« on: March 22, 2006, 09:01:00 PM »
Another PROVIDENCE JOURNAL article ...
I found this on Westlaw. Graduates just aren't successful out of this school. Many have demanded full tuition reimbursement after the school admitted to "manipulating the numbers."
* * *
* Since 1970, the number of lawyers licensed to practice in Rhode Island has grown from 676 to more than 5,200.
* * *
Diane Boisselle, 36, works as a bartender at a Woonsocket dance club, a job she's had for almost 12 years.
It's not the job she wants. A 1998 graduate of the Ralph R. Papitto School of Law at Roger Williams University, she wants to practice law and borrowed $70,000 to get her degree. But despite blanketing the state with rsums, Boisselle has not gotten one job offer in the 312 years she has been out of school.
She is frustrated. When she finally passed the Rhode Island Bar exam on the third try (after spending $2,400 on bar review courses), it took her almost eight months to even get an interview for a job. And then the three firms that did talk to her were only looking to hire someone for less than $30,000 a year. "And," she said, "no one made me an offer."
Undeterred - and to keep her lawyering skills fresh Boisselle spent thousands of dollars she made from bartending to set up an office at the Cumberland house she rents with two other women. She got a few clients from the bar, but never made enough to cover the cost of her stationery, business cards and computer equipment.
"If I would have known what I know today," says Boisselle, "I would have gone to another state first to take the exam rather than waste two years trying to pass the bar here and then not be able to find a job.
"Rhode Island is over-saturated with lawyers. I'll work 60 to 70 hours a week if someone would just give me a chance."
Boisselle's predicament is not unusual and shouldn't be very surprising.
Rhode Island's population has remained fairly constant over the past 30 years, hovering around 1 million. But since 1970, the number of lawyers licensed to practice in Rhode Island has exploded from 676 to more than 5,200, according to the state's bar association. And the competition for jobs keeps getting worse. This year alone, there were 219 lawyers sworn in as new members of the Rhode Island bar 60 more than last year.
The American Bar Association says that state statistics for 2000 indicate that Rhode Island is seventh in the country in the number of lawyers for capita, based on where they practice up from 14th in 1995.
The glut is worse in Massachusetts. According to the ABA, Massachusetts has more lawyers per resident than any other state in the country.
Sometimes you need an inside track to get started.
"I don't think I would have made it in this state without my dad," says Robert Oster, who recently stepped down as president of the Rhode Island Bar Association and who worked for years practicing law in Lincoln with his now-deceased father, Gerald.
Unless you graduate from law school at the top of your class or have connections in Rhode Island, he says, "you will have a hard time finding a job. There are some lawyers out there making big bucks, but we've also got some people out there who are literally starving."
And even if you get a job, chances are "you won't be driving a Mercedes," says Oster.
Mark L. Smith, a veteran sole practitioner with offices in Providence and Woonsocket, puts it more bluntly. "I could put an ad in the paper for a lawyer and pay them what I pay a secretary $20,000 and they'd take it just to get their foot in the door," Smith says.
George Santopietro, a partner in the Providence firm of Coia & Lepore, says some lawyers, desperate for work, apply for jobs as paralegals and secretaries just to get into a firm.
He says he has interviewed several Roger Williams law graduates for paralegal jobs, including one who applied to be a secretary at the firm. He hired one Roger Williams grad as a secretary/paralegal, he says, but she left the firm after several months when she failed to get promoted to a job as a lawyer. There haven't been any openings in the 140-lawyer firm in 112 years.
Earlier this year, he says, another Roger Williams grad applied to the firm as a paralegal, but Santopietro opted not to take her "because I wanted continuity .. someone who wouldn't be looking to move up the ladder."
Instead, he hired a legal secretary who had worked at another firm.
THERE ARE SUCCESS stories.
