5 once-prestigious jobs that are now B-List

Once upon a time, parents couldn’t stop bragging when their sons or daughters were studying to be lawyers or family doctors. But thanks to our changing job market — and the fact that college and graduate school costs have ballooned — some of these formerly brass-ring jobs are losing their luster. Here are five once-prestigious jobs that aren’t quite what they used to be.


Overall enrollment in law school has plummeted to a 27-year low and enrollment of first-year law students to a 40-year low, according to a report on annual enrollment released in December by the American Bar Association. That’s likely because those considering becoming lawyers know two things: 1) they’ll likely face relatively dismal job prospects upon graduation, and 2) they’ll likely have a ton of debt coming out of law school.

A report released last year by the National Association for Law Placement found that overall employment for recent law grads fell for the sixth straight year in 2013 (to 84.5%); unemployment specifically among 2013 grads was 12.9%, a slight uptick from a year prior. And even those who are employed may not be getting rich — the median starting salary is $62,000, down 13% over the past six years — and still far from the cushy six figures Mom was probably hoping for.

Furthermore, they’ll often contend with six-figure debt. According to the New America Foundation, the typical debt load (undergrad and graduate debt combined) for those who go to law school is nearly $141,000 among those who borrow money — an increase of more than $51,000 from 2004, which is climbing faster than that of many other professions. That means law grads who had to borrow money are likely to face typical monthly payments of nearly $1,200, which can be hard to shoulder if you don’t land a six-figure job.

Combine those two factors with the less-than-stellar reputation some lawyers garner (ever heard the phrase “colder than a lawyer’s heart”?) and you can see why this once lucrative, prestigious career has now been relegated to the B-list for many.


The academic job market isn’t what is used to be: Since 2001, the percentage of Ph.D. graduates who have neither a job nor a postdoctoral position lined up upon graduation has climbed steadily, and now more than one in three recent Ph.D. grads don’t have either.

Plus, those prestigious and coveted tenure-track positions that give you veritable job security and sabbaticals are increasingly rare, thanks in part to the fact that some colleges are cutting such positions to save money. From 1975 to 2007, the percentage of tenure-track positions fell from 20.3% to 9.9%, while the number of full-time non-tenure track positions rose from 13% to 18.5% and part-time from 30.2% to 50.3%; non-tenure-track positions typically come with less job security and sometimes less pay. “For the last thirty years the share of tenured and tenure-track faculty positions has been declining, while the proportion of non-tenure-track appointments (both full-time and part-time) has continued to grow,” Boston University notes.


At one time, being a stockbroker was a genteel and lucrative position, and while it can still be lucrative, few see it as genteel (sorry people, but post-financial-crisis mom’s probably not going to brag to her friends about you being a stockbroker). “It used to a more prestigious job,” says Nicole Williams, founder of career firm WORKS. “Now it’s almost like you have to prove you are ethical.”

Plus, the big bucks are often harder to come by. This is thanks, in part, to the fact that a lot of what stockbrokers do can now be done online, so there’s sometimes less of a need for a full-service broker. The pay, while extremely decent, isn’t exactly going to make most stockbrokers rich either: The median salary is a little over $71,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Family doctor

While some doctors certainly make bank (for example, the median salary of an orthopedic surgeon is $435,000, according to Salary.com), family practitioners — who are among the lowest paid of all medical specialties — now face similar challenges to what lawyers do. Even though family practitioners can expect a median salary of well over six figures once they complete residency, the median amount of debt med students who borrowed had upon graduation was $180,000; nearly eight in 10 had more than $100,000 and fully 10% had more than $300,000. What’s more, once they graduate from medical school, they still have three years of residency to complete — and will likely make only about $50,000 a year during that time. And “it’s more expensive to be a physician now” thanks in part to insurance issues, including payments from insurance companies and the cost of insurance (like malpractice) required for those who want to hang up their own shingle, says Williams.

Travel agent

It used to be that companies and individuals would feel lost without the help of a travel consultant or agent to help them plan their trips, but thanks to the Internet, that’s changed. “People book online now — you don’t usually need a person to do that,” explains executive coach and career consultant Marc Dorio. That may explain why the field is rapidly drying up — and is projected to continue to well into the future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that from 2012 to 2022, the number of travel agent/consultant jobs will decrease by 12%; furthermore, the pay isn’t the best (a median of $34,600 a year with the lowest 10% earning less than $20,000 a year and the top 10% not even topping a median of $60,000).

Source: Market Watch

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Posted in Uncategorized

This is why you are stressing out about law school

4 January, 2015 

Voluminous readings, high-stakes exams and difficult content are the principal reasons for high levels of mental illness among law students, according to Lawyers Weekly readers.

We recently asked the question, ‘Why do law students experience mental health problems at a higher rate than other students?’ on Lawyers Weekly’s Facebook page.

Seventy-two per cent of the 83 responses pointed to external factors, including the demanding nature of a law degree, hyper-competitiveness of students, dismal job prospects and lack of ‘down-time’ as key causes for the high levels of psychological distress.

Pádraig Langsch from Ireland said, “Try to remember 300 cases … when at the same time you know that your entire future will be determined in one exam.”

Noura Abughris commented that there was “too much bloody reading!” — a complaint echoed by many others.

“Having completed a communications degree before this, I can attest that a law degree is like trying to complete four of those communications degrees at once,” commented Rebecca Clare.

The Brain and Mind Research Institute’s Courting the Blues report released in 2009 found that 41 per cent of law students have symptoms of psychological distress severe enough to indicate clinical assessment.

The percentage of law students that suffer high or very high distress (35.2 per cent) is almost twice that of medical students (17.8 per cent). By comparison, only 13.3 per cent of the general population experience severe mental health issues.

Perfectionists by nature, cynics by training

The second major cause of mental illness among law students is personality, according to our readers.

