Glut of graduate lawyers as unis cash in

THE oversupply of law graduates is partly due to the financial incentives for universities to open new law schools without regard to whether law firms are able to employ the extra graduates.

This assessment, by King & Wood Mallesons global managing partner Stuart Fuller, comes soon after the nation’s 34 law schools produced 10.2 per cent more graduates last year while employment at the leading firms shrank by 3.1 per cent.

“There are, to be frank, too many law students and too many law schools for what the profession needs,” Mr Fuller said.

“Law degrees are quite good profit-earners for universities, so therefore you have a mismatch between what the education industry is generating — the supply of talent — and what the profession needs.”

Mr Fuller’s remarks are in line with similar concerns expressed by Queensland Law Society president Ian Brown, who last month warned that universities were making significant revenue from law schools and would make even more money if university fees were deregulated.

The private profession could not absorb the growing number of law graduates, many of whom were seeking work in business or the public sector, Mr Brown said.

Mr Fuller, who was speaking during a visit from his base in Hong Kong, said there was not much point educating people for a career in the law that might be beyond their reach.

He recognised that a law degree provided a good foundation for other careers, but he believed those who would never practise law would be better off being educated in another discipline.

The Australian’s survey of the 38 leading law firms revealed that in the year to June 30, legal employment shrank at all but 12 firms. All of the big national firms reduced their legal workforce. The biggest job cut was 9.5 per cent.

The survey found that the overall job cut was 3.1 per cent. Federal government figures show the nation’s law schools produced 10.2 per cent more graduates last year.

Mr Fuller said there was a shortage of young lawyers in Asia and this was “a huge opportunity” for those who were prepared to make their careers offshore.

The NSW Law Society is also worried about the oversupply of law graduates and has established a working group to examine the issue under the chairmanship its vice-president, Gary Ulman.

That group was convened by the council of the Law Society out of concern that the over­supply of graduates could harm the profession.

Mr Ulman’s group has been asked to examine the appropriateness of the funding arrangements for higher education.

His group is examining the impact those arrangements are having on the number of law graduates as well as the potential impact on the viability of the profession based on projections of the number of graduates who are likely to join the profession over the next few years.


Posted in ABA, Career, Ethics, Legal Education, Millennials, Student Loans, Wage

Difficult jobs market drives applications to top law schools

Aspiring law students have more to consider than ever before. They not only need to think about whether there will be a job for them at the end of their studies, they also have to consider whether the law school they choose will be able to withstand pressures that are leading to falling student enrolment.

Diminishing confidence in the strength of the legal graduate market, in the wake of the economic downturn, has made it more challenging for law schools to make their case to prospective students – the number of whom has fallen.

In the US, the world’s largest legal education market, the number of applicants for juris doctor (JD) programmes at schools approved by the American Bar Association shrank by more than a third between 2009-10 and 2013-14, according to the Law School Admissions Council.

The number of students admitted on to these courses also fell by almost a quarter from 2009-10 to 2012-13, the most recent year for which LSAC figures are available. The trend presents a problem for law schools: loss of revenue.

Karen Kedem, vice-president at Moody’s Investors Service, says that standalone law schools are particularly vulnerable to tuition revenue declines, as they rely almost exclusively on fees for funding.

A Moody’s report published in May concluded that law schools without the financial security and brand associated with top universities face a greater risk of closure as a result of sustained lower demand.

There have already been casualties. On top of takeovers, some providers have closed programmes.

In the UK, the for-profit Kaplan Law School closed its Bar Professional Training Course this May. Jenny Birch, chief executive of the school, says it became “uneconomic” to deliver the course as intended as a result of “downward pressure on fees and upward pressure on costs.”

John Latham, president and chief executive of The University of Law, says the postgraduate legal market in the UK, as elsewhere, has become much more competitive. “We understand that it is a massive investment [for students] and our focus is on quality of outcomes,” he says.

Students are increasingly concerned about employability when applying, says Michael Schill, dean of the University of Chicago Law School. “It is expensive and students are right to expect a return on their investment . . . [they] are drawn more and more to schools that can keep up of their end of the bargain.”

