Thursday, November 18, 2010

1 in 5 Workers are Underemployed in America

The Seattle Times has reported the harsh truth about underemployment in the USA. The term "underemployment" has various different meanings. Lets double check with the Dictionary, shall we?

Underemployment (adj.)
  1. Employed only part-time when one needs and desires full-time employment.
  2. Inadequately employed, especially employed at a low-paying job that requires less skill or training than one possesses.
  3. Not fully or adequately used or employed.
Right now 1 out of every 5 workers in the state of Washington is currently underemployed. Many MBA's, JD's, and others with professional education are working to find any job that will help pay the bills. The article in the link also discusses one recent law school graduate who has nearly $150,000 in debt but is working a non legal office job just to help make ends meet. This is the new reality of underemployment in Corporate America. Sad, but true..

-The Poor Paralegal

Monday, November 15, 2010

Amazing New Article

 The Washington Post has published an amazing article that reveals the ugly truth about the current state of the legal education and the dire job outlook for many graduates. I really wish more undergraduates would read these types of articles and get a better idea of what they are getting themselves into when they sign up for LSAT test prep courses.

I read some employment statistic that every year there are around 45,000 new law school graduates each year, but for all of those JD's there are only 30,000 law firm jobs.  In other words only two out of every three law school graduates will find jobs in law firms. The rest will struggle to find anything else out there to pay the bills and the big loan companies.

We have all heard that old joke  they tell 1L's, a professor will tell the first year class  "Look to the person on your left and look to the person on your right, one of these people will fail to graduate from law school!"

But they should replace that old joke with a new joke.

Law professors should tell 1L's " Look to the person on your left and look to the person on your right, one of you will graduate and never gain employment in a law firm."

30,000 annual law firm jobs and maybe a few thousand extra jobs for public sector type positions. There are only so many government jobs and clerkships, so the reality is that we only need about 35,000 new JD's per year in the USA (or less). The US Department of Education should take a firm stand on addressing this issue with the ABA and the student loan companies. If students can't get law jobs to pay back the loans, they will default and make the situation worse for themselves and for the loan companies.

There needs to be serious law school reform and the vast majority of third and fourth tier law schools should be shut down or limit their enrollments to less than 100 new students per year.

In other words, 1 out of every 3 new law school graduates will never get a job practising law. Many are taking jobs as paralegals, making my life even more difficult than it already is!

I highly recommend everyone read the article above, they even have links to all the great scam blogs!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Inside a Legal Staffing Agency

California Here We Come!

I got a call back from a Legal staffing recruiter in Orange County to meet during lunch and discuss potential employment opportunities. My friends cousin knew a guy who was a head of a legal staffing firm and he kindly offered to help me out in my quest for legal employment.

I met Larry* the Legal Recruiter at his office in Newport Beach, CA...

 That's right, THE OC !

Larry was an interesting guy. He was a dark featured white guy (possibly Jewish or Italian) and his late 30's or early 40's. I looked on his wall and he had both a JD and an MBA from a top 20 law school and a BS from an ivy league school. He kind of looked like an older Shia Lebouf.  He was very high strung, full of energy, but he had the worst adult ADHD I had ever seen in my life. I walked into his office and it was a mad house. There were resumes and files discarded like frisbees all over the floor. Water stains from non decaf coffee mugs left rings all over the counters and on his desk.

This was very odd considering the fact that he had a beautiful office in a very modern building ( especially in Newport Beach).

I said "Hi its nice to meet you! I am a friend of Amanda she referred me..." and then he quickly interrupted me and shouted "Yeah ..Yeah..GIVE ME YOUR COVER LETTER AND RESUME.." and I gave him copies of my documents.

He went over my cover letter and resume and began to edit it like a madman with his red pen. He kept making grunting sounds, and saying "hmm...ooh....ahh.....errr...!"

Suddenly, a phone call came from his secretary and he yelled "ONE MINUTE!" and went outside on his patio balcony walking back and forth. After a few minutes he came inside, scratched his head and sank into his chair.  He folded his arms and put his head down on the table. I didn't know what to do, and then foolishly I opened my mouth...

"Is there something wrong? Are you okay?"  I asked him.

He put his head up and said,


I didn't know what to do. Never in my life have I ever  seen an HR person or staffing recruiter lose it...

He then began to confide in me about his own personal problems. Oh my...

It turns out Larry had graduated from USC with a JD/MBA over 10 years ago. He told me he went to law school but after working two summers as a biglaw associate, he knew the legal profession wasn't for him. He did the MBA with the JD only so he could find a business job and escape the cruel realties of the legal profession. He got a job at a legal recruiting agency out of grad school and was making good money but branched out on his own a few years ago.

