My Next Job (NOT)
By – Beth Slagle, Esquire
It comes as no surprise that the recession in 2008 hit the legal industry, just as any other profession. Yes people, and I know some will shout with glee, but lawyers took it up the arse too. What industry didn’t it nail? For newly minted graduates touting their “Esquire” status, that title, costing on average more than $40,000 per year (x 3 years), is worth less than minimum wage to one Boston law firm.
A Boston College Law School graduate sent a tip to the Boston Business Journal (“BBJ”) revealing a screen shot of a job listing on BC Law’s career site. The job post advertised a position for a full-time associate at Gilbert & O’Bryan LLP, a small Boston law firm, paying a whopping $10,000 per year. You read that right — $10,000 per year. Considering that associates starting out at law firms work a minimum of 50+ hours per week, we’re talking $4 an hour (we considered that the associate should get 2 weeks off for good behavior, so this is based on a 50 weeks). That’s right big spenders ~ $200 per week for work that takes individuals lives, liberty and money into their hands. $4 an hour, $200 per week; $800 per month; $10,000 per year, when you paid $40,000 per year to get that degree in the first place. It’s no wonder that this job posting went viral.
The BBJ reports that one of the firm’s partners, Larry O’Bryan, claimed that they received 32 applications since posting the listing a week ago and notes O’Bryan as saying that “while the pay is low, the lawyer who is eventually hired will gain valuable experience.” “What we emphasize is that we do provide the opportunity for new associates to have their own case load right from the start,” said O’Bryan.
And that’s a lawyer for you – we spin things (I’m a lawyer so I know). “I will pay you less than minimum wage, and really – I’m being honest with you that you’re better off working at McDonald’s, but you should work for me because . . . . hmmmm . . . . err, uh, I’m not certain why.” “In fact, you’d probably make more money in a public park, even singing off-key with a tip jar out. But you should work for me anyway because, well . . . I’m me.” Silly, foolish, Gilbert & O’Bryan, trying to manipulate and take advantage of a freshly minted grad. For shame, for shame. Your mamas would not be happy.
Let’s not be so quick to rush to judgment (too late on that one), however. One perk of this job is the “employer paid clothing allowance” offered by the Gilbert firm. Thank God, since whoever accepts this position wouldn’t be able to afford professional clothes anyway. I wonder if the clothing allowance is in the form of gift certificates to the local thrift store. Probably.
The posting also states that “Former employees have gone on to prominence in other firms, government and private practice.” Well, duh . . . I sure hope so, ‘cause who could afford to stay there?
It’s no surprise that Boston College of Law also took some hits for even posting this job. As reported by the BBJ, and in repsonse to BBJ quesions, Boston College issued a statement about the job posting: “In this challenging legal environment, we feel that it’s better to post any opportunity that offers our graduates a chance to gain legal experience. Other job postings on the same site offer far more in terms of compensation. Of course there will be outliers on both the high and low sides, but our policy is to post any paid legal position that’s submitted from a legitimate source,” said Nate Kenyon. BC’s statement went further stating that “BC Law does not edit or add commentary on any job posted through Symplicity, our online job database–this posting was written by the firm that submitted it. We wouldn’t necessarily endorse a full-time job that pays $10,000 a year, but there may be graduates who feel that the experience combined with health and retirement benefits are worth it. We offer counseling and advice, but it’s up to them to decide whether to apply for the position–just as it’s up to them whether to apply for the positions offering $160,000, or a public interest position or clerkship that might offer a different kind of work experience.”
Well, there you have it. Sounds reasonable to me . . .
What more can I say about this job posting, other than it’s just goofy on so many levels?
The posting may violate state and federal wage and labor standards, but I’m not evaluating that, just noting the inequity of the situation and the severe imbalance played out between new graduates desperate to find a job and prospective employers willing to manipulate and take advantage of that desperation.
Be fair employers and make your mamas proud.