Chicago’s is one of a number of university law schools that has paired up with other faculties to deliver joint degrees. Mr Schill says that, while the “Chicago brand” is strong, the development of programmes with the university’s Booth School of Business has attracted top students.

Within the sector, there is optimism that falling applications will be reversed as the graduate recruitment market picks up. “We hope applications catch up with general improvements in the economy,” says Maureen O’Rourke, dean at Boston University School of Law.

Some analysts think the decline in demand is not attributable to the economic cycle alone, but reflects a structural shift in the legal industry.

“We are reaching a point where changes in the way that law firms bill [from per-hour charging to flat fee structures] and use technology means there is less need for labour,” says Ms Kedem.

While demand for top schools that offer strong employment opportunities will remain broadly unaffected by this trend, she says, those with less recognised brands and reputations are more likely to struggle.

Amid oversupply in the legal education market, the flight to quality by recruiters and students alike is well under way, she says.


Finance: Students must decide early on how to fund their education

It is not only law schools that face financial challenges. Students must work out early on how they are going to fund their education. In addition to tuition fees, full-time students will face accommodation and living costs. For those without savings or benefactors, here are the main options:

student on laptop
Crowdfunding: online platforms allow students to connect with those interested in investing in them
Scholarships/financial aid
Most top law schools offer strong applicants merit-based financial support that does not have to be repaid. As well as schools’ scholarships, there are also several private grants and scholarships. Students can apply for these according to conditions set out by their sponsors.

Although several banks lend to graduate students, options for international students tend to be limited. Professional and Career Development Loans, subsidised by the UK government, are available to long-term residents, and federal Stafford loans are available to US citizens. A US resident must cosign a US bank loan to an international student to guarantee its repayment.

As many traditional lenders withdrew from the student loans market during the economic downturn, a new form of finance emerged. Crowdfunding platforms allow students to borrow money from those interested in investing in them. Borrowing opportunities can be limited and terms are arranged on a case-by-case basis.

Posted in Career, Competition, Financial Planning, Legal Education, Student Loans, Wage

Spiraling graduate student debt raises alarms Could the student loan debate be overlooking the real problem?

By Jon Marcus

An Army veteran, Anthony Manfre paid for his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees mostly with his GI Bill benefits, although he also took out $4,000 worth of student loans.

“At the time, I thought that was a lot,” he said. “And now I look back and wish I only owed that much.”

That’s because Manfre went on to graduate school, picking up a master’s degree before setting off on the long road to a doctorate in marriage and family therapy while borrowing to also pay his living expenses. And now he’s $200,000 in debt.

“In the back of my mind I was always thinking, this money is an investment — that later on, when I graduate and get a job, I’ll be able to pay it off,” said Manfre, who earns $61,500 a year working for the Veterans Administration. “But now I don’t think I’m going to get the return I thought I would.

While much of the concern about ballooning student debt has so far been focused on undergraduates, there is mounting alarm that it has overlooked a principal source of the problem: graduate students like Manfre, who are less likely to have support from parents or other sources, and who face almost no limits on how much they borrow.

Graduate students now collectively owe as much as 40 percent of the estimated $1.2 trillion in outstanding student debt, according to the independent think tank the New America Foundation, even though they make up only 14 percent of all university enrollment.

This lopsided situation has gotten so little attention that the National Association of Graduate and Professional Students’ Facebook campaign about it is plaintively titled “Grads Have Debt 2.”

Related: Want higher-ed reform? You may be surprised where you’ll find it

“People focus on the undergraduates, because there are more of them and they’re younger and more naïve,” said Joel Best, a professor at the University of Delaware and coauthor of The Student Loan Mess. “They aren’t really paying attention to graduate students, but graduate students are really stacking up substantial student-loan debt.”

This indifference, Best and others said, helps graduate programs get away with continually increasing their prices. “They can charge whatever they want and say to themselves that they don’t need to worry about it, the students can get loans,” Best said.

It has also freed lawmakers to raise interest rates on graduate and professional students, who are being charged rates nearly half again as much as undergrads. In 2012, to save about $1.8 billion a year, Congress also stopped subsidizing the interest that accumulates on federal student loans taken out by graduate students while they’re in school and for six months after they finish. And a proposal to streamline existing federal tax credits would reduce the deductions they will be able to take for educational expenses.

