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Boston firm offer below minimum-wage gig; attracts 32 applicants

Posted by: Laurence Simons 01/06/12

Gilbert & O'Bryan reckon $10,000 buys a full-time associate

Aw, reminiscence time. Remember when the dot-com bubble burst? How we used to laugh, watching those who went to work in sweatpants sobbing while riding a Segway. The turn of the Millennium truly was the best of times.

But now, what with the economy going 'a little bit sour', the bubble has shifted. No more do we mock as Silicon Valley billionaires release awkward-looking wedding photos. Now, the bubble label has popped up on the well-worn path between US law school and Biglaw firms in the city. It's called the Law School Bubble, and it's huge.

And as a result of law graduates being so desperate for a salary to start chipping away at those average $160,000 fees debts with, it seems some unscrupulous firms (read: just 'law firms') are taking advantage - as a Boston College Law School tipster proved after flagging a job listing for a below minimum wage gig.

"Logging onto BC Law Symplicity today, I was shocked to see my alma mater advertising a full-time job at a small Boston firm where the compensation is expected to be $10,000 per year," the anonymous Boston graduate told the Above the Law blog.

"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 the minimum wage."

And as the tipster notes, what's sadder still is the fact the BC Law - whose website still lists a $160,000 median starting salary for newly-qualified graduates as part of its prospectus - gives a platform for this 'excellent position' (one that pays less than the staff in the school's canteen receive).

When faced with backlash from the job listing - it's been a week, and the internet runs fast and easily outraged these days - Gilbert & O'Bryan LLP partner Larry O'Bryan told the Boston Business Journal that despite the criminally low wage on offer, the firm had already seen 32 applications.

"What we emphasise is that we do provide the opportunity for new associates to have their own case load right from the start," he said, while presumably expecting them to live outdoors in a greasy cardboard box.

Meanwhile, BC Law spokesperson and job-haver Nate Kenyon defended the career portal's actions, saying: "In this challenging legal environment, we feel that it's better to post any opportunities that offer our graduates a chance to gain legal experience." Alright, Nate. Just don't be mad when we can't sue each other in the future because all the law grads are high-flying canteen employees.