With headlines still screaming about the glut of lawyers and recent law school graduates struggling to find jobs that will enable them to repay their student loans, Andrea Kochert admits she is probably not the typical law school student.
Before completing her legal studies in May 2013, the Lafayette native had landed one job offer and been selected for a clerkship with the Indiana Supreme Court.
“I’ve been very lucky,” Kochert said, “but it isn’t a luck that happens by itself.”
After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, Kochert headed to the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. She purposefully chose I.U. McKinney School of Law because it was located in Indianapolis where making professional connections would be easier.
When she arrived at law school, Kochert joined the Indianapolis Bar Association and talked to attorneys about the practice of law. She took on extra projects, worked as a summer associate, and spent time working in the law school’s wrongful convictions clinic.
Kochert even tucked away a Valentine’s issue of a legal magazine that included an article detailing the reasons why lawyers love the law.
The legal job market, while improved compared to the depths of the recession, is still stumbling. According to data from NALP, formerly the National Association for Legal Career Professionals, only 65.4 percent of the Class of 2011 (the most recent data available) found positions that required bar passage. This compares to pre-recession levels of 76.9 percent and 74.7 percent in 2007 and 2008 respectively.
A look at NALP data concerning the recruitment by law firms at law schools in the late summer and early fall of 2012 indicates the prospects for legal employment are not recovering steadily. Since 2008 and 2009, law firms increased entry-level hiring but, in 2012, the brakes were applied and both the median and average number of offers to second-year law students for summer associate positions in 2013 fell.
From his desk at Lewis Wagner LLP in Indianapolis, attorney John Trimble does see a pickup in employment, but hiring is nowhere near the pre-recession heydays.
“My initial feeling is the job market for 2013 graduates is a little better than it has been in the last five years, but it’s not a lot better,” he said. “(The) 2013 graduates are still having to compete against lawyers who are unemployed or underemployed as a result of the events of the last few years. Law firms have lots of choices.”
In this sea of competition, freshly minted law school graduates have to distinguish themselves more so than in the past. Displaying a positive attitude and having a strong work ethic are required along with compiling a record of work and clinical experience before graduation.
“This is probably not a time to go to law school unless you’re prepared to go there and achieve,” Trimble said.