Meanwhile, one measure to help student borrowers by limiting their repayments to a portion of their income and forgiving any remaining debt after a certain period of time, could actually disproportionately help graduate degree holders — and cost taxpayers, who would end up having to cover the difference.

“You get a lot of bad behavior all around,” Best said.

Related: The real cost of college? It’s probably even higher than you think

The sharp growth in borrowing for graduate degrees is happening even as the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the fastest-growing careers through 2022 will require workers to have graduate degrees.

“We might have a philosophical discussion about, ‘Do you need a master’s degree for X, Y, and Z,’ but in a free and open marketplace employers are asking for them,” said Suzanne Ortega, president of the Council of Graduate Schools.

Yet while enrollment in graduate programs has increased 41 percent since 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the Council of Graduate Schools reports that the pace of applications has stalled — in part because people are put off by the cost, said Neleen Leslie, president of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students.

“We’re going to have graduate enrollment going down in our universities, because people can’t afford to take on that level of debt,” said Leslie, a doctoral student at Florida State University.

Related: Programs seek to lower cost of college textbooks

Often past the point at which their parents help them pay for their tuition, room, and board, graduate students borrow an average of nearly three times more per year than undergraduates, the College Board reports. And while the average debt of undergraduates has more than doubled since 1989, according to the Brookings Institution, it’s more than quadrupled during that time for graduate students.

Graduate degrees unquestionably often lead to higher incomes — a worker with a master’s degree makes about 20 percent more than a bachelor’s degree holder, and with a professional degree, 55 percent more, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates. But not always.

About 16 percent of master’s degrees are in education, for example, for which graduates end up with a median debt of $50,879, the New America Foundation reports — compared with $30,724 a decade ago, and requiring a loan repayment of $429 a month — when the average public-school teacher with a master’s degree makes $57,830 a year.

“There’s a misperception that people who pursue advanced degrees are going to be able to make enough to pay back those loans,” said Leslie. “That’s not necessarily true.”

Now a new measure to help graduate students could cause problems for everyone else.

Related: Students paying extra for skills they say they haven’t learned on campus

The change, made by executive order in June, expands a little-known provision called income-based repayment under which borrowers can limit their monthly federal loan repayments to 10 percent of their incomes, and forgives any remaining debt after 20 years. That’s down from 15 percent and 25 years, respectively. It’s scheduled to take effect for students who borrow beginning in late 2015. Federal loans account for the largest share of graduate student debt.

While President Barack Obama, when he signed it, explicitly said the provision was meant to help undergraduates (“If you got a professional degree like a law degree, you would probably be able to pay it off,” said Obama, who graduated from Harvard Law School), some observers say it’s far more likely to be used by graduate degree-holders —including those who do earn high incomes, and may not actually need it.

The change could also encourage graduate students to borrow even more than they already do, and remain enrolled and living off their loans for longer than they need to, said Jason Delisle, director of the Federal Education Budget Project at the New America Foundation.

That’s because they’ll know their monthly payments will never exceed one-tenth of their incomes, and that taxpayers will cover any balance left unpaid after 20 years.

“Why the hell should you worry about how much you’re borrowing? Borrow a million, you’ll still have to pay off the same amount,” Best said.

Delisle called it “a policy accident.”

“And who’s going to figure this out?” he asked. “Probably people with graduate degrees.”

This story was written by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news website focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about higher education.

Source: Time

Posted in Department of Education, Student Loans, Uncategorized

Strippers win $10.9M for unpaid wages from NYC club

Friday, 14 Nov 2014 | 3:56 PM ET

Exotic dancers at a midtown Manhattan strip club were awarded nearly $10.9 million by a U.S. judge who found they were employees unfairly classified by the club as independent contractors.

The damages cover unpaid wages and withheld gratuities dancers employed at Rick’s Cabaret, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan said. The action was brought on behalf of some 2,000 dancers employed at the club – owned by Peregrine Enterprises, a unit of RCI Hospitality Holdings—going back to 2005.

The award is short of the $18.8 million in damages the dancers sought, and the judge left the balance to be decided at a trial. The date will be set shortly, the court order said.

