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Georgetown Law Dean, Millennials, and Unrealistic Expectations at the ABA

The ABA Journal recently put up a brief comment from the new Georgetown Law Dean:

The new dean of Georgetown University Law Center sees an upside to the tough job market for lawyers.

In an interview with the Washington Post publication Capital Business, Georgetown law dean William Michael Treanor says grads are now more likely to focus on what they really want to do with their careers. It’s “a time when people can think through why they came to law school,” he told the publication.

“I think we’ll see more people going into public interest and doing things that are entrepreneurial,” Treanor said. “This can be an exciting time to be a law student and to be in practice if you’re looking for the opportunities that are out there.”

Treanor says the school is responding to the job market by putting together a database of firms outside the typical markets and by looking at an expansion of its externship program.

Grads who opt for law firm jobs are likely to see the nature of their work change as clients refuse to pay associates for routine, repetitious work, Treanor told Capital Business. As a result, “we’ll see more outsourcing and contract employment. So associates will be doing more work that is truly lawyerly work.”

“I think that law firms can really return to the idea of law as a profession,” he added, “and there are tremendous benefits to that not just for the firms but for lawyers.”

What’s really interesting are the comments attached to the ABA Journal post. A few excerpts:

See?  It’s all good.  Imminent starvation has the effect of focusing one’s thought processes to an astonishing degree.

Oh sure…people will just be falling over themselves to work for $33,000 a year to represent some deadbeat who has not paid his rent while they pay back their $200,000 in student loans from GULC……whihc charges more than $40k a year for tuition…..to finance Mr. Treanor’s nice salary.

I love the new spin…..no jobs and high debt….is apparently an “exciting time to try something new and different”……maybe you can open a surfboard law boutique in Waikiki!!….we are seeing alot of these articles recently…..

$120,000 in student loan debt and $15 / hour doc review jobs!!! YES—those are great opportunities!!!

They will be more entrepreneurial, because they will have no choice.  Some may yet go forth in their “Rebels” T-shirts to establish the new TentLaw sector (in which, the excitement of their new opportunities will be “in tents”).

Entrepreneurial? Like working 5 jobs to pay the bills, including a part-time a Border’s just for the discounted health insurance coupon? Or smuggling parakeets in from Argentina whilst on “vacation”? Or perhaps even whoring oneself out to Legal Zoom to review the shoddy work of hacks from India who for some unknown reason continue the unauthorized practice of law unabated while real, licensed, American lawyers wander our streets aimlessly seeking a will to write or a contract to draft? Is it just me, or am I the only one really starting TO FREAK OUT!!!!! ?

As I’m a part of this group (recent/soon-to-graduate law grads), I have have to ask:  Have these people had their heads up their asses these past three years?

At what point in time did you not open the paper or turn on the tv and see the complete meltdown of the economy? Put down that Contracts book and look at the Economist or the Financial Times. Visit Marginal Revolution, The Big Picture, or Zero Hedge if you want a really rosy view of the economy. Try to consider for a moment that there is more going on in the world other than going to law school. There seems to be this general consensus amongst a lot of Gen Y/Millennials online that going to law school was a one way ticket to cash money, fame, and power. Gen Y/Millennials seems to what to decry that they’ve been blind-sided, hood-winked, etc. At one point in time did someone else become responsible for your future other than you?

Sure it would be great if we were all living it up in the boom years, but we’re not. We’re in the midst of the Great Recession, and by many accounts, a double dip is looming in front of us. It is what it is. An investment banker friend of mine recently shared this exchange he had with another investment banker:

  • Banker A: The markets are terrible. There is no predictability. Everything is unstable. It’s so hard to make money. This is the worst time ever to be trading. What can we do? I hate the market right now.
  • Banker B(my friend): I love the market.
  • Banker A: WHAT?!? How can you? It’s so bad right now. Like this? Are you crazy? The market is horrible right now. (etc.)
  • Banker B: You know of another one? I don’t. It’s the only one we’ve got. There’s always going to be opportunities, you just have to work hard to find them.  So learn to love it or leave it.
  • Banker A: …
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About Keith Lee

I'm the founder and editor of Associate's Mind. I like to write, talk, and think about law, professional development, technology, and whatever else floats my boat. I practice law in Birmingham, AL.

9 comments

  1. Someone call the Whaaambulance! Keith is right about these law students, they need to pull their heads out and take a look around. Times are tough! The lesson from the bankers’ conversation is well taken: get used to it.

    Dean Treanor understands this lesson, and he demonstrated the proper mindset for these students: evolve or perish. It will not be easy to find a law firm job via traditional routes. The market for a traditional law practice sucks right now. Most law students and new attorneys will have to be creative with their law degree and skill set to find a job. Students would do well to listen to what Treanor has to say. Look at your situation as an opportunity to resist the golden shakle of Big Law and to instead follow a different career, practice style, niche or whatever else because that path is likely to be much more rewarding for you. This is a difficult mindest to adopt, but nothing in life ss easy.

    And this leads me to an important subpoint, I dont think that those who feel “tricked” by law school (at lease those complaining about it) are a fair generalization of the Gen Y/Millenial generation. People who search for the magic bullet for success-for the easy path-make up a substantial proportion of every population. These people are also likely to complain when something gets difficult.

    I suspect that there are plenty of motivated individuals in our generation, like Keith for example, who know that it takes hard work and creativity to succeed at anything. These people aren’t wasting their time complaining about being “lured” into law school. These people know that there is no magic bullet to be successful at anything, especially for landing a job in the current times. Call me a blind optimist, but I think that the creativity, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes our generation will shape the practice of law into something new and exciting. Choose to get out there and find a way to make this happen!!

    • Too right Peter.

