Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Message To Young Lawyers As The Recession Worsens: A Time To Kill

I have to laugh every time I hear that the "recession may end sometime this year." A "recession" is a period of time when there is "a period of negative growth, usually during two consecutive quarters."

So when there is two consecutive quarters of growth, or no "negative" growth, we are technically out of a recession.

But this economy is done, for a while. A long while. It's comical but true that many people believe the "end of the recession" means that things will "go back" to the way they were.

They won't.

Life in America has changed, it's just waiting for people to catch up

Young lawyers need to catch up, quick.

Based on my unscientific study, i.e. reading things like the ABA Journal and talking to recent graduates, there are no jobs.

BigLaw is deferring start dates (read: here's some money because we feel bad we can't afford to actually hire you, and will officially kick you to the curb in a few months when we come to terms with reality), government agencies (prosecutor and public defender offices) are on extended hiring freezes, and small firms are picking up lawyers who have a "book of business" and don't need any training.

This is a terrible time to be graduating law school, and it is to those that I write this post.

The disillusionment must be painful. Those that actually went to law school due to some corny passion (that I had) to be a "lawyer," must be wondering what the hell you're going to do. Those that went to collect that $150,000 BigLaw salary at the end of the "rainbow" that you were "promised," well, you're having a different kind of pain.

To those that truly want to be "lawyers," meaning you want to represent clients, think about this: assume you won't get a job. If this is the case, what are you going to do? Sit home? Send out resumes? Hope?

How about making yourself available to a lawyer in the field you want to go in to? Make a list of the best lawyers in your desired field, meet them (find a way to meet them in a social setting) and offer yourself to work for them. Yes, for free. (BigLaw rejects please don't throw up on your monitor).

Do it for a month, two months. See where it gets you. Will the experience hurt your chances to get a job?


I mentioned this to a newly minted lawyer by saying "Find a lawyer, not a job." He responded by asking if I had any openings. Wrong response. None of these lawyers have any "openings." Create the opening.

Ever see "A Time to Kill?" If not, rent it, and watch the scene when Sandra Bullock is trying to latch on to a job working with Matthew McConaughey. She is relentless. It's exactly what I am talking about.

And to you BigLaws who are figuratively, or maybe literally thinking of who to sue for lack of receiving your entitled job churning billable hours? Go find a job selling Amway or Mary Kay. It was all about the money anyway, why concern yourself with how you make it?

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit



Anonymous said...

Local or state bar associations often have pro-bono opportunities for new lawyers looking for experience, especially in bigger cities. If you are willing or somehow able to work for free for a short time then the experience is there for the taking.

The problem is: who has the funds to do that, other than those with a family willing to shoulder some of the burden or a bread-winning spouse or partner? It's easy to say "work for free" but it's not so easy to actually do.

My Law License said...

I agree, it's easier said then done, but here's what I think:

If there is really no legal jobs out there, then get a temp job doing something, anything. Even if it's at night. Hell, use the time to learn something else - bartending. Spend the day investing your time with a lawyer for free and earn some money at night. I know there are plenty of new lawyers out there completely unemployed. You have to earn money, even if it's doing something you never thought you'd do.

I know a judge who drove a cab while he failed the Bar a couple times......

The key to all of this, is putting your ego aside.

Anonymous said...

no one cares what you think

that's a terrible movie

you have big law envy

My Law License said...

Hey, Anonymous, you back again? You need to come up with a better name like "angry miserable lawyer."

Anyway listen, please come back, as often as you like. Let me know when you want to have lunch, I know you're not that far from my office. Maybe I can help you find a better life.

South Florida Lawyers said...

Good advice, Brian.

Tiffany said...

I think your advice is excellent. There's no better way to market yourself than to show what you can actually accomplish, and in our current economic circumstances anyone who isn't marketing himself effectively isn't likely to find work. Perhaps you could have included a caveat about malpractice coverage, which can't be overlooked when getting creative like this.

I'd also like to point out that Twitter can provide an excellent opportunity for young attorneys to meet established ones. I know there's a lot of debate about this issue, but I was at a law firm conference this past week ( and there were thousands of tweets from attorney participants and attorneys following online. There are also a number of law-specific Twitter groups like LexTweets and LawBirds. Maybe it's not quite an in-person meeting or personal introduction, but it's easier to achieve and happens in a relaxed environment that might make relationship building easier.

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MissForrest said...

I read this post a while ago, and was in a very disillusioned place at the time. Thanks for writing this, by the way. I like people who keep it real. :) Seems like you want to know what grads "out there" are doing right now. Half my graduating class has moved back in with their parents "until I find a job." I think they are of the school of thought that holding out for just the right job with just the right money is better than compromising. I am of the "work it out" school of thought.

I'm staying at the small, local general practice firm where I've worked for the past three years. I'm working in multiple capacities--as the front of office helm/boss lady and as a bottom-of-totem-pole lawyer (once I'm licensed, God help me!). It's for peanuts. But I am getting some truly great mentoring out of it, as well as more professional development than any BigLaw success stories I know. (Apparently, there is some period of time in which they get no client name, no case facts, just a discrete legal research assignment--the antithesis of my work during law school).

My intent is to learn to be a good lawyer, and hopefully get some traction under my career in the next few years. It's frustrating to still be subsisting like a grad student instead of "making a living," but it's better than living with the parents and more productive and fulfilling than waiting tables. I'm excited to bring some value to a business I care a lot about, and to get things done for folks.