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Lawyers Can't Even Find Work for Free

Pity poor Jeremy Dyme, a former fourth-year law firm associate. Dyme's New York firm shut its doors at the end of 2008 and he's not been able to find a job since -- even though he's ready, willing and able to work as a volunteer, according to this New York Times piece. (H/T ABA Journal).

Part of the problem is that Dyme, who is hoping to transition from a legal career to one in economic development, lacks expertise in microfinance, which is an important qualification for many of the positions to which he's applied. But the other problem is Dyme's timing. With so many layoffs, volunteer groups and nonprofits are now flooded with applicants willing to work without pay. Yet nonprofit groups are also struggling in this economy; some lack staff to train and manage volunteers, while others are suspicious of whether applicants are genuinely committed or are simply biding their time until a paid gig comes along.

Lawyers in particular face an extra hurdle. As The Recorder reports, many large firms are paying laid-off lawyers a stipend so that they can work for legal services or pro bono organizations. In fact, a CNN report on the topic features former Foley Hoag associate Dave Dineen who is now working at the Greater Boston Legal Services. Rather than offer straight severance pay, Foley gave Dineen the option of accepting 25 percent of his salary to spend a year working for legal aid, which Dineen accepted. Of course, for every lawyer like Dave Dineen taking a fully-subsidized slot in a legal aid clinic, there's another lawyer like Jeremy Dyme who's displaced.

Today on the blog Adam Smith, Esq., Bruce MacEwen notes that working for a volunteer group can give displaced lawyers a reason to get up in the morning as they figure out what step to take next. Though formal volunteer positions may no longer be an option, those of us who are still employed can reach out a hand to our colleagues as well, and offer them opportunities.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on March 16, 2009 at 04:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)


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