The Struggle of Law School Graduates in a Difficult Job Market

By Mary F. Cheney
January 30, 2011

2010 was a terrible year to graduate from law school. The days when being sworn in as an attorney automatically yielded a dependable source of income are over. Many graduates are angry, and on some level, maybe they should be. Angry at the government for not making more progress on job creation, angry at their law schools for listing employment statistics seemingly unchanged by these economic times, and angry at themselves for taking on huge sums of non-dischargeable student loan debt in a vain quest for status.

First-year law students are told to study hard, earn that invitation onto law review, become involved in extracurricular activities, obtain real-world experience through legal externships and graduate at the top of their class. They are told that if they do these things, they will land that Associate Attorney position at a reputable law firm. I followed this advice. I earned those honors, and I am currently working, not as an attorney but in the retail industry for about minimum wage. Allow me to explain how I got here.

As do many of you reading this, I have a scientific background. Comparatively speaking, I found law school much more compatible with my strengths. I enjoyed my law school experience; in fact, I loved every second of it. People say that you always enjoy doing something that you are good at. I excelled in my law school studies, earned that invitation onto law review, founded and led a student organization, gained practical experience and, with glowing letters of recommendation, graduated third in my class.

For two semesters, I worked as a legal extern at Pfizer Inc in the Patent Department. Being on the cutting-edge was so exciting! Nothing prepares you more for the practice of law than seeing it in action. It is analogous to studying abroad in an effort to learn a foreign language. I researched legal issues, and I drafted responses to Office Actions from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Through my externship, I was able to immerse myself in the terminology, the procedures, and the strategies of patent prosecution. I even had the privilege of meeting top Pfizer Inc executives. Now I look back on my experience as a legal extern and truly fear that those will be the happiest years of my professional life.

The joy of Graduation Day faded as out-of-town family returned home and bar review courses began sending notices that the first day of class is one week away. For the next ten weeks, I utilized the Barbri Mobile program, which allows users to access lectures, multiple choice questions and outlines through an iPad in the comfort of their home, to study for the California Bar Exam, arguably the most difficult in the country. As many of you know, the bar exam is an unbelievably stressful situation. You can walk into the exam more than adequately prepared, but your stomach will still be roiling. All of those rules that you have been studying will feel as though they are slipping away, and you will have an irrational fear that your computer will crash and you will be forced to hand write your exam. It is an emotional rollercoaster, not just the exam, but the whole becoming-an-attorney process.

After I took the bar exam, I had to wait three excruciating months to find out that I passed the exam and didn’t have to relive the agony of the last five months. I gathered my family and close friends – at least those who weren’t already waiting for results – for a Bar Watch Party. When the clock struck 6:00 p.m., I checked my bar results in front of everyone, and after I finished reading the line indicating that I passed, there was a startling roar of excitement just before everyone burst into tears of joy and relief.

Now, running into people immediately after learning that you passed the bar exam, you can feel comfortable saying that you are seriously starting to look for a position in the legal field. But as the months roll on, it becomes less and less comfortable. When you’re unemployed, you think about the various career paths you might take. Ultimately, I find myself drawn to work that utilizes both my scientific and legal background. Happily, that combination can be found in academia, a research institute, a pharmaceutical company, a law firm or a governmental agency.

Most employers are under a hiring freeze. Others open one temporary position without benefits, and they have more applications in one day than they can read in a week. In the current recession, the individuals out of work are incredibly well-educated and possessing a wealth of experience. A recent-graduate, fresh out of law school with only the experience of externships, albeit impressive-ones, is no match for a veteran, proven attorney with an advanced degree and a book of business. We simply cannot compete, yet. Finding employment is particularly difficult for students hailing from less well-known, lower ranked law schools. When the market turns around, eventually, employers will balance their budgets, and offset their higher paid senior associates’ salaries by hiring more cost-effective entry-level associates.

