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February 21, 2013


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Been there, done that

maybe think about: "there historically have been more opportunities to move in-house" In my experience (~a decade in-house at Fortune 500 companies and start-ups), that just isn't the case. Especially not today. Yes, the traditional route for those who don't make partner is to go in-house. Yes, that option still exists--but is not as simple as it was in different economic times. And moving in-house from academia will typically be substantially more difficult than doing so from practice. In other words, moving from academia to practice is challenging whatever sort of job one is seeking. It is by no means impossible, but those trying to make such a transition should do so with realistic expectations. And those who assume that former VAPs can simply return to practice (not saying you necessarily are among them 'maybe think about') are often naive about those prospects.

Unindicted Co-conspirator

There is so much wrong with VAP programs. From reading this thread, it looks like many VAPs have less than 5 years experience practicing law. At any large firm, that's about the time that the training wheels come off and the associate is allowed to ride a big girl bike. And these people are self-identifying as qualified to teach law? Babies teaching babies. It's absurd.

For the good of the students, the best thing would be the end of VAPs who have practice law for less than 5 years. Students shouldn't stand for it and should rail against any law school administration that engages in such practices.

maybe think about...

BTDT - we have a thread here of highly dispirited, very bright, strong-credentialed folks who seemed to be focusing only on going back into practice. My aim was merely to suggest it is not a binary equation and that there may be other paths to finding a new position - even a teaching position. I agree the market is atrocious now for everyone, but I'm trying to give the VAPs some hope. Work with me here!

Been there, done that

maybe think about: Fair enough. I do think that lawyers with strong credentials can find decent jobs in the current economy, though it may take creativity and some patience. (And I claim no expertise at all re: teaching jobs in other countries.) Those who leave a relatively secure job to chase the dream of teaching law should do so with open eyes (as I imagine you agree).


Would some of the law-school-scam types stop being mean to the VAPs. They are just HYS (or maybe lower ranked) JDs who discovered what a hell-hole BigLaw is and decided their solution was to look for a law-prof role that would allow them to pay their student loans. In reality they are almost as much in the shit as an unemployed law student. Better you imagine bathing a few deans or tenured prof deniers in something flammable and spending a while significantly flicking a zippo lighter (just stop at flicking and fantasy...) And yes, I'm being ironic.

But the situation is a mess - anyone not denying it is not part of the problem (oooh double negative, for effect damnit)


True. It would be easier, though, if some of them didn't still sound so superior and entitled about it. You're a J.D. graduate--you're lucky to have any job prospects.

Also, having gone through law school recently and heard all of the worthless "why don't you try a GOVERNMENT job?" or "you should try solo practice" advice from professors with no understanding of the job market, it's hard to suppress the schadenfreude from seeing a segment of them now facing the same dilemma, and receiving similar advice.

(Note: currently gainfully employed, although in a legal job that is not actually practicing law.)


My own view, for which I will be urinated upon. VAPs should be roles for practicing lawyers willing to teach part-time as a test drive for the lawyer and the law-school. The lawyer keeps a foot in practice and in academia and can make a choice - tenured prof or adjunct or hopeless at teaching so stay in practice. The VAP and the adjunct is better seen as a solution to getting successful practicing lawyers to test for and move to the academic side - and to avoid recruiting those who are not experienced or un-interested in practice, while testing teaching ability. It should not be a refuge from those who do not want to be lawyers (not should legal academia.) Law schools should, as they do 40 years ago, have to dance a dance or persuading successful lawyers to jump from private to academia - and want those who were proven lawyers.


Note how one of them even suggested that recent graduates could go start their own practices, but then without any apparent trace of irony said "I can't exactly start my own school." Well, no, you can't--but God forbid you'd have to actually practice law.

Or, is it that it really isn't possible for almost all recent graduates, or even those with some experience, to start solo practices? Remember, recent graduates have as much (or even more--remember, most of them didn't have the few years in Big Law that the VAPs had) debt as the VAPs do.

Not a VAP or fellow

Anonymous from 5:45:

First, they're not in the same category as recent jobless graduates, as sad as the latter is. The failed VAPs are (generally) people who got the best grades from the best schools, clerked for the most prestigious judges, worked for (usually) several years at top firms or impressive federal agencies, left on their own terms and didn't get pushed out, then managed to get an ultra-competitive VAP/fellow gig, during which time they probably published 3+ articles as they were told they needed to. They're people who literally did everything right. People who excelled at everything they did until they hit the buzzsaw that's the current academic hiring market.

I'm not saying that they deserve more pity than the people who were arguably suckered by deceptive employment stats into paying a ton of money to go to a lower tier law school and then bumbled along and graduated in the middle of the class. In fact, I'd probably feel much worse for the new grads, because at least the failed VAPs have credentials (and often experience) to give them a fighting chance at a lawyer job, even if it isn't as sexy as it was before they tried to go into teaching. But the two situations are markedly different.

