So, you’ve slogged your way through law school and you survived the Bar exam. And, perhaps only now you’re realizing even the 75th percentile doesn’t add up to an office, much less a corner office, and all those pamphlets you read three years ago were a bit of a hoodwink.
Instead of remaining virtually a lawyer after law school (i.e., all that fresh-minted lawyer status without that lawyer job), maybe you should start thinking of a life as a virtual lawyer.
If you’ve got the GPA and a nice internship or two under your belt, then this information is not for you. In fact, you’re probably so deep in your firm’s pocket you don’t have time for this kind of light reading, or you’re using the four free hours you have a week to spend your outrageous paycheck.
For the rest of us, though, the explosive growth of ecommerce has sowed a fertile land where we can plant a virtual shingle, or contract our work out to digital firms.
Web sites like LegalZoom.com are getting the jump on providing people with legal documents that enable them to handle their legal affairs pro se – without attorneys. Considering this shift toward legal autonomy, it pays for attorneys to think about ways to attract Internet clientele to their services via the Internet.
And, Web businesses are catching on.
Employment hubs like Elance.com have set aside specific areas for online legal services. Here, clients can post their legal issues and potential legal representatives bid to win contracts on those services. It is revolutionizing the way people think about approaching the legal industry.
Imagine – instead of calling Ajax Legal Services and setting up an appointment (which hopefully includes a free consultation), clients just describe what they need and let lawyers bid each other out.
So, you say to yourself, “That sounds horrible. Why would I want to waste my time achieving the lowest bid to do a ton of legal work?” The answer is – what else are you doing?
While law school grads in Canada face a different environment than US law grads, numbers from the US legal market suggest new lawyers still face challenges in finding legal employment after graduation. A Northwestern Law Study found that 15,000 legal jobs at large US law firms have vanished since 2008. And according to a report by the National Association for Legal Career Professionals on fall 2010 law school recruiting, “entry-level recruiting volumes have not returned to anything like the levels measured before the recession”.
The short story is you’ve got to gut it out and get with the times if you really want to practice law. And now, the virtual route is just as viable as the traditional route if you’re willing to face the competition and do your time in the trenches.
What about jurisdiction and providing legal services across state lines, you ask? That’s a good question. You can be on the cutting edge, and companies like DirectLaw.com are paving the way.
If you’re unconvinced, use the most valuable skill you likely learned in law school – networking – and coordinate with other disenfranchised attorneys to organize your own multi-jurisdictional conglomerate.
It’s not impossible. It’s the future.
James Madeiros is a recent law school grad and staff writer at Criminal Justice Degree Schools, a resource site for criminal justice degrees and careers.