Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Law Grads, Crowded Out of Industry, Go Solo

The Seattle University School of Law is currently home to about 900 part -time and full-time students.

Their job prospects are looking grim.

There are currently 10,000 Seattle U law school alumni working in the world, according to the law school website.

While lawyers are generally known for high-paying jobs, there are not enough job opportunities for new law school graduates and many are being forced to begin their own practices, said a recent The Seattle Times article.

Annette Clark, dean of the law school, said that this issue has been building for a while.

“[This] has been a phenomenon since the recession,” she said. “[There are] fewer traditional law firm positions.”

The Seattle Times also reported that of the 46,000 law school graduates in America last year, only 27,000 had found full-time work as attorneys.

That barely breaks the half threshold.

In an interview for The NW Lawyer, a monthly journal of the Washington State Bar Association, Seattle U’s School of Law Assistant Dean Shawn Lipton shared that there are reasons beyond a lack of job availability why Seattle U grads go solo and establish their own firms.

These reasons include the fact that some students already have interest in gaining experience of starting their own firm after graduation.

Whatever the reason, Seattle U has the highest number of graduates of Washington law schools starting their own practice, reported the same journal.

In 2010, 21 Seattle U law school graduates established their own practice compared to the two to five graduates from Gonzaga University and the University of Washington that went solo.

Although this high number from Seattle U seems to mark a trend, the increase in solo practices across the nation is remarkable.

According to The NW Lawyer, between the years of 2008 and 2010 the percentage of law students beginning their own practice jumped from 3.5 percent to 5.7 percent.

The trend has led law schools nationwide to prepare graduates for that reality by equipping them with the skills necessary to start a firm straight out of school.

Seattle U 2011 law school graduate Tamara Davidov said there are many programs in place that aspire to provide bona fide experiences for law students in the legal field prior to walking across the stage at graduation.

During her time at Seattle U, Davidov took advantage of one of these optional programs by participating in an externship with a fellow student.

The externship she participated in allowed her to work with a judge two days a week, mainly doing research for cases he was working on and the experience gave Davidov the educational experience of observing a case all the way through.

Her colleagues also participated in other opportunities, such as “working within the legal department of a hospital” or “participating in the [Ronald A. Peterson Law] clinic where [law students] are actually assigned their own clients.”

Clark said there are emerging Low Bono and Solo Initiative programs at Seattle U that aim to help students interested in establishing their own firm.

“[This program] provides additional training and mentoring through a series of workshops… and helps graduates think about what business models [there] might be,” she said. The Low Bono program aims to teach a business structure that will provide legal support for lower income clients.

Students who participate in the program through sponsorship receive a stipend, an office space and the opportunity to network within the field, Clark said.

Davidov seemed to have few issues gaining experience while studying at Seattle U and, in addition to the externship she participated in, she also worked at a law firm as a file clerk downtown–this led her to find her current occupation as an in-house attorney within a small firm here in Seattle.

Additionally, even though there is fear of a changing job market for law school graduates, Clark and Lipton recognize that there are a good number of students who want to start their own firm.

But the job market seems to be making this choice a necessary one.

While Seattle U has a historically high rate of students establishing solo firms straight out of law school, faculty members are not denying a change in job availability in the Seattle area.

The law school plans to continue encouraging students to participate in internships to better their connections and chances for post graduation success.

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