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Finding Jobs in Ithaca

The legal job market in Ithaca is a highly competitive one. (Some estimate that there are almost as many lawyers per capita in Ithaca as in Washington, D.C.!) The Tompkins County Bar Association has about 150 active members, most of whom are in general practice in small firms located in downtown Ithaca. Many of these firms hire law students for summer positions as well as for part-time work during the academic year. Salary is generally comparable to that of a law faculty research assistant (approximately $10.00 per hour). Few of these firms advertise openings. Interested students are advised to contact firms directly by mail or in person. Many students have succeeded in locating summer and part-time Ithaca employment by literally “pounding the pavement” distributing resumes and statements of interest to a variety of law firms.

In addition to the private practice of law in Tompkins County, a number of attorneys are employed in the District Attorney's office, the City Attorney's office, the Office of the Law Guardian, Neighborhood Legal Services, and other agencies. Occasionally such offices have sufficient funds to pay a modest amount or to pay a work-study contribution. Sometimes students have volunteered their time in order to gain valuable experience. Students interested in term time volunteer legal positions in the Ithaca area should touch base with Karen Comstock, the Career Services Office's Assistant Dean for Public Service.

Cornell University is the source of a number of summer and part-time opportunities for law students. Law faculty and administrators routinely hire research assistants both during the academic year and during the summer. Most faculty list their hiring needs in Scoops. A number of teachers in other Cornell divisions hire law students as teaching assistants and graders for undergraduate law-related courses, such as Business Law and Communication Law. Finally, the Cornell University Counsel's Office routinely hires four or five summer law clerks, and conducts publicized interviews for these positions through the Career Services Office. In addition, the Counsel's office sometimes hires part-time law clerks during the academic year.

Full-time legal positions for law graduates are difficult to obtain in the Ithaca area. However, a few graduates with patience and persistence have generally succeeded in establishing solid careers in Ithaca each year. A few of the larger Ithaca firms occasionally have a need for a full-time associate, although often several years of law practice experience is a prerequisite. Starting salaries vary widely, from the low 20's to the 50's, depending upon the firm and the individual hired. New lawyers often are faced with either “hanging out a shingle” or working in the offices of an established practitioner who offers “space for time”.