Recession Proof: Law grads landing jobs in challenging job market

Almost 70 percent of the UofL Brandeis School of Law’s 2008 graduating class was employed prior to graduation. Nearly 97 percent had a job within nine months. As the nine-month window nears for 2009 graduates, the numbers are on track with the previous year, says Kathy Urbach, assistant dean of career services and public service at the law school.

“They might even be better,” says Urbach, who will submit the new statistics in March. “But we still have some really terrific candidates from the May 2009 class who are without adequate employment. These graduates would be employed easily in any other economy.”

The law profession is not immune to tough economic times, she says, and the job of lawyer is by no means “recession proof.” So how has the law school maintained these strong placement numbers in such a challenging job market?

“For one thing, the large law firms have been most affected by the recession,” Urbach says. “They have cut back on hiring. But 53 percent of our graduates get jobs at firms with one to 10 lawyers. These firms have been less affected for the most part.”

Especially as the diversity of its student body has increased, the law school has recognized the need to connect students
with employment opportunities in diverse legal areas, geographic regions and workplace settings. Graduates in 2008 were employed in 14 states and three countries. Practice areas included private practice (58 percent), business and industry (12 percent), government (16 percent), federal judicial clerkships (1 percent), state judicial clerkships (6 percent) public interest (3 percent) and academic institutions (4 percent).

But the tighter job market has forced the school’s career services professionals to change the way they do things. For one, the school has been working harder in untapped Kentucky markets like Frankfort. Fort Knox is another focus as it continues to grow as military base realignments across the country consolidate more soldiers and support personnel to the area.

“It’s not that we have ignored these places in the past,” Urbach says. “We just haven’t made them a priority. Now our counselors are trying to develop a pipeline into these areas for students who want to practice law in Kentucky but are having trouble finding something in Louisville.”

Urbach says graduates also are accepting more part-time jobs and contract work—some working multiple jobs. She says UofL students are resilient and many have accepted positions that are not ideal as a way to maintain and improve skill, but keep them competitive for when the economy picks up.

Also, the law school is looking constantly at ways to create opportunities for legal professionals in emerging areas like green initiatives/technologies, stimulus money and the retirement of baby boomers, Urbach says. In December, she accompanied law school dean Jim Chen to Washington, D.C., to meet with several representatives of federal agencies as well as UofL law graduates working in the D.C. area.

“Again, the idea was to create a pipeline for our students,” Urbach says. “It was a productive trip.”

But Urbach always comes back to the students when discussing the reasons for the law school maintaining its strong placement percentages during tough times. “We have terrific, hard-working students. I like to call them entrepreneurial.

“And they are also well trained. Because we are a small school, our students receive individual attention. In addition to being expert educators, our faculty takes a sincere interest in every student.”

Urbach adds that the law school’s mandatory public service program gives students opportunities to have real-world experiences early in their law school careers.

“This and the character and work ethic of our students makes them excellent candidates in any job market,” she says. “I am really proud of how they have risen to the challenges of these challenging times.”
Source: UofL Magazine (Winter 2010, p. 39)