Does Law School Debt Equal A Job?

US News recently ranked the Top 10 law schools where graduates carry the highest student loans. For over half the schools listed, the job prospects for graduates are unfortunately under 50%. Though general suspicion indicated this outcome for some time, it was no more welcome news when it hit.

With average student loans for law graduates ranging from $84,000 (public schools) to $122,158 (private schools), this begs the question – is this high debt really worth it?

The answer? Probably not when you are talking about a low ranked law school. As expressed in Above The Law’s coverage on this story, “…the differences between having high debt from a T14 [Top 14] law school and high debt from a second-tier law school are quite stark in terms of employment outlooks.”[1]

Law schools are responding to these daunting statistics in a myriad of ways. As reported by the New York Times in February, Brooklyn Law, Cornell and the University of Maryland have added business courses including accounting, financial statement analysis and corporate finance to equip students to compete for jobs. These schools “are offering focused sessions that aim to bring students up to speed on business practicalities.”[2]  More than ever, law students are focused on landing jobs to pay off student loans.  “There’s a broader shift for law schools to prepare students to be more practice ready when they graduate.” 2 While these “practice ready” efforts are a strong trend, many agree fellowships and externships continue to be the best means to gain better experience to compete for jobs.

While business courses and externships may increase a graduates’ job prospects, it remains important for those contemplating law school to consider whether undertaking high student loans is a wise bet in light of these employment statistics.


Sadie Madole Founder and owner of Madole Legal Search

Sadie Madole
Founder and owner of Madole Legal Search

About the Author

Sadie Madole has been recruiting associate level candidates for law firms and in-house positions in Washington, DC since 2006.  A licensed attorney, Sadie previously practiced law for ten years as a litigation associate at a boutique firm, and as an attorney advisor with the Treasury Department.  Sadie is the owner of Madole Legal Search (


Recruiter Corner: 5 Truths About Recruiting

recruiter-editWhile every legal recruiter has his own unique experience, there are some general truths about the industry. Below are five truths about recruiting that every recruiter should know:

  1. Recruiting is collaborative. Even if you’re working as an independent recruiter, the process of sourcing talent is a collaborative one. You will need to reach out to other recruiters, your talent contacts, and listen to the feedback of the hiring manager to get the right candidate for the job.
  2. An emotionally invested candidate is more valuable than a highly skilled one. While skills and experience are important, finding talent that is emotionally invested in their job will go a long way to delivering the type of talent that lasts and grows. Remember, passion can never be taught.
  3. Recruiters have two clients—job candidates and employers.  While it’s the employer who ultimately cuts the check, recruiters must always remember that candidates are also important customers. Treat job candidates with the same amount of respect that you treat hiring managers and you will never be short on top talent willing to work with you.
  4. Recruiting is a sales business. If you want to thrive as a recruiter you must know how to sell. Your ability to sell your services to employers and jobs to top talent will go a long way in paving the road to success.
  5. Recruiting is becoming global. As it becomes easier to work across time zones, the recruiting business is becoming a global one. Recruiters who are poised to provide national and international services will be able to profit from this change.

Understanding the realities of the industry will help you make strategic choices that will grow your recruiting business.

Attorney Job Search: Laying The Foundation For Salary Negotiation

getting_paid-530x324Every attorney searching for work has got a pretty good idea about how much they want to earn. But is that number too high, too low, or simply not realistic? If you want to start your salary/compensation negotiations off on the right foot, you’ll need to do a little groundwork. Below are a few tips on what you need to do to negotiate from a strong position:

  1. Understand the job. Before you step into the role of negotiator, make sure that you fully understand the job for which you’re applying. What types of demands will it make on your time, energy, skills, and experience? How critical is your role? Will your responsibilities directly impact the law firm’s bottom-line?
  2. Investigate the law firm’s compensation history. How does the firm currently compensate the people in roles similar to yours? Do they give frequent raises and promotions? You can use Leopard Solutions to find out what the average associate earns at various law firms.
  3. Research industry salaries. What are other attorneys with skills and experience similar to yours earning throughout the industry? Make sure that you check out both national salaries and salaries for your city/state. When you come to the negotiation table, your salary range should be close to industry standards.
  4. Create a “walk away” point. You need to have a minimum amount of compensation that you’re willing to accept. Using that number, you’ll know when to walk away from a bad deal and you’ll be in a stronger position because you’re willing to turn down any deal that doesn’t help you meet your financial goals.

Knowing what you’re willing to accept and not accept puts you in a better position to negotiate a fair compensation package.

