If you are thinking about going to law school, especially St. Mary’s, think really hard about all your options. Do not do it because you do not want to get a job or because you are not ready to grow up. If you want to keep going to school, just to go to school, find another profession. A law degree is really expensive and the jobs and the pay are not worth the debt at some schools. Here are some facts to consider, before making a decision.
The majority of my classmates here at St. Mary's are struggling with career services and not getting internships, clerkships and full-time permanent jobs when they graduate. This is a message to all prospective students, please, put deep thought into attending St. Mary’s or any lower tiered school. In this economy, students attending St. Mary's Law School need more than a good GPA and to be on law journal to get a full time secure job that will pay enough to pay student loans while living comfortably and students fell as if career services is not assisting students.
It has been made very clear to students that "it is better for us [career services] if you [the students] get your own internships" and when it comes to paid clerkships the general advise is to work for free. This type of advice is not only unhelpful and discouraging, but it also makes it difficult to get internships because most students do not know which non-profit organizations have attorneys. Students can and do research and find internships, but that takes away from time to study, networking for paying jobs, and doing extracurricular activities that will beef up their resume.
I do not know how many internships other schools offer on their job bank, but this is definitely something to ask. Find out how many internships OCS coordinates annually with non-profits that allow a law student to come in and work for free. Find out how many relationships the school has with these non-profits and how many of these internships end in a job for the student. Unfortunately, in the fall of 2011 St. Mary’s job bank only listed around 15 internships, and several of them were in other states. The law school, however, has over 700 students, only 15 internships advertised and a huge majority of the student populations looking for internship experience.
Paid clerkships are even worse than internships. Because so many students are being told to work for free, and they are working for free, the market for paid clerkships is quickly evaporating. Small to mid-sized law firms are not willing to pay because they know they can find a law student who will do it for free. Ten years ago, it would have been unheard of for law students to clerk for free at a for-profit firm, but because small to mid-sized firms can fly under the radar and students are will to work for free it is now the trend for St. Mary’s law students. Students, therefore, have to take out more money in student loans, because they are clerking for free and still have to pay rent, gas, living expenses, and sometimes parking at their unpaid clerkships.
Again, I do not know how many paid clerkships (during the summer, or school year) that other schools offer, but this is a huge obstacle when you are racking up student loans. Please, take time to ask the law school how many paid clerkships are coordinated thru the office of career service. Find out how many paid posted clerkships the office of career services had for the fall semester, the spring semester, and the biggie is the summer. It is important for you to know because this will let you know if you have any shot at getting placed with a paid clerkship or not. For example, if there is 200 1L, 300 2L students and there is 25 paid clerkships posted on the schools job bank then more likely than not if your not in the top 10% it is going to be really hard for you to get a paid clerkship after your 1L year through the career services. The same applies for the number of students versus paid clerkships during the school year and at fall recruitment. Therefore, if you were looking for a paid clerkship for the spring on the 2011 fall job bank you would find less than 15 paid positions for the nearly 500 2L’s and 3L’s. And if you were attending St. Mary’s this fall, as a 2L, you would have been one of over 300 2L’s that could have applied for less than 20 fall recruitment clerkships. If I have not made my point clear let me say this one more time, do not go to St. Mary’s if you are not willing to put in a ton of time networking, cold calling, and seeking employment on top of all your reading, studying, extracurricular and current internship or clerkship if you are lucky enough to have one.
Job’s after Graduation:
Job's after graduation are scary and St. Mary's students hear on daily basis that even those in the top of the class who were on law journal are graduating without job offers or don't have jobs even a year after they graduate. The office of career services website show that 89.13% of those who graduated in 2010 have jobs. And the site says that 86.34% have positions that require Bar Admission. This is definitely misleading and there are huge holes in these statistics. Students even those in the top are having to take “contract positions” (temporary periods of time and for low wages because they lack experience), part-time jobs, or having to start their own firm. Starting a firm right out of law school can be done, but once again students lack experience, have enormous student loan debt, and the costs of malpractice insurance is really high, along with cost of West Law or Lexis.
Once again, please, before you decide to attend St. Mary’s or any law school please ask how many students of the reported 86.34% actually have full-time positions, and out of those full-time positions how many of those were actually coordinated thru the office of career services. (Did it begin as a clerkship or internship) Then ask out of those jobs that were full-time and actually coordinated thru the office of career services what was the median salary. This will give you a better idea of what type of work you will have to do to get a job and what type of salary to expect, because when they lump it all together they get to claim students who are getting a high salary working for family and sometimes that one salary is not in the average and skews the salary range.
OCS is Disassociated
Along with not having many employers listed on their job banks St. Mary’s career services does not relate to the students, well. The combination of students who feel that OCS doesn’t listen, is not compassionate and rudely interrupts students questions, mixed with the fact there are such a low number of internships, clerkships, and jobs listed on the job bank have lead to students abandoning the career services. There have been paid clerkships where no students have applied, and it is largely due to the fact that the students and the OCS at St. Mary’s are disconnected, and many students feel that if one job pops once in a blue moon if they are not in the top of the class then they are wasting their time, because those in the top need jobs, too and are often the top picks.
A high number of students find that career services at St. Mary's is not engaged enough with students to guide students along the path of finding a career that fits. Students have been told to take whatever internship, or clerkship they can find and students can't be picky in this economy. These statements may be true but if the students have to be cold calling law firms, offering to work for free, graduating with a mountain of debt and a temporary or part-time job it would be nice to have an idea of what type of law firm to contact and have a warm and compassionate career services guide students thru the discouraging process, so that students can at least know what type of work and stress is involved the particular area’s of law. The cold calling and offering to work for free process often is filled with rejection, because as the career services has told many St. Mary’s students there are no jobs in big cities for St. Mary’s graduates and cold calling is not the best way to make new relationships.
Therefore, my final plead to you prospective 0L is to ask these important questions, because you will work really hard in law school. And you deserve to go to a school fully apprised of the opportunities: to gain experience thru internships and clerkships, and gain employment upon graduation when you have a mountain of debt to pay-off. There are jobs as an attorney available, but if you graduate from a lower tired school like St. Mary's you may have to go work in the Valley, West Texas, or another unpopular place and the pay may equal to or less than that of a paralegal at a big city law firm, so examine all the options. Law school is a huge burden, financially, emotionally, and intellectually, so please do not get off on the wrong foot under wrong pretenses, ask all the right questions.