By Daniel Singer
Third-year law student Jordan Carpenter returned home from a week-long trip to New York City and found a 10-inch stack of envelopes lying on his bed.
The letters arrived in response to over 80 resumes that Carpenter had sent out in search of jobs.
“Is it a thin one or a thick one?” Carpenter would ask his roommates, while being handed an envelope. A thin one meant a rejection, a thick one meant a possibility of employment.
Carpenter”s situation is typical of the nearly 160 third-year law students leaving BYU”s J. Reuben Clark Law School — struggling now to find a job for when they graduate.
The J. Reuben Clark Law School has traditionally had a high percentage of students employed upon graduation, over 85 percent. But, with a struggling economy many students have had to work harder than expected to find a job.
“I thought there would be an endless stream of job offers for me when I graduated,” said Wes Mortensen, a law student from Fresno, Calif. “It was a much more stressful experience than I anticipated. I sent out 60 to 75 resumes … which resulted in three interviews.”
Mortensen was offered and accepted a job at a law firm in Albuquerque, N.M. He said a sluggish economy was partially responsible for a lack of job offers.
“In California, where I did my internships, the people I talked to said they usually hire yearly,” Mortensen said. “But they said that they would probably have to take a couple of years off [from hiring]. That trend seems to be turning now.”
The U.S. Department of Labor announced last week that unemployment numbers are going down. The U.S. economy, which had been in its biggest slump since World War II, has been growing for the last three months. In September and October alone, 250,000 new jobs have been added.
Yet despite rapid growth, BYU law students still feel the pressure to be employed.
“[Finding a job] is not a real point of stress, its more like a never ending pressure in the back of my head,” said Jessica Woodbury, a third year law student from Austin, Texas. “The biggest difficulty I face is that I don”t want to be a corporate attorney, I want to be a litigator. A corporate firm will fly a student out. I have to pay my own way to interview with an office, it”s getting expensive.”
Woodbury has a second round of interviews in New York later this month.
The Career Services Office at the J. Reuben Clark Law School reported that though jobs have been harder to find in recent years, the situation is improving.
“We saw a slight dip [in the number of employed students] in the 2002 graduating class,” said Beth Hansen, director of Career Services. “Only 80 percent of our students were employed at graduation, and many of those jobs were non-professional or part-time positions. The numbers are heading up, though, we”re looking to be back up to having 85 to 90 percent of this graduating class employed at graduation time”
Some students have used past acquaintances to find jobs.
Ashley Warner, a third-year law student from Salt Lake City, found a job as a law clerk for a judge in Salt Lake City.
“I busted my butt looking for a summer job last year, and I got one offer,” Warner said. “I hated working in a firm, though. This year, I contacted someone I knew and got my job. I feel very lucky to have the job I do. It”s hard [right now] to get a job even if you”re in the top of your class.”
Many students credited the Career Services Office as being essential to helping them find a job.
“The school placed me in an internship in Seattle this summer, while there I made a contact that got me the job that I”ll have when I graduate,” said Tony Grover, a law student from Pleasant Grove.
Grover advised other students to do internships, even if they have to work for free, so the judge, firm or office could meet them and keep them in mind for future job offers.