Archive for February 11, 2010

A Law Degree and Nowhere to Go: January 24, 2010 (from Psychology Today)

I thought this was an interesting article, especially for those CONSIDERING going to law school; what’s kind of funny is the books she recommends at the end of the article, like the legal profession has dissipated!____________________________________________________

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/career-transitions/201001/law-degree-and-nowhere-go

A Law Degree and Nowhere to Go

Lawyers face unique challenges in the job market.

Published on January 24, 2010

When the recession first hit, we heard that there were certain “safe” career fields like health care, higher education, etc. But as the recession drones on, so-called safe industries are belt-tightening and finding themselves subject to the same economics stresses facing other industries. Even the practice of law.

The public perception about legal careers is generally inaccurate. People assume that a law degree guarantees a permanent job, a great income and an exciting, high-powered life fighting for justice. Not to mention a great career for those who like to argue. And the portrayal of lawyers in the media tends to support that image. When warned about this, college students planning to attend law school often say, “well I know the law isn’t exactly like “Law & Order,” but….” – and that’s where the line between myth and reality starts to blur. Sally Kane, writing for About.com identifies some of the prevalent myths about the practice of law.

The Wall Street Journal’s legal blog recently wrote about the increasing isolation in the practice of law and its relationship to depression and suicide. But the legal profession was struggling prior to the recession.

A survey in Legal Careers Blog pointed out growing dissatisfaction with the practice of law. Almost half of all lawyers expressed dissatisfaction with their careers and only 4 in 10 lawyers would recommend a legal career to others. People were looking to leave the practice of law and do anything else.

That was 2008. And then the recession really hit. Law firms have gone bankrupt. Thousands of lawyers have been laid off. New law school graduates are finding the offers less attractive and less plentiful. A legal blog, Above The Law, tracks the legal employment situation, noting weekly layoffs. Another blog, Law Shucks, runs both a “bonus tracker” and a “layoff tracker” simultaneously pointing out the appeal and the risk of the field. Both blogs point to the challenging job market for new graduates and for mid-career lawyers laid off from what were once guaranteed-for-life jobs.

All this leads to more lawyers in the general job market who, as a group, face particularly unique challenges. Employers will assume that you went to law school to be a lawyer so any other career path must be a second choice and the minute the market for lawyers returns, you’ll be gone. They may also assume that you’ll want a higher salary than other workers.

So I’m going to be blunt here: You WERE a lawyer. Get over it– if you want to get a job elsewhere. Let me explain. A law degree provides a great learning experience. You learned to create compelling arguments, develop writing skills, conduct legal analysis, solve problems creatively, etc. As a lawyer, you handled deadlines, dealt with crises, worked long hours, etc. All things employers might want.  But you also know that the word “lawyer” comes with a lot of baggage. People can view lawyers as money-oriented, manipulative, and at worst– litigious and always looking for the next lawsuit. No employer wants to live in fear that their employee will sue them, and hiring a lawyer for a non-legal job seems to invite that.

So how do you make the transition from lawyer/law student to “working anywhere but the law”?

Here are a few tips:

1. Start by analyzing your strengths and interests. What other career fields have you considered? Where would you like to apply your talents? Some career fields lend themselves more naturally to a background in law, including: academic administration, banking/finance, consulting, environmental, government, human resources, intellectual property, journalism, immigration, labor relations, publishing, real estate, and tax preparation. How would your legal background make you a better employee in your newly-chosen field?

2. Focus on the field you’re going into– not where you’ve been. Research the career fields you’re considering. Talk to people in the field. Join professional organizations related to your new field to demonstrate a sincere interest. Develop an understanding of what they do on a day-to-day basis. Determine if/where/how your legal background could contribute to the field. Remove legal jargon from your resume– make sure it speaks to the new field you’re moving into, not the old one you’re leaving.

3. Determine what percentage of time your legal education/background would come into play at the job and then tailor your cover letter, resume, and interview responses accordingly. Obviously, if the position/employer would greatly benefit from your legal degree, then go to town and tell them everything about your legal background. BUT—

4. If people can be hired for the position without a law degree– that’s a clue that your law degree isn’t the be-all and end-all and should not be the first thing you bring up. So don’t have your identity bound up in being a lawyer. Your resume will indicate your legal training and background. You need to come up with other more compelling reasons for the employer to hire you in your cover letter. For instance, don’t start your cover letter with, “As an attorney…” or waste a paragraph detailing your legal acumen when the employer doesn’t care.

5. Know why an employer might have concerns about hiring a lawyer. Don’t waste energy bemoaning the lawyer jokes and complaining that it’s not “fair.” Since you know the problem ahead of time, be ready to address concerns which might not even be voiced. Make sure employers know your skill set is greater than practicing law. And find a way to answer the unasked questions: Can you get along with people? Are you too argumentative? Are you overly competitive? Intense? Do you have hidden agendas?  Here’s a particularly unique challenge for lawyers: they think differently. Let’s put that another way: they are pessimists– it’s what makes them successful lawyers. Unfortunately, the law is one of the only career fields that rewards pessimistic thinking: optimists do better in virtually every other career field. Read the link to learn more about this.

The job market is tough for everyone.  Don’t make it harder for yourself by making the mistakes other lawyers make when they try to move out of their fields. I met a floral arranger recently whose business card had “JD” after her name.  I asked her why she put the degree on her card.  She said, “Well I earned it– I might as well flaunt it.” She has a point, but she also confessed that she went into business for herself because employers weren’t “open-minded enough” to hire a former lawyer. And it made me wonder: was it the employers who weren’t open-minded or was she just too attached to her degree?

Here are some resources to check out about transitioning out of the law: “Running from the Law: Why Good Lawyers Are Getting Out of the Legal Profession” by Deborah Arron

“The Unhappy Lawyer” by Monica Parker

What Can You Do with a Law Degree” by Deborah Arron

Law School Admissions Lag Among Minorities January 6, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/07/education/07law.html

Law School Admissions Lag Among Minorities

By Tamar Lewin
Published: January 6, 2010

While law schools added about 3,000 seats for first-year students from 1993 to 2008, both the percentage and the number of black and Mexican-American law students declined in that period, according to a study by a Columbia Law School professor.

What makes the declines particularly troubling, said the professor, Conrad Johnson, is that in that same period, both groups improved their college grade-point averages and their scores on the Law School Admission Test, or L.S.A.T.

“Even though their scores and grades are improving, and are very close to those of white applicants, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans are increasingly being shut out of law schools,” said Mr. Johnson, who oversees the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic at Columbia, which collaborated with the Society of American Law Teachers to examine minority enrollment rates at American law schools.

However, Hispanics other than Mexicans and Puerto Ricans made slight gains in law school enrollment.

The number of black and Mexican-American students applying to law school has been relatively constant, or growing slightly, for two decades. But from 2003 to 2008, 61 percent of black applicants and 46 percent of Mexican-American applicants were denied acceptance at all of the law schools to which they applied, compared with 34 percent of white applicants.

“What’s happening, as the American population becomes more diverse, is that the lawyer corps and judges are remaining predominantly white,” said John Nussbaumer, associate dean of Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s campus in Auburn Hills, Mich., which enrolls an unusually high percentage of African-American students.

Mr. Nussbaumer, who has been looking at the same minority-representation numbers, independently of the Columbia clinic, has become increasingly concerned about the large percentage of minority applicants shut out of law schools.

“A big part of it is that many schools base their admissions criteria not on whether students have a reasonable chance of success, but how those L.S.A.T. numbers are going to affect their rankings in the U.S. News & World Report,” Mr. Nussbaumer said. “Deans get fired if the rankings drop, so they set their L.S.A.T. requirements very high.

