Law school no longer provides a likely route to a well-paid job at a law firm for good students. Disappointed students are suing their alma maters, and at least one law school is promising to repay a portion of the fees to graduates unable to find employment after nine months. If you are thinking about graduate school, are you asking yourself: is law school worth it? and is law school worth the risk today?
As with any career, young legal professionals need to consider their options. However, opportunities remain within the legal field despite a tightening job market. A new way to acquire experience and exposure to the job market has also opened up.
Legal Residency–A New Way to Gain Work Experience
UnitedLex, a legal outsourcing firm with 22 global offices, is offering inexperienced graduates a different way to gain practical knowledg e. They can now learn on the job through a residency program similar to that provided to young medical professionals. UnitedLex currently is partnered with six law schools to provide the two-year legal residency program for recent graduates to gain wide exposure to various legal practice areas.
The pilot program was rolled out in 2013 with the University of Miami School of Law. By January 2016, participants included Emory University School of Law, Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California, the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, Notre Dame Law School, and Vanderbilt Law School. More law schools are expected to join in future.
Residency participants are exposed to a variety of industries and different legal roles serving them. Young lawyers use cutting-edge legal processes and technologies as they work in corporate legal departments or law firms through UnitedLex. After completing the program, some residents can remain with UnitedLex as part of its permanent legal staff, while others may join other employers or start their own practice with more confidence in their practical capabilities.
The legal residency program comes at an opportune time when the legal services industry has developed systemic weaknesses. In a Reuters press release dated May 28, 2015, Daniel Reed, CEO of UnitedLex explained: “Our legal residency program was created to address challenges facing the legal industry, including the lack of training opportunities for recent graduates and the ever-increasing costs for both the providers and consumers of legal services.” Law firm representatives who are aware of the program, and participating law schools, agree that UnitedLex provides an innovative remedy.
Alternate Careers for Law Graduates
The sky will not fall if a job with a law firm fails to materialize. Many career opportunities exist for law school graduates who do not restrict their options. Jobs beyond law firms include:
- Business Ownership–A legal education provides useful knowledge and skills for entrepreneurs.
- Judge Advocates Serving the Armed Forces–Law graduates can serve in the military as judge advocates. Each branch of armed forces has professionals who handle military justice cases.
- Compliance and Other Work within Corporations–Corporations also employ lawyers in their legal departments.
- Public Sector Jobs–The public sector offers varied job opportunities, including serving in the health policy sector.
- Nonprofit Jobs–Law graduates can work as change agents in the public interest. Their options include being environmental lawyers and providing tax law advice to nonprofits.
A legal education provides useful skills that offer a sound basis for working in a wide spectrum of jobs both within the legal services industry and outside it.Law school can be worth the risk for students who do not have unrealistic expectations.Graduates who are inflexible about their career choices are more likely to be disappointed with their job prospects.