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Capitalize on Desperation: Law Students Need Summer Gigs

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

There is currently a surplus in the legal lawyer labor market. Supply, demand, blah, blah - we're all familiar with basic economics. The reality is, you can get employees for nearly nothing. In fact, many of these students and recent grads are so desperate for resume-filler that they'll work for free!

Yes, this post is coming from the same person who told you to stop hiring unpaid interns because (a) it's illegal and (b) it makes you a terrible human being, but today is Devil's Advocate day.

To Pay or Not to Pay

There are many reasons not to pay your interns and post-grad "clerks". For one, you can find free labor. Law grads have about a 50 percent unemployment rate. Law students seeking summer gigs are likely facing a similar situation. Especially for the summer folks, they need to show something on their resume to increase their already-terrible odds of finding a job upon graduation.

Then again, unpaid internships are illegal, unless certain requirements (more educational for the intern than beneficial to the employer, can't replace permanent staff, etc.) are met. Will your bitter interns sue you over a few thousand dollars worth of minimum wage (and damage their employability in the process)? Not likely, but worth consideration.

If you do pay, you'll probably want to hire the summer associate, intern, or clerk as an independent contractor to avoid all of the messiness that comes with "real" employees.

How Much do You Pay?

How much is minimum wage? Seriously though, when this blogger was an unemployed summer associate and unemployed graduate in a terrible economy, he would've taken any pay for a first-time or temporary gig.

However, if you do pay cut-rate wages, be prepared for massive turnover. Desperation will get 'em in the door, but the moment something better comes along, they'll leave you in a lurch. Also, how much quality work do you think an unpaid or underpaid, bitter, disillusioned recent grad is going to produce on your firm's behalf?

The Final Word

We've worked bad unpaid gigs and we've worked good unpaid gigs. If you want to take on a few interns or clerks for the summer (or the fall for post-bar clerks), try balancing paid and unpaid time as fairness dictates.

One internship that I worked at didn't pay me for educational "shadowing" time, but did pay when I tackled grunt work, like copying tens of thousands of pages for a departing attorney. It was a reasonable arrangement that, while not providing enough income to live on, did keep me fed with $0.39 cent tacos from the nearest Del Taco. I didn't feel taken advantage of. I enjoyed the experience. Plus, I provided meaningful assistance to the firm.

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