Report shines light on ‘economic realities’ for new lawyers

As it turns out, new attorneys are having a hard time finding work in Wisconsin. And when they do, it’s not always what they expect.

This, according to a report compiled by the matter-of-factly-titled Challenges Facing New Lawyers Task Force, is an issue that needs to be addressed now.

The report, which was presented to the State Bar Board of Governors on Friday, outlines that “our young lawyers are facing a depression both economically and emotionally,” according to task force member and Milwaukee attorney Art Harrington.

It is the result of a survey, as well as two listening sessions, at the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University law schools, and outlines a number of ways to alleviate some headaches for those just graduating.

According to the report, a student graduating from law school will have about $95,000 in loans. That, on top of loans from obtaining an undergraduate degree, can mean that a new lawyer will need a job that will allow them to pay off their loans while participating in normal life.

“Always present on the minds of the respondents is how they will handle their debt,” the report states. “As one respondent explained, ‘I think about my debt several times every day. Unfortunately there is no solution to it, so I just drag this debt around with me, like Jacob Marley was forced to drag his chains around for all eternity.’”

Those surveyed also said it was difficult to find a job after college. Many of those who did find a job, however, said it didn’t pay nearly as much as they expected.

The report proposes a number of measures to help young lawyers, from reducing fees for continuing legal education credit classes, reducing bar dues and creating some sort of mentorship program.

It also states that the bar should encourage state and federal courts to appoint younger lawyers to give them opportunities, as well as allow them to participate in cases in a limited scope (I am leaving many of the recommendations out, but the list goes on in the report).

The BOG took no action on the report on Friday, but Harrington and BOG Chairwoman Sherry Coley urged the governors to consider the seriousness of its contents. Harrington said the bar should “foster a transparent awareness of economic realities of practice now, and what may come in the future.”

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