Sunday, November 9, 2014

The lawyer job market (revisited)

I recently wrote about an advertisement for a Racine County advocate counsel position.  Essentially, the job would require the victim newly hired attorney to handle as many as 80 case appointments, including the defense of serious felonies, for $25,000 per year without benefits or even expense reimbursement.  I suppose that I knew this was outrageous, or I wouldn’t have written about it in the first place.  But as a criminal defense lawyer for the last twelve years, I’ve kind of become immune to governmental and bureaucratic outrageousness, so I didn’t expect that the post would garner such national attention. 

Above the Law – probably the most heavily trafficked legal blog in the country – picked up on the post and branded the Racine County advocate counsel position “the worst job in the legal profession.”  The Irreverent Lawyer also caught wind of the post and commented on this economic exploitation of lawyers by lawyers.  Both Above the Law and the Irreverent One also pointed out yet another elephant in the room: because it’s unlikely that any lawyer could do a competent job with such a high caseload, the indigent clients are the ones who ultimately get the shaft.  And that means more meat to grind through the criminal justice industrial complex.    

Finally, JD Disadvantaged also wrote about the post.  This is a great blog that I’ve yet to introduce to readers of The Dog.  JDD is fed up with law professor and law dean babble that “you can do anything with a law degree!”  In response, he posts law-related job advertisements from around the country stating, essentially, that JDs need not apply.  It’s amazing how often employers specifically write “No lawyers, no JDs, no JD candidates,” etc., when looking to fill their positions.  In any case, JDD took a break from his usual format and linked to my post to show would-be JDs what kind of jobs are actually available once they pass the bar.  He also links to the actual Racine County advocate counsel posting, and even does a quick comparison to other jobs.  It turns out that correctional officers and probably even court bailiffs will make more money than an advocate counsel.

I was glad to see such a great response to my post.  But, it turns out, things are even worse: the $25,000 per year salary is actually overstated.  Not only does this job come without benefits or even expense reimbursement, but because the victim lawyer would be an independent contractor and not an employee of the county, he is also responsible for paying double social security-related taxes!  For those who don’t know what I mean, look at your next paycheck from your employer.  If memory serves, you pay about 7.5% in social security-related taxes, but that’s only half the bill; your employer picks up the other half.  When you are an independent contractor, however, you are both “employee” and “employer” for tax purposes, and you will be hit with the whole 15% tax.  This, of course, is on top of your state and federal income tax withholding.  This reduces the $25,000 even further.

Now, who wants to go to law school?

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