High achievers often have a perfectionist mentality and can elevate their stress levels by placing unrealistic demands on themselves.

“Law attracts a lot of perfectionists. Perfectionism is a very unhealthy mental trait,” said Suzanne Bundesen.

The transition from being the ‘cream of the crop’ at high school to the ‘small fish in the big pond’ can come as a shock to many law students, according to Jesse Spurrell.

Penelope Trundle added, “[Law] is actually quite difficult [but] a lot of people won’t admit that because they are smart and have always done well at everything — they have based their self-worth on their ‘intelligence’.

“A lot of [law students] feel VERY threatened by the level of difficulty of the intellectual challenges they are facing.”

Many respondents also said that being trained to critically examine, analyse and deconstruct ideas causes lawyers to view life through a prism of negativity.

“Lawyers [are] ‘trained pessimists’,” said Olivia Bartlett. “We [are] trained to look for problems and worst-case scenarios. Unfortunately, this spills over into our personal lives.”

Rian Terrell agreed, writing, “Engaging in legal reasoning promotes a certain style of paralysis by analysis that starts to bleed over into other aspects of life.”

Feeling the pressure

Lack of support from classmates, professors and friends was the third major contributing factor to law student mental illness, according to our readers.

Fierce competition between classmates, which drives students to do “insane” things like hiding books in the library, was a huge problem, said Langsch.

Michaela Hilder-Achurch, among others, linked the absence of a spirit of cooperation between students to the tight job market.

Fears of unemployment are not unfounded: a recent report showed that one quarter of law graduates who wanted a full-time job could not find one within four months of graduating last year, the highest proportion in two decades.

As well as a lack of support from peers, law students often experience social isolation as they race to complete readings and cram for exams.

“Law students are unlikely to give themselves enough down time and feel guilt when they do,” said Rebecca Clare.

The mind games that some academic staff play to ‘toughen up’ students do little to help the problem, according to Ashley Martinez.

“The idea that some professors have that putting students down, deceiving them in some way in terms of examinations, or in generally treating them with a lack of respect … does nothing more than discourage and add pressures that are unnecessary,” she said.

Editor’s note: The following also appeared in the original article: Figure 1: Reasons why law students experience psychological distress at a higher rate than other students, according to 83 respondents (data sourced from Lawyers Weekly’s Facebook page).

Figure 2: Percentage of law students that experience severe psychological distress compared with medical students and the general population (aged 18-34) (data sourced from Courting the Blues report).

Posted in Jobs, Legal Education, Psychology, stress

Lowering the Bar

January 16, 2015
By Ry Rivard

As the number of students going to law school drops dramatically, law schools are increasingly competing for students with lower undergraduate grades and LSAT scores.

Thomas M. Cooley Law School – the largest law school in the country – is known for admitting students other law schools would not touch. The reputation is increasingly inaccurate. Last fall, seven law schools had entering classes with lower median LSAT scores than Cooley’s.

Professors who study legal education worry that schools are enrolling more and more students who have not proved they can graduate law school. Equally concerning is that law schools are admitting and then graduating students who might not be able to pass the bar exam.

Five years ago, no American Bar Association-accredited law school had an entering class with a median LSAT score of less than 145. Now, seven law schools do, according to Jerome M. Organ, a professor at University of St. Thomas School of Law who studies the legal market. That means at least half the first-year students at seven law schools scored a 144 on the LSAT or lower.

The LSAT has a scale of 180 down to 120. The average LSAT score is around 150. The LSAT has a margin of error, but 145 is considered a symbolic line by legal education experts and school administrators.

“At one level, we’re in uncharted territory,” Organ said.

Southern University Law Center – part of the historically black Southern University and A&M College System – is one of those seven schools. Its median LSAT score last fall was 144. Still, it is running into competition for students.

“Certain schools never would have admitted a student with a 145 LSAT score several years ago,” said SULC’s vice chancellor, John K. Pierre. “But this year they did and last year they did, and in some cases they are even offering students with that profile scholarships or tuition reductions.”

Enrollment at ABA-accredited law schools is the lowest it has been since 1973, even though there are 53 more law schools open now, according to Moody’s Investors Service. The students still trying to get to law school also have lower test scores than in the recent past.

So the vast majority of law schools are not only shrinking in size but also admitting less-qualified students.

Organ’s work, based on annual disclosures law schools make to the ABA, shows that 136 law schools had a median LSAT score of 155 or higher in 2010. Now, only 101 schools still have an entering class with a median LSAT of 155 or higher.

The seven law schools with the lowest median LSAT scores portray themselves as schools of opportunity for students who think they can make it but may not have the scores or grades to prove it. The same schools can also be accused of irresponsibly admitting some students who don’t belong in law school.

For students, the risk is not just time but money. Students with lower LSAT scores pay more to attend law school than students with higher scores. Organ found two-thirds of students with scores below 150 are paying more than $30,000 a year for law school, but they may not pass the bar and have “limited employment opportunities through which to recoup their investment in a legal education.” The average student who scored 155 or higher pays less than $30,000 a year, attends a better-regarded law school and has better chances after graduating.

Three of the seven schools with the lowest median LSAT scores are in the for-profit Infilaw system. Those are Arizona Summit Law School, Florida Coastal School of Law and the Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina.

One candidate for dean of Florida Coastal became a cause célèbre last year after he was escorted off campus during a presentation to faculty.

The candidate, David Frakt, told the faculty it was unfair and ethically questionable to admit so many students with a 144 or lower. He said such scores indicate a poor aptitude for law school and mean that students face “extreme risk” of failing the bar exam. The median LSAT score for Florida Coastal’s entering class last fall was 143.

“For me, that 145 – going below that, even 145 itself – should be a no-go zone,” said Frakt, an Air Force lieutenant colonel and former legal scholar. “That really was conventional wisdom five years ago.”

