Sunday, January 29, 2012

A “lost generation” of land use lawyers?

We all know it is a tough time for young lawyers out there, but I wonder if it may be even harder for those interested in land use law.  I was lucky enough to land an associate position doing land use and environmental law straight out of law school.  I don’t know if I would have the same fate in today’s market:  as we all know, the construction industry remains in a deep slump in all but a few markets, and only a few major public works projects still have the green light.  Only a few hot markets are keeping “dirt” lawyers busy on the developer side, and with many local governments pinching pennies on the regulatory side, it seems to me now is a particularly difficult time to try to enter into the land use law field. 

That leaves me wondering what this group of professors can do beyond students’ law school graduation to foster the next generation of land use practitioners, which I believe is part of our mission.  Personally, I have contemplated creating a “fellows” program associated with my economic development clinic that would permit those interested in land use and related fields to retain a foothold in the field and exhibit their continued interest to employers down the road.  Whatever approach taken, I think it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure there is not a “lost generation” of land use lawyers out there, and that the practitioner field remains vital and gets growth opportunities in their early, formative years of practice. 

What other ideas could we pursue?  Perhaps this is a subject for a panel at an upcoming conference?

Stephen Miller

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I would be very interested in other's thoughts on this topic. I started out as a land use paralegal. I went to law school to become a land use attorney. I have been looking for 2 years and can't find any firm that is willing to hire a first year associate.

Posted by: Russell | Jan 30, 2012 8:48:37 AM

I find my students who end up working on land use issues usually end up at firms doing all types of local government and government relations practice, and land use is only a portion of their practice. I think the fact that they have practical experience from participation in my clinic helps them a great deal in the job market, as it is true that few firms are hiring young associates to do only land use practice.

Students can get lots of experience volunteering to sit on local planning commissions, downtown development authorities, etc. This is certainly a practice area you can work your way into over time, with patience and lots of networking.

Posted by: Jamie Baker Roskie | Feb 1, 2012 7:10:05 AM

I second what Jamie Baker Roskie has posted. I am a first year attorney, and I am about to start at a local government firm. Any firm I could find that focused in land use or environmental law simply wasn't hiring, and the developers' and financiers' firms seemed to only be hiring first-years to work on foreclosures...

Posted by: Brandon | Feb 1, 2012 8:14:38 AM