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Innovation In the Legal Job Market help young attorneys, entrepreneurs
It’s no secret; the job market for young lawyers is in urgent need of revitalization. The notion that three demanding years of law school entitles grads to an oak desk, pressed suit and the keys to a lucrative legal career is now a tale believed solely by severely misguided undergraduates. The reality is that more than 40,000 students enter the law-job market annually, many of whom dragging along over $150,000 in debt. According to a recent Wall Street Journal study, nationwide, only 55% of those graduates are procuring full-time, long-term employment that requires a law degree. The system isn’t broken, it’s shattered.
How We Got Here
The erosion of the legal job market is due to a variety of factors, the most obvious of which being the recession. Compounding the issue, the legal industry is rigid and does not seem to be adapting. Big firms continue to overcompensate young associates, creating fewer jobs for the rest of the pool. Small firms are flooded with applications from young lawyers seeking positions in areas of law in which they lack interest or expertise. Other firms are taking advantage of the surplus in resources and hiring associates on a part-time or contractual basis to do their legal grunt work for minimum compensation.
Fueling the fire, law schools are not producing practice-ready attorneys. The focus of a traditional law school curriculum is to teach students how to “think like a lawyer.” However, a rough understanding of the methods of legal analysis does not necessarily equip budding lawyers with all the skills required for success in practice. The current model effectively turns students into commentators capable of critiquing the reasoning of others but doesn’t give them the experience needed to make the difficult decisions routinely encountered by lawyers. In short, law school doesn’t prepare students properly for the actual practice of law.
Where We Are Going
Within the current regime, employers and employees alike lose. It's time to rethink how lawyers are trained. At least one Chicago law firm has accepted the challenge.
In early August, Chicago-based law firm Saper Law Office will be introducing a new program* that seeks to provide an alternative to young attorneys within the fractured legal market with its latest innovation, the Saper Law Immersion Program. The Immersion Program offers young attorneys real world experience counseling clients. Over the course of one intensive week, and under the guidance of Saper Law attorneys, new lawyers will engage directly with start-ups to provide legal services in the areas of intellectual property, business, and social media. For example, participating attorneys will create new businesses entities, file trademark and copyright registrations, draft licensing agreements, and create non-compete, confidentiality, and work for hire contracts. A heavy emphasis will also be placed on new media and social media issues and participants will conduct client meetings at 1871, Chicago’s beautiful new co-working space for Chicago digital startup companies. Finally, guest lecturers and trips to the State and Federal Courthouses will expose students to litigation practice.
In turn, businesses are invited to participate and receive discounted legal services from Immersion Program participants under the guidance of skilled practitioners and a world-renowned law firm. While most new businesses will be sourced from 1871 or Code Academy, businesses do not need to be affiliated with either entity in order to apply for legal counseling.
The Saper Law Immersion Program is an innovative response to the bleak state of affairs for young attorneys. Students of the program will have the opportunity to experience how law is really practiced in cutting-edge areas of the law. As it so often does, economic struggle has spurred innovation with Saper’s Program. Expect similar innovations within the legal field to follow as the industry continues to adapt and evolve.
*CLE Credit Pending.