He said,  if he knew then what he knows now, then he would have just got an MBA from a top 20 school and gone into investment banking, consulting or done something in the business world. However, even when he would send his resume to recruiters when graduated from USC they all would assume he wanted a legal position, and would not take him seriously for other non legal business type positions.

He flat out told me:

" The legal profession is an absolute crisis. Most big law firms are not hiring and taking in new associates until 2012. All the entry level attorneys are taking the jobs as paralegals that YOU SHOULD BE GETTING! This is the worst legal job market I have ever seen. Jobs are being outsourced, firms aren't hiring, and its just a mess. I am not trying to put you down or be negative, but you are a bright guy and you have worked in corporate sales with a business degree...and I will blunt: GO BACK TO SALES! Seriously, there are probably a lot more opportunties out there and I can refer you to two recruiters in the Long Beach area to help you find a job."

Larry said that through out the country, all entry level legal jobs are hard to find. He has lawyers and paralegals looking for jobs, but that law firms are giving him the run around. They don't want to hire people, and attorneys don't want to work low pay document review jobs. He said he gets beat up every day, by both sides:  the law firms and unemployed both give him bs about their own difficult situation.
He said there were no legal assistant/paralegal, filing,  and entry level type positions available at the moment, but he will keep a lookout.

I have heard lawyers, paralegals, and even news media say the job market is bad, but never had a legal recruiter tell me how bad things are. It really opened my eyes. Now, I guess I have to really get aggressive and start looking for jobs outside the legal profession.

-The Poor Paralegal

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

Monday, November 1, 2010

Meeting another Poor Paralegal

Graduating to Unemployment, not Independence

It's been a while since my last post and I needed to give everyone an update.

So I celebrated my birthday and did some soul searching. I thought about my life, goals, where I want to be in the future and what I have to do to accomplish those goals. I cleaned out my bedroom, car, finances, donated old clothes I didnt need, re organized my book shelf and took care of everything that needed to be updated.

My birthday was interesting. I had a friend take me out for a drink in  West Hollywood at a fancy bar off of the Sunset Strip. I met a few people there through other friends and I even met some Attorneys and Paralegals. I met one girl who was really nice and started talking to me about her job, life, and just basic cocktail conversation. She was a pretty woman, cute but not hot. She had brownish/blonde hair, a bob cut and big blue eyes. She reminded me of Ally McBeal, only healthier and not as anorexically thin.

She told me about how she was excited to start a new job as a paralegal at an Intellectual Property Technology boutique in Santa Monica. She got a good job that paid a decent salary (65k a year, and yes I asked how much, I know it's rude but it was my birthday), good hours and nice working conditions. I talked to her about being a poor paralegal, and how the job market has been tough. She told me to hang in there and that I should find something. I began to talk to her about my classes and how I took civil litigation, contracts, probate, intellectual property, and then she said "Ugh I hated Intellectual property. That class was really boring and the tests were frustrating!"

I told her " Yes, I hated doing all those bootlean searches , trademark, and patent applications on the USPTO was very time consuming" and then she said "I know, I hate taking all those IP Classes, trademark was bad enough but unfair competition and monopolies was even worse.."

Suddenly I was baffled. I never heard of those electives? I didn't know we could take those kinds of classes as a paralegal? And I asked her which program she went to for her Paralegal Certificate and she got quiet and anxious. She grabbed the bartender and order us both 2 drinks (grey goose and cranberry juice) and then she avoided my question.  I asked her again and didn't understand why she was acting all weird.

But then the truth finally came out....

She told me she graduated from (  lower ranked ABA approved Law School in Northern California) * and she had a JD but she couldn't find any work as an Attorney. She graduated in 2003 and worked at several different Silicon Valley tech firms making good money but everything changed when the dot com bubble popped. She went to law school part time and was making $90,000-120,000 a year working in Sales and operations for various tech firms. She never even took the California Bar Exam and said she has been out of the legal profession for so long that she was lucky she had an engineer friend get her this job in LA.

I was shocked to receive such a strange birthday present:     I met another Poor Paralegal.

She even told me that she was living with her parents and it was hard being 34 and living at home, but in the past few years she was living off of unemployment and was just thankful she got this new job and she will hopefully make enough to move out on her own soon. I know its tough for a lot of young people these days, and many younger recent college graduates are even consolidating families and living with their parents since they can't get jobs and afford to move out on their own.

I was kind of sad on my birthday to be unemployed, but when I met people with more education, more student debt and in the same predicament, I realized that other people have it worse. I can't imagine how terrifying it must be for law school grads to have $150k+ in debt, have no jobs and settle for working as a paralegal.
The Great Recession of 2007-2010 has made it very difficult for young people to graduate, find jobs, get an apartment and live their own lives. It's very hard and now many generations are now living together. Just read the article below...

-The Poor Paralegal