Law School Graduates Facing Grueling Job Market

By Staff
August 27, 2009

Law students are being forced to shelve their plans of joining large law firms and are instead seeking opportunities in government or public interest groups.

The New York Times reports that some of the nation's top firms have cut back significantly on hiring, including the Philadelphia-based Morgan, Lewis & Bockius--which cancelled recruiting entirely for the first time in 136 years. Similarly, Bloomberg reports that Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, the top-grossing U.S. law firm, trimmed the number of law students it plans to hire next summer by about half.

"Our expectation, and we have been upfront and honest about this, is that our summer program will be less than half of what it was this year," said Skadden recruiting partner Howard Ellin in an interview with Bloomberg. "It reflects lower demand in the industry."

The Times notes that top universities such as New York University, Georgetown and Northwestern have all confirmed that interviews have decreased by about a third to a half of what it was a year ago.

Law school students, faced with significant debt and no job prospects, are reeling. "It was almost written in stone that you'll end up in a law firm, almost like a birthright," said Derek Fanciullo, who took out $210,000 to pay for NYU law school after he lost his job as a television reporter two years ago.

Julia Figurelli, a second-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania, also took out enormous student loans with the expectation that she would be able to repay the debt after securing a job at a lucrative law firm. "Had I seen where the market was going, I would've gone to a lower-ranked but less expensive public school," she told The Times. "I'm questioning whether law school was the right choice at all."

But the Philadelphia Inquirer [from an article originally located at] reports that the scaling back at large law firms is proving to be a boon to public interest groups: Law school graduates whose start dates at firms have been pushed back will be joining legal services groups that represent Philadelphia's poorest citizens. The graduates will be compensated by the law firms that hired them, although earning far less than they would have.

"We have taken a tremendous hit in terms of lost funding," said Catherine C. Carr, executive director of Community Legal Services Inc. of Philadelphia. "We are not in a position to hire anyone new, so getting a young attorney, even for a year, is fabulous."

The law graduates said they are grateful for the opportunity, even though the work was not what they had originally planned. "I and other law students are big planners, and this maybe sets back those plans for a year," said Lisa Bolotin, a Duke University Law School graduate who was supposed to start work at a large firm this year. "But at this point, I am really excited about the work that I am going to be doing."

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