Legal Careers in North America

The Bright Legal Market of 2015

Andy had been keeping up with the poor state of the U.S. legal market a few years ago, and it seems like a good idea to continue his efforts. The recent positive U.S. job report for January 2016 had some minor bad news for the legal profession: a loss of 1,400 lawyers, or 0.12% from December.

But the sour news was completely offset by the 95 percent of law students who spent last summer clerking at a law firm and received an offer to work full-time at the firm after graduation. Read about it here, but the takeaway is that the effect of the ’08 recession was over last year, partially because the law school bubble has finished it’s big pop:

The 95 percent offer rate was up from 93 percent in 2014, and a marked increase from the low of 69 percent in 2009.

Leipold noted that with first-year law school enrollment having fallen by more than 15,000 nationwide over the past five years, law firms are seeing more competition for the top candidates simply because schools are producing fewer graduates.

So long as the January’s (… and February’s) stock market, oil plunge, emerging market trifecta doesn’t spin the United States into another recession in 2016 … it might be time to again start thinking of an American J.D. as a safe investment in the future. But don’t tell your friends.

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Law School and Lawyer Population Density

One of the most important, if not the most important decision in choosing law school, is choosing where to go.  This includes not only which law school, but also which state you want to go to, and possibly the state in which you’re going to want to sit for the bar.

This site, also prepared by a former JET, breaks all that down in great detail — not only which states have the most number of law schools / state, but which ones should be overpopulated, if not overrun by, lawyers.

See The Charge of the Juris Doctor Brigade, available here.

Japanese Law Translation: The online 法律系の英和事件

Because, frankly, none of us come to law school knowing the Japanese terminology for tort, negligence, or statute of limitations. (不法行為、 過失、時効、 respectively).

Japanese Law Translation has on online Japanese-English dictionary, as well as English translations of current Japanese law available onilne, for free, at its site.  The dictionary is quite good, though there may be some terms lacking (I was unable to get it to produce “Alternative Dispute Resolution,” or 裁判外紛争解決, for example).  Nonetheless, it can be a good place to access some Japanese legal terminology.   And, at the very least the site can equip you with the kanji compounds for quick shorthand note-taking in the margins of your casebook.

The site is located here.

The Toyota Lawsuit(s) as Opportunity

The economy has been in the dumpster for the past year and a half, and last year law firms bled attorneys like crazy.  Current second and third year students are having trouble enough just finding summer work, and the future remains uncertain.  Such is life in the legal market today.

There is one breed of law student however, who may, at least in the near term, have a bit more luck than the rest — the one capable of Japanese legal translation.  A particular auto company with screwy accelerator pedals is mostly to thank for that.  Costs to Toyota just to fend off all the sharks in the water is estimated to rack upwards of  $3 billion. With law school finals looming and the Toyota lawsuits growing, there were a number of regional firms around my area seeking Japanese fluent law and business students.

They weren’t looking for such students for legal or business insight necessarily — it was simply a fact that these firms were going to engage in comprehensive discovery process with a Japanese company, and had no one on staff who spoke or read Japanese.  Indeed, one of these translation opportunities  explicitly indicated that it was looking for Japanese fluent law students, that translation abilities were a plus, and that travel abroad may be necessary as part of the job duties – and this was from a small firm, in Kentucky of all places.  In another instance, and completely thanks to my personal network, I received notice of a Toytoa lawsuit related job posting from a local medium-sized firm before the rest of my law school was even notified.

While the jobs coming out of the Toyota lawsuit aren’t a golden ticket to the world of professional law practice, they do constitute a foot in the door, and with compensation. The little Kentucky firm I had heard from was willing to pay a salary comparable to large local firms, and at a time when few law students can even find volunteer legal opportunities.  Translation work is certainly a better alternative to an empty gap on a resume.

Meanwhile, things with Toyota move forward.

The ultimate point in all this is: (1) If you’re still on JET and thinking of law school, soak up all of the language you can get; and (2) have the network in place for those opportunities that fit your skills when they come along.

Law School as an Investment

While the following article makes an interesting analogy to the law school investment as a Rule 10b-5 securities violation, this article is just as important to prospective students because it has all of the numbers of the current legal employment market, including: the number of graduating law students landing jobs, starting salaries, and the number of firms hiring out there to help make an informed decision on whether or not the trials, tribulations, and tremendous cost of law school are worthwhile.  Definitely worth a look.

The article can be found at AdamSmithEsq.com

NALP Conference: Resume Advice

It’s finals time now, so things are going to be slow here for the next couple of weeks. Last week, however, was the NALP Conference in Puerto Rico– and Above the Law produced the following summary of legal resume advice that’s worth reading through.