Frakt said he warned Florida Coastal professors that students with low LSAT scores could risk the school’s ABA accreditation in years to come. The accreditor forbids schools from admitting students who do not “appear capable” of completing law school and passing the bar exam.

Increasingly, champions of a law school education tout law school as a solid path for students who have no intention of becoming lawyers but could use legal thinking and knowledge for other jobs. At a recent press conference hosted by the leaders of the Association of American Law Schools, there was a good deal of talk about exciting opportunities for law school graduates in fields unrelated to the practice of law.

As the number of incoming law students has fallen, most law schools have been left with a choice: They can maintain their admissions standards and suffer enrollment declines, or they can lower standards to keep up enrollment.

Barry Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education at the ABA, said schools could run into trouble. If those lower-profile students flunk out, it would be a sign that schools are taking students they are not able to graduate.

“A school that has relatively lower credentials on the front end and high attrition may have an issue, even if their bar pass rate is good,” Currier said.ABA reaccredits schools every seven years.

It is also bad for law schools if their students graduate but fail to pass the bar, a sign that schools may be passing students through without preparing them for actually being a lawyer.

In the past two years, the number of students who have dropped out, flunked or transferred to another law school has not changed substantially, according to ABA data. It is not yet known how they will fare on the bar exam.

Currier said there are ways to check in on law schools in between regular ABA visits, but none of that interim monitoring has turned into a full-blown reaccreditation process and no schools are on probation.

“Our process is sort of set up to look back at how a school has done with the students it chose to take and how the program is offered,” he said.

Frakt, who is a controversial figure in some circles, argues the ABA is not doing enough and law schools are taking advantage of the accreditation cycle to admit students who may not pass the bar. Because of the time between admission and when students take the bar exam, the law schools admitting less-qualified students are not yet facing ABA scrutiny.

“There’s a window of opportunity there where their bar numbers don’t look too bad, so they can continue to draw in students, and make money off students,” Frakt said. “Because those students don’t realize how weak their chances really are.”

The public information available about law schools also leaves something to be desired.

The bar passage numbers, for instance, don’t on their own give students a great sense of their chances in law school. If a law school class begins with 100 students and 30 drop out over the course of law school, that leaves 70 who graduate. If 49 of those 70 pass the bar, the school’s bar passage rate will be 70 percent. But that would mean that only 49 of the 100 students the school originally admitted ended up passing the bar.

Reports released by the ABA allow the public to find out these numbers, but it involves looking at reports from several different years.

Also, because law schools report LSAT scores for the 75th, 50th and 25th percentile of their class – and not the average LSAT score – a school could have a quarter of their students with a 145 or above but 24 percent of their students with far, far lower scores. No one says it’s remotely likely, but in theory, 24 percent of a law school class could have scored a 120 on the LSAT – the lowest score possible – without its being detectable by publicly available information.

The LSAT itself is of debatable use. It’s meant to predict first-year performance, but it is used as an imperfect way of predicting graduation and bar passage rates.

Thomas Cooley, now known as the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, has always relied on more than just the LSAT score. But unlike some other schools, its median LSAT score has not fallen below 145.

Organ, Frakt and others suspect that is because Cooley has long dealt with low-scoring students and knows it cannot dip much further into the applicant pool without seeing its graduation rate or bar passage rate deteriorate.

Don LeDuc, the president and dean of Cooley, said the school’s level student profile is a result but not the intent of admissions policies that have remained virtually unchanged despite the shocks in the market. It is working on a new admissions metric that relies more on college grades than LSAT scores, but DeLuc predicted it will not change the LSAT score much, if at all.

Because it has not lowered its admissions standards, Cooley has taken quite a hit. Its first-year class had 1,161 students in 2011. This year’s incoming class was about 60 percent smaller – just 445 students. As a result of the enrollment losses, Cooley is working to close one of its five campuses.

LeDuc said Cooley, a private nonprofit, is facing more competition for students with an LSAT score of around 145.

The dean worries about law schools that do not have as much experience with low-LSAT or low-GPA students.

“I would hope they are not going to just bring them in and do exactly what they did with their student profile in the past,” LeDuc said.

Cooley uses a predictive model to tell all students their chances of success based on their GPA and LSAT. The school doesn’t admit anyone with less than a two-thirds chance of succeeding.

Students know, in other words, that they might have an uphill climb.

That may not be so clear for students at other schools.

Jay Conison, dean of the Charlotte School of Law, said his school does not explicitly tell students their chance of success. Instead, he said, advisers tell students what they will have to do to succeed.

Charlotte is part of the for-profit Infilaw system. Its entering class last fall had a median LSAT score of 142, down from a median score of 148 in 2011.

Conison said the college is offering more students conditional admission and then fully enrolling them if they pass two pre-law classes. The school is also working to provide students more help while they are enrolled and as they prepare to take the bar – but the school will also change what it teaches.

“It is certainly very clear that it is a population that is going to require more of the kind of support mechanisms in the school that we provide for our students,” he said. “And it also will mean that the curriculum will have to be adapted to the different character of the students, and it may mean that more intensive support for bar passage will have to be provided.”

At Appalachian School of Law, a stand-alone law school in southwestern Virginia, the median LSAT score for last fall’s entering class was 144. That’s the same as it was in 2011, but enrollment has fallen dramatically since then. In 2011, there were 146 incoming students. Last fall, there were 48.

Donna Weaver, a spokeswoman for the school, said that the enrollment drop meant that Appalachian had to lay off faculty but was able to protect its LSAT score. The school worried about admitting students with lower LSAT scores because it feared they would not be able to pass the bar.

But Appalachian, a private nonprofit, is also running into competition for students from other schools offering them scholarships.

“The price wars are scary,” Weaver said. “We can’t afford to just drop our tuition altogether.”

