Regular readers of this blog may remember this post of mine from last summer, in which I talked to a few friends of mine, recent law school graduates who turned to doc review work after being unable to find permanent employment. It’s been almost a year, so I thought I’d catch up with “Howard” and see how life and the job market were treating him.
A year later, Howard continues to work as a contract attorney doing doc review. He isn’t sure if there’s more work being outsourced or fewer people competing for the jobs, but there now seems to be enough work to go around, a decidedly better situation than in years past. After a terrible 2009, in which he only worked four months, 2010 was better, and he’s worked consistently in 2011.
Whether because of lack of motivation due to steady employment, or discouragement after so many dead ends, Howard admits that he hasn’t been putting much energy into searching for a permanent job. Although he has been seeing a few “help wanted” ads for attorneys with 0-3 years of experience, they’ve been few and far between. Still, he says, it’s better than it was – “those kind of jobs had pretty much dried up.” But after applying for countless jobs, he’s not especially confident about finding a permanent position. “If anything, I’m hopeful that the doc review will be more consistent.”
As for pay, wages have held steady, with most projects paying around $25/hour. This is better than when we last talked, when the pay rates were dropping, but still not great for someone with six figures of education (or educational debt). Howard thinks that the pay wouldn’t be bad as a second household income, for someone with a spouse or partner who earned a good salary and benefits. But as a single person who went into law as a second career, he struggles, and not just with paying the bills. “If I was 22, 24, 25, I wouldn’t give a shit. But at 41, it’s, you know… People don’t date a 41-year-old so they can live like a college student.”
So what does the future hold for Howard? When last we talked, he was considering additional schooling to help him find his niche in the law world, but he’s since ruled that out based on his unwillingness to take on additional debt. He hopes to move into “team lead,” or manager, roles on projects, which pays slightly more. “I’m kind of an optimist,” he says. “I still somehow believe that I can parlay this into a permanent job.”
Then he takes a drink of his beer, stares off into the distance, and sighs. “I don’t know….”