Lawyers go through a process of development not unlike that of an assembly line for toys: college, LSAT, law school, bar. Then they hit the job market. Looking around like a confused Buzz Lightyear, they see it’s getting a bit crowded and congested, here in infinity and beyond. Firms aren’t hiring as much as they used to, and what’s this? 900+ applicants for one position that you’re overqualified for? “But I passed the bar!” you cry out. “I did everything right. I even found my law school love!” Behind you, an old custodian, sweeping the floor, his eyes never leaving his work, remarks, “So did a lot of other folks.” Startled, and perceiving this to be one of those movie moments from which springs an unexpected and lasting friendship, you turn around. “How would you know?” you inquire of the old man. He stops, corrects his posture, and says dramatically, “I’m you from the future.”
Well, no, the job market for lawyers is not so bleak as to start busing trays and sweeping floors. Lawyers can employ themselves at any time when they pass the bar–hanging out their shingle, as it’s called–with law offices named after themselves. Without an established reputation, though, getting a share of the corporate market is slim. Remember, it takes a corporate client to be a corporate lawyer. That’s where law firms come in; they know how to get things done and already have clients to pay the bills. Corporations are also more inclined to hire you as in-house counsel if you’ve worked in a law firm for several years handling their business. They’ve got to keep their friends close, and their lawyers even closer.