Law School Students Survive Job Hunt

For Harvard Law School students, navigating the tough job market this year is a bit like a typical plane ride—there may be some turbulence, but no crash landing— at least, according to Assistant Dean of Career Services Mark A. Weber.

“There has been a lot of uncertainty and unknowns,” Weber says. “But the outcome has not been nearly as bad as everyone thought it would be, and that’s a good thing.”

The economy’s woes in the past two years have trickled down to the nation’s top law firms, which have had to significantly reduce the number of entry-level hires. The changed legal job market—complete with job deferrals, offer rescindments, and reduced salaries—has upped the anxiety level among Law School students, many of whom had anticipated multiple offers and relative job security upon graduation.

Though the worst of the job market troubles may have passed, students and faculty alike remain cautious in their outlook on job prospects—Law School professor John C.P. Goldberg forecasts this year and next year as being “particularly tough.”

“Some 2Ls still do not have jobs for the summer, or just got news of that they have been deferred, which is causing a lot of stress,” second year Law School student Jason C. Murray says. “I think students are still pretty nervous.”

But the apprehension about jobs is largely unfounded, according to the Law School’s Office of Career Services, which estimates that between 92 to 95 percent of students seeking employment will have a job lined up by graduation.

This rate is consistent with the data for employment at graduation for the past 20 years. And the OCS says it predicts an even better job market next fall.

But the unease and uncertainty left in the wake of the financial downturn in the fall of 2008 have shifted students’ career focus and expectations, ushering in many small changes in the resources and hiring process that the OCS organizes.

CASTING A WIDER NET

In light of uncertain job prospects, students looking for employment in the private sector have been forced to expand the geographic scope of their job search.

Students who originally only considered firms in Washington, D.C. or New York have had to look at other cities across the country, Law School professor Mark V. Tushnet said.

“There used to be a sense of entitlement among students that they could work wherever they wanted to,” Murray says.

But in a post-recession world, students are returning to their home cities or are looking at smaller firms.

The OCS has also been pushing students to be more open-minded and realistic about their prospects.

According to Weber, the OCS has begun to focus its efforts on cities that have not typically been “core markets”—Denver, Seattle, and Minneapolis for example.

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