Source: insidehighered.com

Posted in ABA, Career, Debt, Department of Education, Economy, Legal Education

Law-School Program Emphasizes Practical Skills

Jan. 4, 2015 7:51 p.m. ET

Kristen Blanchette stood outside the courthouse in Concord, N.H., where she was scheduled to present her first arguments before a federal judge, and pleaded for mercy—for herself.

“I can’t do this. I just can’t,” Ms. Blanchette recalls telling her superior. It was only later, while watching a video of her performance, she said, that she realized, “Wow, I did an OK job.”

The arguments were a simulation, the culmination of months of preparation and training, during which Ms. Blanchette, then a student at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, learned how to do the things litigators do: interview clients, take depositions and draft motions and interrogatories.

In recent years, as more clients have refused to pay for young lawyers to learn on the job, many law schools have tinkered with their curricula, making courses more practical and less theoretical as graduates compete for fewer openings.

Most of these efforts are too new to assess. But a study to be released this month suggests that the University of New Hampshire’s Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, launched in 2005, has largely succeeded in turning out new lawyers who are ready to practice law when they graduate.

The study, led by IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, found that students in the program outperformed lawyers who had been admitted to practice within the past two years.

Participation in the program—not scores on the Law School Placement Exam or class rank—was the only predictor of student performance on the standardized client interview.

Ms. Blanchette, who graduated from the program in 2010, now practices health-care law for Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Los Angeles. She credits the program with starting her along a career path that she otherwise wouldn’t have followed.

The roughly 38,000 students who entered the nation’s law schools in 2014 represented the smallest first-year class since 1974, when there were 53 fewer American Bar Association-accredited schools.

At the University of New Hampshire School of Law, applications have dropped 56% since 2010. There are 71 students in the class that began the study in 2014, down from 132 in 2010. Dean Jordan Budd said the school raised its academic standards and admitted fewer students to improve the academic credentials of its graduates, who are entering a tough legal market.

Students who are admitted to the school’s Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program begin their training in the second year of law school. About 120 scholars have graduated from the program since 2008, said John Garvey, the program’s director, who coaxed Ms. Blanchette into the courtroom.

Students learn skills in pretrial advocacy, trial advocacy and dispute resolution, and they take a capstone course on client interviews that ends with a standardized assessment. The clients are played by actors, one of whom is Mr. Garvey’s brother-in-law, a retired Broadway performer.

The program contrasts sharply with the traditional lecture format and focus on doctrinal education at many law schools.

Daniel Webster scholars are given frequent feedback and asked to reflect on their performance at nearly every step. They make mistakes in a controlled setting, learn from them and push forward, Mr. Garvey said.

“We tell students this is going to be a safe place to make mistakes because that is what you will grow from,” he said.

The study compared the standardized client-interview assessments of 123 lawyers who didn’t graduate from the program with the assessments of 69 of the honors students. Daniel Webster scholars scored an average of 3.76 out of 5, compared with an average of 3.11 for the lawyers.

“This difference is large and statistically significant,” wrote co-authors Alli Gerkman and Elena Harman.

Brian Leiter, who teaches legal philosophy at the University of Chicago School of Law, said the program’s emphasis on litigation, while admirable, shouldn’t be copied by every law school.

“One of the mistakes in American legal education has been the tendency of all law schools to adopt the same model,” he said.

Mike Strauss, a third-year Daniel Webster scholar, has accepted a job offer from Reed Smith LLP, one of a group of large corporate law firms that insiders call Biglaw. The firms typically hire from elite schools, pay well and have a reputation for highly competitive working environments.

Mr. Strauss, by his own admission, isn’t a typical Biglaw recruit, but while working for the firm over the summer, he found he was able to complete assignments without deluging his supervising attorneys with questions.

“That comes directly from the first semester” in the program, he said. “It showed me that I’m capable of doing something that’s completely foreign to me.”

Source: WSJ

Posted in Career, Creative, Legal Education, Millennials, Statistics

Getting into sports agent business is a tough game


Without a doubt, the question that I am most often asked by law students and recent law school graduates is: “How can I obtain a job as a sports agent?”

My answer is always the same.

Unless you are related to the next coming of Michael Jordan, it is extremely difficult and, in most cases, not worth your time and financial investment.

The sports agency sector is one of the most, if not the most, competitive and cutthroat industries in which someone could work.

No matter the particular sport, being a sports agent has a certain sex appeal to it. It has been glamorized by movies, television and books, and there always seems to be a considerable amount of interest in this industry (immediately after the movie “Jerry Maguire” was released in 1996, the number of agent applications requested of the NFL Players Association quintupled).

What you see and read about is only one small part of being an agent, however, and it is most often the fun and exciting part that is publicized. With a few exceptions, you don’t often hear about the shady, negative and problematic aspects of being in the sports agent industry.

Far be it from me to discourage someone from chasing their dream and following their passion. I think we all are familiar with the saying, “Do what you love, and you will never work a day.”

Well, let me add a nota bene: If you are going to do what you love, make sure that you can earn a living from it. It doesn’t make much sense to love what you’re doing but not be able to pay the heating bill.

If being a sports agent is truly what you want to do, I wish you godspeed, my friend. It is extremely difficult to be hired by a sports agency, especially if you are not bringing with you an existing book of business. It is a very time-consuming and expensive business in which to be, and it requires a considerable amount of travel.

If you are adamant about being an agent and cannot land a spot with an agency, however, I suggest first obtaining gainful, full-time employment and moonlighting in the sports agent business on the side. This will allow you to have a steady stream of income and pay your bills until such time as you (hopefully) land a few promising clients.

At that point, you can approach a larger company with the proposition of merging with them and bringing with you your clientele. Depending on who your clients are at that time, you should be able to sell this idea as a win-win for both sides.