Second, my guess is that it was the doddering old professors at your school that gave you the clueless employment advice. Not the VAPs, who would know better about the impracticalities of solo practice and the improbability of landing government employment.


You seem to be making some assumptions about where currently stuggling law graduates necessarily graduated from, or how they did in their classes. You would also be wrong if you thought it was just the "doddering old professors" (although they, too, with some marked exceptions, certaintly engaged in it).

Moreover, I can't think of the number of times I've heard that same line--"I did everything right"--from law graduates currently struggling. Some of the VAPs seem to consider themselves to be, not only some of the best students from their classes (which I'm sure they are), but in an entirely different category altogether. They're not. They're still J.D. graduates, with all that that entails in terms of job prospects. They aren't a separate class who should be immune from participating in the legal field on the same ground as the every other graduate whose career took a skid, whether a Big law wash-out or lay-off, or someone who didn't have a chance to begin with.

It's the attitude of some of them which makes it somewhat harder to muster sympathy for VAPs as a class, although they do probably deserve it (at least, some of them).


@ Not a VAP or fellow | February 25, 2013 at 06:08 PM

While I understand what you are saying, realize that the same holds true for a lot of law school grads of some top tier schools too, similarly. These were people that could have gone in a different direction had they known that even a T14, top 25% would lead to bad outcomes, short term or long term due to being Lathamed even if they got BigLaw.

Increasingly many of these recent jobless grads also "did everything right".

Also it is far from clear that these failed VAPs, while they weren't pushed out, wouldn't have been pushed out eventually considering the very low percentage that make partners, esp when partners THEMSELVES are being pushed out these days.

The thing to realize also about these failed VAPs is that many of them are trying to join the faculties of these same TTTs, that as you yourself put it, enrolled people who were
"suckered by deceptive employment stats into paying a ton of money to go to a lower tier law school" and would presumably be asked to help recruit more suckers to their schools to save their new lawprof jobs (if they were not failed VAPs but "successful" VAPs who landed permanent lawprof gigs).

Been there, done that

Not a VAP: Just to be clear on this: publishing "3+ articles" means essentially nothing if one is looking for a job as a practitioner of any kind (at least if the articles were of a type that would be of any interest to a faculty committee looking to hire a tenure track prof). Your post makes me think perhaps you underestimate the gulf between what professors seek to / need to publish and what working lawyers esteem. I am not taking a position one way or the other on the merits, just noting the issue.


Actually, MacK, I tend to agree with you about practicing lawyers as VAPs. Law school is a trade school, and it should really be run that way. Most law school scholarship tends to be law professors exchanging papers between themselves, with very few people, particularly practitioners, reading or caring much about that scholarship. Law classes all too frequently tend to be places where professors pontificate about the esoteric nuances of the law, rather than teaching how the law is actually practiced (which, given the small amount of time professors typically spend in practice, they are probably ill-equipped to do anyway).

However, I do see a conflict there--I'm not sure how many law firms would be eager to see productive associates and partners taking appreciable amounts of time away from their practices to teach, and I'm not sure how well a practicing lawyer could teach if they could only commit a small amount of time to it (adjuncts, in my experience, tend to teach around their practicing schedule (evenings, weekends) and, unfortunately, seem to frequently treat the teaching as fairly far down on their list of priorities). Still, your plan does have some merit, in my opinion.


MacK: "The lawyer keeps a foot in practice and in academia and can make a choice - tenured prof or adjunct or hopeless at teaching so stay in practice. "

Well, if it's a choice, I'm sure they'll take 'tenured prof'.

The point is that they generally don't have choices, and have found out that the choices they made foreclosed others to a degree which they didn't realize.


Anon: "It's "narrow-minded" and "counter-productive" only if you think there is a lack of talented law graduates in the market. Quite the contrary. Instead, there is a glut of them. Under those conditions, why take anyone except the very most obviously suitable ..."

Dave, this is the whole point - there is a massive glut, and that glut is at *all* levels, and all specialties (with odd exception, which gets filled immediately).


Another thing I would point out is that while the failed VAPs might think they are "different" from the middling grad from a middling school b/c the failed VAPs was from HYS, LR, OOTC, Fed clerk, whatever, those midding grads no more deserve their fate than these failed VAPs.

Sure the middling grad from a middling school shouldn't be expecting biglaw or a lawprof gig or USattorney. But shouldn't that middling grad expect to get some $40k or so entry level gig and not be jobless or fighting with 1000 other applicants for positions, EVEN "volunteer" ones?

Yes I can understand that these failed VAPs had high expectations and it is disappointing that the law school scam is being exposed, rightfully causing the # of LS applicants and thus law school prof positions to fall.

Then again, that is no less disappointing than some middling grad who "aspired" to be an entry-level PD or entry-level prosecutor or whatever making $40k-ish suddenly realizing that all he can get is a cashier's job at Walmart.

