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Law School Economics

June 15, 2011

Columbia Law School costs $74,000 a year. But the glut of law grads has led new lawyers to settle for temporary jobs that pay as little as $15 an hour according to the Wall Street Journal.

Vanessa O’Connell writes,

This new “third tier” of the legal world illustrates the commoditization of the legal profession, which once offered most new entrants access to prestige and power, as well as a professional lifestyle. It also shows how post-recession belt-tightening is permanently altering some professions.

Contract attorneys toil for 10-12 hours a day under the thumb of supervisions that squelch conversation and limit breaks. These attorneys are under the gun of computers that are measuring each lawyer’s work speed.

Ten percentage of legal jobs are now temporary as opposed to less than six percent back in 2007, and temp work is expected to increase by 25 percent over the next couple of years.

These legal contractors make $40,000 or $50,000 a year if they work steadily.

“The pool of candidates willing to work as contract attorneys is bigger this year than it ever has been,” says Mark Yacano, executive vice president at Hudson Legal, which has 10 project facilities around the country, including St. Louis, where lawyers are willing to work on a temp basis for hourly pay in the low $20s. Hudson Legal is a part of Hudson Highland.

In late 2009, Sam Glover wrote a post entitled “The law school bubble is about to burst,” and speculated that,

“There are high-paying jobs for — maybe — the top 1 percent of law school graduates. And the rest? Many will pick up low-paying temp work doing document review. Many others will never practice law. Those who remain will have to evolve.”

So is $74,000 a year worth it?

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