Funded Jobs

In today’s newspaper, Don J. DeBenedictis, staff writer for the Journal, discusses law schools’ new approach to help law school graduates find jobs. This idea is one of several being discussed to match the supply and demand of legal services. It is clear that there is a greater demand for legal services than is now being fulfilled. However, many contend there is an oversupply of lawyers. Some writers suggest, I believe correctly, that there is not an oversupply, but rather a mismatch between the two.

One reason for the mismatch is that most lawyers seek to work for the smaller percentage of affluent clients. Working for the less affluent client requires a reduced level of compensation. Sometimes it is difficult to match the reduced remuneration working from low to modest means clients with the debt level resulting from educational expenses.

The staff writer discusses law schools in California  that are now providing funds to graduates who are willing to work for government or public interest employers. The amount of money received by the graduates is not grand. We’re talking about, perhaps, $15 per hour. However, the graduates  are earning enough money  to pay expenses  and gain valuable experience preparatory for their next job. This program reminds me of one Southern law school that provided sufficient funds to open a new law practice if the graduate located in a rural or other geographic community that needed legal services. Provided the graduate  remained in that location for five years, the “loan” would be forgiven.

It seems that any suggestion brings out adversaries. The positive side of seeking to match supply and demand is countered by those who say that law schools are merely disguising their percentage of graduates employed. While this may be true, it is also true that these graduates are employed, just not  at a high level of income written about by the sensationalist media. It is also true that American Bar Association statistics separate between  traditional jobs and  “funded” jobs, thus disclosing the truth of the employment claims made by law schools.

One could also look at this as a postgraduate fellowship. This is an incredibly positive effort on the part of law schools  and their funding sources  for this program. My congratulations.


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Retirement at different times

In Life After Law: What Will You Do for the Next 6,000 Days? I focused on the options available to the lawyer in the last phase of his / her career and how to prepare for a profitable exit strategy.  What I did not address, however, is the lawyer whose spouse is working and may not yet be ready to retire, travel or otherwise be on the “same page” as the first spouse or significant other…

What to do?  The obvious response, as in so many such life situations, is communication.  Talk with your spouse or significant other.  Discuss the options open to the both of you.  Determine whether it’s o.k. for one to play, e.g., go skiing or traveling, etc., while the other stay home and works, whether the two can survive separate paths for a while and then come back together, and do this from time to time.

This is not a small issue or unimportant discussion, to be taken lightly.  It’s critical.  If not done well, you may find yourself in a divorce.  And if this results, you will feel as though you are in the center of a hurricane, or worse.  Aside from the psychological trauma, your financial projections which permitted the retirement, or change of career, go out the window … and you may be forced back to work, something you may or may not be able to do successfully.

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Legal demographics are changing

An ABA task force recently found that  only 56% of recent law school graduates achieve full-time employment as an attorney within twelve months of graduation, over the last five years, applicants to law schools have declined by roughly 50% from approximately 100,000 to approximately 50,000 per year.

This will have a dramatic impact on the availability of lawyers for the American public. And couple this statistic with the more than 400,000 lawyers who will retire in the next 10 years, and you will see a dramatic change in the legal landscape.

For those who complain that there are too many lawyers, this should satisfy their desire to thin the ranks of lawyers. For those who want to better serve those currently under-served Americans, this will add yet another challenge to the system. And for lawyers, the likelihood increases that the Bar will add yet another requirement of pro bono service and added cost to doing business as a lawyer.

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Retirement postponed

The recent Depression (2008, not 1932) has dashed the hopes and expectations of many lawyers. A recent survey reported by USA Today in its March 7, 2014 edition says that 58% of those between the ages of 54 and 64 years of age will retire later than the originally planned.

Postponement generally comes from a reduction in the value of the assets that were to be used to fund the retirement and the fear that the current value of the asset pool (stocks, bonds, 401K, real estate, etc.) no longer will be sufficient to sustain the lifestyle of the retiree, given the extended life expectancy of our population.

There is another reason. As noted in the recently published book, Life After Law: What Will You Do With the Next 6,000 Days?, most lawyers don’t know what to do with themselves after they leave their practice. While the law practice has value, the price for the practice is seldom the issue … it’s what will I do with myself?  Until you can answer the question of "what will I do" and "where will I go," one is likely to stay put. Only coincidentally, this postpones the time when savings accounts must be used.

The pressure is increasingly being felt by our Baby Boomers … sell the practice or "die in your boots." The latter option is not attractive and deprives one’s family of the money that could have been paid for the value of the practice before it (the practice) dissipates and/or the lawyer dies.

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