I have been applying for jobs in various locations since I took the bar exam, including everything from an attorney position with the Environmental Protection Agency to an executive assistant position with my alma mater. I didn’t get either position. If I applied for an attorney position, I lacked the experience; if I applied for an administrative position, I also lacked the direct experience and my education made employers suppose that I could not genuinely be interested in the position long-term. Then, I decided to apply for a seasonal, retail position at the mall. They hired me. Suddenly, instead of lying around all day, I had a reason to get up in the morning and prepare for a productive day. Some of you may be thinking that an educated and skilled professional out of work wouldn’t benefit from such a position. It has helped me tremendously. I am the most driven when I am feeling professional success.

While the market is recovering, I suggest finding something to keep your spirits up, and I do believe that it’s different for everyone, depending on personality. My advice to individuals seeking employment in this market, particularly this legal market, is to do good works that make you feel successful in at least one facet of your life. Take this time to focus on small things and improve yourself. Work on maintaining relationships with your friends and family. Work on your marriage. Reduce clutter in your home or apartment. Become more health conscious and physically fit. Learn a new skill. Find a way to excel in whatever professional capacity you are currently serving in. See the positive, navigate around the negative, and carry a pleasant expression on your face; no one wants to hire or be around a sourpuss. Howl to some Warren Zevon and watch some funny YouTube videos. Hold a puppy. Things will get better.

If you are having difficulty, invest more of yourself. No one ever passed that organic chemistry or physics test by worrying; no, they studied and took control of the situation. Be better. Instead of accepting defeat, I chose to contribute and to learn. I am learning marketing and sales strategies, how to build a relationship with clients, assess their needs and find cost-efficient ways to accommodate those needs, and yes, how to very neatly fold a stack of half-zip pullovers. But you tell me, can those skills not be applied towards a law practice?

The most important thing you can do is to continue being your own advocate. Attend networking events and build relationships with people in the community. In this market, available jobs go to those who know somebody, because otherwise your resume is buried alive in a pile of four-hundred other applications. Be professional at all times; you just never know what might happen if you are ready for it. It’s all about being introduced. Take this opportunity to explore alternative career paths and expand your skill set. If you are interested in intellectual property law and eligible, study and sit for the patent bar exam. The Practising Law Institute has a great patent bar review course. Do not let this horrible market detract from your capacity to learn and grow as an individual and professional.

Finally, the next time you are indulging in some retail therapy, think about how the individual assisting you may be licensed to practice law or possess a doctoral degree and through necessity is choosing to learn a new skill to be a functioning, contributing member of society and the best professional she can be during these tough economic times.

EDITORS NOTE: I met Mary Cheney in April 2010 when I spoke at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Symposium on the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Patent Litigation.  Mary graduated in May 2010 and has found a difficult job market, as have so many graduates.  In short she has done everything right and continues to maintain a positive attitude.  I invited her to write this article to chronicle the difficulties many law school graduates are currently facing finding work.  If anyone is looking for an energetic and talented individual with a great attitude and work ethic I invite you to check out Mary’s resume and contact her directly.

The Author

Mary F. Cheney

Mary F. Cheney

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 33 Comments comments.

  1. Anon January 30, 2011 10:18 am

    Mary,

    How is it that you drafted responses to Office actions for patent matters without having passed the patent bar?

    I am also directed to a “Page has Moved” when clicking on the link to Mary’s resume.

  2. Gene Quinn January 30, 2011 11:50 am

    Anon-

    I just fixed the link to Mary’s resume. It is at:

    http://www.ipwatchdog.com/blog/MFCheney_Online_Resume.pdf

    If you look at her resume she clerked at Foley & Lardner, as well as in-house at Pfizer. It is not at all uncommon to give clerks drafting assignments, basically taking a first cut at drafting responses to Office Actions or doing a variety of things that patent agents or junior associates might do. I sense your question is leaning toward the unauthorized practice of law, and it is certainly not the unauthorized practice of law to have a law student clerk under the supervision of a patent attorney or patent agent who is, themselves, licensed.

    -Gene

  3. anon January 30, 2011 12:35 pm

    Why didn’t she apply to the PTO?

    Personally, I’d rather be working in a government position than in retail at the local mall.

  4. Mary Cheney January 30, 2011 1:40 pm

    Anon,

    Gene is correct about my experience as a legal extern. Taking the first run at drafting a response to a USPTO office action is a great way to learn, and of course, I was under the supervision of a patent attorney.