Read More California peach farmer, UFW slug it out at hearing
In a September 2013 ruling, Engelmayer sided with the plaintiffs, saying Rick’s Cabaret exercised so much control over the dancers that they were actually employees subject to the club’s rules and could not make independent decisions about their work.

The strippers did not receive salaries, only tips and fees for dances, usually $20, and payment for time spent with customers in semi-private rooms. As employees, the judge found they are entitled to mininum wage protections under federal law.

“We are looking forward to a trial,” said Michelle Drake, an attorney for the dancers, who said the plaintiffs could seek more than the original damages they requested.

Among the issues the judge left for trial is whether RCI Hospitality Holdings should be jointly held liable with Peregrine Enterprises.

Read More Ex-wife of Hamm to appeal $1 billion divorce award
Shares in RCI Hospitality Holdings shed 4.4 percent during regular trading, to close Friday at $10.78.

“There is no current or near term obligation to pay any sums as a result of this decision,” RCI Hospitality said in a statement. “The case will be appealed once final judgment is reached after trial.”

The women earn large sums of money at the club and the idea that income is not counted towards wage obligations is “fundamentally flawed,” the statement said.

Strippers in other states have made similar claims. This month the Nevada Supreme Court ruled topless dancers at the Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club on the Las Vegas strip were employees and also deserved wages.

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Posted in Freelancer, Law, Wage

Wait For 2nd Circ. Skadden Ruling, Quinn Temp Atty Says

Law360, New York (October 23, 2014, 3:19 PM ET) —

A lawyer suing Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP for failing to pay temporary attorneys overtime said on Thursday that Quinn’s pending bid to escape his lawsuit shouldn’t be considered until the Second Circuit rules on a similar case against Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.
William Henig, who said he spent about six weeks doing document review work for Quinn Emanuel, asked U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams to hold the firm’s recent motion for summary judgment in abeyance while the Second Circuit mulls an appeal from David Lola, another contract attorney who brought his own would-be collective action overtime suit against Skadden but saw his case thrown out in September.

Judge Abrams and U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan, who said Lola was overtime exempt because his document review work qualified as practicing law, applied different tests when deciding exactly constitutes the “practice of law” under federal Fair Labor Standards Act regulations, which appears to present an issue of first impression in the Second Circuit and elsewhere, Thursday’s letter said.

“The Second Circuit’s decision in Lola will clarify the proper standard to apply in this case and similar cases. Accordingly, in the interest of judicial economy, plaintiff respectfully requests that summary judgment motion practice be held in abeyance until the Second Circuit issues its decision in Lola, at which point the parties and the court can apply the Second Circuit’s guidance as to the meaning of ‘practice of law’ in the FLSA’s regulations,” wrote Maimon Kirshenbaum of Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP.

Henig and Lola, who are represented by the same law firm, both argued that in light of the “extremely routine nature” of their document review duties, they weren’t actually practicing law and thus were owed overtime.

In the Henig case, a putative class and collective action invoking both the FLSA and New York law, Quinn Emanuel has argued that as an attorney reviewing documents for pending litigation, Henig was exempt from both state and federal overtime requirements.

Judge Sullivan dismissed Lola’s case on September 16, persuaded by Skadden and fellow defendant Tower Legal Staffing Inc.’s arguments that Lola and others like him were FLSA exempt as licensed attorneys engaged in the practice of law. Lola filed a notice of appeal on Oct. 13.

Quinn Emanuel said that it would consider Henig’s request to put the pending summary judgment bid on hold if Henig agreed to drop his suit if the Second Circuit sides with Skadden and affirms Judge Sullivan’s decision to dismiss the Lola case, according to the letter filed on Thursday.

Henig couldn’t agree to that “patently absurd” condition, the letter said, adding that Judge Sullivan had applied the law of North Carolina, the state were Lola worked, and that state’s law is inapplicable to Henig’s suit.

Henig, who initially filed suit in March 2013, said he spent about six weeks doing document review work for the 600-lawyer business litigation firm, and his entire job consisted of combing through documents looking for particular search terms and topics, and electronically marking documents into certain predetermined categories depending on what he found.

According to Henig’s lawsuit against Quinn and Document Technologies LLC, he spent “several weeks” working between 41.7 and 54.7 hours, but was only paid straight time — not a premium rate — for time worked beyond the 40-hour threshold in a given week.

