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Home  →  New York  →  Atlanta, NY  →  Working as a lawyer in NYC?

Working as a lawyer in NYC?

I live in the Deep South right now, and I'll be going to law school here (Arkansas). If I'm admitted to the NY Bar, would it be difficult to find work in the city? I don't know how difficult it would be to get a decent job in NYC with a degree from the stereotypical redneck state.

Answers (2):

1. oneofcold
The New York legal market is pretty bad right now, especially in corporate. Maybe when you graduate it will be better, but New York law firms are pretty dependent on Wall Street-related work, and if Wall Street becomes a lot smaller in the next few years, then many New York law firms will take a real hit too.

The high-paying jobs at large firms are very competitive, and most of those firms are snobbish about mostly wanting people from the top 15 schools. I'm not saying that's justified - it's just a reality that you need to understand. From Arkansas, you will need to be in the top 10% of your class or make Law Review in order to even be considered for most of those jobs, and some firms won't look at you even with that.

There are a huge number of small and medium-size law firms here also, but keep in mind that (1) there are huge numbers of lawyers chasing those jobs also, and (2) many of those jobs don't pay too well to start. As for (1), New York has around ten law schools, plus there are out of state schools like Michigan and Penn that send a large fraction of their graduates here rather than keeping them in their home states, so even small, non-prestigious firms can be flooded with resumes and it's hard to stand out from a non-elite school unless you're a superstar. There are a lot of people even with decent grades and schools (not top 15 but pretty good) who are stuck in dead-end temporary jobs or working in the worst types of law firms (insurance defense, personal injury, etc.), and a lot of them would have had much better careers in other cities that are less competitive. As for (2), some of the small firms pay as little as 40K to first years, and try living in New York City on that. Even on 75K, after rent and student loans you may just be breaking even. But if you spend 2-3 years at a small firm, work hard and learn a lot, you are in a good position to move to a large or mid-sized firm and make at least $100K. The more work experience you have, the less it will matter where you went to school.

The key question is how important is it to you to be in New York specifically? If you could be happy in somewhere like Dallas or Houston or Atlanta, it would probably be easier for you to find a good job there, and easier still in somewhere like Little Rock. You might want to see how your first year goes - if you have excellent grades then give New York a shot, otherwise, consider other options. But if you're dead set on New York, you can definitely make a good career happen even if you aren't at the top of your law school, but you may need to put in some time at a small firm first.
2. Amanda
This is a really horrible time to look for a legal job in NYC. Large and medium-sized firms have had massive layoffs in the last few months, as you may have heard. Small firms have less business as the recession curtails discretionary legal actions; some have cut salaries. Public sector employers are pretty much all in budget crunches with hiring freezes. So, there are a lot of unemployed attorneys milling around, and being new in town/relatively fresh out of school, you might find it especially difficult to find something.
In a year or two, or whenever the recession is comfortably over, I'd absolutely encourage any ambitious Southerner to come up here and go for it...IF you have plenty of savings to live on while you get started, and a solid understanding of what it's like to live here in a small apartment for gigantic rent!