One of the best ways to get your feet wet in the sports agent industry is to obtain an internship with an agency or firm while you are still in school. Although these opportunities are few and far between and highly coveted, they do provide excellent hands-on experience as well as the golden opportunity to start networking, which is the key to success in any career.

Of course, there is no guarantee that securing an internship will land you a full-time position with a sports agency once you graduate, but it certainly gets you past the first major obstacle which most people face — obtaining experience.

On the flip side, your internship experience may also help you decide that being an agent just isn’t the career path for you.

I also advise people who express an interest in being a sports agent to explore other career opportunities within the sports industry. These alternate sports careers may not be as glamorous as being an agent, but they are often easier to obtain (though, still difficult) and have the potential to lead to greater employment opportunities in the future.

In my opinion, one of the best jobs for a young attorney interested in working in sports is to work in the compliance office of a college or university athletic department. This is a role that is becoming of greater importance, especially considering the multitude of issues the NCAA and its member institutions are facing right now. Moreover, there is usually less competition for these jobs, which obviously makes them easier to obtain.

Other opportunities in sports that a lawyer should look into include working at intercollegiate conference offices — the Big Ten headquarters is right in our backyard in Rosemont — the NCAA, professional teams (scout, player personnel, front office), professional league offices, professional league players associations, sports equipment companies, athletic venues, sports marketing companies, sports consulting companies, trading card companies and high school athletic associations, just to name a few.

Make no mistake, no job in sports will be easy to secure, but I encourage those interested in careers in sports to think outside the box and be open to all possibilities. At the same time, however, it’s important to remain realistic with your goals and expectations.

Remember, your first job after graduation is not likely to be your last, so use it to gain experience and make contacts within the industry. This will catapult you in to your next, and hopefully, ideal job in sports.

Nello P. Gamberdino II has represented professional athletes from three different sports in eight countries. He is a Major League Baseball Players Association certified agent. He represents professional baseball players and acts as an adviser to amateur baseball players who are eligible for MLB’s annual first-year player draft. In addition, he is the employer outreach coordinator at The John Marshall Law School, where he earned his J.D.

Source: Law Bulletin columnist
Published: January 5, 2015

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Posted in Career, Economy, Law

Law graduate unemployment hits record high

8 January, 2015 Felicity Nelson

University graduates faced the toughest job market in over two decades in 2014, and law graduates were no exception.

Graduate Careers Australia’s (GCA’s) GradStats report, released in December, revealed that one quarter of law graduates who wanted a full-time job could not find one within four months of graduating last year, up from 21.5 per cent in 2013.

Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, vice president of the Australian Law Students’ Association (ALSA) Marie Iskander (pictured) said, “These figures are undoubtedly of concern to anyone finishing their law degree, [but they] are unsurprising.”

She said law students have been well informed about the difficulties in finding full-time work by employers, law schools and the media.

Iskander was hopeful that the figures would pick up soon but said that, until they do, law students should “adapt to the times and apply their valuable skills more broadly”.

“Law students [should] ‘think outside the box’ [and] consider employment beyond the legal sector, such as in consulting, big business, banks, international organisations, the policy sector – where … legal education and skills [are] welcomed and useful,” she said.

Full-time employment of graduates was low across the board: 32 per cent of university graduates failed to find full-time work within four months, the highest proportion since 1992.

Medical, pharmacy, surveying, mining engineering, veterinary science and nursing graduates were the most likely to be employed shortly after graduation.

Performing arts, life sciences and humanities graduates were among the least likely to be in full-time employment four months after finishing university.

However, the long-term employment prospects for bachelor degree holders remain strong. Only 3.2 per cent of university graduates are unemployed compared with 8.2 per cent for those with no post-secondary qualifications, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The root causes

Iskander said there are a number of possible reasons for the slump in employment rates.

“It is well accepted that law firms, for example, have almost halved their graduate intake since 2008 … I don’t necessarily think all of these shrinking graduate opportunities are attributable to the GFC, but it may be a contributing factor,” she said.

Prior to the financial crisis in 2008, 85 per cent of university graduates found full-time work within four months of graduating. That figure has now dropped to 68 per cent.

Iskander expressed concern that law graduates are missing out on jobs in the public sector due to government cuts to legal aid, community legal centres and Aboriginal legal services.

Another potential problem is the dramatic increase in university student numbers. Following the uncapping of student places in 2009, the number of university enrolments has increased by 23 per cent.

The total number of law graduates reached 12,742 in 2012, up from 6,149 in 2001, representing an increase of more than 100%.

“I think that it is well established in the current discourse that there is an oversupply of graduates; however, I believe there are still other contributing factors for the data shown in this report,” said Iskander.

When asked if she believed fewer school leavers would choose law in response to this trend, Iskander said, “I think that students will continually be drawn to the prestige and glamour of the law.

“With the skills that law degrees offer, I think that an increasing number of school leavers will consider law degrees for reasons beyond just working in the legal sector.”

No pay rises

Male graduate salaries have dropped relative to the average male salary from 77.8 per cent in 2012 to 74 per cent in 2014. However, average graduate salaries have remained virtually unchanged when compared to 2013.

The report exposed a $1,500 pay gap between male and female starting salaries for law students. On average male graduates earned $54,000 and female graduates earned $52,500.

Iskander said some may attempt to explain this gap through male and female employment preferences. However, the suggestion that women tend to work in the lower paid community legal sector is not yet supported by statistical evidence.

“I think, as many would, that this [pay gap] is utterly unacceptable – particularly as we are seeing more female graduates coming from law schools than males,” she added.

