undergrad.

When I found out 90% plus of McGeorge grads passed the California Bar (Stanford, Boalt Hall, UCLA had much lower passing rates), that was a real plus as well.

I’ve been employed the entire 30 years since graduation. 6 law firms or companies, 3 of which I founded. The fact McGeorge was probably ranked 150 (I have no idea) when I went to law school is not something that held me back nor something I ever thought about.

Neither did it hold back my classmate, Scott Boras, probably the leading sports agent in the country. Nor did it hold back my friends from law school who are leading lawyers in their communities, judges, and business leaders.

Your law school degree is what you make of  it. Don’t worry a second where your law school is ranked and don’t let rankings influence where you want to go to school.

I certainly pay no attention to the fact that McGeorge, now 101, has caught Villanova Law School in the rankings, from which LexBlog’s President, Kevin McKeown graduated. Nor do I ever remind McKeown that Notre Dame, where I went to undgrad, beat Pitt, where he went to undergrad, and Tony Dorsett my senior year on our way to a national championship.

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

Kevin posted a few days ago about why it’s a no-brainer for law students to be on LinkedIn. But as Northeastern University law student and social networking consultant Leora Maccabee can attest, convincing law students of the value of social networking tools for career purposes can be an uphill battle.

"I think some law students just have no idea what it is and what the value of LinkedIn is," Leora says. "These are the students who ask me, ‘well, why SHOULD I use it.’ These students should be the primary targets of career services offices at law schools, since the students would get on and start using the site if someone just nudged them in that direction."

Leora is doing her part to demonstrate how useful social networking tools can be for law students. She started an independent social networking consulting business after listening to lawyers at Northeastern Law’s Women in the Law Conference describe how they found sites like LinkedIn and Facebook confusing and hard to use. Now she blogs and Twitters (@LeoraMaccabee) about the value of social networking, like in this post on Lawyerist on How Law Students Should Use LinkedIn.

At Northeastern, she has worked with school administrators in various offices to create a law school presense on Facebook and LinkedIn. The group pages were created and populated with news, and alumi and students were encouraged to join the groups and create their own pages.

"We have tried to explain that this is just another tool to identify people they may want to connect with and it is another marketing tool for themselves (a way for them to control the way they present themselves online, if they are googled, etc.)," says Randi Friedman, Northeastern’s Assistant Dean/Director of Career Services.

But it can still be difficult for law students to see how helpful social networking can be. A recent training session Leora hosted on using LinkedIn drew only a dozen students, instead of the 30 or 40 she had hoped. In her informal chats with her fellow students, some common concerns about social networking emerged.

  • Privacy concerns. Students are worried about friends or strangers on Google knowing where they work or attend school.
  • Online networking is a "cop-out" and inferior to face-to-face interaction.
  • Time consuming. Especially if an employer does not want their employees to be on Facebook and LinkedIn at work, these activities would take up non-work time.
  • LinkedIn is "just one more thing to update."
  • One 3L told her, "When a partner at a firm makes me have one, I’ll set it up."

Another hurdle for law students, particularly those in their 20s, is that they are so used to using sites like Facebook and Twitter purely for personal or social use that it can be hard to see using them for professional purposes.

Still, that’s not to say that law schools and law students are not making use of LinkedIn. Leora notes that alumni groups are flourishing: searches for "law school" and "School of Law" return close to 250 groups.

And she has several strong arguments and examples at the ready to convince students of its value:

  • The high Google page rank of LinkedIn, which can be a good way to influence what people see when they search for you online
  • The ability to develop and market your brand
  • The ability to maintain relationships with classmates and colleagues
  • The ability to seek advice from experts in your field
  • The ability to find a job and find who that you know is connected to that job

Those who see the value are responding to her advice.

