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Students weigh in on jobs outlook

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On Oct. 13, two United States senators sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education inspector general, requesting an analysis of American law schools. U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., asked the DOE to take a closer look at growing enrollments, increasing tuition and poor job placement.

In the past year, the American Bar Association has become the target of increasing complaints that it has not done enough to ensure students are making informed decisions about attending law school. This year, the National Association for Law Placement released key findings stating 2010 was the worst job market for law school graduates since the mid-1990s. But even knowing that, some law students say the dismal post-graduate job market had little bearing on their desire to attend law school.

il-brock-herr01-15col.jpg J. Brock Herr works for CMG Worldwide, which represents estates of deceased celebrities. He hopes to use his law degree to work in the entertainment industry. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

A glass half full

Sharon Cruz Nichols, a 2L student at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, said she’s an idealist who realized her hopes of changing the world might require stronger credentials than her sociology degree.

“I vaguely knew that the economy was bad, but I didn’t know the statistics of post-graduate data for JDs were as dismal as they are,” she said. “At the same time, I can honestly say that the available pay rates for those graduating with a bachelor of arts in sociology were pretty dismal too, so grad school was inevitable, and, frankly, I’m grateful I chose law school.”

Alicia Ivy, a 2L student at Valparaiso University School of Law, said her aunt – who had been the director of the Lake County Juvenile Detention Center – was the person who sparked her interest in becoming a lawyer. So she had planned to attend law school all along, regardless of the job market.

“When I decided to go to law school, I had already done one year of interning at the Lake County prosecutor’s office, so that helped a little bit, but I hadn’t really looked into employment or anything before I applied.” She said that even if she had been aware of the poor post-graduation employment numbers, she still would have pursued her dream.

“I sort of look on the brighter side and hope for the best, so it wouldn’t have deterred me from going to law school,” Ivy said.

Lance Ladendorf, a 3L student at IU School of Law – Indianapolis, said that when he applied to law school, he was more interested in law school rankings than employment data. Even so, he said he thinks that numbers rarely tell the whole story. As an example, he said that while his school may rank lower than some others, he knows that he has access to some of the best clinics and externships in the Midwest.

Of his peers, Ladendorf said, “There is always a ‘glass-half-empty’ subset that don’t expect anything to go their way, but most of them I find to be cautiously optimistic. The majority feel their law school clerkships or associateships will materialize into something to do after receiving the degree and (presumably) passing the bar exam, if not with those firms then with others through the power of references.”

J. Brock Herr is hoping to land in a non-traditional legal career when he graduates from the IU School of Law – Indianapolis in 2012. He turned down a full-time paid position with Teach for America before enrolling in law school – a decision that he says would have been harder to make, had he known about job prospects for law school graduates.

Herr said he had hoped the economy would rebound before he graduated. But during his first semester, as he began searching for summer internships, he began to realize just how bad the job market was.

“Through conversations with personal attorney contacts and the law school’s Office of Professional Development staff, I learned that many firms in the wake of the 2008 collapse were bloated with associate attorneys and sought to trim down. … Unfortunately, this same trend trickled down to the summer intern and first-year associate levels also.”

Loan debt a top concern

Like many of her peers, Ashley Murray said she had always been determined to study law. “However, I will say that many lawyers that I knew discouraged me repeatedly from attending law school.”

Murray, a 2L student at Valparaiso University School of Law, said practicing lawyers warned her that she would accumulate a lot of debt going to law school – about $40,000 in annual tuition at the private university. She researched in advance what the placement rate was for law grads at Valparaiso, which at the time was 85 percent within nine months of graduation.

“Looking back on the confidence I had in those statistics only just over a year ago, I have to admit I feel silly putting so much stock in them,” she said. If she had known how difficult it is to find a law job, she would have considered attending school part time to reduce the financial burden.

“When I graduate, I’ll have over $150,000 in student loans just from law school – that doesn’t include my undergraduate loans or the law study abroad I did.”

Murray said she thinks the ABA needs to present a more realistic picture to students.

“As I said, many law students like myself would still have attended law school, we would have just taken a different, more fiscally responsible route to achieve our ultimate goal of completing law school.”

Ellen Winterheimer, a 3L student at IU School of Law – Indianapolis, said many students worry about how they will manage their student loan debt.

“People are freaking out,” she said. “I think people are more concerned about paying off their loans, because at this point, we’re overqualified for certain jobs, but underqualified for a lot of legal jobs that are requiring three years of experience.”

Looking for guidance

Valparaiso law student Charles Bush said he would like to see students getting more input about how to search for jobs. “A lot of that you have to learn for yourself,” he said.

Bush missed job application deadlines as he waited for his fall grades, unaware that many firms stop accepting applications in January. He said any advice would be helpful for students. “Maybe just something that says: apply first semester, and send your grades after you get them.”

Cruz Nichols said that she has been working for the Marion County prosecutor’s office for more than a year – for free – and while she hopes that experience will lead to full-time employment, she’s not sure how she will manage her loan debt, working in public interest law.

“I’d like there to be more information about how law students are supposed to repay our student loan debts,” she said. “I hear that there is a public interest repayment program – pay back what you can for 10 years and the rest of it is forgiven, so long as you stay in public interest – but such programs are threatened by the government budget cutting.”

Ladendorf said he has few regrets about attending law school, and he has some advice for prospective students.

“… I would advise prospective law students today to not only weigh job-related statistics that schools report when deciding on a law school, but also to read the growing body of news exposés on exaggerated (and according to some, allegedly fraudulent) employment data in order to critically assess whether any particular law school is worth the considerable cost of a modern legal education.”•

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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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