The legal field has changed drastically since the recession, as have so many other career paths. In recent years, many law school graduates have saturated the marketplace and, in return, the demand for lawyers is lower than ever.
This conundrum is not reserved only for students of law; graduates in almost all fields find themselves facing stiff competition as well as a lack of opportunities.
The root of this problem is not that there are too many students graduating college or that there is less of a demand for education. The problem lies in how resources are allocated. It is simply not feasible to try to apply last century’s standards to the current job market.
Yesterday’s answers will not work with today’s problems.
Few organizations have reached this conclusion and have made an active attempt to implement innovation.
However, ASU’s own Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law solves this problem. Douglas Sylvester, dean of our 29th-ranked law school, came up with an idea for helping his students and alumni. Sylvester’s answer was to create “a teaching hospital for law school graduates,” and so the ASU Alumni Law Group came into being.
The ASU Alumni Law Group is essentially an incubator for law graduates. The opportunity for them to work under the expertise of tenured lawyers presents graduates not only the opportunity to earn a paycheck but also the chance to earn experience by actually practicing law.
The best part is that the practice will charge a fraction of the cost of independent lawyers — the Law Group will have a going rate of $125 per hour as opposed to the Phoenix average of $250 per hour, according to a New York Times article.
Not only will it be drastically cheaper, but the school also wants to operate as a nonprofit law firm and extend legal help to those who need it most, such as veterans, Hispanics and Native Americans.
ASU is not the only organization that is beginning to implement this strategy: The American Bar Association is also looking at creating a similar program. The incoming president of the Association, James R. Silkenat, has said that he wants to design a program that would be the equivalence of a “legal jobs corps.” This job corps would partner young lawyers with big banks in New York in the hopes of fostering growth in the legal community.
While there are some critics who claim that the ASU Alumni Law Group and other similar models would not be able to operate on the proposed cut rates, the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the American Bar Association are both being proactive with their problem solving.
The Alumni Law Group would serve a very real need in the greater Phoenix community and, on paper, it seems like a win-win for everyone involved. Creative solutions like these may not be the glamorous jobs that hotshot 20-somethings so desperately seek, but they will present opportunities for young graduates.
Opportunities that provide strong building blocks and basic practice will enable a sturdy foundation for a long career.
As we progress into the 21st century, students, employers and innovators need to continue to put their heads together and brainstorm relevant solutions to problems.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JordanBohannon