In addition to Quinn Emanuel, the lawsuit named legal staffing outfit Providus New York LLC as a defendant. Providus was acquired in 2012 by Document Technologies Inc., a company that furnishes e-discovery, litigation support and other services to law firms.

Henig is represented by Charles Joseph, D. Maimon Kirschenbaum, Denise Schulman, Douglas Weiner and Matthew D. Kadushin of Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP.

Quinn Emanuel is represented by its own Marc Greenwald. Document Technologies is represented by Zachary Hummel and Daniel O’Keefe of Bryan Cave LLP.

The case is William Henig v. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP et al., case number 1:13-cv-01432, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

–Editing by Stephen Berg.

Posted in Jobs, Law, Salary, Wage

How to Turn a Freelance Job into a Full-Time Career

The labor market may be improving, but it’s still very much an employer’s market. Even with hiring on the increase, the number of new full-time jobs being created continues to lag. This is partly why a third of workers are now freelancers, according to a new report from Freelancers Union, which defines freelancers as everything from contract workers to temps.

There is good news, however. For many people, landing a full-time job may increasingly be a two-step process: Get on board first as a part-time or contract worker, then work to convert that to a full-time job. It happens more often than you think.

Related: 6 Secrets of Successful Freelancers

Freelance and part-time work is important because it allows you to build your resume (and avoid employment gaps). It can also provide income while you’re still in search mode, says Liz D’Aloia, a recruiter and founder of HR Virtuoso.

If you’re already working as a freelancer or part-timer, you’ve succeeded with step one. Now it’s a matter of closing the deal on a full-time gig. Here are smart tips to help.

Climb the Company Ladder
Working within a department gives you an inside scoop when a job opens up as well as insight into what the position entails. That was the case for Cathy Wilde, a communications director at the University of Buffalo who started out as a freelance assistant at Buffalo’s school of management in 2008.

After a six-month trial period, she went from freelance to hourly to part-time, with her responsibilities increasing along the way. Her dedication paid off when a full-time position as assistant director of communications opened up in 2012. Wilde still had to go through a state-mandated application process and interview for the job, but her experience and knowledge of the department helped her get the gig.

A year later, Wilde moved into her current role. “It was a slow, steady climb from being an assistant to being the boss,” she notes.

Career tip: Always exude a positive attitude, D’Aloia says, even if the position is a stepping-stone. You never know when you’ll need a reference.

Show Your Worth
In Sara Spencer’s case, being assertive played a role in her progress from freelance work to a full-time offer. She was hesitant at first to take on temporary work, but the position was at a PR firm that intrigued her.

“The freelance position began with minimal pay but really flexible hours. I made it a point to show up every morning when everyone else arrived and stay until everyone left. I worked extremely hard,” she says, “and was vocal about making suggestions on client initiatives.”

Being proactive helped her nab a full-time offer. “I requested a meeting with the company’s owners and shared goals. I reviewed the work I’d done for them over the past three months and the value I could offer as a full-time employee.” While this certainly won’t work in every case, Spencer’s gumption paid off and the company took her on full time.

Career tip: Regular meetings with supervisors can help remind others of your value – and strengthen your relationship with the team, putting you in good stead when a full-time position presents itself.

Join the Team
If you’re freelancing at a company you like and want a full-time job, make a personal connection with your coworkers by “mingling with the team, going out to lunch, or stopping by their desk to chat,” advises Aalap Shah, co-owner of the Chicago-based marketing firm SoMe Connect. Once your assignment is over, stay in touch.

“Our freelancers are working with other companies and organizations, and we love to hear about their work and their new roles,” Shah says. “It gives us a clear picture of what they’re doing and how they manage multiple priorities.”

Related: The Top 10 Hiring Myths

Even if there are no jobs available at the moment, by staying in touch with your previous employers and grabbing coffee with former colleagues now and then, the companies are more likely to keep your name at the ready when a position does open up.

Career tip: Think of freelance as an opportunity to see if you really want to work for that employer, advises D’Aloia. Is it a good cultural fit? Do you like the work? Are you in sync with the boss? Also, keep looking for a full-time job even if you’re doing project work. While you may be hopeful that your current position will turn into something more, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one company’s basket.

