April 18, 2014

Sector Portrait: Law

Florida's business courts

Attorneys laud progress in the system but see room for improvement.

Young Blood

» It’s a buyer’s market for young legal talent.

As the recession has forced law firms to do more with fewer resources, many young law school graduates are finding slim pickings as they look for jobs.

Pascale Bishop
Pascale Bishop, assistant dean of career development at UF’s law school, says generally only top-ranked graduates are landing jobs within six months of graduating.

Large firms such as Holland & Knight say they are hiring 30% fewer new associates than just five years ago, and many midsized and small firms look almost exclusively at hiring experienced attorneys. Government agencies have cut back on hiring law graduates as well.

Meanwhile, with 11 law schools in Florida graduating more than 1,200 students each year — and with a 12th, Thomas M. Cooley Law School, to open this summer — the state’s legal market is one of the most saturated in the country. Young grads who could expect red-carpet treatment and signing bonuses now compete for fewer jobs at lower pay.

There are, of course, exceptions. In May, Jesse Unruh graduated summa cum laude from Florida State University College of Law and immediately went to work at Tew Cardenas in Miami. The 27-year-old believes his experience as a systems analyst and his high law school ranking “really made a difference.”

Salary Report
2010 median private practice salaries for law graduates
City
Starting salary
Miami
$85,000
Fort Lauderdale
62,000
Tampa
60,000
Orlando
57,500
Jacksonville 55,000
Source: NALP.org (National Association for Law Placement)
Pascale Bishop, assistant dean of career development at UF’s Levin College of Law, says the new hiring process has made it difficult for law school students to gauge their prospects, and most won’t even be considered for employment until after they pass the Bar exam.

“They want the security of having a job at graduation, but the market is making them wait,” Bishop says. More often, only the top-ranked graduates are offered law jobs within the first six months of receiving their degree, and Bishop says more are looking at using their law degrees in alternate careers.

Tags: Politics & Law

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