      I was painting with a fairly large brush in regards to our generation. I’d agree with you that those on the Whaaambulance are just the more visible and vocal because those who are working hard and trying to get ahead have better things to do than get online and cry about it.

      “Call me a blind optimist, but I think that the creativity, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes our generation will shape the practice of law into something new and exciting.”

      I definitely think that the legal profession is in a state of upheaval. Outsourcing, the economy, new technology, etc. Like my banker friend said, you can either love it or leave it. Hopefully those in our generation with the right attitudes and drive to succeed can make something good come out of it.

  2. I do think the bloated salaries and employment statistics that are published by law schools contribute somewhat. Frankly, they outright lie and overcharge to keep next years freshman class coming in under false expectations. It’s become a worst case scenario of tenured lazy professors and administrators protecting their job with little or no concern for the student population.

    Beyond that, this isn’t just a temporary problem caused by a recession. This is a fundamental shift in the profession, that makes entry or success unlikely for a new graduate. Outsourcing to India was approved by the ABA in the last few years (while they continue to mint new law schools and increase capacity!). This allows unlicensed lawyers to essentially practice in the US – under the “supervision” of a US attorney. This is a killer to the entry level associate positions. Like in the article, no one wants to pay $100’s per hour for entry level on-the-job training, because of intense pressures for monthly and quarterly margins in industry and in firms to help drive unrealistic valuations……. the same theme that caused the recession in the first place.

    I agree, you do have to make your own way to some extent, but that should be part of the disclosure from day one. Why bait people in the door with false statistics and then tell the unfortunate 95% of students they need to find a semi- or non- legal job? They would have been better off with an MBA or a MPH or something with more value than a tangentially important law degree. A degree which takes more time and costs more $$ than a degree with some practical value in the “new” legal landscape.

    • @Hooch: I sympathize (emphasize would actually be more accurate) with your point. The statistics about salary and employment can be misleading, and no doubt the ABA and BigLaw contributed to the confusion- it pays for them to do so. While some blame can be shifted to these parties, law students and new attorneys must still shoulder their choices. The (very loose) analogy is beer advertisement. Drinking beer will not actually get you a hot girlfriend and a wild party, but those events are correleated with drinking beer. For practicing law, a closer look at the numbers that have been available all along will tell the story.

      Historically, only those in the top 10% of their class are employed by a medium or big law firm (generally speaking). Depending on where you live-for me, Seattle-the scope of competition is actually larger than simply your own law school class because many new attorneys from out of state will also compete for jobs in a metropolitan city. The numbers inflate to 10% of those taking the bar in Washington state (about 700 each year). That means approximately 70 to 100 people could comfortably follow the traditional path. Thus, gunning for a lawfirm job has always been a calculated risk.

      Then the recession hit. Anyone paying attention knew the calculus would change. While I was in law school (2009 grad), I knew that law firms practicing in real estate and land use would be devasted and related practice areas would have to shrink to survive. The 70-100 number would have to shrink, the only question at the time was by how much.

      The stastics weren’t false, they just changed. And that sucks. We practice law, any change in the rules midstream feels inherently unfair and antithetical to our liberal democracy. But we know better. Like the housing market iteself, or even the dot.com euphoria of the late 1990s, the “accepted norms” of business can and will change over time. Adapt.

      @Keith (and any other of his readers now reading this): There are plenty of resources out there for students and new attorneys. This blog (and her post today) http://lawpracticestrategy.com/the-proactive-lawyer/ is just one of a handful of resources available.

    • Hooch:

      I empathize with you as well that many law schools exaggerated their claims as the the employability and income levels of their students but I’ll have to echo Peter below in that things changed over the past 4 years (also note, I asked if people had been paying attention).

      While I do empathize, I also think it’s a lot of crying over spilled milk at this point. As you state, this is where we all find ourselves at this point: recession, glut of law students, outsourcing, etc. Yes, it’s cathartic to lay blame at the law schools for mis-leading students, but it doesn’t really do anyone any good. Personally, I’m just not much for looking back and assigning blame and wondering what might have been.

      If people (Ellie at ATL, Bitter Lawyer, etc.) want to go around warning new students about law school that’s fine. But I didn’t go to law school expecting mad cash and a jet setting lifestyle.

      I went to law school because I like the law.

  3. At the end of the day, I don’t really disagree with you. However, I do think there is some value to looking back to figure out what went wrong or to remind us to look before we leap before making life changing decisions…… even if only to persuade someone away from law. I do think the statistics have been largely exaggerated for some time, and recently thrown way out of wack in the last few years (even though many schools still tout 90% employment rates and 90K salaries).

    It just seems like a long way to go to get to a quasi legal job, for which education in another discipline would be more practical and less expensive. Just as another point….. If quasi-legal jobs are necessary, then why no curriculum to support it? Why not a contract review class, financial modeling, or a legal consulting class? Why not let students branch out to other schools at the university for some non-law training? My LS only allowed 3 hours from other schools. My real problem is knuckleheads in the laughable career services office offering advice regarding alternative careers, but backed by a school who provides no tangible support in that regard.

    Like all analogies, the beer one isn’t really too great. I expect to be lied to in consumer advertising…. that is a core element of capitalism. Beer companies don’t represent a benevolent section of society, as I would hope education would. In addition, they don’t publish statistics that tell you 90% of beer drinkers marry a 10. That would be a lie and they might face some trouble for that. It seems like law schools get a pass!

    In the end you are both right, things changed, and we all have to eat. At this point it’s just grin and bear it for a lot of unfortunate souls. In any event, if one wasn’t slick enough to have a backup plan or do some in depth research before taking the LSAT, they deserve what they get to some extent. Thanks for indulging me in a little debate that could go on forever and get nowhere and I do appreciate the attitude of perseverance. It’s just nice to bitch sometimes.

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