Kristina at Wicked Words has written a great open letter to one of the executives at a Boston legal temporary placement firm, Counsel on Call, calling his company and others in the field out for perpetuating the myth that contract attorneys are unhireable or undesirable rather than assisting those attorneys with permanent placements.
Her most recent letter was set off by a chain of events over the past few weeks. First, this article in the Boston Globe, to which she dashed off the following letter:
It is with a dull anger that I read your article, “These temp lawyers are top-notch, a new firm in Boston promises,” (May 5, 2008), which my grandmother handed to me as I was clicking on the classifieds in a fruitless effort to find an ad for a junior-level attorney. You see, I have four years of an Ivy League education, followed by three years of law school, and bar admission.
In a world where someone with a J.D. is automatically considered to one of the top earners in the country, the Globe frittered away the opportunity to report on the underclass of lawyers that are mired in tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in debt and count on document review to pay the bills. Instead, it gleefully perpetuated the “stereotype” by noting that a contract attorney is a “fancy name for recent law school graduates who are desperate for work” and touting the services of a staffing firm that refuses to hire recent graduates who “couldn’t get a job anywhere,” without bothering to interview a single contract attorney.
This recent underemployed attorney also used to be a journalist. Maybe she should have remained one, as the Globe could certainly use a refresher in one of the cardinal rules of journalism, Always Examine all Potential Angles.
To which Counsel on Call’s representative replied (on Kristina’s blog):
Chad Schmidt said…
Just wanted to drop in and clarify a couple of things, as I can understand why my â€œcanâ€™t find a jobâ€ quote would upset you â€“ and Iâ€™m glad youâ€™ve brought it up for discussion.
This is what I remember saying to the reporter (and to be honest I canâ€™t remember my exact words, but the quote seemed like more of a paraphrase than verbatim): 10-15 years ago, the landscape was much different. The â€˜knockâ€™ or perception was that contract attorneys were only recent law grads or attorneys who were out of work.
That does sound derogatory and insensitive â€¦ not at all the way I intended. That quote, however, represents the perception many people in the profession held and propagated â€“ one we vehemently disagreed with, not only in fact but in principle â€“ and it left an obstacle that still exists in many circles. All of that obviously didnâ€™t come thru in my quote, which is my fault.
We’ve made a lot of progress in recent years in opening up more career options for attorneys, and thatâ€™s what I was trying to communicate. Even though the article wasnâ€™t about recent grads, there are so many talented people out there who canâ€™t find the job they want, and thatâ€™s very disheartening â€“ weâ€™re certainly attuned to that as a company. The more attorneys who gain experience and attain the jobs they want, the more it helps us make flexible work arrangements increasingly popular, if that makes sense. There are a lot of Catch 22s involved, which I know is frustrating. It might not sound like it in that quote of mine, but there are a lot of very dedicated people here trying to make the profession better and unearthing more opportunities for everyone.
I hope to keep this dialogue going, because you’re certainly not alone in your plight and we talk to attorneys about it every day. Hopefully The Globe will do an article on the subject and shine the spotlight on it in Boston. Good luck in your professional pursuits — your blog is very relevant and I’ll certainly keep reading.
Counsel On Call
Read Kristina’s latest response (linked at top) and join in the conversation at Wicked Words.