“We’re living proof that it doesn’t have to be that way, that those students with the slightly lower L.S.A.T. scores can graduate, pass the bar and be terrific lawyers.”

Margaret Martin Barry, co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers, said that while she understood the importance of rankings, law schools must address the issue of diversity. “If you’re so concerned with rankings, you’re going to lose a whole generation,” she said.

The Columbia study found that among the 46,500 law school matriculants in the fall of 2008, there were 3,392 African-Americans, or 7.3 percent, and 673 Mexican-Americans, or 1.4 percent. Among the 43,520 matriculants in 1993, there were 3,432 African-Americans, or 7.9 percent, and 710 Mexican-Americans, or 1.6 percent. The study, whose findings are detailed at the Web site A Disturbing Trend in Law School Diversity, relied on the admission council’s minority categories, which track Mexican-Americans separately from Puerto Ricans and Hispanic/Latino students.

“We focused on the two groups, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, who did not make progress in law school representation during the period,” Mr. Johnson said. “The Hispanic/Latino group did increase, from 3.1 percent of the matriculants in 1993, to 5.1 percent in 2008.”

Mr. Johnson said he did not have a good explanation for the disparity, particularly since the 2008 LSAT scores among Mexican-Americans were, on average, one point higher than those of the Hispanics, and one point lower in 1993.

Over all, Mr. Johnson said, it is puzzling that minority enrollment in law schools has fallen, even since the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2003, in Grutter v. Bollinger, that race can be taken into account in law school admissions because the diversity of the student body is a compelling state interest.

“Someone told me that things had actually gotten worse since the Grutter decision, and that’s what got us started looking at this,” Mr. Johnson said. “Many people are not aware of the numbers, even among those interested in diversity issues. For many African-American and Mexican-American students, law school is an elusive goal.”

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I have mixed feelings about this article. First, I know how hard it was historically for blacks to even obtain the privilege to read, eat in public, use the restroom in public, ride in transportation in integrated transport. Let alone to obtain the right the vote and get a formal education. The problem is that with invidious discrimination that is interwoven in American society, going to law school will be a financial detriment. This will likely affects one credit (mind you there are studies which shows black Americans with equal or slightly better credit scores still receive subprime rates: [Credit, Capital and Communities: The Implications of the Changing Mortgage Banking Industry for Community Based Organizations, Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University(2004) AND 88th Annual Report, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (2001). Denial rates for conventional home purchase loans in 2000 were 45 percent for black applicants, 42 percent for Native American applicants, 31 percent for Hispanic applicants, 22 percent for white applicants, and 12 percent for Asian applicants.]).   In a way, we desparately need quality attorneys to fight institutionalized discrimination, but to make it seem like law schools are doing certain minorities a favor by soliciting their borrowed dollars to be flunked out, hazed, unemployed and an indentured servant in modern society and use a criterion which isn’t fair even when you do things the right way; it’s like either way you’re damned. MAYBE THE ENROLLMENT RATES ARE LOWER BECAUSE MINORITIES FIGURED OUT THE GAME EARLIER AND CHOSE NOT TO BE SUCKERED–I tried to end the thought on a positive note!

DC does not have jobs for lawyers, if they do they won’t hire US!

I wrote the following concerning permanent employment on two other blogs under comments and well I decided to start a blog…anyway:

DC is a misconceived to have an abundance of jobs. First of all for many current federal jobs in law they are under different forts, military installations or military bases as the current wars continue. This means that although you work in the capacity of law, at any time you may ne deployed in war as you are technically part of military armed forces. Other agencies like FTC, federal courts (trustee positions) or SEC want old men with 15 years of experience from BIGlaw. The market is saturated so now the federal hiring agencies only want top 10 law grads w/ law review–read the qualifications section of the vacancy. Apply for vacancies and you will get any of these template responses”hiring authority no hiring at this time” “vacancy cancelled” “application under review” or my favorite “you were qualified but not the MOST qualified.” I actually realized this was a definite template when a friend of mine in a different field–accounting received the EXACT wording in her rejection letter. Baby boomers are holding onto their government jobs, so others will remain in latter category and likely not surpass minimum qualifications because they are unable to obtain jobs to get experience. Ive met attorneys who it took from 3-6 years to get a government job. Dont believe the propaganda about DC, it’s simply not true.