    To your second question, I too would prefer a governmental position. I have tried. Many of the jobs requiring a scientific background give preference to those individuals possessing a Ph.D., which I do not have. So, even though the government is hiring, competition is stiff.

    —Mary

  5. Concerned Student January 30, 2011 2:15 pm

    I find this post perturbing for the reason that Ms. Cheney’s article pretty much advocates her resume and screams please give me a job. The article is neither helpful nor does it provide any guidance for law students.

    Gene, it is kind of you to provide a platform for her but is this what law students have to resort to find a job?

  6. Staci Zaretsky January 30, 2011 2:33 pm

    As a 2010 graduate myself, I completely understand what Mary is going through. If there are no jobs, why not make your own? I wrote an article about it at Lawyerist. Please have a look.

    http://lawyerist.com/niche-practice-recent-law-grads/

  7. Steve M January 30, 2011 7:46 pm

    A great idea for an article.

    Though not personally applicable (there but for the grace of God go I); most definitely worthwhile.

    Thanks for the honesty, Mary.

    You’d be an asset to any firm; and I’d sure interview you.

    Your future is bright.

  8. cronous81 January 30, 2011 8:17 pm

    Mary,

    “To your second question, I too would prefer a governmental position. I have tried. Many of the jobs requiring a scientific background give preference to those individuals possessing a Ph.D., which I do not have. So, even though the government is hiring, competition is stiff.”

    That is not completely accurate. It is only in some majors do they require a Ph.D. such as biology, bichoem, chemistry etc. Most of these majors have lots of people looking to join the patent office but very spots exist since there are not many applications filed in these areas. On the other hand if you are an Electrical Engineer (and to a lesser extent Mech. Eng., Chem. Eng., etc.), they will hire bachelors as there are numerous applications filed. The same goes for private firms. Also the author’s alma mater does not have a good rep. so that might also hurt despite her high class rank.

  9. Anon January 30, 2011 9:10 pm

    Thanks Mary – I wanted to ask carefully, as I did not want to impugn your reputation, which indeed appears stalwart.

    Godspeed to you, as I know firsthand the woes of un- (and under) employment.

    I would advise you to obtain your USPTO registration sooner rather than later. I am not sure if this particular aspect is impacting you, but even (or especially) supervising an associate without a registration number may involve a higher degree of supervision – and risk – (with impact to billing and malpractice concerns) than supervising even an agent who does have a registration number. I do not know if any study has been completed, so it is merely anecdotal, but when the economy is soft, firms have to protect themselves from clients who failed ventures open up targets on everyone in sight (including counsel).

  10. Mary Cheney January 30, 2011 9:36 pm

    Steve M – You are very welcome. Thank you for your kind words.

    Anon – I understand how that could be a concern, particularly in a law firm setting. Thank you for the well wishes and the advice – I plan to obtain my USPTO registration as soon as possible.

  11. AnonExaminer January 30, 2011 9:57 pm

    The NYTimes articleis very pertinent to this. It deals with law school in general and how many law schools game their employment figures and salary figures. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/business/09law.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=law%20school&st=cse

    I didn’t realize the problem had affected law students with engineering/science backrounds in IP law.

  12. Nic January 31, 2011 5:45 am

    Excellent article and applicable to more than just law students. It can be so hard, graduating and then finding yourself in a cold, hard world. Nothing prepares you for it. I was pretty lucky, the graduate jobs market wasn’t as tough as it is now when I graduated but my sister, quite honestly, was terrified. She graduated in 2009 and I could see plain as day that she was scared. But she was just as determined that it wasn’t going to get the better of her and she was employed within a few months. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few tears and tantrums in between but ultimately, she made her degree work for her. In the meantime, she had a part-time job and she put together a Disney music quiz that she’d been meaning to do for years. It sounds ridiculous but just having something to do, a goal in mind made all the difference to her. That, and she learnt how to use a sound-editing piece of software. I’ve no idea if it will ever come in handy but it’s another skill she has.

    “Howl to some Warren Zevon and watch some funny YouTube videos. Hold a puppy. Things will get better.”

    This just about sums it up. Don’t let the media grind you down.

  13. Gene Quinn January 31, 2011 9:24 am

    Concerned Student-

    This article does not scream “give me a job.” The article tells a story that an extraordinarily large number of law students face. I travel the country and speak at law schools in Tier 1, 2, 3 and 4. Nearly all graduates are suffering the same fate as Mary describes.

    As for the article not being “helpful” or providing “guidance,” not every article can address everything. I get this criticism a lot and I always have to laugh. It is as if people want to read what they want to read and if an article doesn’t address the topic they wanted to read than the article is deficient. Absolutely not. As I always say, an article cannot be a treatise. Neither can it be a series.

    Furthermore, the article DOES provide guidance, so I have to wonder whether you really read the article. It suggests that graduates should do things to make them feel more confident, so getting any job was important for Mary. It also suggests to take the time you have to prepare your resume, continue to network and seek ways to stand out, hence Mary is moving forward to take the Patent Bar Examination. It also suggests that you make the best of not having a job by investing in yourself, spending time with family and friends. So if you don’t think this article provides any guidance I don’t know what to tell you. It is exactly the type of article I thought would be useful, and it is positive and upbeat.

    -Gene

  14. cronous81 January 31, 2011 11:18 am

    @AnonExaminer

    “I didn’t realize the problem had affected law students with engineering/science backrounds in IP law.”

    Generally people with chemistry, biology, biochem backgrounds have a rough time finding employment whether with the office or in a private firm. Having the right kind of degree (e.g. EE, MechE, maybe computer science?) helps immeasurably. I noticed even pre-recession the abundance of bio majors that had a rough time finding work. There aren’t as many applications filed in this area relative to the electrical or mechanical arts.

  15. IANAE January 31, 2011 11:35 am

    Having the right kind of degree (e.g. EE, MechE, maybe computer science?) helps immeasurably.

    This is the real problem with the job market. Lawyers essentially commit to a career path when they begin law school, without any knowledge or control of how the economy will shape up in a few years. In IP, it’s even harder to react to the economy because you essentially have to forecast the demand for your undergraduate degree nearly a decade in advance, and most students probably don’t even realize that law school is in their future at that point.

    This situation is not at all helped by law schools fudging their student employment metrics in a desperate attempt not to slip in the rankings.

    By all means, stay positive. The economy cycles, and employment opportunities will someday exceed the student population as they have in the past. In the meantime, I would advise getting as much relevant legal experience as possible, wherever you can find it, and even if it doesn’t pay very well. You don’t want to find yourself competing for a job in the recovering economy with someone who has the same law degree as you, and as much inexperience as you, but whose credentials are more current.

  16. mostly happy January 31, 2011 3:21 pm

    The problem with the “experts” who will second-guess Ms. Cheney’s career planning is they are usually engaged in self-deception in order to support their own sense of superiority. In the early 90s, I attended a pretty good law school and did pretty well. In the end I had significant success in the job market, but, due to some strange twists and turns, I also knew that for each of my first two jobs I had actually been the second choice. But for the first choices having some issues I would have had a disastrous start. (I had other options but they were dramatically inferior to both positions.)
    My point is that a whole bunch of attorneys had just as much luck as I did (maybe more), but they are blissfully unaware, and they will remain so even as they sharpshoot the decisions of folks like Ms. Cheney.

  17. Jenny January 31, 2011 3:41 pm

    I’m very curious why you didn’t start looking for legal jobs until AFTER you passed the bar? Isn’t the custom to try to have a job lined up by the time you graduate? It’s a different issue if you looked/tried throughout your last year at law school, but that doensn’t seem to be the case.

  18. Mary Cheney January 31, 2011 9:17 pm

    Cronous81 – Good point. The Ph.D. barrier is not generally a problem for engineering majors, including chemical engineers. If I could do it all over again, electrical engineering probably. But as IANAE said, it’s difficult to project. When choosing my major, I actually had plans to attend medical school.

    Nic – What your sister did is exactly what I was talking about! Thank you for your comment.

    mostly happy – I appreciate your insight. I had a couple of summer associate interviews in Kansas City, actually, right around the time that law firms were deciding to limit the number of summer associates that they were taking on. If I had hit the market slightly earlier and landed a summer associate position, who knows. On the other hand, some were offered summer associate positions only to find that there was no place for them upon graduation. You just never know.

    Jenny – Yes, that is the custom. In saying that “I have been applying for jobs . . . since I took the bar exam,” I did not intend to imply that I was not looking beforehand. In fact, I did attempt to line up post-graduate employment during my last year of law school, but was unsuccessful. Then, after graduation, I had to focus on the bar exam. I have found that many firms, given the number of qualified applicants, do not need or want to take a chance on a post-bar law clerk who may or may not pass the bar exam.

  19. cronous81 February 1, 2011 12:56 am

    @IANAE

    “In IP, it’s even harder to react to the economy because you essentially have to forecast the demand for your undergraduate degree nearly a decade in advance, and most students probably don’t even realize that law school is in their future at that point.”

    Admittedly I have not been in the patent field for a decade, however, EE has been the gold standard for quite awhile in patent law. It just is that most undergrads do not envision themselves going into patents when choosing a major. It was the same with me. As for law school I would actually recommend to others to do what I did, work in the patent field for awhile and then go to law school. It will make sure that you can do this kind of work and that you will at least somewhat enjoy it before plunking down on a large investment.

  20. anonymousAgent February 1, 2011 7:38 am

    Mary is a victim of the “Biology PhD bubble” and the “law school bubble.”

    A) Biology PhD bubble:

    Why is a Phd “needed” to practice in biology?? Just because there is a huge oversupply of biology PhDs that flood the market. Firms can have their pick of PhDs and, voila, a situation where a PhD is ‘needed.’
    People with BAs in biology are stupid enough to work as slaves for $20,000 a year in what is called ‘graduate school.’ There is a ton of funding for these slaves – hence, the oversupply of Biology PhDs.

    B) JD bubble – the US is one of the few countries in the world where a JD is “needed” to call yourself a patent attorney. This is NOT the case in Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada, etc. The whole scandal is that even though the USPTO treats agents the same as attorneys, without the JD you have to explain to the average Joe what a “patent agent” is.
    The whole barrier to entry for obtaining a law license in a state bar is MONEY. Law school is a fortune and the ABA has closed off the opportunity to get a fully recognized degree via post of via the Internet (BTW, this is NOT the case in the UK and in Commonwealth countries). Why? To keep those overprice law professors employed. Also, because the lawyers who already paid their tuition would be (understandably) infuriated if all of a sudden you could get a law degree without paying tons of tuition money.

    For crying out loud, anyone with the IQ to get a degree in science could EASILY pass the bar or law school exams. But the $30-50K a year is the barrier.

    Mary’s plight symbolizes the tough situation that awaits the under 25 crowd in the USA.

    Outside of the USA, things are MUCH better. Ironically, even today, American credentials REMAIN the ‘gold standard’ outside of the USA. Mary – if you could take your US licenses and get a gig outside of the US, that would be the way to go. For example, if you could find work in Europe, come back to the USA with 5-10 years with an EPO license. It would be MUCH more valuable than a PhD in biology. And frankly, the rest of the world follows the EUROPEAN model of patent law much more than the US model.

    Good luck!

    US Agent who lives outside of the USA (and outside of Europe)

  21. step back February 1, 2011 2:38 pm

    For crying out loud, anyone with the IQ to get a degree in science could EASILY pass the bar or law school exams.

    Anon Agent,

    With due respect, you assume too much.

    “IQ” is not a useful measure of the different “kinds” of intelligence that people have.
    Just because you got a degree in a science does not mean that you will do well in law school or as an attorney.

    Each type of task calls for different kinds of intelligence vectors.
    Law is not science.

    I have worked with a number of patent “agents”. And with rare exceptions, most do not understand the “law” part of their practice. They think they do. But they don’t.

    People don’t spend 3 whole years in law school just to pick up what a science degreed “agent” of decent IQ can pick up in an afternoon of casual perusing through the MPEP. Something else goes on in law school. Something that can’t be easily explained unless you too have been through the process.

    With that said, yes, there is a glut of biotech PhD’s who thought that if they all just ran as a herd through law school, greener pastures would greet them on the other side. However, as bio studies probably taught them many years before, those who stick to herd mentality and run towards the cliff with the herd usually fall over the cliff with the herd. I don’t have easy answers and I don’t think anyone else does either. 😉

    _______
    Sadly, I know too many young folk who are right now going to law school with the idea that the combination of law and their other degree (science or other) will mean a great job waiting for them on the other side of graduation.