Know That Starting Small Is OK
For Blakely Donohue, a move from Florida to New York was the impetus for accepting consulting work for a major PR firm. It seemed like a minor gig, but she took it as an opportunity to prove her skills to a potential employer. She received a full-time job offer not much later.

She’s now a public relations account executive. The lesson? “Never turn down a small gig that might turn into a grand opportunity,” she says. Getting your foot in the door is the first step to showcasing your skills. Employers don’t want to have to start fresh for every project.

Career tip: Great contractors can help companies decide to free up budgets for full-time positions. Consider your freelance gig a probationary period and treat the job as if it were permanent.

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Posted in Career, Freelancer, Jobs, Resume, Salary

Law blog more valuable than law review in landing job

By Kevin O’Keefe on November 5, 2014 in Blogging, Law School Blogs

Ellis parlayed his online networking while in law school into a job with leading Detroit law firm, Honigman Miller. As a result, he was invited back by Dan Linna (@DanLinna), Assistant Dean for Career Development, to educate and inspire.

Ellis told the audience that one blog post of his shared on social media brought far more attention and conversations with lawyers and law professors than a law review article would.

Heck, I met Ellis at the LegalTech Show in New York City earlier this year as a result of engaging him via his blog. There were any number of lawyers at the same cocktail party who Ellis met with because of his online networking.

Ask yourself how many law students travel to New York City for such an event, let alone know a lot of lawyers attending the same event. Ellis was there because his blogging opened up doors that would have been otherwise closed to him.

Blogging was also more enjoyable for Ellis because of its more engaging style. No long articles that needed to be footnoted. How long would that take? Who was going to read such an article?

His message was a strong one. The things historically thought of value by law students — which law school, law review, moot court, who you know — were no longer as important. Developing an online presence via networking was more important, per Ellis.

When blogging while in school Ellis advised having a good blog design, great content, linking to social, tracking visitors, posting regularly, and writing in your voice.

Ellis was a man after my heart when he told the audience that networking online requires law students to listen, engage, curate and create content with their own point of view.

He was wise beyond his years in advising students to forget trying to please everyone, you’ll please no one. That’s a lesson most lawyers have yet to learn.

I had the honor of speaking to the audience, via Skype, to kick things off. I enjoyed it immensely, but it was Ellis who stole the show and drove home the message that students ought to blog and network online — if they wish to get the job they’re after.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Fernando Stankuns

Posted in Jobs, Legal Education, Technology

Lessons from US student bubble

SINCE the global financial crisis, law enrolments have declined sharply in the US. Australia has not had the recession the US had, but we now have a steady stream of stories about insufficient jobs for the growing number of Australian law graduates.

So, the question is whether law enrolments will decline here, as they have in the US.

In the US, law school enrolments have declined by about 25 per cent since 2009. The titles of recent books illustrate the situation, for example Thomas Morgan’s The Vanishing American Lawyer, Brian Tanamaha’s Failing American Law Schools and Steven Harper’s The Lawyer Bubble — A Profession in Crisis.

In the US, there has been huge discussion about declining entry-level job opportunities, declining salaries, high law school tuition fees and the huge debt that law students accumulate — the average being $US125,000 ($142,680).

Barack Obama has commented, including on how he and ­Michelle Obama were still paying off their law school debt into their forties. Many potential students have decided that law is not worth the investment.

US commentators have concluded that there is emerging structural change in the legal services market. Things will not simply return to normal as the economy emerges from the financial crisis.

The challenges to traditional legal practice predicted by a number of authors, especially Richard Susskind, are really happening through the digital revolution, globalisation and new business models. The outcome is that there is less need for traditional lawyers.

The effects on US law schools have been mixed. The top-ranked law schools have no trouble maintaining their enrolments. Their recent graduates still have very high employment rates: 85 per cent or better; while the bottom quartile of law schools are rattling around 50 per cent.

There is a flurry of activity among US law schools to make their graduates more “job ready” by increasing experiential learning. The American Bar Association’s law school accreditation standards have been slightly relaxed to help this along.

But improving the employa­bility of graduates will not increase the number of jobs. Reduced enrolments means that some lower-ranked US law schools have already halved their staffing and it is only a matter of time before some close.

