[Letters] Challenges for law school graduates

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[Letters] Challenges for law school graduates

It is the fourth year that professional law schools have been in operation in Korea. The first class of students who completed the three-year professional graduate programs is going to graduate and be employed after passing examination and completing on-site internships. Yet it is estimated that only 500 of the 1,500 law school graduates have solid job offers - 1,000 are expected to become unemployed as soon as they become attorneys.

There are demands to expand hiring of the law school graduates at public and private sectors. The lawyers whose practices are stable at the moment are nervous as they will be faced with new competitors. However, their worries are not as serious as the graduates who do not yet have job offers.

However, I’m reluctant to wish government agencies and companies to hire law school graduates. The citizens will not supported preferential treatment of a certain profession. A handful in the first few years would benefit, but jobs won’t be left for those graduating later on.

Also, it is against the essence of the legal profession. The vocation of a lawyer is to advocate human rights and stand up against the abuse of power. We cannot expect the lawyers employed by major law firms representing and counseling corporations and government agencies to fulfill such duties. When the clients are the ones with power, the lawyers cannot truly stand up against them when conscience dictates.

There are areas that require the function of legal professionals but established lawyers have not found very profitable. Labor, immigration and bankruptcy lawyers are much in demand. Even those who are powerless are willing to pay a fee to the lawyers to defend or regain interests and freedoms that would otherwise be exploited by the powerful.

Most lawyers live and operate within their means. They use public transportation to travel to public agencies and courts. Lawyers have set up small offices in the Guro Digital Complex now, and there should be lawyers with a desk and a laptop within the Namdaemun Market.

You can make appointments with lawyers by cell phone and meet at coffee shops for consultation. Some lawyers aspire to become the Barack Obama of Korea as they labor in lowly civil groups. If they can’t adjust to the changes, they will become dead weight and be weeded out like the rest.

I do not believe in the claims that doubt the competency of the lawyers. They may not have as much detailed knowledge as the lawyers who passed the national bar exam and received two years of field training. However, they may have an edge in creative legal affairs as they are not overly accustomed to judicial precedents and dogmas. Also, it does not take highly advanced expertise to provide routine services to individual clients.

What’s worrisome is the money that students have to shell out to attend law school. In addition to the direct expense to prepare for the admission and attend classes, the opportunity cost for not being able to engage in economic activities is very expensive.

Brilliant yet poor Koreans may be ruled out from the possibility of climbing the social ladder by passing the examination after intensively studying in a short period of time. The lower and middle class citizens dreaming of ascending to the upper level should be allowed their hopes.


Kim Kwan-ki, a lawyer and the adjunct professor at the Sogang University School of Law
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