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.