Four Money Mistakes New Independent Recruiters Must Avoid

32edceb06641df12f7504a74ee0205beFor legal recruiters setting up shop on their own, the process can be both liberating and terrifying, especially when it comes to money. There are a lot of money mistakes new independent recruiters make, but most of them can be avoided. Below are four money mistakes new independent recruiters must avoid:

  1. Underestimating expenses. As a rule of thumb, launching your own recruiting firm will cost more money than you estimate. So come up with a tight budget and add 10% to it just for those unexpected expenses that are bound to pop up.
  2. Wasting money. While this may seem like a no-brainer, many new independent recruiters waste money in ways they can’t see. For example, buying shiny, new equipment when your old equipment works just fine is one of the common ways independent recruiters just starting out waste their capital.
  3. Hiring help for simple tasks. While it’s important to build a team of people who can free up your time and energy for more important things, hiring people too soon is a mistake. If you can do a good job on a task, such as answering the phone or filing, there’s no need to hire an assistant. But if you can’t do a good job on something such as maintaining your software or designing a logo, then hiring help may be a good idea.
  4. Failing to plan for taxes. Taxes are an unavoidable reality for all business owners. Unfortunately, many new independent recruiters fail to plan for this large expense. To avoid this mistake, work with an accountant to estimate your tax liabilities. Once you have a rough estimate of what you’ll owe, make timely quarterly tax payments.

Avoid the most common money mistakes and you’ll increase your chance of success.

Attorney Job Search: Four People You Should Never Use As References

Resume_ReferencesAs you rev up your job search, you should also line up a variety of very good references to give employers. But before you put your cousin Bobby on the list, you should consider the types of references you should never use.  Let’s take a look:

Family Members

Even if you worked for the family business for years, an employer simply won’t believe that your family can give an impartial reference. If you’ve been involved in a family business and want to use it as a reference, simply talk about it in your interview and chose another employer as a reference in the pre-interview stage of your job search.


Once again, while your friends may know you quite well, it’s likely that they can’t give a good job reference because they haven’t worked with you. If they have worked with you and you want to use them as a reference, remind them that they should focus on discussing your qualities as an employee only NOT your qualities as a friend.

Disconnected Co-workers

When choosing references, one of the easiest mistakes you can make is choosing people who have worked at the same company as you but did not directly work with you. Instead of choosing random workplace acquaintances as your references, choose people who can speak about a specific project you worked on or who can at least talk about your work ethic.

Distant Supervisors

Don’t choose supervisors who won’t remember you and who will be surprised to receive a call. Before using someone as a job reference get their permission and give them gentle reminders throughout your job search that they may receive calls from employers.

Who you put on your reference list is critical if you want to be considered for a job.

Recruiter Corner: Positioning Your Brand

Build-Your-Brand-580x328For legal recruiters trying to win major market share, positioning is critical to success. Below are four tips for positioning your company well in the minds of law firms and attorneys.

  1. Articulate your value. If you want to position your recruitment firm well, you’ll need to articulate how you solve the problems of both employers and job candidates. Don’t make the mistake of only focusing your message towards employers. The best job candidates will be quite picky about which jobs they give their attention, so you’ll need to let them know that you’re worth their time.
  2. Tailor your message. Don’t try to create an overall message that targets everyone. Instead, create multiple messages that communicate your value to specific markets. For example, job candidate goals are very different from the goals of employers, so you’ll need to take that into account when crafting your sales message.
  3. Deliver proof. It’s not enough to say that you’re the best recruiter in the industry and that you deliver quality candidates fast, you’ll need to provide proof. As part of your positioning strategy, you should create narratives that show how you helped real employers source good talent. Or, in the case of job candidates, how you helped a job seeker land a great position with a prestigious law firm. These stories need not be longwinded, they just need to provide some facts and context.
  4. Create a short pitch. When networking, you may not be able to give an in-depth spiel on your recruitment business but you can provide a succinct elevator pitch. Create a 20 second (30 seconds max) elevator pitch that highlights how you help match law firms with great talent. Be sure to emphasize what’s unique about how you approach recruiting.

If you want to become a top recruiter, you’ll need to get focused on positioning your brand well.