Not a VAP or a fellow.

Been there, done that--

Sorry, I was unclear. I'm noting that the failed VAPs published 3+ articles because they (often) were told that if they did, they'd have a great shot at a tenure-track job. I'm not opining on the "prestige" of publishing among practitioners, which is a subject that I'm agnostic on. (Though I will say if the 300 non-billable hours spent reearching and proofing/citechecking two separate articles for two separate partners -- one even thanked me in a footnote! -- is any indication, you might be underestimating it.)


As I said above, I'm not comparing how much new grads are screwed vis a vis failed VAPs. Just noting that their in different categories of screwedness, qualitatively speaking.


Pasting this from another forum:

"Sorry? You want me to feel sorry for the poor VAPs? I'm sorry I'm not sorry. These people wanted to get into the laziest, most useless sub-specialty (law) in the laziest, most useless "profession" on earth (academic professor). Professors are used to being worshiped, add nothing of value to society, complain when they have to DO THEIR JOBS (ugh, fml how am I going to grade all these papers!?), make an hourly rate that would make any Skaddenite blush, take continuously from credulous children, their credulous parents, and the credulous public, and complain about ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. They are the worst kind of people, and I can't understand how any sympathy could be generated toward them.

A VAP is merely a "worst kind of person" in training. They've shined ass and elected to write nonsense and probably annoyed the hell out of their coworkers to no end, all with an eye toward becoming a terrible human being who fiscally savages a generation. See you on the bread line."

You're all getting what you deserve. :)

Ray Campbell

A bit more on the foreign law school market - I teach at a foreign law school and love it. There are a number of new US style law schools out there - Peking University's School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen, HEAD in Paris, a new one that is rumored to be about to start up in Qatar, and so on. There are also excellent internationally oriented schools in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Spain and India.

It's a good option for some, but not for all. It's not necessarily an easier place to get a job - at STL, for example, all but one of our western TT hires were either Supreme Court clerks or have an Ivy League doctorate of some kind. No one comes to our particular school because they couldn't get any job elsewhere. That said, there are advantages over the jobs we might have had - the students are better than at all but the very best US law schools, and they all get jobs, so the whole scam thing doesn't apply. The expat lifestyle also, for those inclined to appreciate it, beats the heck out of most stateside options. You are surrounded by adventurous, risk taking people who choose to get out of their ruts, you get a chance to travel to interesting places, and your perceptions and assumptions are constantly challenged by the cultural differences. That's been rewarding for me. In an electronic age, being connected to colleagues and research materials is not the problem it would have been a generation back, and we get visitors from top US schools who are really stimulating to interact with. Some of those benefits would apply across the board at any good international school.

There are some quirks, country by country. In some countries, a doctorate of some kind is a prerequisite, and a JD doesn't count. I have been told that's the case in the UK, Australia and much of continental Europe, but I don't know about Canada. Still, for those with doctorates, those markets are open, and there may be more JD only options there than I know about. The teaching loads tend to be way, way higher than in the US in some countries - we have a regular visitor from Israel, and when she's teaching there I understand it's 20 plus hours a week in the classroom (she still publishes prolifically, but she has incredible energy levels). That's not always the case - we are at four classes per year, consistent with many US schools. Pay scales can be lower. We pay competitively with US schools since we are competing in that market, but at truly indigenous schools the rates will track local markets, which in some places tend to pay much less. In some markets, such as some Latin American schools I've interacted with, there likely will be interest in US lawyers but you would have to be able to teach in the local language.

The net is that for those really interested in teaching and scholarship the option of going overseas deserves consideration, and not just as a way to get in the game while awaiting a US appointment. It's a big world out there.

To my knowledge, there's no AALS equivalent for overseas schools, although some, like STL, come to DC. My knowledge, however, is very incomplete, and there may well be conferences I am not aware of. For those wishing to be more proactive, it might work to start with the schools that are active in IAALS or who participate in Law Without Walls, as those tend to be more internationally oriented.

Previously Anon

Some of the problem here is compounded by the fact that law school success is only moderately correlated with success as a practicing attorney (it's probably more closely correlated with success as an academic, since it involves the application of similar skills, but I don't really know, particularly since academia does an even more thorough job of excluding graduates of lower-ranked schools than law firms). Being able to perform well on a three-hour review and write-up of a fact pattern says little about one's ability to, say, obtain business for a firm, or to take a deposition, perform an oral argument, negotiate a settlement, conduct discovery, etc., etc., etc. Of course, law firm administrators can't interview every applicant who applies, and they need a quick way of reducing the stack of resumes to a manageable size, so law school+class standing provides an easy means of doing that.

However, if an applicant has already made evident their lack of commitment to law firm life, it's hard to see why they shouldn't rely on that as a means of weeding out applicants, too. There are many, many other applicants out there, and they will probably be just as likely to succeed as a VAP washout, and will probably be more committed.

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