Monday, August 27, 2012

Experience is the Key to Job Opportunity

With all the school and certification required to practice law, law school students as well as the general public would think passing the bar exam would be the only barrier standing between an indebted law student and a successful life in the law firm defending their clients. According to Catherine Carlock’s article found in the Winston-Salem Journal on job status for law graduates, the American Bar Association released employment data on recent law school graduates in North Carolina and across the country that suggests that only 55% of 2011 law school graduates were employed with full-time positions that required a juris doctor degree nine months after graduation. For the first time, individual law schools are asked to report their data, and the findings are not in these graduate’s favor. Local universities such as Wake Forest and Elon do not have much better job turnout rate. Law school graduates are having to reevaluate their desire for full time employment and consider part time positions instead.

With the economy in its current state, grads are facing a tough job market. This becomes increasingly difficult with the average law school student having $100,000 worth of student loans upon graduation. These grads rely on their prospective income to justify not only their law degree, but also to decide if law school really is a good investment. Chris Smith, assistant dean for career services at Elon University School of Law, gives sound advice on the subject: do not dismiss jobs in which your law degree is not required. With the mean salary for law degree graduates having fallen 16% since 2009, and the law profession continuing to shed 5-10,000 jobs per month, law school grads cannot afford to be picky. But is the degree worth the cost?

Having no personal experience in the field of law school, I cannot offer any specific advice for these fellow graduates. I can, however, offer my own experience as I take plunge into figuring out life after college with student loans to consider. My first suggestion would be to take any job that will increase your skills and make you more marketable for the job that you want. Experience might be what separates you from another applicant. Whether or not the job is full time or in your specific area of interest does not matter as much. Holding out for the ideal job will not maximize your time to gain experience in order to be the best employee and person you can be. I am currently uncertain about what I want to do as far as a career for the future. Although going back go school to get my master’s is a viable option at this point, I am afraid to pile on more debt without being sure what I want to do. My goal is to find a career path through experience.

I have a friend who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill this past May. With a degree in Statistics from a prestigious university, everyone was sure he would be secure for a job upon graduation. He searched for actuary jobs at insurance companies but even with his degree and certification, he had no luck. He is now working part-time at a law firm. Is it his dream job? No, but he is willing to do what it takes to get there, even if that means taking more time to figure things out and gain experience along the way.

Just like people have internships in their area of interest to gain more understanding of their field, time must be spent wisely to gain more knowledge.

Law students may have a difficult time finding employment these days but just like the economy, the housing and stock market, job opportunity will rise and fall. Recent graduates of all trades will be prepared with their degree in the mean time, and be more experienced than they would otherwise.

For more information on Catherine Carlock’s article Only half of recent law graduates are practicing their craft, visit

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