Alternatives To “Big Law” For Recent Grads & “Out Of The Box” Law Firm Strategies

The good news is, this week Forbes reports, citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that the U.S. Economy added 203,000 jobs in November, bringing unemployment down to a shockingly low 7 percent.

In addition to a lower unemployment rate, this week, the labor force participation rate was stronger, up to 63 percent from 62.8 percent last month, reports the same statistics.

So, in sum, the government is back in business and—better yet—reporting optimistic numbers for our employment outlook.

What’s the bad news?

The bad news is, employment for lawyers is still low. It has been difficult for the legal industry to efficiently match demand for low-cost legal services with the overabundant supply of highly educated (and thus enormously-expensive) legal professionals.

Law firms are still struggling to find the right combination of partners and associates.

And, the new generation of graduates is unlikely to see a return of the old BigLaw system offering stable, well-paying jobs. Of the 2012 law school graduates in private practice, just under half—43 percent—landed jobs at firms with between two and 10 layers, according to the National Association for Law Placement, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“Looking for other ways to practice law successfully is something people ought to be focusing on more,” said New York City Bar President, Carey R. Dunne, a former prosecutor and partner at law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, to the WSJ.

According to Mr. Dunne, the pool of well-paid jobs at big law firms is shrinking as clients push back on price and lower-cost alternatives, like outsourcing to foreign or in-house counsel.

Luckily, new programs are cropping up to solve this crisis.

The New York Bar Association is trying out a variety of alternatives to law firm placement for recent grads, such as placing novice lawyers in apprenticeships with big banks or other employers. They are also starting a new law firm that will test whether young attorneys can make a decent living while helping Americans who can’t doll out market rate.

Brooklyn Law School, in another attempt to match legal supply with demand, is launching a program that will place students in government and nonprofit organizations, which then hire them for at least one year after graduation, reports the WSJ.

Finally, Cisco Systems Inc. is planning to team up with the University of Colorado Law School on a program where students will be paid to work full time in the company’s legal department for around seven months, take classes to make up missed course work, and then receive a semester in free tuition.

“My goal is to develop a significant number of companies and law firms that are willing to take two or three students per year and do this, and create a really robust national program,” said Cisco’s general counsel, Mark Chandler, to the WSJ.

“I’m hoping that this is just one idea of many that will blossom.”

And, with the right education or private partnerships, your law firm can also create innovative training programs for their young associates.

It take a lot of effort to step outside that box, but—once you’re there—a world of opportunity (and efficiency) awaits.

-WB 

Still need some creative inspiration? Read C4CM’s guide on Creating The Flexible Workplace.

You’ll find tips and tricks on how to:

  • Lower costs associated with employee absenteeism
  • Improved staff retention and recruitment efforts
  • Maximized employee productivity and performance
  • Improved quality and effectiveness of employee  work and personal lives
  • Decreased health care utilization costs
  • Reduced organizational facilities’ costs
  • Enhanced reputation as an employer of choice

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