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3 Misconceptions About Young Attorneys

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

It seems that once upon a time, in a far more prosperous version of the American economy, there were actually jobs. And when there were jobs, they were highly paid. Many associate attorneys actually made more than $100,000 -- an astronomical and unfathomable figure for an entry-level position. Instead of reducing compensation when the economy collapsed (and clients wised up to overpaid associates being trained on their dimes), firms just stopped hiring.

Perhaps it was that scenario that gave rise to the image of the young, associate attorney with a sense of entitlement. She expects to make partner in five years. She expects to stop doing document review after her first year. She expects to have a life outside of work. If that archetype attorney once existed, it's certainly not the case now. Those with jobs are ecstatic to be there. Those without would shank someone in a dark alley if it meant avoiding Craigslist ads and shady small firms.

With that in mind, here are a few proposals for shifting the conversation, from entitled associates to hungry up-and-comers:

The Title of This Blog

With all due respect to the forefathers of FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog, what does the title actually mean? As a recent graduate, I know quite a few young attorneys, many of whom are working as associates (and many of whom are unemployed). You know what their primary concern is? Paying off student loans. After that, they are simply looking to learn the practice of law.

Though in boom times, there may have been a sense of entitlement amongst young attorneys, "greedy" associate is the rare exception, not the rule. Perhaps the name of this blog should be Desperate Associates. Nothing says "classy and informative blog" like an outdated pop-culture reference.

Pay Your Dues

It's like nails on a chalkboard, isn't it? Whenever you're about to get bad news, whether it be a denied promotion or a salary offer for much less than you were expecting, it is framed as "pay your dues." Weren't you listening, senior partners? We're greedy.

The cliché of "pay your dues" or "bide your time" is just another way of saying "grin and bear it sucka - we're willing to take the risk that you'll flee for another firm."

Valuable Experience

Nothing irks and nauseates an unemployed and desperate young attorney more than the underpaid (or unpaid) gig that offers "valuable experience." Though these ads and excrement law jobs existed in boom times, they were formerly reserved for those who were, at least on paper, less qualified: those who failed the bar repeatedly, went to an unaccredited school, etc.

You want to give a young lawyer valuable experience? Pay your associate enough to cover rent, student loan payments, and food, and she might be willing to stick around long-term and invest herself in the success of your firm. And if you aren't paying a substantial sum, make sure that there is a clear path of advancement. Nothing crushes the career-seeking soul quite like an underpaid -- or worse, unpaid -- and dead-end job.

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