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Law School Graduates in North Carolina Facing Rough Job Market

The job market for law students graduating this year from North Carolina law schools is still anemic compared to a decade ago.

“This is really not a good market for law students to be entering,” said Zipporah Edwards, who is an attorney in charge of recruiting at Horack Talley in Charlotte. Edwards explained that the firm used to have a summer program where prospective employees would work with the firm for the entire summer. She said that since the recession, the summer program has pretty much been shut down as a result of tight finances. The firm has students work for a couple of weeks instead of the entire summer.

“We didn’t want to have people here for the summer, because looking ahead, we knew we weren’t planning to hire,” she said.

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“It’s a fact: There are fewer legal jobs than there were (pre-recession), and there are just as many if not more law students,” said Bruce Elvin. Elvin is the assistant dean and director of the career and professional development center at Duke University’s law school.

Quite a bit of law firms suspended summer working programs because of the recession and are now restarting them but with less associates hired than in the past.

“They are coming back smaller and more efficient because summer programs do not make money for anybody,” said Linda Wendling, assistant dean for career services at N.C. Central University. “They’re just expensive testing grounds.”

The employment picture for law students is not as bleak as some make it out to be in the state, as described by Carolyn Early from Recruiting Administrators of Charlotte, where she is president. The organization is made up of legal administrators who recruit for the majority of Charlotte’s large law firms.

“There has been a very slight upswing,” Early said. “It’s not anywhere near back up to what it was like in 2007. There probably still are students who are struggling to find positions who in 2007 and before would not have had that trouble.”

Early also said that law firms that have upped their summer programs are doing it very slowly.

“If they had four people, they might be up to six or so,” Early said. “In 2006, they might have had 15.”

Early also said that part of the problem is that clients do not want to be invoiced for the time worked by a junior associate. This means that firms are hiring more experienced attorneys instead of new lawyers.

“There seem to be more opportunities; there seem to be more interviews,” NCCU’s Wendling said. “There are (fewer students) coming in and crying. I haven’t had a crier yet, which I have had in the past.”

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