Big dreams, small salaries

February 13, 2009
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Update: The jobs in politics seminar has moved from March 11 to April 8.

From IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger, who attended a session of the Alternative Legal Career series at Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington this week.

During a discussion about careers in marketing, communications, publishing, development, and consulting Feb. 11, six panelists explained how their career paths twisted and turned to get them where they are.

The panelists made many valid points, including:

- Find a job that makes you smile everyday.

- Consider your values, including how much time you want to spend with your family.

- Network with a diverse group of people from your life and in multiple cities.

- Talk to someone in a job you’d like to have.

- Volunteer for something you like; it may lead to contacts or new interests.

- Be open to any and all new opportunities.

- Take heart the job you have right out of school may not be your “forever” job.

So when I asked the panel for advice for students who have large loan payments who want to go into a career that pays only a fraction of the starting salaries at the large law firms, I wondered if the students were also curious about this.

Panelist Robyn M.H. Schuster, the law school’s assistant dean for communications and marketing gave a good answer – that students should consider a repayment option based on income.

My hope for anyone with an interest in this field is they have a realistic understanding of how little these jobs tend to pay – no one does this for the money. And take it from someone with her master’s in journalism – an advanced degree doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger paycheck; it just means you might need to explain how your school work applies to the job and that it wasn’t just “time off.” Not to mention these jobs are highly competitive, considering the large number of jobless journalists out there.

But if you’re persistent and follow the guidelines above, and don’t mind a small apartment (or roommate) and pot pie dinners every once in a while, it’s not so bad.

The alternative legal careers series has included a panel about jobs in banking and finance. Future panel topics include jobs in higher education, Feb. 25; and jobs in politics, March 11. All are free and open to the public at the law school’s Bloomington court room at 211 S. Indiana Ave., noon to 1 p.m.

A story about the subject will be in a future Indiana Lawyer. If you’d like to weigh in, e-mail me at rberfanger@ibj.com.

The audio of this panel discussion is now available online and worth a listen: http://www.law.indiana.edu/media/digital/20090211_ocpd_alternatives_24m.mp3
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  • I thought that the panelists gave good advice, but sometimes I would like to hear from someone with average credentials like myself - it seems like often the speakers have top notch academic credentials which led to a stellar first legal job which led to other career options. I want to hear from the guy like me - middle of the class, some experience, involved in extracurriculars, but lacking the top 10% credentials that set up others for success...
  • some of my post got cut -

    I want to hear how the average guy/girl has faired in the legal market and in particular, the floundering economy.

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  1. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  2. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

  3. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.

  4. For some strange reason this story, like many on this ezine that question the powerful, seems to have been released in two formats. Prior format here: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263 That observed, I must note that it is quite refreshing that denizens of the great unwashed (like me) can be allowed to openly question powerful elitists at ICE MILLER who are on the public dole like Selby. Kudos to those at this ezine who understand that they cannot be mere lapdogs to the powerful and corrupt, lest freedom bleed out. If you wonder why the Senator resisted Selby, consider reading the comments here for a theory: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263

  5. Why is it a crisis that people want to protect their rights themselves? The courts have a huge bias against people appearing on their own behalf and these judges and lawyers will face their maker one day and answer for their actions.

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