So, what are the implications for Australia?

We did not have the same sharp recession that the US experienced. But we now have, at least anecdotally, a decline in entry-level jobs for law graduates.

At the same time, we have a growing number of law graduates. Recent media discussion has quoted 12,000 as the annual figure for law graduates.

I think this ­figure includes more than the LLB and Juris Doctor graduates who have the academic qualification for admission as legal practitioners. I think the actual number of graduates qualifying for admission is something over 7000. Of those, just under 6000 go on to complete practical training and apply for admission.

There are a myriad of different “law” courses on offer and it is ­difficult to separate out statistics rele­vant to admission.

Last year I did some rough international comparisons of practising lawyers and law students in the accompanying table. The law students are those studying in a course who qualify for ­admission.

Why do we have so many law students in Australia?

For a start, we now have 37 law schools. Canada, has 12 law schools for a larger population. The US has about 200 ABA-­accredited law schools for a population about 14 times Australia’s.

So, why do we have so many law schools in Australia? Traditionally, law has been a high status course. But so is medicine, and there are half the number of medical schools.

The difference is that medicine is expensive to teach. The federal government funds medicine to the tune of $21,707 per domestic student per year, while it pays only $1990 per year for a law student.

So, the federal government ­rations the places for medicine, but not law, where students are essentially self-funding their studies.

So, universities are free to set up law programs.

Also, the Australian tradition of combining law with other undergraduate degrees creates pressure for universities to offer law programs. Deans of arts, business or accounting are keen to have a law school to attract capable combined degree students. Those students will have higher tertiary entrance scores than the average.

So, back to the original question: will law enrolments peak in Australia? As in Britain, where there is also evidence of more law graduates than law jobs, there is no clear evidence of a peak in law enrolments. Maybe it is just a matter of time.

Alternatively, as law deans often say, law has become the new arts degree: a good preparation for a range of careers, traditional legal practice being only one of them.

A 1998 study of law graduates’ career destinations showed 52 per cent going into private practice. This statistic has been widely misinterpreted as “only 50 per cent of law graduates going into practice”.

Once you add in lawyers practising in the public sector (18 per cent), corporations (7 per cent) and community legal centres (3 per cent), the total graduates in practice is back to 80 per cent.

But these figures are now very dated. We also need to know more about the career aspirations of students entering law. How many are expecting to practise law?

Gary Tamsitt is director of the Legal Workshop at the Australian National University.

Posted in Career, Debt, Economy, International, Legal Education, Statistics, Student Loans, Wage

How to kickstart your freelance career

THERE’S never a good time to be made redundant but the timing couldn’t have been worse for Vicky Caplan – she was in labour, delivering her second child.

WITH no job and no desire to return to a punishing schedule which involved rushing between childcare and work, and all the guilt and childcare fees that come with it, Ms Caplan struck out on her own.

She began freelancing, starting her own boutique marketing consultancy, and hasn’t looked back.
“It’s amazing,” the Melbourne mother-of-three says.
“I’m not earning as much as I did, but the upside is that I can look after my children the way I want.”
About 30 per cent of the Australian workforce is freelancing, contributing $51 billion to the economy each year, according to a new survey for Elance-oDesk, a company that runs websites which put businesses in touch with freelancers.
The company’s Australian manager Kyri Theos says the freelancing economy is growing, both online and offline, providing opportunities for people who face challenges finding full- or part-time jobs, like people in remote areas or women with young children.
Freelancing can help young people gain work experience and older workers to scale back in preparation for retirement.
“It’s about flexibility. You can work when and where you want, on a variety of projects, rather than having an employer tell you what you should be working on,” Mr Theos says.
“Freelancing really provides access to people that would otherwise be locked out of the labour market.”
* Ease yourself in.
“A lot of freelancers will start moonlighting on the side while they keep working full- or part-time,” Mr Theos says.
Ms Caplan advises women to start building up business before starting a family.
* Spread the word and be proactive.
“All my clients have come through word of mouth – not through my website or Google search, none of that,” Ms Caplan says.
“I called people, told everybody I knew on earth that I’d opened up my business, got one responding email and it started from there. It’s taken a long time to build it up.”
* Keep them coming back for more.
“Look after your customers,” Ms Caplan says.
“Easter and Christmas time, go around with a gift, call instead of email and text, find out when their birthday is, make sure that your relationship with every single customer is personal, because that’s how you get recommended to other people.”
And if you’re working online, communicate clearly and often with your employer. “It’s a medium where you don’t have non-verbal cues so you need to be really specific,” Mr Theos says.
* Be realistic.
You’re not going to earn a regular salary and in the first year, you might only earn 25 per cent of your full-time pay, Ms Caplan says.