Armand E. Batastini graduated first in his class at Roger Williams in 1998 and landed a clerkship with former Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph R. Weisberger. After his clerkship, Batastini landed an associate's job with Edwards & Angell, with a starting salary of $72,000. Now, just two years later, his salary has jumped to $102,000 and he and his wife have bought a $290,000 house in Glocester.
Alyssa Boss, who graduated a year before Batastini from Roger Williams, was valedictorian of her class and on the law review. A URI graduate with a master's degree who taught philosophy at Rhode Island College during her first year of law school, Boss, now 34, had two job offers from local firms. She now makes a six-figure salary at Hinckley, Allen & Snyder and last year bought a $255,000 house in Exeter.
But there are also experienced lawyers in Rhode Island who once would have had no trouble finding a job but who are now collecting unemployment, selling real estate, or working as insurance claims adjusters.
Shilpa Naik, 32, a graduate of Brandeis University, had no problem landing a good job in Rhode Island after graduating in 1994 from a law school in Springfield, Mass. She went to work as a prosecutor for then-Atty. Gen. Jeffrey B. Pine; she had interned in his office while a law student. She was earning $43,802 a year by the time Pine left office in January 1999, but his successor, Sheldon Whitehouse, didn't keep her.
It took her two years to find another job she wanted, one that pays her about two-thirds of what she was making for the attorney general. (One Providence firm offered her $21,000.) In her new job with the law office of Robert Oster, she works 60 to 70 hours a week, including Thursday nights and Saturday mornings, about twice the 35- hour work week she had with the state.
During her period of unemployment, Naik says "I thought hard about getting out of law because there are some opportunities out there and the pay for lawyers is pretty low and it's hard to find a job in Rhode Island."
NO ONE in the state keeps figures on how many unemployed lawyers there are in Rhode Island.
The Ralph R. Papitto School of Law at Roger Williams University School of Law which has pumped more lawyers into Rhode Island over the last five years than any other law school says it does not keep long-range statistics showing how many of its graduates have found employment in the field of law.
But it does query its graduates six months after graduation. According to statistics provided by the school, 64 percent of its first graduating class in 1996 had found full-time legal work within six months after graduation. But successive classes have not fared as well. Only 40 percent of the Class of 1999, for example, had found full-time jobs in the legal arena six months after graduation. And of the 85 percent who responded to a survey after graduating in 2000, only 56 percent had landed full-time jobs in the law.
"We have too many lawyers and law students," Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg told Rhode Island Lawyers' Weekly in an interview last year. "It is difficult for many of these people to get jobs and to make a living."
The chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, Frank Williams, agrees there are a lot of lawyers. But Williams says he is not worried. The more the better, says Williams, "because the best will survive and the others will go do something else.
"It's part of the capitalistic system. You either survive by competence and hard work or you find another niche," says Williams, who is an adjunct professor of law at Roger Williams.
Many of those lawyers who do find work here make much less than others around the country. According to Altman Weil, a Philadelphia legal consulting firm, the median national income in 2000 for a partner in a law firm was $225,918; $96,824 for an associate and $49,341 for paralegals. Lawyers and paralegals working in Massachusetts and Connecticut were paid even higher.
But while the largest law firm in the state, Edwards & Angell, now pays a new associate $82,500 a year to start, most lawyers in Rhode Island, even those with several years' experience, make only $30,000 to 40,000 a year, says Oster, the former bar association president.
KEVIN FLOOD, 30, had been an administrative assistant to former Governor Bruce Sundlun when he enrolled in Roger Williams law school in 1995. When he passed the bar here in February 1999, he got a $40,000-a-year job as in-house counsel for the American Federation of Teachers.
Until recently, like several of his classmates, he lived with his parents so he could make payments on his law-school debt, which he estimates will end up costing him, with interest, $150,000. He also needed to save money so he could pay for his health insurance a benefit he lost when, in October 2000, he took a lower-paying job in the Providence firm of McKenney, Jeffrey & Quigley, to gain experience trying cases.