The small Boston law firm Gilbert & O’Bryan that is seeking to hire an associate for a first-year salary of $10,000 is being mostly mocked and ridiculed.

But not by everyone.

As of this writing, at least 50 people have applied for the job.

Is this just another sign of how bad the law job market is, and how greedy law firms are trying to take advantage? Or might this be a good opportunity for a new lawyer in the right circumstances?

Larry O’Bryan, one of two partners at the firm, told the ABA Journal that the low first-year salary allows it to hire and train new lawyers, and that the firm is proud of them when they move on to other jobs after they gain valuable experience. He also noted that the firm has hired more than twenty associates in this fashion. While many new lawyers can’t afford to take so low a salary, those with working spouses can make it work. Basically, O’Bryan seems to suggest that it can afford to pay only this low salary to a new associate who needs extensive training.

The ABA Journal article about this job has (as of this writing) generated upwards of 200 comments, and not all of them expressed a negative view of the firm.

A frequent commenter at the website, who posts as “B. McLeod” started an entertaining (and, at times, informative) debate when he wrote:

Last few years, I have seen some young lawyers having to take unpaid volunteer work to get the experience they need to move on. This position is $10,000 better than that, plus the partners are providing some valuable mentoring. They are also doing significantly more than the firms that aren’t hiring any young lawyers at any salary, so I see no reason to pick on them for making this opportunity available.

As easy as it is to mock any legitimate law firm that would pay a new lawyer significantly less than the minimum wage, one has to wonder if, assuming everything O’Bryan is saying is true, this job might not be better than working a completely non-law job.

After all, it’s certainly true that it’s new lawyers’ inexperience and lack of useful skills that makes it difficult for many firms to hire them. This firm is at least hiring someone, albeit at an absurdly low pay rate. But it pays more than an unpaid internship.

And the fact that 50 people (who I suppose we can assume figure they can survive for a year while grossing $10K) have applied suggests that any opportunity to learn how to practice law is better than no opportunity at all.

What do you think?

(photo: Sad boy image from Shutterstock)

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