Note: the original article displays a graph showing the percentage of graduates in full-time employment within four months of graduating (Source of data: Graduate Careers Australia):

Source: lawyers Weekly

Posted in ABA, bar exam, Career, Debt, Department of Education, Economy, Education, Jobs, Law, Legal Education, Millennials, Salary, Statistics

Hope for those saddled with costly student loans

A 55-year-old reader I’ll call “Tim” wrote: “I wish I was making this up, and hope I will wake up from this nightmare. As a parent I carry so much guilt for wishing I could have advised [my son] better.”

Tim’s son graduated from law school two years ago with more than $250,000 in student-loan debt. He just moved back home. Since his parents co-signed some of his loans, their credit scores have dropped.

“We have watched our son’s bright light for a promising future be dimmed by the crushing weight of this debt.”

This seems like a hopeless situation, but it is not, said Betsy Mayotte, director of regulatory compliance for American Student Assistance, a nonprofit agency that helps people make better decisions about financing education.

The first step is to see how much of the debt is federal versus private. Federal debt is easier to deal with, said Mayotte. For example, through income-based repayment plans, the debt can actually be forgiven over a period of 25 years. In this particular instance, Tim’s son is on such a program. He pays nothing, since he earns nothing, but nonetheless, the clock is ticking toward resolution.

Federal-loan borrowers should contact their loan holders first for assistance to understand various options available to them. If your son or daughter doesn’t know the loan holders, he or she can look them up at http://www.nslds.ed.gov, the National Student Loan Data System for Students, a federal-government site.

Private lenders can be approached to modify the terms due to hardship, but forgiveness will not be likely. Some private loan lenders are announcing loan-modification programs — for example, Wells Fargo, Sallie Mae and Discover, as reported by The Wall Street Journal in “CFPB Official Speaks Loudly on Student Loans,” on Dec. 3, 2014.

Discharging student debt in bankruptcy is very rare, said Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president and publisher of Edvisors.com. Federal and private loans are not dischargeable — except in cases of extreme hardship.

But Tim’s son may have a chance. His inability to work in the field for which he was trained places an undue hardship on him. His situation will be unlikely to improve.

If he succeeds in getting a discharge, however, the co-signers on his loans will still be required to repay the debt. That’s one of the reasons why lenders require co-signers — to have two fish on the hook instead of just one, said Kantrowitz.

Read Mayotte’s blog on the subject of bankruptcy, “Debunking the Student Loan Bankruptcy Myth,” at http://tinyurl.com/plh7bwl

Also, visit http://www.saltmoney.org, the ACA’s educational website offering free tools and resources. After registering (no cost), take the time to download an e-book, “60+ Ways to Get Rid of Your Student Loans (Without Paying Them).” If you would like me to send you a copy, email me at readers@juliejason.com.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, said Mayotte.

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Could a freelance market find a home in the U.S. intelligence community?

By Greg Otto · Friday, December 19, 2014 · 8:00 am

As industries look to increase efficiency, relying on freelancers who now account for nearly one-third of the American workforce, the defense sector stands out as lumbering monolith that has been slow to change. Defense companies, often operating with a high overhead, seek out employees with a finely tuned set of skills or security clearances and struggle to fit everything into a dwindling budget.

A Navy veteran with extensive foreign policy experience, a background in humanities and a community of 50,000 LinkedIn users would like to change that.

That veteran is Graham Plaster, and his platform is TheIntelligenceCommunity.com, which would introduce a pipeline of freelancers to the country’s military-industrial complex. Framed in the model of ODesk or Elance — the online job platforms that connect businesses and freelancers — TheIntelligenceCommunity.com would host job opportunities in the national security space that could be filled by freelance workers or independent contractors of all sorts of skill levels.

Job opportunities would break down by a unique set of layers, including filters by clearance level in the GSA schedule, the ability to verify language levels and whether work would fall into a HUBZone region.

Plaster said the opportunities will span an array of skills and levels, with job postings geared toward geo-political consulting, translation, technical writing and business intelligence.

“If you are a retired ambassador or an undersecretary, and do business development consulting for $1,000 an hour, and you are doing it from your house in Fiji, I don’t see any restriction to doing that,” Plaster said. “If you are still in college and you’re a computer science guy, and you don’t have a clearance, but you’d like to do a little bit of app development for a government agency that would like to hire you, there will be a way to do that, too.”

Unlike traditional job boards like USAJobs.gov or Indeed.com, Plaster’s site would aim to help applicants avoid the arduous hiring process tied to government work.

“Generally, you go to LinkedIn or you go to Indeed, you search for a job, you find full-time employment with a contracting company or the government, and the whole cycle to apply and try to get into that job is very competitive and long,” he said. “A lot of them require clearances and to be on site. Contrast all of that with the idea that we are building a marketplace where you’ll quickly be able to find short-term jobs that don’t require clearance, [allow you to] work from home and piece together a bunch of jobs to make ends meet.”

For the time being, the marketplace is still just a concept. Right now, Plaster is focused on initial development and getting freelancers matched up with small businesses. Plaster told FedScoop in October that the platform would be in beta for about a year, leveraging insights gained from the LinkedIn community.

Armed with a technological curiosity along with a vast contact network from his days as a United Nations liaison and a Navy foreign area officer, Plaster is trying to overcome a mindset within the defense community that is comfortable with sticking to the status quo or worried about the regulatory hurdles they would have to overcome in order to use the site.

“We will face a lot of obstacles in allowing the government to use this platform directly,” he said. “We would like to be able to offer matchmaking services for small business contract vehicles in the platform.. some sort of recommendation engine to say ‘OK, government office, you want freelancer to do “X,” here is the company that can facilitate it.’ We are not in the business of priming or [sub-contracting] any of these contracts. We’re just facilitating the link up.”

Yet even as Plaster explains this to potential partners, they still look at the platform through the lens of government contracting, which is something he would like to stay away from.

