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New lawyers find bloom still not on hiring rose

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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.”

kochert Koechert

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.

Editor's note: This section has been updated to correct the number of summer associates Barnes & Thornburg LLP had last year.

Finding talent

Training new hires is a costly endeavor, so law firms remain methodical in their hiring process. Many law offices want to give jobs to candidates who are likely to stay and rise through the ranks to partner.

For Barnes and Thornburg LLP, the recruitment starts with law students who are in their first semester of study. The firm has mixers and receptions to meet the soon-to-be-lawyers. From there, Barnes relies on its summer associate program to find the students to bring on as full-time employees.

“We want to find the very best candidates out there so we kind of scour the landscape,” said Bill Padgett, hiring partner at the firm’s Indianapolis office.

 

trimble Trimble

To identify the top candidates, Padgett pays particular attention to past work experience. Even a job making sandwiches can indicate the individual has a strong work ethic and knows how to function in a workplace.

This year, Barnes’ Indianapolis office has hired eight summer associates who are between their second and third years of law school. The firm only takes the number of summer associates that it intends to eventually hire full time, Padgett explained. Last year, Barnes had five summer associates who were between their second and third years of law school.

At Indiana University Maurer School of Law, the Class of 2013 is not surprised by a tight job market but, nevertheless, is frustrated and anxious, said interim Dean Hannah Buxbaum. The class members are working hard to identify possible jobs, even considering positions that do not require a J.D. and paying attention to presenting themselves well in interviews.

Buxbaum hesitated to say the job outlook is brightening but she did note business activity, in general, is picking up a little bit.

Kochert is optimistic based on what she sees happening with her classmates. One year ago, about half her friends in the Class of 2012 left school without jobs, but this year, a majority of her companions graduating in 2013 have found positions.

However, the recession-induced changes to the legal profession are likely to stay despite any boost in the overall economy. In large part, businesses have become better consumers of legal services, Trimble said, which is resulting in a decline in legal work.

Corporations and insurance companies are more careful about pursuing legal action, instead choosing arbitration and mediation. They are relying on in-house attorneys more and are scrutinizing their legal bills.

Finding the right fit

Sometimes, Bob Schuckit meets an individual who is just looking to take any job offered. At his boutique firm, Schuckit & Associates in Zionsville, he has seen his business increase during the recession, but he is not willing to take on any lawyer who needs a paycheck.

“We look for stars who want to stay here for the rest of their lives,” Schuckit said. “We expect everyone we hire to do that, and we rapidly increase their compensation as they increase their star power.”

His requirements for new employees include being hard working, paying attention to detail, having previous work experience and being a perfectionist. In this employers’ market, Schuckit is looking for “sharp motivated people.”

As head of recruiting at Lewis Wagner, Rob Baker often passes along a piece of advice that almost seems an antithesis to the current economy. He tells the students he meets to interview the firms just as the firms are interviewing them.

Baker counsels the job candidates to find a job where they will be happy and comfortable. They need to find a place where they will enjoy coming to work every day because, as a lawyer, they will be spending a lot of time at the office.

Buxbaum echoed this idea, noting that finding the right fit has always been important. Yet during the boom years, jobs in firms were so plentiful, students did not always consider if practicing in a big office was what they really wanted.

Now, the discussions in Bloomington focus on what the students want to do and where the opportunities are. When students first come to the law school, they are advised to think about where they want to go and to choose the courses that will position them for the career they will truly enjoy.

Kochert admitted she came to law school with a fail safe. If she did not like it, she could fall back on her bachelor’s degree and become an accountant. But she found she loves the law.

So she stayed and will soon be starting a judicial clerkship. Long term, Kochert’s career goal is simple: she wants to be a good, well-respected lawyer.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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