What Law School Can Change: Make It Easy for All Employers — Not Just Biglaw — to Hire Your Students!

Granted, I’m not the most organized lawyer. But I’ve got quite bit on my plate. For starters, I juggle management of a busy – and growing independent law practice, a national trade association. I also write an A-list blog, MyShingle.com on solo and small firm practice, speak (four times this month alone) and author books. And that’s all on top of raising two adolescent daughters and two rambunctious pups.

To compound the time crunch that I deal with daily, the nature of both my practice and my personality mean that my workload can ramp from zero to sixty in forty-eight hours. On the practice side, I run a lean operation, a part time virtual assistant as my only permanent staff. Then, I’ll staff cases as needed, drawing on a pool of talented co-counsel and independent contractors who vary in skill and price point. But because my “reserves” all have at least eight years of experience and stellar credentials, they don’t come cheap and make sense only where I can assign them directly to high-end work on billable matters.

Still, not all of my work is high end. Frequently – as in right now – I’ll see a new practice area that I can develop or have a need for research of several ancillary matters – and I want a law clerk to handle it. My assistant doesn’t have legal training, a paralegal lacks the same analytical skills and with so many law students in search of work, frankly, I’d like to be able to throw work their way when I can.

My operation is hardly unique. Lots of other solo and small firm lawyers similarly juggle multiple ventures, struggle with unpredictable schedules or even find themselves with some extra cash on hand that may enable them to hire where they previously couldn’t. Yet law schools don’t make it easy for us to hire their students for these types of spot projects that could evolve into something more long term and lucrative.

Case in point. I would currently like to hire two part time law students for a variety of projects. For these projects, I’m looking for students with specific backgrounds and interests from certain schools. I don’t want to post on Craigs List and cull through dozens of resumes, nor do I want to craft an ad that is so specific that I might lose out on someone interesting and motivated. Rather, I’d like to be able to go to a law school website (without waiting to register and gain approval or call someone) and scan through a bunch of resumes and start making calls.

So let me say this: earth to law schools, WAKE UP!

Your students are graduating deeply in debt. They spend summers working for free just to have some semblance of legal experience to put on their resume. Meanwhile, there are solo and small firm lawyers with small, revolving needs – maybe a 40 hour project here, or (as in my case) two 20 hour/week positions there. The pay may not be great – maybe $10 to $25 an hour (that’s just the general range that I hear) but it’s paying and it’s experience and it can help your students advance.

Law schools, in the real world, most jobs — and clients — aren’t found through endless rounds of interviewing that professors are subjected to, or during a three month interview window that big firms and judges abide when hiring clerks. Most of us out here working our way through the school of hard knocks find jobs because we hustle – grabbing at whatever opportunity we can find, whenever it comes along.

Make it easy for your students to hustle by letting real practicing lawyers access them easily. Not a massive change, but one that I guarantee will help a few more nonetheless.

1 comments
annedreshfield
annedreshfield

Great post, Carolyn. Sometimes it seems like job postings can be too specific for their own good -- a lot of people I know find their dream job/internship, only to find that it requires a fairly large amount of experience expected for a college student. Since they can't get work without having work experience, a lot of students end up in a bind. They're either forced to work at a minimum wage job that doesn't give them the "right" kind of experience, or they're forced to take an unpaid internship. It's frustrating how large the grey area between the two is so large. Colleges and universities, both undergrad and forms of graduate school, can stand to improve! 

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