Does Prince George’s Need a Law School?: An Article in The Washington Post

Are you kidding me? Maryland is one of the smallest states in the country already has two law schools and borders Washington, DC and Virginia. The question is does America needs another law school? What really bothers me is that African-Americans make up the majority and has since pretty much of the inception of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Since the 1990s (we’ll leave historical racial discrimination alone for now) the housing market, specifically banks have already raped the pockets of these residents by giving them subprime loans. No, they qualified for better loans but because they were black the banks decided to give the worst terms to them:  
The Seattle Times, ‘Judge dismisses Baltimore suit against Wells Fargo,’ The Associated Press January 7, 2010. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2010726364_apuswellsfargosubprimelawsuit.html?syndication=rss 
The New York Times, ‘Memphis Accuses Wells Fargo of Discriminating Against Blacks,’ Michael Powell, December 30, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/us/31wells.html (last visited January 16, 2010)
WBALtv.com, ‘City Tries To Push Forward Wells Fargo Lawsuit: City Claims Wells Fargo Used Predatory Lending On Blacks,’ June 29, 2009. http://www.wbaltv.com/money/19897079/detail.html
The New York Times, ‘Bank Accused of Pushing Bad Mortgage Deals on Blacks,’ June 6, 2009, Michael Powell http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/us/07baltimore.htm?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1260291635-M9E2ycPY47KMy84bjX/QWA 
NAACP Press Release, March 13, 2009, NAACP Files Landmark Lawsuit Today Against Wells Fargo and HSBC
http://www.naacp.org/news/press/2009-03-13/index.htm . The point is that blacks haven’t recovered from this last recession, the being taken advantage of when they think they finally have an opportunity to make it and here comes the law schools, ready to exploit them in another way. NO! Anyway, here’s the article:
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http://voices.washingtonpost.com/annapolis/2009/04/legal_studies.html
The General Assembly has nixed a study of a D.C. United soccer stadium in Prince George’s this year, but here’s something they’ve given the go-ahead to study: A possible law school in the Washington area.
Del. Justin D. Ross (D-Prince George’s) worked with Del. John L. Bohanan Jr. (D-St. Mary’s), the chair of the education subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, to insert language in the state budget authorizing the study. The budget now asks that the University system study the “feasibility and logistical costs and benefits” of launching a branch of the University of Baltimore’s law school in the D.C. area. The report is to be submitted to the legislature by Sept. 1.
Ross said his goal is to look at creating a law school in Prince George’s County, a reasonable place for a law school, he said, because of the University of Maryland’s undergrad campus in College Park and the federal courthouse in Greenbelt. U-Md.’s law school is located in Baltimore.
“I think it could be a great success for the University of Baltimore law school and the county,” he said.
 
By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 13, 2009; 10:32 AM ET
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NOTICE HOW THEY WANT TO PUT THE FOURTH TIER LAW SCHOOL [http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/rankings/title+University%20of%20Baltimore
IN THE MAJORITY BLACK MIDDLE CLASS COUNTY INSTEAD OF University of Maryland (Tier 1) Law School [http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/rankings/c_final_tier+1/title+University%20of%20Maryland],
which would make more sense, since the University of Maryland (Terps) College Park is already there.  BLACK PEOPLE DON’T LET THEM EXPLOIT YOUR IGNORANCE! The article towards the very end makes it appear that ONLY UM has a law school, wrong both UM and UB already exists in Baltimore, Maryland!