Young lawyers faced with few jobs

May 1, 2009 5:42:26 PM PDT
Law schools are holding graduations this month, but newly-minted young lawyers are hitting the job market facing a sobering reality.

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Anxiety is written all over the faces of young law school students at the annual career recruiting orientation.

"When we came to law school, jobs were plentiful, the market economy was going well," said law student Chris Rosette.

But then, the economy tanked. The law profession was hit hard just like the rest of the job market.

Sari Zimmerman heads Hastings Law School's Career Development Office.

"It's a dramatic sea change in terms of the market. It's different than anything we've seen in the past 15 years," said Zimmerman.

Some law firms are rescinding job offers, others are extending the start dates of their new recruits.

"They're being told they have to start in January, April or maybe start a year later," said law student Alexa Woerner.

Many jobless graduates like Evgeni Halavanau still have to pay off huge student loans.

"With a debt exceeding $150,000 for an average law student, it is a huge concern," said Halavanau.

Since it's getting tougher to get jobs with big firms, students are being encouraged to look for government work, but those jobs are drying up too.

Woerner applied in January for a legal research assistant's position with the San Francisco Superior Court.

She was one of more than 200 people who applied for just seven job openings. That was before the court found it had a $4 million budget deficit.

"The court had to make a decision not to hire the seven positions that we initially thought we could fill," said Ann Donlan from the San Francisco Superior Court.

Some firms are coming up with creative hiring ideas.

Morgan, Lewis and Bockius is deferring start dates but they're giving their new hires stipends, about half of their starting salary.

In the interim, they're telling them to work at non-profits and government agencies for free.

"They will work at public interest jobs, at different law foundations, district attorney's offices, public defenders offices," said Julius Turman from Morgan, Lewis and Brockius Law Firm.

And when they finally start at the firm, they'll come with real life courtroom experience.

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