Stanford Law students are turning their anxiety about the job market into action this weekend.
This afternoon and tomorrow, Stanford’s Building a Better Legal Profession organization is hosting students from across the nation for a series of panel discussions about the economic model of large corporate law firms.
There will be peeks into the minds of managing partners whose firms have had layoffs and there will be laid-off associates sharing their experiences. Panelists will be kicking around radical ideas such as unionizing associates at law firms so that they’d have more say in layoff decisions. Ralph Nader will present via teleconference Saturday.
Students are scared because they’re in the dark, said BBLP organizer and second-year Davida Brook. “There’s a lot of anxiety because there’s very little honest discussion about how decisions are being made about who’s getting laid off, and why some firms are laying off and others are not,” she said. “Our understanding is that all these people laid off are will be replaced by us when we graduate.”
One question Brook said she’d like to ask managing partners is how her summer job last year at a public interest organization might affect her chances at a corporate law firm. “Will they assume that I’m not really interested in corporate law and I’m only there to pay off my loans?”
Stanford Professor Michele Dauber, who advises BBLP, said all panel discussions are open to the public. One of the goals is to mobilize students and clients to put market pressure on firms to reform their workplaces to reduce female and minority attrition rates, she said.
Professor Dauber said about 100 people are slated to attend the conference, including 31 students from the nation’s top 20 law schools who will receive organizer training in a closed session so they can help students organize on their home campuses.
For students wondering how to select a firm to work for, Dauber points to BBPL’s site, which offers a score card showing how various law firms are doing in minority and women lawyer retention. She said one way students can have an impact is to reward diverse firms by interviewing with them and accepting their job offer. “These firms have figured out how to advance the careers of people from different demographic backgrounds,” she said.
The first panel session starts today at 3 p.m. on the topic of profitability at the elite corporate law firm and how that model affects associates of different backgrounds. All panels after noon on Saturday are closed to the public, to allow for organizer training. The full schedule can be found here.
Ed. note: Petra is a reporter who covers law school for Cal Law.