In Troubled Economy, Law Firms Send New Recruits Into Public Service

April 29, 2009 08:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
While many law firms are delaying new employees' start dates until the demand for their services increases, they are also offering them alternatives.

Graduating Lawyers Must Wait Another Year

Not wanting to lose their prospective new lawyers, firms are providing them with stipends for sabbaticals, public service endeavors and extended coursework.

According to the legal blog Above the Law, firms such as Winston & Strawn, WilmerHale, Baker & McKenzie, and Sonnenschein, Mayer Brown and Goodwin Procter have recently instituted delays in the starting dates of new employees to adjust to the new challenges of the economic environment.

For many soon-to-be law school grads in recent years, finding work wasn’t a huge priority. That’s because, historically, nearly two-thirds of the students had already secured a job by the time they graduated.

However, like so many other fields, law is on shaky ground as the economy continues its roller coaster ride. Many law school students in the class of 2009 don’t yet have jobs, the New York Law Journal reported recently.

While some firms offer voluntary deferrals, most companies have made it a mandatory requirement for incoming associates. Kilpatrick Stockton, the latest firm to make this decision, explained in a press release that “like other leading law firms, [Kilpatrick Stockton] believes these measures are necessary to adapt to changes in the economy and to the demand for certain legal services.”
These deferrals carry many positive aspects both for the firms and for the new lawyers. While it allows firms to hold onto promising talent until a possible economic improvement in the next years and also invest in noble endeavors such as public service, newly graduated law students get to experience a year of real-life work.

The Boston Herald told the story of Juan Valdivieso, a Harvard Law School student who will graduate in June. He was offered a job in the Washington-based firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, but learned last month that the firm would defer his starting date until the fall of 2010. He's been granted a stipend of $60,000 to pursue pro bono work in the public service sector.

Mark Weber, assistant dean for career services at Harvard Law, told the Herald that this system is financially convenient for such high-profile law firms that offer starting salaries of around $160,000.

Related Topic: Joblessness ahead for nursing, business students

Other fields are seeing similar trends. Nursing students who graduated during a nursing shortage in years past are now facing joblessness, the Rapid City Journal reports. Although graduating nursing students could once pick “their dream jobs,” now, “hospitals nationally are cutting pay, eliminating raises and laying off employees,” according to the story.

Those in the nursing sector are trying to be optimistic, however, says Linda Young, director of the Center for Nursing Workforce. "At this point, new graduate nurses may not get to pick exactly where they want to go for their first job," Young said. "But we know ... this economic downturn will turn around. ... Historically, nursing is a very secure profession."

Business school students graduating this spring are taking the economic situation in stride, according to a New York Times story. Although jobs at high profile investment banks like Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley were once top choice for enterprising young grads, “the implosion of Wall Street” is forcing a different philosophy to emerge. Some are making a very negative situation into a positive.

Jessica Levy, a senior at Wharton, has noticed a major shift. “A lot of my peers, we’re exploring things that we used to not even think of as an option,” she said. “A finance major who was minoring in music was suddenly looking into opening a jazz club.

According to Levy, the economic crisis meant “there was suddenly permission to pursue something you were interested in that your parents three years ago would have said absolutely no to.”

Reference: Career guides


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