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When Chris Brown enrolled in the evening program at Seton Hall University School of Law, he had a right to believe his legal career would launch like a rocket after he graduated in 2003. It was 1999, the economy was booming and he assumed his years as a manager for AmeriHealth, a medical insurer and services provider, would make him a perfect candidate for any firm’s health law department. Later he added an extra credential: the presidency of Seton Hall’s Student Health Law Association. “When I started law school and started accomplishing my goals I thought I’d have my choice of jobs,” Brown says. What he didn’t expect was the sick economy. It is squeezing the demand for entry-level lawyers and creating tough choices for Brown and many of the 700 or so members of the class of 2003 at New Jersey’s three law schools. Placement officials said last week that except for students who had summer internships at large firms, it’s as tough a climate as they have seen in recent years (though it’s not as bad as 1991 and 1992, the first bear market for legal services after decades of growth). This year, the chief fallback positions are judicial clerkships that will extend job hunts for 12 more months and add meat to r�sum�s. For part-time students, like Brown, who has three children and a mortgaged house in Morristown, the unfortunate watchword seems to be, “Keep your day job.” Frances Bouchoux, associate dean of career services at Rutgers Law School-Newark, says a ripple effect started when large New Jersey firms pared their 2002 summer programs below 2001 levels. Students in those programs, aware of the coming shrinkage of jobs, accepted offers of full-time positions without hesitation. The high acceptance rate left few openings to be filled during on-campus interviewing in the fall and the winter supplementary-hiring season. Bouchoux and her counterparts at other schools say interviewing this year is down from last year, though that is based on anecdotal rather than statistical evidence. The squeeze is particularly tight in New Jersey because the larger firms never had particularly large summer programs to begin with. The total number of summer slots at the 20 top-grossing firms in the state, for example, has hovered around the 110 mark for most of the past six years. By contrast, New York’s Milbank Tweed alone has a summer internship program with more than 90 students, most of whom receive offers of full-time jobs. How long they stay is another story. Given the advantage of having a relationship with a firm as a prelude to hiring, Bouchoux encourages third-year law students to take part-time jobs at firms during the school year. For the fortunate few — often those at the top of their classes — who have successful relationships with large firms, 2003 is looking good. Andrew Stemmer, editor in chief of the Rutgers-Newark Computer and Technology Law Journal, says he is returning to the firm where he summered last year, Thacher Proffitt & Wood, a 154-year-old New York partnership that pays first-year associates $125,000. Steve Kessler at Rutgers-Camden, who is heading for the real estate department at Philadelphia’s Saul Ewing at graduation time, says he has friends who are equally qualified for such jobs but have not found them. “People all around are scrounging for jobs,” he says. For students like Brown, it has been a fruitless search. He says he had informational interviews with several firms in the health care field, including Newark’s McCarter & English and Roseland’s Brach Eichler Rosenberg Silver Bernstein Hammer & Gladstone. He says the career services office at Seton Hall has been working hard to help him, but so far there have been no nibbles. “It would be disappointing after all this not to find something in the law,” Brown says. At least he has a job, albeit not as a lawyer. THE CLERKSHIP SAFETY VALVE The great savior for other New Jersey students is the judicial clerk system. In New York, most judges have full-time law secretaries; in Pennsylvania judges can choose permanent or temporary clerks. But in New Jersey, judges hire clerks among recent graduates and the Administrative Office of the Courts works closely with placement directors at the New Jersey schools to fill those spots. “Thank the Lord,” says Rutgers-Camden Director of Career Services Mary Beth Daisey, speaking of the New Jersey clerk system. The numbers show how huge a safety valve the court provides. Bobby Battle and Gurpreet Singh, the AOC officials in charge of the clerkship program, say that of 435 positions filled in the system this year, 260 went to graduates of the three New Jersey schools. Seton Hall sent 112, Rutgers-Camden 93 and Rutgers-Newark 55. The next most represented schools are Widener School of Law, 34; New York Law School, 26; and Villanova Law School, 17. Placement officers like Bouchoux, Daisey and Debra King at Seton Hall work with the AOC to help students obtain the positions. They must be doing something right. Rutgers-Camden’s contribution to the clerkship ranks, for example, represents almost half the graduating class. Students can apply directly to judges but the AOC also circulates notebooks full of students’ r�sum�s to help judges expand their lists of candidates. For some students, a clerkship might be as good as a job in a firm. Alayne Manas summered at 17-lawyer Herten Burstein Sheridan Cevasco Bottinelli & Litt in Hackensack. She says the firm was not hiring first-year associates for 2003, but if it had she would have had a tough choice. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk offered her a clerkship and she took it. Seton Hall student Melanie Rifkin, among the top 25 percent in her class, says she spent last summer at Liberty Corner’s 17-lawyer Kalison, McBride, Jackson & Murphy knowing it was not likely to have openings. She says she would have liked to have a job at a firm, but her impending clerkship with Bergen County Superior Court Judge Marguerite Simon is a terrific opportunity, too. “A clerkship will enhance my skills,” she says. While not a typical firm because its work is almost all in the health care field, Kalison McBride’s hiring practices appear to reflect what is happening among the medium-size and small firms where most lawyers practice. Partner Michael Kalison says most people hired are experienced laterals. The firm also has three part-time lawyers with special skills. And the firm’s only entry-level lawyer this year is a graduate who had worked at the firm as a paralegal. FIRST-HAND ACCOUNTS The best sources for what is happening, though, are the students themselves. Here — without the names — are excerpts of what some members of the class of 2003 said last week in telephone calls and e-mails to the Law Journal: � “The problem this year is that people who used to get jobs in firms are now trying for clerkships. That means it’s tougher for people like me, in the middle of the class, to find them. Plus we’re competing with people who are being laid off.” � “I have not gotten an offer (or job) yet. I did not have an internship with a firm last summer; instead I worked for a solo practitioner. I have sent out over 100 r�sum�s and have had one interview since last September. In fact I sent out 35 r�sum�s last week and I have already gotten five ‘we aren’t hiring’ letters. I applied for six clerkships and had two interviews, but did not get either position. I am attaching my r�sum� so that you see how hard I have worked.” � “The market is really tight. A significant number of 2002 graduates are still out of work, so I accepted a clerkship in a family court (though I don’t want to practice family law) out of fear of graduating without a job. I am told that a clerkship makes you more marketable, but I am still very concerned that that I will have a hard time finding a job after my clerkship even though I will have a JD/MBA.” � “I am a 3L with a competitive GPA and I chose to clerk next year. I am hoping for a good experience and more time to figure out what I want to do. I know a lot of people that are having trouble finding jobs though.” � “I worked for a medium-size law firm (approx. 50 attorneys) in southern New Jersey this past summer (2002). Throughout the summer I worked with virtually every attorney at the firm at one time or another. At the end of the summer the recruiting director gave me the evaluations of my work during the summer. He informed me that all of my reviews were positive, some even glowing, and that my work ethic was exactly what the firm wanted in new associates. “However, due to overhiring and a lackluster economy, the firm at that time could not offer me a position for full time employment for the following year, but that the firm decided to move its forecasting past the end of the calendar year. Not wishing to ‘wait and see’ how things turned out at the firm, I applied to one judge in New Jersey and within two weeks was offered a position as his clerk for the following year (2003-2004). I accepted.”

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