After finishing law school at Fordham University, Francisco Pardoof Miami applied for 150 different job openings. He received five interviews.
“The job search process was arduous and daunting but I didn’t expect it to be easy,” Pardo said.
Students graduating with law degrees in the midst of economic turmoil have encountered a less-than-ideal job market. According to new data from the American Bar Association, 55 percent of the Class of 2011 had found full time, permanent jobs working as lawyers nine months after graduating. In 2010, that number was 68.8 percent, then a record low, according to the National Association for Legal Career Professionals. In terms of overall employment, for the Class of 2011 it was 85.6 percent, the National Association for Legal Career Professionals reported last month. The odds haven’t been that bad since 1994, when the rate was 84.7 percent. Meanwhile, the highest number was in 2007, when overall employment reached a 23-year high of 91.9 percent.
Joe Ankus, legal search recruiter and president of Ankus Consulting, said this is the worst he’s seen in 20 years. His Weston-based company helps legal firms and attorneys across Florida and the U.S. recruit new applicants.
The trends in South Florida mirror those across the nation, said Abbe Mald Bunt, president of Bunt Legal Search in Hollywood.
For Ankus, 47, the problem is simple: “The supply of talented lawyers grossly exceeds the available jobs and I don’t see it changing until the economic structure of the country gets back in shape,” he said.
Though he works mostly with lateral clients, Ankus gives free counseling to recent graduates, teaching them how to effectively network and market themselves. He said he receives between 50 and 75 unsolicited calls a year.
Firms have no shortage of top talent to hire from — every summer a new batch of lawyers graduates from law school. The Florida Bar Association has 93,000 members, while the Dade County Bar Association has approximately 4,500 for example. However, uncertainty over their future has made firms reluctant to hire, Ankus said.
Those that were selective before the economic downturn are even harder to land a job with now.
For students fresh out of law school, it’s created a “perfect storm” of maximum student loans coupled with short-term bleak job opportunities, said Ankus.
Recent statistics show law school debt steadily increasing. According to data from the American Bar Association released in March, law graduates from private schools incur an average of $125,000 in debt, compared to $75,000 for public school grads.
The figures represent an increase from last year — 17.6 percent for private school, 10 percent for public school — the organization reported.
Just 10 years ago, average debt was dramatically lower, the Los Angeles/San Francisco Daily Journal wrote. Between 2001 and 2002, students at public law schools racked up $46,500 in debt, compared to $70,000 for their private school counterparts.
Pardo spends $1,000 a month to pay back his student loans. To alleviate debt, he is looking into Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
The 25-year old attended South Miami Senior High School then George Washington University. Two weeks before graduating from Fordham University School of Law, he accepted a position with the New York City Campaign Finance Board — a job that does not require a law degree.