What do you do if you’re a recent law school graduate? The future looks grim right now for lawyers as law firms across the country have started downsizing, something that would have been unthinkable ten years ago. This means that not only are there far less jobs out there for aspiring lawyers, but there’s more competition as those experienced lawyers who have lost their jobs look for new ones.
This means that law students, who likely entered law school and took up massive amounts of student loan debt because they thought they were sure to easily find a high-paying job as a lawyer, find themselves in a dangerous predicament. Saddled with student loans and unable to find a job.
“So I’ve got my law degree,” you’re probably thinking. “Now what?”
Kendall Coffey has some ideas. A former U.S. attorney for Florida, Kendall Coffey is the author of Spinning the Law and a partner at Coffey Burlington in Miami. He’s also a legal analyst for media outlets like MSNBC and CNN.
What Kendall Coffey thinks that aspiring lawyers should do, according to a recent article he wrote for Law.com, is start representing the middle class.
“Ironically, while thousands of new law graduates fret about the chronic joblessness that awaits them, tens of millions of Americans need attorneys but cannot afford them,” he explains. “And much of the unmet need rests in America’s middle class, which is neither rich enough to pay $250 an hour for lawyers nor poor enough to qualify for legal aid organizations.”
But currently recent law graduates are not prepared for the responsibilities that running such a practice would entail. Coffey suggests that law schools revise their curricula to teach classes on law firm operations and management as well as basic transactions such as wills and prenuptial agreements.
More than that, however, law schools need to work to transform the expectations of their students. As long as students expect a prestigious position at a higher-end law firm with their diploma they will continue to be painfully disappointed.