« on: December 06, 2007, 09:19:26 PM »
Most of the advice on this thread is pretty bad. The legal industry is not only oversaturated, it is also inefficient. So not only are there more attorneys than there are jobs, there are currently more jobs and small firms than the market can support (on the low end, anyway).
So not only is a non-T14 JD usually useless, for many people it actually has negative value. I suppose if you can sell a refrigerator to eskimos you might be able to hustle yourself up a small-time job of some sort, or get into a small niche for which you may have a specialized skill (hard science MS/PhD, an exotic foreign language, previous employment experience, etc). The vast majority of non-T14 law students, though, will not find a job that pays them more than they could have made otherwise with only a BA if you factor in student loan cost.
Of course there are government jobs like the person from WUSTL described. However, the applicants-to-hires ratio for government jobs might be even worse than biglaw. Without special connections or luck, chances of getting a DA or PD job are slim, and remember these only pay $40K/year in most states. Sure, with some perseverance you can get an insurance defense gig, but I don't think ID is a better job than most people with only a BA could get. (ID firms are often euphemistically called "medium sized firms.")
Other than hard-to-find government jobs and ID, the real bottom of the barrel is personal bankruptcy filings, collections, small-time criminal defense/traffic court, divorces ("family law"), and court-appointed work. These areas are the last resort for the underemployed lawyer, and generally the work is unsteady, low-paying and volatile. Draw your own conclusions. What's more, as more and more unemployed new lawyers hit the market, it's likely to get even worse.
There is also document review, which up until recently was fairly easy to find and paid OK. Don't hold your breath though, doc review is considered a career killer and by the time LSDers graduate most of it will be shipped off to India anyway.
So yes, unless you are independently wealthy or you go to school for free, you really need to make the cutoff. For but a handful of schools ranked 14 and below this is around 10%; after #50 or so, this number dwindles down to about 0 when you hit the 4th tier. (Exceptions: GULC, UT, UCLA ~50%; USC, Vandy, Texas ~40%; WUSTL, GW ~33%; BC, BU, Illinois, Hastings ~25%; it depends on the local market, this isn't really accurate but you get the idea.)
If you are such a good "hustler" that you think you can make it in small-time law, then there is a much easier way for you to make money: start a sales career. The law is a busted industry. For those who can't make it in the top schools, it's a fool's game.