Four Tips For Working At A New Law Firm

Law_frim1So you’ve found a great position at an exciting new law firm. But there’s a problem—they’re very new, as in two or three years old. How do you protect yourself and thrive at a law firm that’s so young? Below are a few tips:

  1. Mind your money. Some attorneys, especially new attorneys, get so excited about working for a new law firm that they’re willing to work for much less  than what their peers are earning. Be careful. Taking a lower salary that isn’t balanced by other compensation such as health benefits and perks, can have a significant impact on your quality of life.
  2. Have an exit plan. While many new law firms are filled with enthusiastic attorneys, they’re still very risky. Before you take the job, make sure you know what you’re going to do if the business goes south. Remember, most businesses fail within the first five years, so be prepared.
  3. Discuss career advancement upfront. While most new law firms are unable to match the pay of their more established competitors, they often offer new attorneys opportunities for rapid advancement. During your interview, state your career goals clearly and find out how the firm can help you reach them. Don’t accept vague answers here, now is the time for specifics.
  4. Watch the business end. Even if the law firm’s partners are experienced and skilled attorneys, having a good head for business is a requirement for success. Keep an eye on the finances of the business. If the law firm is unable to pay you on time or if they begin cutting back expenses, that may be a sign that they’re in financial trouble.

Working at a new law firm can be an exciting opportunity, but you’ll need to determine if the firm is a diamond in the rough or just a lump of coal.

Recruiter Corner: Four Questions You Should Ask Hiring Managers

icon-41335_640-300x300In order to source the right candidates for any job order, legal recruiters must know the details. Unfortunately, many hiring managers may not provide these details upfront, so you’ll need to ask the right questions. Below are four questions you should ask hiring managers:

  1. What does a new hire need to do to fulfill the basic requirements of the job? With this question, you’re getting to the bare bones necessities. In essence, you want to know the minimum requirements of the job. Does the candidate really need some of the requirements listed on the employer’s “must have” list? Or, are some of those “must haves” really preferences?
  2. What would a new hire need to do to be considered excellent at their job? This question will let you know what the employer considers an ideal employee. If you can find someone who matches these requirements, you can probably fill the job order very quickly.
  3. What three personality traits do you want in a job candidate? One of the most frustrating parts of recruiting is that you can find candidates who have the right skills and experience but if they’re a bad fit for the law firm, they’re not getting hired. Head off this problem by finding out in advance what character traits the employer is looking for.
  4. What makes this a great job? Question the hiring manager about how the job and employer stands out. Do they offer opportunities other law firms don’t? Do they have mentorship programs with very accomplished attorneys? This is information that will help you entice the best talent to interview for the position.

By asking the hiring manager the right questions, you’ll get the information you need to fill the job order quickly.

Attorney Job Search: Three Differences Between A Job and A Career

career_planningFor new and mid-career attorneys, getting and staying on the right career track is important. But when you’ve been on a job search for too long, you may get sidetracked. One of the ways many attorneys get sidetracked is by taking positions that won’t advance their careers—they take “jobs.” Let’s explore some of the key differences between a job and a career.


One of the biggest differences between a job and a career is that the latter offers you advancement opportunities. When considering positions, you should determine if there is opportunity for advancement in the direction you want to go. Remember all opportunities aren’t good opportunities, only those that help you reach your goals.


Jobs may offer some financial growth such as yearly raises, but they may not offer more knowledge, skills, and experience. Positions that are in fact careers will have plenty of growth opportunity—trainings, new experiences, mentorship etc.  When vetting an employment opportunity, ask yourself if the position will teach you new things or give you access to new experiences.


Employment opportunities that are more than just mere jobs will make you responsible for tasks that impact the firm. For example, an attorney who is asked to actively work with an important client will have more impact on the bottom-line of the law firm than an attorney who is only asked to do the grunt work. When considering an employment opportunity, find out what level of responsibility you will have and how important it is to the law firm.

Recruiter Corner: Aligning Yourself With Future Stars

24717674Every legal recruiter wants to land a big contract, sourcing talent for the most successful law firms in the industry. But the competition is fierce. What if you could position yourself now for the big contracts in the next three to five years? You can do just that by identifying and building relationships with rising stars in the legal industry. Below are a few tips on how to get started:

  1. Create a client profile.  Think about what you want most in a client. Do you prefer working in certain practice areas or specialties? Where should the client be located? Do you mind working for out of town law firms or internationally?
  2. Gather intelligence.  Find out which firms, fitting your profile, have opened in the past five years.  If you can, find out how financially successful they’ve been. Are they adding new talent? Have they opened a satellite office?
  3. Network. At this point you should do two things—1) reach out to the person who does the hiring and 2) network at events where new law firms are likely in attendance.  Your initial contact should focus on letting the firm know about your business and getting permission to put them on your mailing list.
  4. Pricing.  If you decide to market your recruiting services to some of these rising stars, be sure to price your fees right. Don’t be shy about offering special deals with the aim of keeping them for the long-term.

As you build relationships with new and rising law firms, you’re laying the foundation for bigger and better recruiting contracts in the future.