Law in Contemporary Society

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JesseRamosSecondEssay 5 - 01 Jun 2023 - Main.JesseRamos
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Bleaching the Blue Collar: Making a Union Law Practice

-- By JesseRamos - 12 May 2023


I was raised in a union family. My uncles were union contractors who have since retired, and my mother is a part of the IBEW Local 701. When construction was not frequent and there was no movement in the books, the union stepped in to provide us with our bare necessities. While we weren’t always financially stable, our circumstances could have been much worse without our bi-weekly subsidies and reasonable insurance coverage. When my mother stepped away from the union to work for a factory that makes electrical transformers, our safety net became notably smaller–our insurance plans covered less, and we were at risk of losing our family home. Seeing the toll this took on my mother reinforced my understanding of unions as essential for blue collar workers; a means of getting what should be the bare minimum.


The labor law field is broad, and I understand that labor lawyers can be both pro- and anti-union. Large employee benefits and labor law firms often act as union busters or work on behalf of large companies to find an “equilibrium.” The equilibrium is usually the number of benefits that gets people to fill the positions without being too financially straining on the profits of the company’s executives. Although lawyers in this field would never characterize their work as such, they essentially make their money by short-ending workers on behalf of their clients. My practice likely leads me down one of two paths: representing union workers in employee benefits matters and contracts negotiations, or in litigation against contractors who breach a term within the agreed-upon contract. The former seems more suited to my skillset, while the latter would be more morally gratifying as an advocate. In other words, I consider myself to be a task-oriented person and an excellent negotiator, but I would take more pleasure out of litigating breaches of contract that affect blue collar workers as they have affected my family in the past. The best way to settle which path I should go down is through meeting people and having my own work experiences, and perhaps I could cultivate a third path could incorporates both niches.


Although I am originally from Chicago, New York is a very pro-union city in ways that Chicago is not. There are pros and cons to this¬: Chicago is most likely in dire need of a good union lawyer, but the union lawyer network is likely stronger in New York. Thus, it could be worthwhile to spend my early career in New York meeting as many union lawyers as possible while developing my skillset in a city that will never run out of need for my practice. Once I can establish myself, it may be easier to bring my practice to Chicago and become a leader in communities like the one that raised me could depend on for representation. From a practical standpoint, I see myself settling in Chicago long-term because my family is there, real estate is more accessible, and I have more intimate networking leads there.

With Whom?

There is an abundance of firms in the New York are that specialize in different areas within labor law. Some of these firms represent unions directly, such as Pitt LLP, Hach & Rose LLP, and Cary Kane LLP. These firms likely vary in their clients and expertise, so the next step would be to cold email some of their associates and arrange a time to talk this summer. I could get a better feel of what their day to day looks like, who they find themselves representing most often, and whether they view the work as both rewarding and well-paid. Part of having a strong practice is identifying what it is that people need that I could provide, so apart from working professionals I will reach out directly to labor law scholars to discuss pressing legal issues in the labor law field. This will help me better identify what I want my own practice to focus on so that I can ensure my expertise is relevant and in high demand. Finally, advocating for unions is a very political job–union representatives often engage in lobbying, strikes, and other boots-on-the-ground strategies where collective bargaining may fall short. The summer is a great opportunity to go out onto the streets where these strikes are, sit in on city hall meetings, and chat with the workers themselves to get first-hand testimony of what services they need most. Once I begin to meet people, I will have greater certainty of with whom I will practice alongside.

How Much?

The question of “how much” depends on the answer to every other question. Living in New York over Chicago will require that I earn more money given the cost-of-living differences. If I choose to work for a firm like the ones I have mentioned, how much I earn depends purely on how much they can pay me. How much I can make from my own practice depends on how many clients I have and how much they are willing to pay me by the hour for my services. In general, my expectations are not high. I learned to live bellow my means by way of my upbringing, and I do not need to live a lavish lifestyle to feel fulfilled. However, a professional degree comes with a large amount of student debt. Ideally, I would like to make between $150,000 and $200,000 if living in New York. This could ensure that I live comfortably in a rented apartment with a home office and am able to pay my student loans in a reasonable time. In Chicago, I can live under the same circumstances with less, likely between the $125,000 and $175,000. Assuming I can charge $100 to $200 an hour for litigation services or contracts negotiations matters and am able to bill between 1,600 and 2,000 hours, these figures should be feasible.

Yes, this was the revision you needed to make. You have far to go, still, but that's an immensity of progress. Strategy is now possible, because you are defining objectives and assessing required resources. You have clearly identified what and who you don't know yet. You can make plans. Go to it.

Revision 5r5 - 01 Jun 2023 - 00:09:33 - JesseRamos
Revision 4r4 - 15 May 2023 - 16:03:12 - EbenMoglen
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