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Open Job At Boston Law Firm Pays Just $10,000 Per Year

By Lisa van der Pool, Boston Business Journal
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BOSTON (CBS) – By now, most people know a law degree hardly guarantees law school graduates will snag a good job, let alone a high-paying BigLaw position.

But it may be even tougher than you think to get a high-paying legal job just out of law school. Hiring law firms, if you thought you were lowballing new grads, think again.

The BBJ received an emailed tip this week from someone who says they’re an employed, Boston College Law School (BC Law) graduate. The tipster sent screen grabs of a job listing on BC Law’s career site. The post advertises a full-time associate position at a small Boston law firm, Gilbert & O’Bryan LLP, paying just $10,000 per year. (That’s $10K, it’s not a typo.)

Larry O’Bryan, one of the firm’s partners, said he’s received about 32 applications for the $10K per year job, since posting it one week ago. He said that while the pay is low, the lawyer who is eventually hired will gain valuable experience.

“What we emphasize is that we do provide the opportunity for new associates to have their own case load right from the start,” said O’Bryan.

Workers working full-time with four weeks’ vacation at Massachusetts’ minimum wage of $8 would be paid more than $15,000. At the federal minimum wage of $7.25, a worker would earn nearly $14,000 in a year. Maybe BC Law grads should take a look at a slide show published by Boston Business Journal earlier this month: 50 Boston jobs under $50K.

The job post reads: “Compensation is mainly based on percentage of work billed and collected … We expect an associate to earn $10,000 in compensation in the first year.”

Ouch.

Here’s what the BC grad has to say about the job post he found:

“I keep an eye on the Boston legal market for openings, because I work outside of MA, and hope to eventually return. Logging onto BC Law Symplicity today, I was shocked to see my alma mater is advertising a full-time job at a small Boston firm where the compensation is expected to be $10,000 per year. Assuming a 40 hour work week, 52 weeks per year, that’s less than $5 per hour by my calculations. To be exact, $4.81 per hour, which is a fraction of minimum wage. For a school that pays cafeteria workers a “living wage,” I find it astonishing that BC Law permits a listing for such an unconscionably low salary.”

BC Law advertises that its 2010 graduates are making $160,000 a year at the median working for private law firms, their first year out of law school. BC Law students pay $44,000 per year to study at the school.

On its face, a job that pays $10K annually for a full-time lawyer raises serious questions about whether the firm is in compliance with wage and hour laws, said Josh Davis, an employment partner with Boston-based Goulston & Storrs.

“In general an employee who is not exempt from wage and hour requirements has to be paid minimum wage for every hour they work,” said Davis. “If an exemption applies, that may not be true.”

There is a professional exemption for professionals like lawyers and doctors, but in those cases people must still be paid around $450 per week, said Davis.

BC Law spokesman Nate Kenyon issued a statement in response to BBJ questions about the job posting.

“In this challenging legal environment, we feel that it’s better to post any opportunity that offers our graduates a chance to gain legal experience. Other job postings on the same site offer far more in terms of compensation. Of course there will be outliers on both the high and low sides, but our policy is to post any paid legal position that’s submitted from a legitimate source,” said Kenyon.

Kenyon went on to write: “BC Law does not edit or add commentary on any job posted through Symplicity, our online job database–this posting was written by the firm that submitted it. We wouldn’t necessarily endorse a full-time job that pays $10,000 a year, but there may be graduates who feel that the experience combined with health and retirement benefits are worth it. We offer counseling and advice, but it’s up to them to decide whether to apply for the position–just as it’s up to them whether to apply for the positions offering $160,000, or a public interest position or clerkship that might offer a different kind of work experience.”

“I graduated from BC Law in 2011, and am employed out-of-state after a long, arduous job search. … To say the least, this kind of ad is demoralizing,” wrote the tipster.

In addition to $10K per year, the Gilbert & O’Bryan job posting also notes: “This is an excellent position for a new lawyer or someone returning to a legal career, and a good place to learn how to practice law with real clients. … Benefits include malpractice insurance, health insurance, employer paid clothing allowance and an MBTA pass. Former employees have gone on to prominence in other firms, government and private practice.”

Lisa van der Pool of the Boston Business Journal can be seen weekdays at 6 a.m. on WBZ-TV.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter at @lvanderpool.

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