Of particular concern to former JETs should be the tidbits about overall resume length and the weight your language ability will ultimately have on your resume. At the end of the day, it may make aiming for that 1kyuu (or N1, as it’s called now) or JETRO exam certification worth it.

Career Tools: Typography for Lawyers

As much as I thought law school and legal education was all about crafting a coherent argument that compellingly synthesizes law and facts, my legal writing course quickly taught me that, for many lawyers, the challenge in creating a convincing document to file has as much to do with the crafting the argument as it does in making sure the document you ultimately create isn’t riddled with typographical errors and ungodly sans-serif fonts that seem to be the default on Word nowadays.

Thankfully, someone out there has created a typography site that is both: (1) aimed directly at lawyers; and (2) easy to follow.

Here it is: Typography for Lawyers

Practicing in Tokyo (3): Know Your Firms

20061008-Shinjuku0093A short, simple post – if you want to practice somewhere like Tokyo, you need to know the firms that you want to practice with – and this post is designed to help you figure that out. No frills, bells or whistles – just a long, linked-up like crazy list of firms. A list of major multinational firms with Tokyo offices are listed below:

  1. Allen & Overy
  2. Arqis Foreign Law Office
  3. Ashurst
  4. Baker & McKenzie
  5. Bingham McCutchen
  6. Clifford Chance
  7. Cotty Vivant Marchiso & Lauzeral
  8. Davis Polk & Wardwell
  9. DLA Piper
  10. Finnegan Henderson
  11. Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer
  12. Herbert Smith
  13. Hogan & Hartson
  14. Hughes Hubbard & Reed
  15. Jones Day
  16. King & Wood
  17. Latham & Watkins
  18. Linklaters
  19. Lovells
  20. Milbank Tweed
  21. Morgan Lewis & Bockius
  22. Morrison Foerster (“MOFO”)
  23. Norton Rose
  24. O’Melveny & Myers
  25. Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe
  26. Paul Hastings
  27. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
  28. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
  29. Quinn Emanuel
  30. Ropes & Gray
  31. Shearman & Sterling
  32. Sidley Austin
  33. Simmons & Simmons
  34. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
  35. Skadden Arps
  36. Sughrue Mion
  37. Squire Sanders
  38. Sullivan & Cromwell
  39. Vinson & Elkins
  40. Wakely Foreign Law Office
  41. White & Case
  42. Wikborg Rein
  43. Hayabusa Asuka
  44. TMI Associates

Presentation to Returnees : Taking the JET Experience into the Legal Field

Certainly this site isn’t the only one looking to help JETs take their time in Japan and segue into the legal marketplace.  Last month, there was a presentation at the Tokyo Returnee’s Conference specifically aimed at JETs considering legal careers.

The slides are posted here, and have some great information, including:

  • A list of foreign law firms that employ in Tokyo;
  • A list of possible legal careers, and;
  • A list of the qualifications necessary for a legal career in the various JET participating countries.

Happy reading!

Practicing Law in Tokyo (2): Practice Area

Also known as: there is no such thing as practicing “international law.”  Okay, that’s not necessarily true.  But the fact is that “international law” as a term more commonly refers to international law in the public arena: i.e. states dealing with states, or states dealing with international organizations.  Working for the United Nations, for example, would put you squarely in the realm of public international law.  This differs significantly from what most attorneys in the international arena are doing: practicing law internationally.

While there may be some overlap (if you are practicing law internationally, it may be worthwhile in understanding the WTO rules embodied in GATT/GATS/TRIPS/TRIMS, example, and the WTO’s Dispute Settlement procedures), if you’re seeking to do something outside the context of foreign relations, public interest, or NGO work, you will still need to figure out what kind of law you want to practice.  “I want to practice international law,” as a statement to a potential employer will not suffice.  “I want to practice international law in a Japanese context,” moreover, is not much better.

So, what practice areas are big in the Tokyo market?

As Martindale indicates, if you’re looking for a Tokyo firm that works in Education law, Elections, Eminent Domain or Family Law, you’re not going to find much.  (Okay, there may be some applicable family law disputes out there, I suppose).  If, however, you’re in the business of Intellectual Property, M&A, Finance, or Trade, you have considerably more options.

Unfortunately, first year law classes don’t necessarily prepare you to answer the kind of question you’ll need to be able to answer to employers: what kind of law do you want to practice internationally?  But thinking ahead about this – about both what it means to practice law internationally, and what kind of law you might want to practice internationally – is critical to marketing yourself to a Tokyo firm.

For resources regarding taking an international law course during your law school career see:

When Should American Law Students Take International Law?

Should 1L’s Take International Law?

The Utility of International Law Courses – A Response to Posner