Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Human Attorneys v. Techno-torneys

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We all know the competition is fierce in the legal job market; but did you know that your competition has expanded?  The Great Recession caused firms to downsize.  Clients began asking for flat rates and adjusted billable hours by canceling inexperienced attorneys who might spend too much time on their case.  This caused jobs to decrease, but the work still needed to be done.  Technology has stepped in to fill that void.
Attorneys used to spend hours upon hours sifting through documents for a client.  The billable hours added up.  In recent years, these jobs have been replaced with document review agencies.  Doc review can be done electronically, which cuts the time for sorting files, tagging categories, and determining what information is relevant.  With a faster process, firms can hire fewer attorneys and the client saves money.  Judges are even endorsing predictive coding.  Two years ago Judge Peck of the Southern District of New York said that “[Predictive coding] certainly works better than most of the alternatives, if not all of the alternatives.”  Unfortunately, these “alternatives” include law students who want summer associate positions and jobs upon graduation.
However, it’s not just doc review technology replacing attorney jobs.  New online resources offer many people the ability to do some legal work on their own without being or having an attorney.  For example, business owners (usually smaller businesses) are able to find fill-in-the-blank contracts for free or minimal cost, saving time and money yet still getting the job done.
Most shockingly, however, techno-torneys can now be found in your own pocket!  A free smartphone application called Shake is said to allow users to simplify contracts most commonly used for such things as hiring freelancers, Craigslist purchases, and small business exchanges.  Users walk through a template library, answer simple questions, and then the contract is complete.  Shake has received a 4star rating and praise from Business Insider, FindLaw, and Forbes.  But does the app make things as personalized and protective for the client as an attorney would?  HERE is one man’s opinion.
If techno-torneys are just beginning, what will the legal job market look like in ten years, five, or just two years?  Keep an eye on where the trends are headed.  Get ahead of the trend and find a legal niche like this.  Or consider a degree in computer engineering instead of law.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Race for Biglaw Jobs: How to Make it a Sprint Instead of a Marathon

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Previously, I’ve discussed ways to improve your entry-level job employment.  These tips help you turn a summer associate position into a full-time position.  However, a point in the article was that firms felt they could only select from the same, small group of candidates and rarely dipped back into the 3L hiring pool to fill empty spots.  This article will further help your chances of entry-level employment with just one tip:  go to the right school.
If you’re hoping to be employed in the Biglaw sector, you can exponentially increase your odds by enrolling in the right law school.  Recently, The National Law Journal released a list of the top 50 schools with the highest percentage of students/new grads employed at a Biglaw firm.  The top 15 law schools range from Number 1 Columbia Law School to Number 15 University of Texas School of Law.
However, whether attending one of these schools is right for you is something you’ll have to decide.  Most of these top law schools have high tuition prices where many exceed $50,000 a year…A YEAR!  While only four of these listed schools have annual tuitions lower than $20,000.  Although paying these tuition prices may get you a Biglaw job, the Biglaw salaries are still averaging low compared to salaries in the past.  Most of the Biglaw firms that are paying the six-figure salaries are in locations where you need six-figure salaries to live – think NYC and LA.  Note that Columbia only had 65% working at a Biglaw firm, which means 35% may be working at jobs that cannot foot their tuition bill.
On the other hand, is attending a school with a lower tuition price worth the saving?  Sometimes the reputation you receive with your law school might be worth the higher price.  If the schools with more affordable price tags can’t establish the clout that these other schools have, it may make it more difficult for you to get a job at all – Biglaw or otherwise.  This means you could have years of job hunting to do, but still have tuition bills to pay.  Even if the debt burden is less, is it better?
Either decision is a risk in this job market.  Attempt to acquire as many scholarships as possible to give yourself the maximum opportunity.  Get a big name school with a nearly guaranteed Biglaw job offer at the price of the lower tuition schools to make it a win-win situation.  Of course this is easier said than done, and the effort you are willing to put in could make the decision for you.
On a side note, location can still play a big role toward your chances of employment.  Some firms favor their local schools.  Additionally, these Biglaw firms also have favorite law school selections.  The National Jurist also released this list of firms and where they prefer to recruit.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

4 Ways to Make Tax Day Better

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April 15th aka Tax Day is quickly approaching.  Make sure you take advantage of these deals and discounts this year!
  1. Discounted Tax Filing Services – Whether you file on the computer yourself or take it to a service, there are discounts to be had.   Search the web for updated promo codes like these software deals and tax filing service codes.
  2. Deductions – Did you make a charitable donation or pay down student debt?  These are just a few of the deductions that are available.  Make sure you have the correct documentation, and file those deductions to help lower what you owe in taxes.
  3. Free Food and Discounts – Companies and restaurants reach out to tax payers by providing special deals and discounts.  Many of these offers are on April 15th, but look for those that last for the entire month of April or the week of April 15th.  Some places require you to print out coupons.  Check with your local vendor to see if they are participating in the deals.  Here is a list reporting this year’s bargains for restaurant freebies and discounts. 
  4. Tax Refund – If you do receive a refund this year, try to fight the urge to splurge. Instead, invest it, make a student loan payment, pay off credit cards, buy needed textbooks, or just save it.  Everyone is tight on cash.  Receiving a tax return check feels like you are receiving free money and you’ll feel like you can blow it on anything.  Remember, if you get a refund, it’s because you overpaid on taxes during the year – it’s not free money; it’s the money you worked hard to earn.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Barrister on a Budget Blog Turns One!

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It’s been one year of tips for pre-law and law students, current student loan news, and financial strategy planning!  In honor of Barrister on a Budget Blog’s one year birthday, I’m bringing back your top five favorite blog posts!

Number 5:  5 Websites Everyone Should Bookmark…Besides Mine:  Information is everywhere!  It’s really difficult to narrow down where to get reliable and concise reports to help you get your law school questions answered.  Keeping these websites handy will save you a ton of time.

Number 4:  Government Shutdowns and Debt Limits Impact on Student Loans:  The fall of 2013 was the season of shutdowns and many of you wanted to know what potential side effects the closure of the U.S. Government would have on your wallet other than stagnated employment, postponed wages, and stalled government processing.  Fortunately, only one government shutdown occurred and student hardship was limited.

Number 3:  The House Passes Student Loan Bill:  Last summer’s hot button issue was what to do with the impending student loan crisis.  Barrister on a Budget brought you updates on this highlighted bill that changed student loan rates.  But, this post was just the beginning – make sure you get the most current information about this legislation HERE.

Number 2:  8 Gifts for Law Students This Holiday Season:  Say goodbye to gavels, briefcases, and quirky novelty gifts.  This gift list offers affordable and practical options.  Don’t forget…graduation is just around the corner.  Pass this list on!

Number 1:  5 To Dos for Law Students This Winter Break:  This post was by far the most popular post.  You have very few breaks during the school year, and sometimes all you want to do is catch up with friends, tv shows, and sleep.  But, you were smart and made sure to use your time productively to better your chances of employment and lessen your student loan burden…way to go!