Solos and Smalls Using Slave Labor: Have You No Shame?

Last month, several media outlets reported on the growing backlash against employers who violate labor law rules for unpaid internships. Since I’d previously spoken out against use of free labor by solos and smalls from both an ethical and legal perspective, I decided to do a little sleuthing to see whether firms had changed their ways in light of heightened scrutiny of internship practices.

Simply put, I was horrified by what I found.

My research wasn’t detailed or scientific. I simply went to the site and typed in the term “law firm.”  This produced dozens of listings  for intern positions as social media coordinators, research assistants, office administrators and case management experts – on a part-time, unpaid basis.

What’s worse from my perspective is that the vast majority of the postings for free labor came from solo and small firms. By contrast, one of the few paid positions was sought by a 70-person firm. What’s also disheartening is that if you Google some of the firms that posted at the site, you find that they have fairly healthy online presence – so clearly, they do have money to pay for some services (or perhaps “had” money and now want to cut back).  

Solos and smalls engaged in these practice make the rest of us look bad. When there are firms too cheap to pay college students or young lawyers and too stupid to know better, it reflects poorly on other solos and smalls by conveying the impression that we’re fly by night, financially unstable operations.  If you have solo or small firm colleagues who are hiring law students for office jobs and other tasks without paying them, tell them to stop or report them to the Department of Labor. (Note: I do not include internship-for-credit programs because students receive an educational benefit).


  1. Prattle On, Boyo on March 18, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Hello & welcome to indentured servitude 2014 style. Feudal Europe has absolutely nothing on American so called “job creators,” particularly law firms. Whether large or solo, absolutely none of them to pay support staff beyond the barest minimum. They all want decades of experience, a minimum Master’s degree, or preferably a J.D. and certifications. For compensation you can expect $9.00/hr. assuming the position is not an internship in which case you shall labor for free under the theory that it is a privilege to work as a serf.

  2. hotdog on March 18, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    My first job during law school was with a solo who was working on a murder which he was appointed. I was not paid, but was able to get quite a bit of experience I thought was very valuable.

    After a few months it turned into a situation where I was paid for my work. I was grateful I had the opportunity to start and get experience somewhere, I would do it again.

  3. LearningLawyer on March 25, 2014 at 10:57 am

    The last intern/paralegal I hired told me that it was the first paying law-related position she’d had. She’d had several past law-related positions.

  4. td on April 14, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Carolyn, you serve as advisor to Legalforce a company that as recently as two years ago, under its previous name, paid attorneys as little as $9/hr. Have you no shame?

Leave a Comment