How To Navigate The Legal Job Market

BY RYAN BYRNES

You may have heard that it’s tough out there for law school graduates.

Here in New Jersey, only about 60 percent of 2011 graduates of the state’s three law schools found full-time, legal employment within nine months of graduation. Meanwhile, about one-fifth of each of the classes remained under-employed through the same time period. The 2012 class data, which should be released in mid-March, doesn’t figure to vary much. And, comparatively, New Jersey is in better shape than many other states.

Traditional methods of finding post-graduate employment are changing. For example, fewer than four percent of Seton Hall Law’s class of 2011 reported on-campus interviews as the source of their eventual job. More than ever, the path to one’s first professional opportunity is one that must be proactively paved by the individual.

Luckily, we live in an era that makes that arduous task slightly more manageable. Though legal positions are scarce, there has never been a better time to break into professional networks and build relationships capable of yielding dividends in both the short- and long-term. As a recent law graduate, here are three keys I kept in mind as I navigated the legal job market.

The first is connectivity. Expand your web of contacts as wide as possible. Your alumni network – whether undergraduate or law school – is more than willing to help, but think a little more outside the box. I spoke with professors and family friends, but also attorneys I had caddied for and fraternity brothers 20 years my elder. The Internet allows these contacts to be just a few clicks away, but you must take the initiative to connect.

The second is consistency. Lawyers are busy people. The resume they were happy you passed along will soon be pushed aside for more pressing business. Stay on their radar with brief follow-up messages or offers to meet for coffee. Their schedule is busy, but if you show a respectful willingness to work around it, most will find the time to speak with you.

The most important key is confidence. Stop taking rejection personally. Build off of your strengths. Translate your experience into a form that will impress potential employers. Establish a professional presence on LinkedIn or Twitter. Blog about legal trends. Be active in your local bar association. Make it easy for others to see that you have something valuable to offer. If you don’t believe that you do, there’s no reason to think anyone else will either.

Luck will likely play a role in your eventual job, but these tips should diminish your reliance on chance and place your fate more directly in your own hands.

State of the Union, Tea Party Response Detail Fault Lines

BY BRIAN RUDDOCK

Image via Business Insider
Image via Business Insider

President Barack Obama made last Tuesday what many are considering to be one of the most liberal State of the Union addresses in history. Obama advocated an extensive second-term agenda and, despite brief rhetoric to the contrary, defended big government as an answer to our ailments.

The media largely seems to have focused on Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) infamous “water-gaffe”. (Rubio gave the Republican Party’s response to the SOTU, as is tradition for the opposition party.) Rubio’s gaffe was unimportant, and anyways, his speech wasn’t much different from most opposition speeches: light on detail and entirely uncontroversial.

Lost in all of this was that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) delivered a speech that showed the points of divergence between today’s two major governing theories: Obama’s blue-model liberalism and the Tea Party’s neo-constitutionalism. Whether because of 2016 presidential rumors or as his influence as a sitting senator, Paul is worth paying attention to.

The differences in theories have been split into four major categories: the purpose and size of government, the role of the executive, the budget, and new policies proposed. For each, we’ll examine a relevant quote from both Obama’s and Paul’s speeches.

PURPOSE AND SIZE OF GOVERNMENT

Obama:

This country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that…it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story

Paul:

What America needs is not Robin Hood but Adam Smith. In the year we won our independence, Adam Smith described what creates the wealth of nations. He described a limited government that largely did not interfere with individuals and their pursuit of happiness.

Obama ties the concept of obligations into citizenship: as someone living in this country, there are things you must do because the state’s functioning requires it. He speaks of joint responsibility, collective action, and a shared future. Paul instead focuses on prosperity through freedom; we thrive because of individuals seeking their own ends. Obama makes a subtle rip on individual liberty (“our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others”), which is a common argument against the sort of individualism, or natural-rights based government, Paul seeks. Essentially, the argument goes, no man exists in a vacuum, so your right to pursue your own ends will often come into conflict with my right to prosper.

THE ROLE OF THE EXECUTIVE

Obama:

…if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations [from climate change], I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take.

Paul:

We cannot and will not allow any President to act as if he were a king.

Obama believes that in many debates, there is Right and Wrong, or Good and Evil, and that sometimes politics prevent people from doing the right thing. Thus, the President can and should do whatever is possible to make sure Right prevails.

Paul, by contrast, is extremely sensitive to executive overreach. As a member of the legislative branch, he is offended by the notion that an executive thinks he can bring a certain piece of legislation to the floor, or demand he vote a certain way. This is similar to government power in that Obama takes a very end-centric view: we do whatever we need to to achieve the best result. Paul is more sensitive to rule of law concerns, in which it is crucial to respect existing procedures and limitations.

BUDGET

Obama:

These sudden, harsh, arbitrary [sequester] cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research.

Paul:

The President does a bit “woe is me” over the sequester…the sequester doesn’t even cut any spending. It just slows the rate of growth. Even with the sequester, government will grow over $7 trillion over the next decade.

The sequester was essentially a “poison pill”; if the two parties couldn’t come up with enough deficit reduction, automatic cuts to both military and domestic spending would kick in. The thinking was that Republicans wouldn’t want the military cuts, and Democrats wouldn’t want domestic cuts, so both parties would be pressured to cooperate.

Obama is trying to press Republicans here by mentioning the military cuts first. Some Republicans think military spending is sacrosanct; Paul is not one of them, so he doesn’t take the bait.

The president sees a lot of good being done by spending that would be cut as a result of sequestration. He’s less worried about deficits, since America is still the world’s reserve currency; the debt is something that may or may not come to bear, whereas these cuts will definitely cut important programs.

Paul’s take is that the budget will grow regardless, and that we need to start having honest conversations about what a “cut” really is.

NEW POLICIES PROPOSED

Obama proposes, among other things: a government-written “college scorecard”; tax reform that hikes rates on millionaires; executive action to combat climate change; a public-private “energy security trust” to reduce oil consumption; federal subsidies for states that build energy efficient buildings; increased pre-K funding; an increased minimum wage; a voting-rights commission that would enforce its recommendations at the state level; American assistance in the eradication of global poverty and AIDS.

Paul’s major proposal was a Balanced Budget Amendment coupled with a budget that will balance the budget in five years. He also advocates for greater government transparency, school vouchers, cessation of foreign aid to countries hostile to us, and a flat tax.

Each politician’s policy prescriptions are reflective of their overarching philosophies. The president wishes to use the government’s considerable power to solve everything from climate change to poverty. Paul wants to narrow the focus of our activities and let the private sector work its magic. Obama’s proposals would require a considerable increase in taxes and the size of government; just about all of Paul’s proposals involve shrinking government influence.

These speeches represent a fascinating philosophical contrast; they’re likely a good indicator of the lines along which the 2016 presidential race will be fought (even if Paul is not a candidate). Both were direct, ideological, and aggressive. They present us with a real contrast that makes us think about the role we want government to play. This is what our political discourse should resemble.

DoJ vs. Beer-Price Inflation

BY BRIAN RUDDOCK

The U.S. Department of Justice yesterday announced plans to sue AB-InBev to prevent its planned merger with Group Modelo SAB. (The former counts Budweiser and Stella Artois as two of its marquee brands, while the latter features Corona and Modelo.) According to a Wall Street Journal report, DoJ’s main objection to the merger is that it would likely lead to price increases for many of the most popular-selling US beers:

U.S. authorities said they want to prevent any overcharging by the global giants that dominate mass-market brews…The Justice Department’s 27-page lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C., federal court, portrayed Modelo as an important competitor that puts pressure on AB InBev to maintain lower prices…

The article goes on to cite federal sources claiming to have access to internal InBev memos, which allegedly show that the company both acknowledged and was frustrated by downward price pressure from Modelo. When InBev raised prices on staples like Bud Light, Miller-Coors would follow suit with its core offerings, but Modelo would keep prices flat.

Full disclosure: I am a craft beer fanatic, and like most people, don’t like paying more for stuff I enjoy. Let’s assume the DoJ is correct, and that beer prices would rise as a result of this merger. I still find myself struggling to understand why the maintenance of low beer prices constitutes a compelling government interest.

brownsbeer

Many previous antitrust cases may have been frivolous and unnecessary, but they were at least rooted in reasonable, if overblown, concerns. The FTC went after Google for dominating a very important arena: web search results, which are a huge driver of e-commerce. DoJ successfully blocked AT&T from merging with T-Mobile because of fears over what would happen to the mobile communications marketplace, which serves as a lifeline for hundreds of millions of Americans.

While one does not “need” e-commerce or affordable access to mobile bandwidth, they are staples of life for the majority of citizens, and are largely responsible for conferring what we’d think of as a modern way of life. I may have disagreed with the government in both instances, but at least agreed that we were talking about very important markets.

Beer? Sure, we might drink a lot of it, but it is the definition of a discretionary good. The avoidance of its consumption most likely confers significant health benefits. To that end, the same government suing a private company to keep beer prices down also spends millions of dollars on advertisements encouraging people to consume less beer. (If there’s a better example of government logic, I’m at a loss to think of it.)

Precedence and antitrust legal theory may favor the DoJ here. I’m ill-equipped to opine one way or the other. What I can say with some certainty, however, is that I do not need the government’s help in subsidizing my own bad decisions. That’s what I have friends for.