New (Depressing) Career Advice for Law Students

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From the Chronicle of Higher Education comes news that many are urging law schools to work on helping law students “cope” with not getting a job:

Law schools have a responsibility to teach students how to be emotionally resilient and fiscally sensible at a time when high-paying jobs are hard to come by and student-loan debts are mounting, several speakers asserted at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, which began here on Thursday.

Students who have spent summers working for law firms only to have job offers from those firms rescinded or delayed often become disillusioned or angry.

“By emotionally preparing our students for failure as well as preparing them for success,” she said, “we will give them important life skills they will need to handle adversity in the job market,” [said Pam Occhipinti, director of career services at Loyola University New Orleans’s College of Law].

Of course, that’s a very odd thing for a director of career services to say; it’s not real career advice (how to get a job) but more like counseling (how to feel better when you don’t get a job). When students don’t get a job offer from a firm where they’ve worked in the past Occhipinti says they should “express gratitude for the support the firm has showed in the past, and ask what they can do to help the firm weather the downturn.” They could also work as law clerks “until the economy picks up.” It’s unclear if any of these strategies actually work at getting students jobs in the future.

This is a new role for career services, because the problem really doesn’t have much to do with individuals and how they perform. It actually may be structural; it’s certainly economic.

According to the article, Jeff Hanson, an executive at Access Group, a company that manages graduate student loans, indicated that “students should also be wary about taking on too much debt” to go to law school. Hanson did not explain how large numbers of people might attend law school without taking out student loans. The average annual tuition a private law school is $34,000. Almost 30 percent of law students expect to graduate with more than $120,000 due in student loans.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer