How Bad the Legal Job Market is in One Job Posting

September 26, 2013

Uncompensated Special Assitant US Attorney Job Posting

It is no secret that I am currently hunting for a full-time job. I am currently lucky and unlucky at the same time. I am lucky because I worked during law school, while studying for the bar exam, and had a job after that as well. As a consequence of this I now have the money and time to try and land a full time position that fits well with my interests. I am unlucky because the legal job market is bad. However the reckless and irresponsible method of deficit control known as the sequester is now making it worse. The federal government, believing itself exempt from its own minimum wage laws, is asking lawyers to work for free.

Many attorneys have already suffered the indignity of working unpaid internships. They have accumulated massive student debt loads to attend law school and maybe even lived in an expensive city for experience.1 The reward that the federal government believes that recent graduates are entitled to for this hard work is an unpaid position that prohibits them from recieving outside income and does not provide them public service student loan relief. The new reality is that the federal government seems to expect the family members of attorneys to support them while they work for free.2 The message that the federal government is sending is clear: hard work does not pay off.

Of course attorneys are intelligent and many understood the risks going in to the profession. Maybe this would not be so sad except it has real consequences for the public at large. It is axiomatic that to get the best talent you need to pay good wages. At a wage of $0.00/hour these jobs are attracting an inferior applicant pool to do important work for the public. U.S. attorneys are responsible for prosecuting drug cartels, public corruption, and national security cases. Sophisitcated criminal enterprises are not above using bribes to achieve their objectives, and I do not think it is a stretch to suggest that an unpaid attorney struggling to pay his or her student loans is more vulnerable to being tempted by a payoff than one that is paid for their work.

I have talked to many practicing attorneys who agree that the legal job market is broken. Job postings like these make me feel more pessimisitic about legal careers, and I am sure I am not the only one. At a time when many people cannot afford attorneys the public loses out. I learned a lot in law school and have little reservation about taking a non-legal job if it fits my interests. Many of my law school classmates have already taken jobs in tax, insurance, or business. A few years from now, when people ask what happened to the legal talent pool, or where all the good lawyers have gone, show them that job posting and I think they will understand.

  1. Debt loads of over $100,000 are not uncommon for recent law graduates. 

  2. Though this is not as offensive as the Connecticut attorney that asked recent law grads to pay him to shadow him

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.