Posted in Freelancer, International, Salary

The Legal One Per Cent

After every recession since the Second World War, the legal profession swiftly and robustly recovered. Not this time. The market for lawyers shrank following the post-2008 recession, and no one thinks that it’s coming all the way back. What’s happened in the legal world represents a twist on developments in the larger economy. In law, as in the nation, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. With lawyers, though, it’s the system of professional education that’s directly contributing to inequality.

In the legal world, the haves are doing better than fine. In 1985, average profits per partner in The American Lawyer’s list of leading law firms was $309,000 ($623,000 in current dollars); today, the profits per partner for roughly the same group is about $1.5 million. These numbers hide an even greater disparity. Those at the very top of the pyramid—firms such as Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; and a handful of others—are thriving as never before, with annual profits per partner in the multimillions.

But those at the bottom of the pyramid—recent law-school graduates—are struggling. A recent article in The Atlantic recited the grim numbers: “­More than 180 of the 200 US law schools are unable to find jobs for more than 80% of their graduates.” Median starting salaries for those who do find work are down by seventeen per cent, and more than a third of graduates cannot find full-time employment.

The rational response to economic developments of this kind would be straightforward: in light of the plunging demand for new lawyers, there should be fewer law students attending fewer law schools. And, indeed, the number of people taking the LSAT has dropped by nearly forty per cent in just four years, as have law-school-application rates. The number of students starting law school has fallen by about fourteen per cent over roughly the same period. In other words, many of these prospective students are behaving as rational economic actors—steering away from a business with grim employment prospects.

But here’s where the perverse economics of legal education come in. Law schools continue to exploit the shrinking numbers of students whom they can persuade to apply. During the pre-recession glory years, law schools were profit centers, on their own or as part of larger universities. They expanded. The number of law degrees awarded annually grew, from thirty-eight thousand, in 2001, to more than forty-four thousand, in 2011. The number of schools accredited by the American Bar Association has increased, from a hundred and seventy-five, in the nineteen-eighties, to two hundred and one today. (See Steven J. Harper’s 2013 book, “The Lawyer Bubble,” for more of this story.)

Incredibly, though, law schools have continued to cycle students through their doors and load them up with debt, in spite of the reduced demand for legal education (and for lawyers). Eighty-five percent of graduates now carry at least a hundred thousand dollars in debt. Even dubious operations, like the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, in San Diego, have kept their doors (and palms) open. According to a report in the Times, Thomas Jefferson ostensibly has a better chance of paying off its creditors, at least in part, by staying in business than by going under. That the school’s students have little chance of paying back their own six-figure debts apparently figured little into the calculations made by the school’s administration or its creditors.

It’s clear that the nation needs fewer law schools, for many that remain are only offering their students false hopes of employment in exchange for big debt. These students are getting the legal-education equivalent of the subprime loans that helped sink the national economy. In this case, though, the risk to the broader public is small, while the indebted students may struggle with the burden for the rest of their lives. (The vast middle of the legal academy—at the big state schools, for instance—is doing only a little better than the schools at the bottom. For a full view of the depressing facts, see the superb Law School Transparency Web site.)

As with law firms, the top law schools are doing fine. Graduates of the most highly regarded institutions may not have the cornucopia of options that their predecessors enjoyed a few years ago, but few, if any, will go jobless. These students have large loans, too, but they’ll be able to repay them. As in days past, they will migrate to the big firms, where, by and large, their prospects are bright. And the cycle will continue: the rich (in credentials, at least initially) prospering, and the poor struggling. So it goes for lawyers—and, it seems, for everyone else.

Source: The New Yorker

Posted in Legal Education, Student Loans

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