“Anybody that I talk to that is in government contracting talks in terms of ‘OK, so what contracts are you going to bid on?’ What I told people is I don’t want to get wrapped around the axle of government contracting because I see us as a tool that people use who are bidding on contracts,” he said. “If we bid on a bunch of contracts, then we are going to be taken in a bunch of random ways that have to tailor to what we are building.”

Plaster’s platform has received praise from former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn, who was responsible for overseeing a big pivot toward innovation before leaving the agency earlier this year.

“The U.S. Intelligence community should take its cues from the innovation and networking conversations occurring via TheIntelligenceCommunity.com,” Flynn has said when speaking about the site. “This forum demonstrates collaboration at its best focusing on solutions and is the virtual place to be for all intelligence professionals and all who care about our national security.”

The platform could also fill some holes in the federal workforce, which has been focused on hiring key demographics: veterans and millennials. While the federal government has launched a multitude of efforts to hire veterans, the overall veteran unemployment rate (4.5 percent) is lower than the national rate (5.8 percent). Gulf War-era II veterans — which the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines as those who served after September 2001 — retain the highest unemployment rate among veterans (5.7 percent), with females more than 2 percentage points higher (8.1 percent). Also, a report in June found that millennials only account for 7 percent of the federal workforce, the lowest figure in nearly a decade.

In order to get the platform off the ground, Plaster has shied away from debt or equity financing — “We’re trying to build relationships,” he said — and turned to crowdsourcing. When Plaster spoke to FedScoop in October, he was gearing up to launch an Indiegogo campaign that he hoped would raise $625,000 to cover the cost of building a proprietary platform. Unfortunately, that effort fell far short, with only a little more than $10,000 raised when the effort closed on Dec. 5.

Yet, instead of considering the venture a failure, Plaster started to explore other options. He came upon near-me.com, a white-label, customizable software that can build Plaster’s platform, costing no more than what was raised through crowdfunding, complete with the added bonus of launching nearly nine months faster than he initially expected.

He says the Indiegogo campaign was “an experiment like everything else,” as well as a learning experience.

“The reason why we set such a high goal is because we had no idea what the turnout would be,” Plaster said when FedScoop caught up with him in December. “We learned several things that are worth a lot to us. People are excited about the platform, but they didn’t quite understand it yet. It takes a lot more explanation of what we are going to be doing.”

It seems like some government minds are beginning to get what Plaster’s platform could do for the national security community. Despite his efforts to dodge government contracts, he did find a space to pitch his wares: His company will be part of a recently awarded contract from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which will use the platform to pull volunteer analysis into the agency’s Map of the World service.

It is awards like this that give Plaster hope he can continue to harness the power of this network and disrupt a sector that’s in dire need of innovation.

“The whole cycle to apply and try to get into [a government] job is very competitive and long,” Plaster said. “A lot of them require clearances and to be on site. Contrast all of that with the idea that we are building a marketplace where you’ll quickly be able to find short-term jobs that don’t require clearance, [allow you to] work from home and piece together a bunch of jobs to make ends meet. Maybe that’s ideal for the veteran with a retirement check coming in. Maybe it’s ideal for a stay-at-home spouse who was prior military. Maybe it’s ideal for a student that’s part-time working. If you can’t find full-time employment out there, you can piece together jobs with us.”

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Part Eight of Student Loan Series: New Parents And Saving For College

Many Gen-Xers and Millennials are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the cost of higher education. How are new parents are coping with the rising cost of a college education for their children, while still saddled with their own school debts?

In the year 2030, the average sticker price for a year at a private university could be as much as $130,428. That’s according to recent projections by loan-handlers Campus Partners. Their outlook is pretty bleak for public universities too—which could cost a whopping $41,228 per year.

That’s a hefty price tag, especially for Gen-Xers and Millenials. They weren’t in college or grad school that long ago, and many bank accounts are perennially sore from that monthly student loan payment.

“We often joke like if we could just win like $100,000,” says new parent John, “we’d totally be OK with just $100,000, even to partially pay off those loans, so that we could then put that money toward saving for Caleb.”

John and his wife Leah are the proud parents of 20-month-old Caleb. And if these 30-somethings have their way, Caleb is either going to Dartmouth (where mom went) or Rutgers (where dad went).

“I bleed green for Dartmouth,” Leah says. “The goal was always that he would go to college.”

Leah admits it’s not going to be that easy. She’s an attorney, but she walked off the podium at Columbia Law School with $150,000 in student loans. John’s debt is less severe, but still cumbersome.

“Truthfully, not having student loans would change our whole life,” Leah says.

So what’s a new Gen X/Millennial parent to do? In a way, it’s these generations’ Sophie’s Choice. Blow what life savings you can amass beyond your own debt (and take on more debt), or saddle your kid with their own debt for a good chunk of their adult lives. What would you choose?

“I remember the day my father said you can go wherever you want to college and I remember being like yes this is awesome,” Leah admits. “To think I might not be able to say that to my kid is heartbreaking.”

But if you ask financial advisor and WAMC contributor Mary Irish, the glass is half full. The most popular college savings tool these days is the state-sponsored 529 savings plan. She says they can go a long way over 18 years to defray college costs.

“All of the states have a 529 and they really have a lot of benefits,” Irish says. “All of the money that’s invested, if it’s used for qualified education expenses is tax-free. Another benefit is that the beneficiaries can be changed.”

That can be a relief to new parents, Irish says, especially when they consider having a second. She knows that firsthand, as the mom of two boys, now 20 and 17. Her older son is enrolled at a public university, and her younger son is a senior in high school, aiming to go to a private university. She says they overestimated the cost of college for their first son, and are planning to transfer the balance to their younger son.

“My husband and I both paid our way through college, but it was different then,” Irish says. “We’re in our mid-50s and it was an entirely different situation in terms of the debt you took on. So by the time we became parents, our college debt was paid off.”

Perhaps fittingly, the previous generation are seeking information about the 529s as much as the parents.

