Graduating law students face tight job market


January 21, 1991

One on One is a weekly feature offering excerpts of interviews conducted by The Evening Sun with newsworthy business and civic leaders. Roberta Kaskel is assistant dean of the Career Services Office at the University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Law.

Q. What is the job market like now for graduating attorneys? Is it more difficult for them to find jobs because of the recession?

A.The recession has had a definite impact on the job market nationally, significantly in the Northeast quadrant. We are somewhat more hopeful in this Mid-Atlantic region, in the Washington-Baltimore corridor, in that we have been very blessed and we have not seen things like the dramatic layoffs in New York and Boston. We have not seen that, mostly because the region is diversified, and Baltimore was never dependent on the mergers and acquisitions business that you saw in New York and Boston, and the firms are far more diversified and protected . . . we know we are definitely in a slowdown. For the first time in several years, our recruiting schedules were significantly smaller than they have been in the past. This fall, unfortunately, we were down about 20 percent of our employers. So the students who are looking to find "traditional" employment -- big law firms, corporations -- are going to be having a harder time and are encouraged to cast their nets far and wide. We're impacted slightly more in that a good source of employment for our graduating attorneys are the state agencies, and of course we are under a state hiring freeze. So that has made it very difficult for our students. On the flip side, though, that means the sectors that are hiring are seeing some of the most talented students that they've seen in a long time, and people who are benefiting greatly by that are judges.

Q. When was it customary, before it became more difficult to get positions, for students to have jobs nailed down?

A. Well, even as recently as the class of '88, and for the most part, the class of '89, most graduating students would have had their job offers in hand and squared away by January of their final year of law school. . . . What we are seeing this year, which is a marked difference, is that many students have ended their fall semester of their final year and they do not have a job offer in hand and they are still doing their job searching now. They start their first full-time job after they take the bar exam, so they go to work in the end of August, the beginning of September. They take the bar in July.

Q. How long do you see this lasting?

A. Recessions, thank goodness, are cyclical, and we certainly had a recession in '82. And I am not an economist, but certainly even if things were were to turn around in the short term, say within six months or so, I think it is human nature for people to be somewhat cautious and I anticipate that students in the class of '92 and unfortunately the class of '93, will have a little bit more difficult time. They will really have to put their shoulder to the grindstone and do a very thorough job search, be creative, take advantage of opportunities to network with attorneys they already know, as well as getting to meet new attorneys. And I hope that that will be the end of the downturn.

Q. Are clerkships a good opportunity for students?

A. Judicial clerkships are wonderful. We sort of view the concept of the judicial clerkship here at Maryland as a post-doctorate experience. And the really great thing about clerkships in this state -- we're really blessed because there is funding for every circuit judge to get a clerk and some have more than one. A judicial clerkship would be clerking for the judge, the judge's researcher, the judge's ghostwriter, a confidant, a right-arm kind of person. So that's a real wealth of opportunities for students. The other wonderful thing about clerking is that with the exception of the extremely prestigious clerkships -- the federal clerkships, the Supreme Court, and we have a clerk at the Supreme Court right now, and the Maryland Court of Appeals -- the students who clerk at the circuit court level come from throughout the ranks of the class. So the circuit court judges who are clearly trial court judges look at a variety of factors in selecting their clerks and weigh past experience, maturity, clinical experience, other legal experience, in their decision of who to select. And in fact close to 19 percent of the students in the class of 1990 are currently serving as judicial clerks.

Q. And what happens after that?

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