"A 3L friend of mine in law school (who did not yet have a LinkedIn page) was trying to find people working at a certain place of employment in New York in connection with a post-graduate employment job application she was about to send them," Leora says. "I went to my LinkedIn page, typed in the employer and learned that another student at our law school had interned at the place of employment a few years ago. Turns out that my friend and this other student were friends, but since they had never really spoken about the job search, or about past employment, they had yet to make the connection. My friend left that conversation determined to set up a LinkedIn account."

LinkedIn Law Students Law SchoolSitting back and waiting for the law school placement office to find you a job or relying on a clerking position to springboard you to a $150,000 associate job is little dicey in this economy and the age of law firm downsizing.

Fortunately, there’s a great way for law students to build out a resume and begin networking. It’s LinkedIn, the leading professional directory – for lawyers and all other professions. And rather than it being a static resume that’s impossible to distinguish from another, you get a live resume that’s updated with your career focused activity in law school.

As a hiring employer, I look at someone’s LinkedIn profile before anything else. I then run various Google searches to get a feel for a candidate’s background. Talking to other employers, I’m finding I’m pretty typical. So if you’re a law student without a complete and growing LinkedIn profile, you’re missing the boat.

How to use LinkedIn as a law student?

  • Make sure your profile is 100% complete. Picture, past employment etc. LinkedIn’s dynamic user interface will guide you through the process and indicate when your profile is at 100%.
  • Connect with people. Connect with law professors, law students, employers, and professionals you meet online and offline. What looks more impressive to a hiring law firm? A candidate with 6 connections at LinkedIn or a candidate with 360 connections, including lawyers, professors, and the like. Plus employers know those connections can be used by you for future networking.
  • Recommendations. Little is more powerful to an employer than recommendations from people you’ve worked for or leaders who know you well. Law professors, lawyers, or even employers unrelated to the law can be asked to provide a recommendation through LinkedIn’s simple request form. Throwing ‘references by request’ or a few names at the bottom of a resume doesn’t cut it anymore. We’re too busy. Give us a recommendation from someone we can click on and ping through LinkedIn. Gold.
  • Groups. Undergrad alumni groups is a no brainer. Then join groups which you have an interest in. If there are niche areas of law you’re interested in going into, join relevant groups. If there’s interests you have outside the law, join those groups. Employers want to see you’re not afraid to get out and engage with folks with similar interests. Real go getter? Start a group – professional or law school related.
  • Network. Reach out and get to know lawyers and business people in areas you’d like to work. You can do it via groups or running searches by topic and locale. Ask professionals you meet questions about legal topics, about the job market, about how they got their job etc. Ask to get together for coffee. We don’t get these overtures from law students – you’ll stick out like a shining star.
  • Ask and answer questions. You can do this in either the answers section or on the groups’ discussion boards. You’re not going to have the knowledge of a lawyer who’s practiced for 20 years. So what. Pitch in where you can. You’ll get seen and the answers are reflected on your profile.
  • Blog feed. Consider publishing a blog focused on an area of the law you have an interest in. LinkedIn allows you to have excerpts of your blog displayed in your profile.
  • Twitter feed. LinkedIn will display your Twitter feed if you like. Whether to display it depends on who much professional info you share in comparison to personal items.

I’m looking for innovate go getters. PhD’s as I call them. Folks that are poor, hungry, and driven.

I got my first job as a lawyer by knocking on law firm doors and asking to talk with the senior lawyer I looked up in Martindale-Hubbell at the public library. It was scary as all get out. Receptionists told me later they thought I was a salesperson. But telling them I’d sit and wait till the lawyer had a few minutes, and doing so even if it was a couple hours, signaled I was different than other law grads. Or maybe just nuts.

Knocking on doors is still a good idea. But if you’re not up for it, get going with LinkedIn. A completed profile that demonstrates you’re a go getter will set you apart from the laggards.

As for the placement office telling you to go slow on the use of social media? You know ‘Everything can be used against you, you’ll ruin your career.’

Tell them you’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in tuition and lost income while in school. Tell them traditional methods of gaining employment don’t work as well anymore. Tell them employers are using social networking like LinkedIn in spades.

Get a move on it.