Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Math Lesson for Law School Applicants

True confession: The only class of people I find more annoying than law students are prospective law students. 

I had a conversation with someone recently that told me she had "deferred law school" for three years. 

Me: What brought you to Denver? 
Her: Law school. 
Me:Oh, which one? 
Her: DU, but I've deferred for three years now. 
Me: Wow, I didn't realize that they let you defer for that long. 
Her: Oh, well I haven't actually applied yet. 
Me: Riiight. 

She went on to tell me that she wanted to do intellectual property law because her facebook page got shut down one time. I asked what she wanted to actually do in IP law. Did she want to work in a law firm? She wasn't sure. Would you do something different than what you're doing now? She still wasn't sure. She then told me that many of the jobs she wanted required a JD or a masters degree and that she could make "a lot more" money if she had an advanced degree. "How much more?"  I asked. She wasn't sure. "For instance, at my current job I'd make a significant amount more," she told me. "About $2,200 a year more, based on the pay scale they publish," I told her, "that doesn't even cover your monthly loan payment."  "Well, sure" she said. 

Well sure!? Well, you sure are bad at math. 

Because if you're going to spend over $3,000 a year to make $2,200 a year more, that's a bad deal. A law degree isn't the cash cow it once was and legal education continues to be under fire. Sure, if getting an advanced degree allows you to do something you really love (and you've actually worked in that environment before and know you like it) then do it, get an advanced degree. Shell out ten or hundreds of thousands of dollars on your education. 

But do the math, run the numbers on what you can afford, and research what your future job might look like. It's probably the most important piece of legal research you'll ever do. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Happy Anniversary to Griswold v. Connecticut

Happy 47th anniversary to Griswold v. Connecticut! On this day in 1965 the Supreme Court legalized the use of contraception by married couples based on their Constitutional right to privacy. The case laid the framework for future reproductive rights protections. 

I wonder what Rush would have had to say about Estelle Griswold. She sure looks like a hussy to me. :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Should you accept the job offer?

In a down terrifying economy it’s hard not to agree to work any job that will have you. Believe me, I know how scary it is to be broke with law school debt looming. But here’s one thing I've learned: working a job where you aren’t treated well isn’t worth it. It definitely isn’t worth the mental and emotional anguish and it might not even be financially worth it. Here are some things to think about before you take your summer position or first job out of law school.

How good to you feel about the people you’ve met at the company.
I know, I know, why are we talking about feelings? No one talks about feelings in law school. Well, maybe they should. Because, well, the feelings matter. If you are head over heels in love with a new position you’ve been offered (and I’m not just talking about being in love with the idea of a paycheck coming your way) then you should take the job. If you like the people, you’ve gotten good references from other people who’ve worked there, and it’s the kind of day to day work you’ll be happy doing; then take the job!

But, if the hiring process seemed unorganized or your future supervisor has a communication style that doesn’t seem to jive with yours…then think twice. I’ve had two disastrous employment situations during my careers and in both situations I didn’t feel great about my future supervisor even before I was hired. You made it through law school, you’re a smart cookie…be ok listening to your instincts if you don’t think a job or work environment will be a good fit.

Taking a “bad job” might not be worth it financially.
Let’s be honest, you didn’t go to law school because you wanted to be poor. So I can understand why a job…any job…even one that treats you poorly, looks good as you enter into the final weeks of law school. And, maybe it is worth it financially (just make sure you have a line item in your personal budget for therapy). But it might not be. Of all of my friends that graduated from law school in 2011, only three of them are in full time, benefitted positions that pay more than $55,000 a year. So, how much is that job that you don’t feel great about really going to pay you?

If it’s less than $40,000 and doesn’t include benefits like health insurance or child care, you might be better off taking a temporary or non-legal job that allows you to continue looking for an employment situation that is a really good fit for you (or at least includes health care). If you’re going to make $40,000 a year working long days with no vacation time you may be unintentionally closing yourself off from other opportunities. It’s tough to keep searching for other opportunities when your every waking moment is occupied by a job you don’t like. It may be worth it to continue waiting tables (and hence have a bit more flexible schedule) if the pay difference is an amount you can manage financially. Bad jobs feel worse if you find yourself trapped in them with no time to apply/ interview for something else.

If you find yourself in a bad work situation, be as proactive as possible.
 As with anything else, it’s always a good idea to trouble shoot problems when they first occur. If you haven’t gotten all the information or training you need…ask! If something doesn’t seem right to you…clarify. And if something isn’t working... have the courage to say something.

In a down economy it’s easy to feel like employment is a gift that you should be groveling for. While you should be thankful, grateful and hardworking; you should also remember that you are a valuable member of the team. Sure you’re still learning the ropes but you are still deserving of respect. If you find that you aren’t in a respectful environment it might be possible to correct the course before the situation gets too bad. In the worst case scenario you may find that you’ve walked into a situation where respect isn’t part of the culture…and you can make a timely and informed decision about whether or not that’s the kind of work place you want to be in. While it’s ideal to make these kinds of decisions early in the process, it’s never too late to change your path.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: Living History

I've been reading Hillary Clinton's autobiography, Living History, which focuses on her time as First Lady for the last few weeks. Why did the 592 pages take me so long, you ask. Well, because I was a little overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed by my own judgement and the level of hatred I developed for the political process. I found myself needing breaks, I simply couldn't emerse myself in this book.

This book forced me to admit that I am more judgmental than ever I wanted to admit. I suppose I should give you a disclaimer first. I was a child during the Clinton administration and both my parents are hard core Hillary hating republicans. So my view of the events that happened during the 1990s was far different than how Hillary described them or how I would probably view them if I lived through them as an adult. None the less, I measured Hillary's accounts through my republican-skewed lens. "She's slanting that," I found myself thinking. Or, better yet, she's just referring to event X that way because she wants to use it for future political gain., wait a what if she's writer her autobiography in a way that's beneficial for her future career.

I had to pause. Would I read a male author's autobiography that way? The jury is still out on if I should apply my judgement universaly or try to abandon it all together.

As for learning about the political process, this book didn't tell me anything new. But lets just say that you don't always want the details of how the sausage is made. Being confronted with the gory details didn't make me feel any better about the current state of politics. I enjoyed the book for the way it made me think about my own (gendered) perception of the world. But I definitely didn't find it to be uplifting.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Public Interest Summer Job Hunt Webinars

Still looking for a public interest summer position? Need some tips and tricks? Well, you're in luck! NALP and Equal Justice Works have made their webinars available to stream online. And, since they are free, it's definitely worth checking out.

The groups put on two webinars during January: The Summer Public Interest Job Search Part I — Best Practices in Drafting Cover Letters and Resumes and The Summer Public Interest Job Search Part II — Best Practices in Interviewing and In-person Networking. You can get links to both webinars as well as PDFs of the slides on NALP's website.