Monday, August 24, 2009

The Cheapening of the Legal Profession

Normally, I wouldn't be posting a second entry but I saw this CL ad yesterday & it just horrified me:

Entry Level Attorney (Midtown East)

Date: 2009-08-23, 9:12PM EDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

Manhattan Personal Injury firm seeks entry-level attorney. MUST be admitted to NY bar. Foreign language skills a plus.
Salary- there is no salary the first 3 months. After 3 months, the salary will then be $25k. You will get great experience and learn how to take a case from inception through trial. You will get to handle your own caseload. Expect trial experience within 9 months of start date.

PostingID: 1338741955

Why is this so horrifying? First off, this appears to be the future of the types of jobs qualifying as entry level. I made the salary above immediately when I worked at a mid-sized Atlanta firm BEFORE attending law school. I wasn't even a paralegal.

Second, I've seen low pay for similar firms in Queens & Brooklyn but never as an 3 month unpaid internship or for this low a salary.

Third, though the entertainment industry offers mostly unpaid internships they do not demand nearly the working hours of a law firm. They are unbelievably flexible with scheduling & I don't know of any company that told someone to leave a paying job to work unpaid for their internship. We certainly wouldn't. In my experience, you get a sense that the companies appreciate their interns & treat them with a little dignity.

Finally, there are plenty of options to get experience & work for free. Right now, the Queens County Bar Association is seeking volunteer attorneys to represent homeowners in settlement conferences against mortgage companies pursuing foreclosure against them. You don't have to have experience in the field & I don't think you have to be in the bar association in order to participate.

If this is an improper topic, I'll understand if it's deleted but I feel young professionals should speak out against this sort of thing & would like to hear thoughts/suggestions on how to stop the cheapening of the legal profession, our licenses and the hard work we've had to go through to get to our respective fields as this just lowers the bar for the rest of us.

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