  22. Blind Dogma February 1, 2011 3:31 pm

    Something that can’t be easily explained unless you too have been through the process.

    Amen.

    No wonder my attempts at leading Bobby through the Socratic Method meet with such dismal failure.

    Makes me thirsty…

  23. anonymousAgent February 1, 2011 6:04 pm

    Step Back,
    There are agents and there are agents.
    You discuss patent agents who pick up information “in an afternoon of casual perusing through the MPEP.”
    This may describe SOME agents (and some attorneys for that matter), but there ARE agents who study case law diligently, read the blogs diligently, are familiar with subtle concepts such as the difference between the case law itself and how the executive branch interprets the case law in the MPEP, are sensitive to litigation issues such as discovery, are paranoid about IDSs because case-law “is a swamp” etc etc. All this without blowing $100-150 K on law school. And believe it or not, the science/engineering expertise the agent picks up during those 3 years that s/he ISNT in law school can be quite valuable – for example, designing around your own claims to ‘encourage’ the inventor to disclose alternative embodiments, etc etc.
    As a final note, a larger and larger portion of my practice relates to foreign cases where attorneys cannot claim to have ANY advantage over agents. Once again, diligent agents ARE familiar with differences in patent law in the various jurisdictions.

    I stand my claim that in MANY situations, a JD is ‘overkill’ for patent prosecution. Diligent former-scientist agents (i.e. who are USED to educating themselves by reading a lot) and who are ‘humble’ enough to know that things often are NOT what they seem are NO worse at drafting excellent specs than “attorneys” (except for the fact that Attorney-Client Privilege is not assured for agents like it is for attorneys).

  24. step back February 2, 2011 6:02 am

    There are agents and there are agents.

    Dear Anon-Agent

    Unfortunately the clueless lay public often gets the latter. 😉

  25. john white February 2, 2011 2:39 pm

    Anon Agent is spot on regarding the bio PhD bubble. It is the way it is owing to lack of fulfillment in being a lab PhD (slave wages, perpetual grant writing (aka; begging for funding)). The only reasonable way out is to go to law school. Given how this got started, I do not know if we’ll ever get out of the PhD bubble in biosciences. People just do not realize how unhappy they’ll be once finished.

    Mary: Hang in there. You’ll do fine….eventually….in the legal realm. But, it seems from the tone of the article, you’re already doing fine in everything else.

  26. J February 5, 2011 8:13 pm

    Mary,

    I’m a recent law school grad myself and I know firsthand what you are going through. You set a fine example of perseverance and attitude. I’m sure you will ultimately be successful in what you commit to, as your article speaks volumns on your character.

    It is easy to fall prey to negativity and despair in this job market, but I am of the opinion that very little is accomplished by giving into these negative feelings. Resolve and tenacity make a difference over time.

  27. Ronnie February 8, 2011 11:28 am

    Mary,

    I graduated in 2005 and the market was beginning to slow down (I had many friends who were let go from their jobs during the mass layoffs). I’d looked for clerkships and attorney positions during my last year, went on a few interviews, but ultimately had no success. I took the bar and failed the first time. I did temp work for around 6 months while I studied for it the second time (I passed), but temp work started to dry up too. Jobs that were going to last 5 months were revised to last 5 weeks and actually lasted only 8 days–that type of thing. I ended up getting a part-time job at Sephora to pay rent. When I got called in for temp jobs, I kept my job at Sephora, knowing how quickly a temp job could end. When I finally started working for a firm, a year after my graduation, I stayed at Sephora for another 2 years. You do what you have to do to make ends meet and be productive. I wish you all the best with your future endeavors!

  28. M.G. February 13, 2011 1:58 am

    Mary,

    Congratulations on doing so well in law school and on passing the California bar! Those are some phenomenal accomplishments. As a recent law grad myself who struggled to find a job in this market, I know that the sense of accomplishment can get lost when all your work doesn’t seem to pay off economically. However, the results of the job market (something you have no control over) don’t diminish what you have accomplished through your hard work.

