Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Confessions of a Career Services Counselor

The Ugly Truth About Career Placement Statistics

My Real Property and Contracts Professor told me to go ahead and contact my local law schools in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas and go to their career placement centers. He told me its tough out there for Paralegals and that maybe I should bring a few copies of my resume, go to the law school career services centers, and see if they have any need for Paralegals.

He said maybe they have Attorneys who are looking for legal assistants, Paralegals, and/or cheap labor that hasn't been outsourced to India.

So I went on a road trip and visited several law schools in the LA and OC areas.

I went to a few different law schools and dropped off my resume. Some career service counselors gave me the rolling eyes and said we don't have anything or that they would keep an eye out in case "something comes up" (which basically means it will be headed straight for the trash can)!

However, I did visit one ABA approved law school in the LA/OC area where the career service staff was very friendly. They told me the names of 3-4 attorneys who would need a legal assistant and so they gave me their names and told them that  "Sally the Secretary* from Tier 2/3/4 law school sent you and that you would be a great asset to their firm!"

I had a moment of joy! I was thrilled that I would finally be able to find some law related job, or at least have some leads to some place other than dead end jobs you see on job sites everywhere.

As I was leaving, I looked across the hall and I saw a cute dark featured femme fatale walking my way. She was a knock out! If they put pictures of her in the LSAT test prep books, that alone would be a reason to consider (but not go) to law school. She looked very familiar and then I remembered who she was.

It was Candy* the Career Services Counselor!

She was in the the law schools glossy admission brochure and was in charge of recruiting. I immediately remembered who she was and I followed her to her office. I introduced myself, the fact that I am a paralegal without a paycheck and I asked her about potential job opportunties.She gave me some good advice and got me some leads to help me find a job.

However, right before I left, I asked her "You know here at T2/3/4 law school ..its pretty impressive. Even in this horrible economy. This is the worst recession since the Great Depression, and all these graduates have an average starting salary of around $100,000 a year! Where are these law firms, are they hiring any paralegals?"

And then Candy was quiet. I began to ask her more questions..

She said that the 100k starting salary is an average of all "Reported salaries", and then I asked her more questions about the average. I asked her "What was the range? What did most students start at ? Were there few students on the high end? How does it work?"

Suddenly, Candy wasn't so dandy.

She told me that most students start off at small firms making about 50-65k a year , the VAST Majority of them do, like more than 3/4 of the total percent of the class. Only a handful of students get jobs at big firms making 125-160k a year.

She said they average out the salaries of all reported job offers, and that NOT EVERYONE really starts at $100,000 a year but that is just the average of the highest and lowest reported salaries by recent graduates. I was thankful to Candy for her time and I got her card, but I had an "A ha!" moment when I left her office...
A ha!

THE BOTTOM LINE IS THIS FOLKS: The average starting salary usually isn't the typical starting salary for the vast majority of  graduates! Many schools will not offer greater transparency on the employment statistics and offer inaccurate salary information.  


If a non elite law school has 100 graduates, and 80 of them go into private practice and 20 into government jobs/non legal jobs/ clerkships... then this is how it works...

                                                                                                                          Salary Range
60 of them get jobs at small firms of less than 10 attorneys--Starting Salary:      $50,000-65,000
10-15 of them get jobs at higher paid small to medium firms-Starting Salary:       $65,000-95,000
5 of them get jobs at high paying salaries in Big Law firms--Starting Salary:      $125,000-160,000

Lowest Reported Salary : $50,000 + Highest Reported Salary: $160,000 = $210,000

Now take the total of $210,000/ 2 = Average Starting Salary $105,000  (of all reported salaries!)

or they will say "Here at Broken running Toilet law school our salaries ranged from 50k-160k a year, or an average of 105k starting salary  for graduates "

Amazing, isnt it? Many Pre law students see this starting salary and think " Oh I will go to law school and take out 150k in loans, and I will make $105,000 starting, after all thats what career services reports...I will pay the loans back in no time!"

But what Paul* the Pre Law major doesn't understand is that at Toilet law school most students make 50k a year starting and paying back 150k in loans on that salary will be nearly impossible. Less than 1/4 of the class will  make enough money to pay back loans. To all you pre law students out there ,think long and hard before going to law school, and don't be deceived by misleading employment figures. Make sure you do your research carefully!

-The Poor Paralegal

*Name has been changed and/or protected for privacy reasons


  1. I think you might have misunderstood how a weighted average works. Unless the school is outright lying then your math is incorrect.
    It would be (50,000 * 60) + (5 *160)/65 = 58k average.
    I think what is happening is that only those making 100K are reporting salaries and this just weighs it further to that end. All five making 160k will happiliy report salaries, while all making 50k or less (or nothing!) will not bother.

  2. Thank you for commenting!

    Actually, I understand how a weighted average works. However, many law school career services departments don't use the weighted average.

    They use the average of the range of reported starting salaries. The lowest salary was 50k, the highest was 160k. Many schools will use the average of both the highest and lowest starting salaries.

    Many employment statistics will always include a little star or asterisk several times on their reports, because they aren't giving you the full details.

    And FYI in the toilet law school example I used in the bottom line, all the employment figures, salaries, etc was just made up by me.

  3. to anonymous at 1:58, you hit the nail on the head!

    You said "unless the school is outright lying..", but that is EXACTLY what most law schools do!

    I am glad I am on a scholarship at my TTT piece of shit law school, but most of my fellow classmates were seduced by false employment data

  4. This is a link to graphs of lawyers' starting salaries over the last twenty years.


    Also see this:


  5. M-core, you beat me to the punch. Too many lemmings think, "Well, if I don't make law review, I can still land a legal job making $80K."

    This is cosmically sad. According to the salaries distribution charts, William Henderson, law prof at IU-Bloomington, and reality: if you do not land a $160K job, you are most likely looking at a $32K-$45K job. All while being stapped down with monstrous, NON-DISCHARGEABLE student debt.

    Try supporting a family or buying a house on that income, coupled with the liabilities and obligations.

  6. Also, if practicing lawyers in the LA area are starting out at $50K, they are STRUGGLING. That is akin to a $35K salary in a flyover state; this is coming from one in Utah. Also, take into account the cost of living and tuition for a California law school, including the fourth tier trash cans such as TTTThoma$ Jeffer$on $chool of Law.

  7. Here in Atlanta, the starting salary is 35 to 40 right now

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