If anything, though, students are being forced to rethink their career plans rather than accept defeat altogether. Many students who might ordinarily toil at a high-paying firm, he says, are considering using Harvard's clout to land public-interest jobs instead. Bonus: many of these jobs help students pay off their loans. Yet a fallback for some is a goal for others like White, who now land at the bottom of the résumé pile, thanks to Ivy students snatching up coveted public-interest positions.
"The [Harvard] name does help," says Aune. "If you have one job that has fallen through, it's not necessarily impossible to go seek out another one; career services will aggressively help you. A lot of 1Ls [first-year law students] who might have sought firm work might do public interest — in my experience, firms are hiring many fewer 1Ls for the summer than 2Ls. For them, it wasn't even worth trying to making it work."
Indeed, newer students seem content to bide their time and seize their moment when the economy improves. Courtney Houston-Carter, 23, a first-year at Suffolk Law School, is delighted to take refuge in the library for the next two years. "Some of my professors teach 3Ls also, and they've come to class and are saying, 'You guys are lucky to be 1Ls, not graduating this year.' I can definitely can say that among my peers, among the first years, there's a gratifying knowledge that we're in school for another two years."
Incoming students likewise hope to ride out the recession while gaining new skills, and re-emerge into a brighter, more welcoming real world. Nationwide, law-school applications are up two percent from last year.
But White offers up some jaded perspective from the trenches: "Over the next two years, it's going to be an absolute mess for people," she says. "It will make them think long and hard about going to law school. It's an insecure feeling — a feeling you're not used to having when you're in school."
Kara Baskin's education prepared her to argue the law of the jungle in the court of public opinion. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .