Three years ago I was just a few weeks into law school, I was becoming the mortal enemy of my Torts Professor, who thought me an idiot and made fun of me in front of a large group of my peers, and I was studying harder than I'd ever studied in my life. I'd applied to a number of law schools, but I applied late in the game (which meant some schools wouldn't even consider my application, and other schools had already filled up on their average students and were saving their last few slots for exceptional ones--and as my undergrad grades weren't exceptional, they didn't accept me). A handful of quality law schools did accept me. Of these, the University of Cincinnati was both the most affordable (in-state tuition the first year, some scholarship money, and public) and best (most highly ranked--on par with the University of Utah Law School). It was a long ways away from home, but April and I visited beforehand and I was very impressed by the law school--much friendlier than my visit to the U of U. April interviewed and found full-time work (which changed to Saturday-only work once Peter was born).
I made a handful of friends. Four of us formed a study group (the only two Mormons in our class, plus two religious Catholics--Sam and Jesse--who were both around my age and both married). I never felt very smart in our study group, so I was surprised when I got back grades for the semester--I was in the top 10% of my class. The other members of the study group had also done well, especially Jesse, who was first or second in the class (out of about 120). Best of all, I got an "A" on my Torts exam, and therefore an "A" in the class (shocking my professor, I'm sure).
Second semester I also excelled, again making (just barely) top 10%. Peter was born half-way through the semester. Soon after exams ended, I found a job with a law firm (I was the only first-year student they interviewed, but somehow managed to beat out all the second-year students). At about the same time I was also called as Elder's Quorum President in my small ward. I worked full-time that summer, and kept working part-time when I returned to school in the fall. My grades dropped a bit (down to top 15%, and then my last semester down to top 20%). I spent a second summer at the law firm, and continued working there until I graduated. I also continued serving as EQP. A few months before I finished law school, the Cincinnati office of my firm laid off two of their seven attorneys. They informed me they wouldn't be able to hire me as an attorney after law school.
I did a few interviews in Ohio and Kentucky, but was unable to find work. With no job prospects, we decided to move back to Idaho. I'd interviewed at a couple of jobs in Idaho over Christmas break (in Twin Falls and Pocatello), but no luck. With far fewer jobs available due to the job market (which hit both attorneys and new graduates particularly hard) my competition was much stiffer. Once we moved back I applied for jobs and studied for the Idaho Bar. Degen (pronounced "Day gun") was born. I interviewed for jobs in Twin Falls and Boise, again with no luck. I took the bar, April started working per diem at a nearby hospital (hospital jobs seem to be recession-proof), and I've been a stay-at-home dad since. I spend several hours a day searching for and applying for jobs, do the shopping, cooking and dishes, and take care of a two-year-old and an infant.
After the bar, I drove down to Carson City, Nevada for an interview, and the Geo's transmission decided to go out on me 40 minutes outside of Twin Falls. Tow, transmission replacement, rental car, and an extra night of hotel ran about $1,400. We thought about just getting rid of the car, but we can't afford a replacement right now, and it's our only vehicle. I thought that after such a difficult experience things would get better (maybe, for example, I'd get the Carson City job), but no such luck.
I did pass the bar. Of course, it's the Idaho bar, and most the people I was competing against were graduates of a bottom-of-the-barrel law school (the University of Idaho), but it was still a relief to pass.
Last week I talked over the phone with an attorney in small-town Montana; it was basically an interview, and he invited me up to Montana for a second, in-person interview. The day before the interview he called me to tell me he found someone else for the position. The next day, a job opened up in Boise, and I set up an interview for that. Again, the day before the interview (today), I received a phone call telling me the job had already been filled. I'd already paid for the hotel room (and it's not refundable).
So I'm incredibly frustrated at how things are going. When I started law school, the economy was fine. UC grads were getting good jobs. It's not like I went to graduate school to study English or History--I did graduate work that almost guaranteed a decent job after graduation. And I worked incredibly hard for three years so that I could get a good job. Now, with a moderate amount of student debt, two kids, expensive car repairs and two cancelled interviews, not to mention an empty bank account, I'm struggling. I'm applying for jobs as far away as rural Alaska and D.C. (and for graduate work in Belgium). I enjoy being closer to family, but part of me wishes we'd stayed in Ohio, where I had friends nearby and a friendly, welcoming ward to go to each Sunday.
If you hear of a job opening that has anything to do with the law--even if it isn't specifically an "attorney" job--let me know. And I'll keep searching, applying, and (hopefully) interviewing. Wish me luck. In this economy, I'll need it.