    I would like to add two suggestions for recent grads to those Mary listed:

    1) VOLUNTEER, VOLUNTEER, and VOLUNTEER – either to keep your skills fresh and your foot in the door, or just to be ’employed’ doing something you love.
    2) Fall back on any other skills that you may have, which may prove for the moment to be more ’employable’ than a law degree or whatever set of skills you are having trouble being employed in.

    After struggling to find work, I finally accepted a non-legal position for which I was hired due to a set of skills I learned long before law school. It might seem a little deflating to be hired for something that you could have done before law school. However, I am just grateful to be able to rely on the skills I learned previously in order to get a job. In addition to my part-time job, I also volunteer in a legal position, which helps me develop my legal skills and makes sure they don’t go to waste. Although I am by no means rich (my part-time salary leaves me existing at poverty level) I do feel I have the best of both worlds, in that I am able to support myself (barely), but am still able to maintain my legal skills and practice in the field that I loved enough to go to law school.

    To Mary and all the other grads out there: here’s to your success! Let’s hope it only gets better.

  29. John February 17, 2011 8:49 pm

    This was a great article. However, legal jobs will never come back. The rate at which new law schools are opening and enrollment keeps increasing will render it impossible for many graduates to find jobs. It’s a sad fact, but it is true. I keep telling friends I know not to go to law school. It is a losing game, for sure. People are better off learning real skills that will actually benefit the real world, such as skills in engineering, math, and science. Lawyers create no real wealth in society. Yes, lawyers are needed to some degree to protect our rights and interests. But in the end, people are better off pursuing other careers.

  30. anon August 14, 2011 12:54 pm

    As someone who is planning to go to law school to pursue IP law, I read this article with a lot of interest. I am interested in learning more about the job prospects in IP law of various schools and degree holders. For example, have your classmates at Thomas Jefferson who have biological Phd’s found jobs? Also how are the job prospects for a science BS with a JD from, say, University of San Diego?

  31. AW December 3, 2011 6:35 am

    I hate to sound bad, but it sounds like she didn’t do her homework. I am interested in IP law and applying to UC’s now to transfer as an engineering student. From what I have read there are 2 reasons why she can’t find a job.

    1) school prestige. TJSL is a 4th tier school. I would never attend there even if they give me a full scholarship. U of San Diego is a 2nd tier and would have been a far better choice with better placement. According to toplawschools.com, TJSL has a medium salary of new graduate at 65k. No way is that worth it for law school.

    2)with a bioscience background it is pretty well known that you need a PhD to score lucrative positions in IP for chemistry and biology. She should have at least stayed at UCSD to get her masters.

  32. Dan May 8, 2012 12:48 pm

    I have a B.S. in Molecular Biology from UCSD. I graduated from USD school of law. I worked at Pfizer as a contracts attorney and know a lot of those patent people. I left in 2004 to start a business with my brother in Mississippi. All my extended family lived back East. I was primarily looking for a more stable environment with a support system for my son. My son got all the help he needed, got married, and they have a beautiful daughter. However, the business failed. I also understand the importance of finding something to do. I took my wife’s car in to get new tires. They needed a driver, so, I applied, and they gave me a job. I enjoyed working with those guys and being busy. I’ve recently quit to devote more time and have more flexibility in looking for a legal job. I relate to your situation in many ways. I may have to move back to CA where I”m admitted to the bar rather than trying to stay around my family. My finances tanked when my business did. It’s the downside of risk taking. So many agencies and companies extrapolate moral character from your finances. That’s a tough hole to dig out of and may prevent me from applying to take the patent bar or any other state bar examinations. I wish you the best. You are not alone.

  33. KJ May 15, 2012 11:01 am

    I do not understand why the prestige of law school is such an important factor in getting a job. It seems outside of finance most careers do not care about your alma mater or even grades. There is a very narrow path to a viable legal career and it seems to protect the status quo with minimal diversity more than anything. It comes down to going to a Top 14 law school, getting on law review, graduate with honors, intern at a big law firm, and clerk for a federal appellate judge. That is the path of job security. Although, it seems like within the past 10 years there has been a lot of grads going into IP and tax law only to find the jobs gone within the past few years.