legal employment

Clerking in the Tropics (3): The Northern Mariana Islands

This is a continuation highlighting clerking opportunities outside of the fifty U.S. States available for American law graduates.  The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (“CNMI”) is the third stop in a series on seeking out clerkships in U.S. Territories.  Located just north of Guam, the Judiciary of the Northern Mariana Islands includes Saipan.

The site for the Northern Mariana Islands judiciary is located here, and includes information on the CNMI Supreme Court and CNMI Superior Court.

Unlike Palau and American Samoa, however, I have been unable to get replies from the folks over at CNMI.  Life over there must be just that good.  It is worth noting, however, that also unlike Palau and American Samoa, data on CNMI judges is available on the OSCAR Symplicity site, which is the primary hub of U.S. Clerkship applications.  Any openings, and the means of applying for them, will likely be available there.

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Yes, the Situation Really Can Be That Bad

This site is as much about giving prospective students a clear picture of the legal market landscape as much as it is about anything else.  And, when it comes to law school (or any other graduate level education), knowing what your end game is going to be is critical.  That’s because law school is nothing like your undergraduate years.  It’s three years of high-intensity, high-cost study — and if you don’t know what you’re going to do after that, it can be the road to ruin.

Especially now.

Even with the recession bottoming out, going to law school is more akin to playing the lottery than it is to educating yourself into prosperity.  Of course, if you lose the lottery, you don’t wind up in triple-figure debt.  If you lose out in law school, different story.

Although the economic collapse hit in late 2008, the legal market remains in the doldrums.  June’s employment numbers were again in the negative, after May added as few as 300 jobs for the pool of unemployed attorneys and law graduates from 2008-2010 to fight over.

The point in all this is simple: the legal market really doesn’t know what it is at the moment.  It doesn’t make job finding impossible — but it does mean that, more than ever before, luck is playing just as significant a role as skill, hard-work, and networking.

If you are considering law school, realize that the moment you sign up you are making a bet.  You are gambling that in three years time the employment market for legal jobs will have reached some sense of balance, and that that balance will be in your favor to get a job.

And while there are plenty of voices out there still lauding the value of a legal education, you need to recognize that if you are coming to law school, you are still taking a gamble.  And there is still the chance that you will roll snake eyes.

[UPDATED: Things are looking better for 2016]

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.

Clerking in the Tropics (2): American Samoa

This is a continuation highlighting clerking opportunities outside of the fifty U.S. States available for American law graduates.  This time we highlight American Samoa, a tiny island territory hundreds of miles east of Fiji, which is still hundreds of miles east of Papua New Guinea.  If remote and tropical is your thing, (and if Pulp Fiction is right, if big people are your thing) you can ask for no better than here.

The High Court of American Samoa recruits law clerks for one year terms, but does so only on alternating years.  The recruit two clerks at a time, one for the first year, and one for the following year.  The next round of recruiting is scheduled to take place this upcoming spring for the August 2011, August 2012 terms.  The Court requires a cover letter, resume, official transcript, writing sample, and two letters of recommendation.  The application deadline be due in early 2011.

Legal Interviewing: Aim to Talk 80% of the Time

A recent ABA Journal printed the advice of a legal recruiter out of New Jersey, remarking that the law student sitting in for an on-campus interview should seek to speak for approximately 80% of the time.  The rest of the article gives fairly common interview advice (research the firm you are interviewing for, have all of your materials with you including resume, transcript, and writing sample).  The “80/20 Rule” may not be set in stone, but I think is a factor for something else: to make yourself memorable (in a good way) during the interview.  And you definitely cannot do that if you don’t contribute enough.

The article is available here.

Clients Unwilling to Pay for Inexperienced Legal Help May Have No Choice

The 2008-2009 recession didn’t just translate to thousands of layoffs, it also meant the scaling back of training by lots of the large firms.  For the first time since late 2008, last month was the first sign of positive job growth in the legal sector, albeit with a paltry 300 jobs (compared to 22,200 lost during the recession), and no one quite knows the quality of these jobs, either.

Despite the modest bump in jobs, however, large firm summer associate programs still remain non-existent, cut by about 80% due to the recession — and large firm clients still remain unwilling to pay for the legal work done by law student summer associates, making summer associate programs even more expensive for firms across the country.

Cutting jobs AND cutting training opportunities, however, may be the golden ticket for law grads as the recession abates and work picks up, especially with mid-level and senior level associates looking to escape from big firms.  AbovetheLaw recently posted a great overview of the possible upcoming legal staffing shortage, available 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

Japan系 Legal Associations

Below are two Legal Associations related to those with Japanese interests one might consider looking into:

The Japan Law Society has free membership, and they have a group on LinkedIn, and often post quite a bit about CLEs taking place Japan-side, which may be of little interest to a law student, but can at least let you know what’s going on issue-wise amongst attorneys in Japan.

The second group is for those students who have access to furikomi – The Roppongi Bar Association.

See also numerous other LinkedIn groups that are ancillary to the legal profession, namely groups for Bilingual Japanese, Business in Japan, and Jobs in Japan, not to mention JETAA and any chapter affiliations you might have.