“I speak with a lot of new grandparents,” Irish says. “Often, they may be in a better financial position than the parents to help. The grandparents can use all of the same options for saving that the parents can.”

There are other options too. Parents can opt to invest in a Coverdell education IRA, but it’s a less desirable option because it does not qualify as a tax deduction and there is a limit on yearly contributions.

Leah and John started a 529 in New York for Caleb when he was 3 months old. They tied it to a credit card program, which deposits rewards into the 529 based on purchases. And they put in money when they can. But at first, they admit they were embarrassed to talk about what they were doing to save for their son’s education.

“Don’t ask us how much we’ve put in it so far,” Leah laughs. “The answer is, not much.”

That’s the case for many parents in Facebook parenting groups Leah belongs to—for this generation, Facebook and other social media forums have become the go-to for parenting advice and support—very few wanted to talk about saving for college because they were embarrassed at how little they could save. But for Leah and John, the more they thought about it, the more they realized they weren’t doing anything wrong.

“We haven’t done anything irresponsible,” Leah says. “We haven’t like run up some huge gambling debt and we haven’t gone and bought some house we couldn’t afford.”

“We’re doing everything we can do, it’s just the current circumstances that we’re a part of, the financial environment currently, ” John adds.

Irish, the financial advisor, says it’s all about the benefit of time.

“Like anything, you just really do have to put a little aside into each pocket,” Mary advises. “That’s all you can do, just do as much as you can. And give yourself the benefit of time. Time is everything, through good markets, bad markets and everything in between.”

Of course, it’s hard to predict 18 years out what kind of financial aid will be available, what scholarships might come your child’s way – or even if your child will want to go to a traditional four-year college, increasingly seen as a must for a competitive job market. And when even President Obama has raised concern about the student loan crisis, perhaps wholesale reforms are on the horizon.

But for Leah and John, that’s a bridge to cross when they get there.

“I’d much rather him go to college,” John admits. “But if he really has come to a point where he knows with his whole heart that he wants to be an artist or wants to be a photographer and that doesn’t require a college degree, so be it.”

Posted in Gen X, Jobs, Millennials, Student Loans, Wage

University of Iowa: New one-year masters in law study degree good for admissions

Vanessa MIller, The Gazette
December 25, 2014 | 7:30 pm

A new master’s in the study of law program at the University of Iowa will not dilute the quality of a traditional UI law student’s education and experience, according to the College of Law dean.

But before the Board of Regents earlier this month approved the new non-traditional one-year degree for students interested in studying law but not practicing law, board members raised questions about how the program would affect the UI college’s reputation and its traditional students.

“I was troubled when I first took a look at this,” Regent Ruth Harkin said during the board’s December meeting. “I thought it diluted the prestige or our law school.”

Board members asked how the new degree will differ from the college’s traditional degrees, how it will affect the classroom experience, whether it will drive down admission standards, and whether all that will harm the law school’s prestige.

UI officials say they believe the new master’s degree will bolster programming, not harm it. And with the number of traditional law school applicants down nationally and locally, officials contend the abbreviated one-year degree could bump up UI enrollment.

The new master’s program is expected to launch in fall 2015.

“There are so many people who need to know more about the law just to do their own jobs well,” she said.

Before moving forward with the program, the college must obtain the acquiescence of its accrediting body, the American Bar Association Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar. And it first needed regent approval, which board members provided at their Dec. 3 meeting.

standards not as ‘rigorous’

UI law professor Christina Bohannan, who will serve as the program’s inaugural director, said she and Agrawal plan to attend the March 11 board meeting in Iowa City to share more about the program. Agrawal also has provided a written response to some of the board’s questions, including the notion that having students pursuing the less-intensive “study of law” degree in the same classroom as traditional juris doctor students will “dilute the quality of the JD classroom experience.”

“No,” Agrawal wrote in a response provided to the Board of Regents on Dec. 10, explaining that mixing students “with different academic and work backgrounds enhances the classroom experience.”

In fact, she said, that blending of students already happens. The College of Law allows graduate students from other colleges to enroll in law school courses, and upper-level undergraduates occasionally enroll in law school courses with the consent of an instructor.

“Law students are also permitted to enroll in graduate level courses across the campus,” Agrawal wrote.

And many do, she said.

As for questions about admission standards, Agrawal said, the College of Law for all its degree programs thoroughly reviews an applicant’s file. But, she said, students interested in the new master’s program won’t necessarily have to take a standardized test for graduate level studies, and the college won’t have a “minimum admission standard.”

A combination of high ACT or SAT scores and strong undergraduate performance could be used as a substitute for a graduate-level standardized test in the admissions process, according to Agrawal.

“Because it is not a professional program, admission standards do not have to be as rigorous,” according to regent documents.

As proposed, the new master’s in the study of law will educate students and professionals who don’t want to practice law but need to “recognize and respond effectively to legal issues in their work,” according to regent documents. It will require 30 credit hours to be completed either in one year or in up to four years on a part-time basis.
More stories from Vanessa MIller

The proposed curriculum combines traditional cornerstone courses on legal reasoning and methods with more advanced cross-disciplinary courses. The goal is to be flexible based on individual needs, allowing students to build their own course of study or follow a designated specialty track.

Specialty track options include a “business and innovation track” and a “law and public policy track,” according to regent documents.

Tuition will be substantially less than for the juris doctor program, according to law school officials. Resident students enrolling in the new program will pay $700 per credit hour, while nonresidents will pay $1,300 per hour.

Bohannan said because traditional law school applicants have declined, the college is prepared to handle additional students — including those following a non-traditional path.

In just the last month, she said, 10 to 15 people have expressed interest in the new program.

“If we have more students who are interested, it would be a good problem to have,” Bohannan said.

Posted in ABA, bar exam, Career, Department of Education, Legal Education, Millennials

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