I'm a periodic but not daily reader of the WSJ
and must have missed this article
(Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers
) but it's still worth a read. I heard a couple attorneys referencing it and looked it up. In summary it essentially discusses how poor the business climate is for lawyers other than the very top tier from first tier law schools. Here's a part of the article that's particularly relevant to us "Solos in Chicago"...A survey of about 650 Chicago lawyers published in 2005 found that between 1975 and 1995 the inflation-adjusted average income of the top 25% of earners in the survey group grew by 22%, while income for the other 75% of earners dropped.
Essentially the big firm incomes increased by quite a bit over 20 years while the 2-5 person firms often showed declines.
There's some interesting discussion about the less than full disclosure on the part of law school marketing campaigns...i.e. average salary figures for recent graduates.
One new solos experience:
Some new lawyers try to hang their own shingle. Matthew Fox Curl graduated in 2004 from second-tier University of Houston in the bottom quarter of his class. After months of job hunting, he took his first job working for a sole practitioner focused on personal injury in the Houston area and made $32,000 in his first year. He quickly found that tort-reform legislation has been "brutal" to Texas plaintiffs' lawyers and last year left the firm to open up his own criminal-defense private practice.
He's making less money than at his last job and has thought about moving back to his parents' house. "I didn't think three years out I'd be uninsured, thinking it's a great day when a crackhead brings me $500."
None of these findings surprise me. Through the blog I meet a lot of young attorneys job hunting and get the occasional resume sent my way. For a part time "coverage" position we've been trying to fill of late I've received nearing 100 resumes. I think the garbage "contract/document review" position is the most likely first job for new graduates in the Chicago area these days.
Would you attend law school if you had to do it all over again?