Nobody knows you when you’re down and out

My school is coming out with a small stipend for people who want to take non-paying public interests jobs after they graduate. Such is the state of the job market we are in. They are emphasizing the word “small.”

I called the woman who runs the internship program at one of the local DAs office. She had previously mentioned the possibility of an internship post-grad. She said it off-handedly, but at the time, she mentioned an internship until I got my bar results.

But today, she said it was still a possibility, but I would have to commit for a year. She didn’t recall our conversation when she had said I could work until the bar results.

The conversation stopped me short. She was honestly, in all sincerity, suggesting that I find my own funding, work for the office for a year without pay and without the promise of a job at the end. Welcome to the upside down world of the Boston legal job market.

The reason why she is able to suggest this with a straight face is that she has people doing this. I have heard from a couple of the DAs offices about how they have people working for them for free. What happened was that many of the big firms didn’t want to lay off all of their new associates. They gave them a stipend to go away for a year, do public interest work and then come back. These people have now flooded the public interest space.

The state of the economy is so bad that I can’t fault local governments taking these people up on their offers. But I will suggest that there is a short sightedness to this. The DA offices are passing up on a whole class of intelligent, hard working law students who were dedicated to the idea of being career prosecutors. Sooner or later, most of the firm people who are now working for them are going to want their six figure salaries back. In the meantime, the would-be prosecutors will have moved on. We will either find jobs in the public sector, start our own firms or leave the profession.

Personally, I am putting the public interest idea to rest. The CDO sent me a list of small firms in the Eastern part of the state. Good luck to me. But if this doesn’t work, I will either start my own practice, or we will leave the area. Sorry Commonwealth. I love you but I am drawing the line at working for a year without pay.

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17 thoughts on “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out

  1. You and me… we share a boat. 😉 I’ve been to more “Finding a Job” for 3L meetings this year than you could shake a stick at, and everyone’s answer seems to be, “volunteer.” I didn’t borrow over a hundred grand for a professional degree to volunteer.

  2. You know what they say about great minds! 🙂

    I had the very best burger and fries of my entire life in Northampton. If you decide to go for a visit, let me know, and I will send you the locale (assuming that you aren’t vegetarian, of course). This burger is worth the drive alone.

  3. If it makes you feel better, I’ve been pretty ambivalent about practicing law for pretty much the whole time I’ve been in law school, so I haven’t been looking as hard as I should. The fact that it hasn’t been easy to find a lawyer job is probably a good thing, since it is pretty much forcing me to do something I’ll hopefully like more.

  4. ATL recently did a post about how a lot of the people who took stipends and entered public service are now turning down the 6-figure job when it becomes available. They like the public interest work, and want to stay doing it, even if it pays less than what they expected to make coming out.

    So the prosecutors’ offices that have utilized these people are getting the best of the best without having to pay for them, and THEN they want to stay on, too. I kind of look at it as a win-win, except for people who can’t find a job right now, which would have happened anyway in the economy we’ve found ourselves in.

    There are too many lawyers, period. The chances of getting a job at the prosecutor’s office when I graduated (in a better economy) was also pretty slim for those who wanted one.

  5. Daisy, I actually read that article. According to their informal poll, 30% of the attorneys are staying on. I actually worked with a guy this summer who was an associate at a really nice firm in Boston, but liked being a prosecutor more. He was going to try and stay. But that still means the majority are planning on going back to their firms (if they can).

    But I do agree with you. There are way too many lawyers.

  6. Sorry to hear it, however that isn’t just happening in the Commonwealth. We have that out here in the northwest as well, and it has been going on for a while. Our AG’s office has had a hiring freeze for two years and only asks for summer volunteer law students, and one of the city prosecuting attorney’s offices stopped paying its summer law school interns and they have been working for free the past two summers.
    And your point about the deferred private firm lawyers sucking up the public interest jobs has been the one I have been ranting about for over a year now. I’m glad you’re open to going out on your own, that is what it takes now if you don’t have something lined up.

  7. Yes I am. But that isn’t for lack of trying. I have been trying to find permanent work since I graduated law school in 2007 – my best was a year long contract gig, the other times I’ve been piecing together work here and there. Since 2007, not a single private firm (civil or criminal) has even called me for an interview. Now that I’ve gotten almost 3 years of experience by doing contract work for attorneys, my year long contract public interest gig, and working for myself, I’ve finally made enough contacts and gotten enough experience to get some inside tracks to interviews. I got turned down for a job I recently interviewed for because the office hired the volunteer that had been working for them.

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  9. Honestly, with all my reading of American law blogs, I’m glad as buggery that I’m studying law in Australia where such practices (working for free) are illegal.

    What an insulting and degrading premise – to assume that people should have to render their services (which are still oncharged to the client) for free is abhorrent and I cannot believe that the “land of the free, home of the brave” supports it.

    Good luck with your move.

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