The Entreprenurial Cure-All
The New York Times that several of the less than elite law schools in the United States are dealing with the continued jitters in the legal market by making students take classes and seminars on being entrepreneurial and coming up with nimble and quick business plans for niche solo practice like helping immigrants file tax returns.
I agree with Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns, and Money and in the article that this represents a small improvement but only in a very curiously American way that might not be an improvement at all.
The good news is that this approach does recognize that the graduates of many less than elite law schools will never have dazzling careers as white-shoe lawyers at the biggest national firms. One of the biggest problems of the law school crisis was that most law schools over represented the amount of students who would go onto dazzling careers in big law.
The problem is that it is horrible employment model to say that most students can and should open up their own businesses/law firms instead of seeking employment. There also seems to be something very oddly American about suggesting that starting your own business is a great thing to do right away or in a bad employment market.
Most businesses fail. The statistic I hear is that 90 percent of businesses fail and this would include law firms.
The labor market is slowly improving but the legal market is still suffering from the shocks of the 2007-2008 crisis and crash. Law schools are seeing reduced numbers of students. I would argue that people who go to law school are probably more risk-adverse and less entrepreneurial than average.
Starting a new business is hard especially when you are just out of school, burdened with debt, and have very little experiences or contacts in the legal world. There are all sorts of things that law school does not teach out about but are necessary for the day to day practice of law like how to set up an escrow account and when you can pay yourself from the escrow account, how to follow little quirky rules of court which can vary wildly, etc. People generally start their own firms after years of practice at another firm including some years as a partner. This allows them to build up substantial experience, savings, and potentially a book of clients that they can take with them.
I know some people who started their own firms right after law school because no one was hiring. As far as I know, only one of them is still working as a solo lawyer and the rest jumped to other opportunities or firms as soon as they were able because the solo practice life was not letting them earn a living. One friend worked a full-time job for two years while also running her own practice another 35-40 hours a week or more. She took a government lawyer job as soon as she got one and she was one of the more successful solo firm starters I knew.
The strangely American part is that whenever the economic and job market situations are less than rosy, a large percentage of the political and pundit classes seems to think telling people especially college graduates that starting your own business is a great thing to do. Be your own boss, set your own destiny, etc. The problem is that it is impossible for everyone to thrive as a or self-employed person. America seems to love big businesses and this is good and fine but big businesses also require lots of employees. We also seem to romanticize the idea of each and every person working as an independent yeoman unshackled by employment and wage slavery. Most new businesses fail even during economic boom times and I fail to see why having young people start businesses is a viable plan during times of less than great economics. It seems to me that when the political and pundit class think self-employment is a viable option, they are basically saying “The economy sucks. There are probably things we could do to make your life better but that would require sacrifices of various kinds and we are unwilling to do that. Best of luck, hope you are one of the 10 percent!”