June 1, 2012

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Educating for the Future

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Utah Business Staff

June 1, 2012

DURHAM: There actually has been a lot of discussion recently about law schools padding their resumes. We talked about that in the College of Law board of trustees meeting this last month. It turns out that law schools are competing for students just like law firms are and applications are down. As potential applicants have looked at law schools, they’ve seen that for a couple of years there in ‘08, ‘09, ‘10, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find a job.

POS: My advice to my daughter would be, “You need to go to the best law school you can get into.” And also, “In selecting a law school, you need to consider this is the place you’re going to live for the first three to five years after school.” Because short of going to a very fancy law school, your best chance of getting a job out of law school is where that law school is placed.

BARKER: It’s certainly been a buyer’s market for us. I wonder if there’s a permanent change—we are back a little closer to where our hiring was four years ago. Are we ever going to get back to the heyday of four or five years ago, or is there some middle ground that we’ll hit? I don’t know that we’re ever going to hire 10 summer clerks again like we did at one time. Certainly for the best students, I think there’s still plenty of opportunity—we still find ourselves competing for the best students.

JENSEN: Statistically, law schools are probably pumping out about twice as many graduates as there are positions available for them, at least in the market. So there is a saturation in the supply.

A lot of these young, bright, ambitious lawyers, if they don’t get that job, they’re content to go out and hang their shingle up. They’re going to be out in the market practicing and, therefore, we have to deal with them in that respect. We have to be prepared to address those whether we hire them or not, but we’re going to end up on the opposite side of one of them. And that’s why we’re kind of concerned with that, as we see the saturation in Utah.

HULSE: The correlation to all of this is that law students that are coming out now are different. We have a number of our people that are very bright, very good at everything they try to do, but they’re not interested in living the lifestyle that we live. They’re not interested in spending 15 hours a day defending corporate clients. That’s just not what they want to do. They like to ski, they like to mountain bike, they like to hike; they want have a different lifestyle. And that doesn’t always fit into what our firm regimes and metrics are set up to do.

LORIMER: But they want the money.

HULSE: They do, which is the hard thing about all this. It’s a generational shift that I’ve noticed significantly over the last 10 years. I think about my daughters, and they’re all the same way. They have this very unique view of life, which is, “I can do what I want to do, how I want to do it, and if I don’t make the big money, that’s OK. I can still be all right. But I’m going to live it the way I want to live it and I’m going to do things the way I want to do it.”

There’s a smaller pool of candidates that we really want to get at because a lot of them don’t have that same drive and don’t want to fit into the law firm metrics. So you have to look at the way you are approaching things in your business model to make sure that it’s going to work with some of these students, because if it doesn’t, they’re going to find something else to do.

BATEMAN: Part of the problem for most of us is we’ve run lean the last couple years, so who here really wants to hire a brand-new law school graduate? We all want to hire someone two or three years out who is going to be productive day one, not somebody we’re going to lose money on for a year or two.

Right now, I really need to hire at least one, if not two, people. There’s some great law school graduates, but I just don’t have time to train them properly to bring them up to speed. If I could hire an experienced associate, then I could spend some time training somebody. But if my only hire is going to be one person, I have to have someone with experience.

In our field of IP, the first-year associate is probably worse than worthless. It’s a negative. You’re spending so much time just trying to get them up to where they’re competent so they don’t do damage to their client.

What frightens us is when we see some of these people who go out and hang their own shingle, because we know just how many land mines are out there and they don’t. They’re just blissfully going along, thinking they’re doing great things for their client, and then, lo and behold, it explodes.

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