They are both 28 and embryonic lawyers, but there the comparison ends. One, near the top of her class at one of the most highly-ranked law schools in the country, is on the yellow brick road to big bucks and a career in any area of the law she picks. The other, who graduated in the middle of his class from a lesser-ranked school, is pounding Washington's pavements looking for any kind of job in the profession.
They illustrate the two extremes of the legal job market, where those with the best marks at a handful of top-tier law schools around the country are being courted by major firms willing to pay new graduates as much as $30,000 a year. Others who graduate from less-prestigious law schools or have lower grades find it hard to get any job in the profession at all.
"Firms are not keeping up with the number of attorneys we are putting out," said Jacky Mass, placement director of the Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Neb.
"The big firms are growing a lot faster than the legal profession as a whole," added Edward J. Reisner, assistant dean at the University of Wisconsin Law Schol. "They are the ones who are actively recruiting, going to more and more law schools looking for a few top people. Meanwhile, the majority of every law school is finding it harder and harder to get jobs."
For example, as top-ranked student at a prestigious West Coast school was flown to Washington and New York this month by major firms that want to hire her for a summer job between her second and final year. Most likely this will lead to an offer of a regular job after graduation.
One indication of the interest the major firms have in these few top law students is the money they are willing to pay even before they graduate as a lure to get them to join the firm once they become full-fledged lawyers. These salaries, experts say, are far more than the students are worth as far as the work they produce.
One major New York firm -- Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison -- ofered $550 a week to summer law students this year. That firm is one of the nation's salary pacesettes; beginning lawyers, fresh from law school are paid $30,000.
Washington's largest firm, Covington & Building, offers slightly less -- 90 percent of the $28,000 it now starts its lawyers, or $485 a week.
West Coast firms pay considerably less to their summer associates -- $400 to $450 a week in Los Angeles and $360 to $400 in San Francisco.
The process of being wooed by these top firms is an exhilarating experience for some students, who relish the notion of being taken to the ritziest restaurants in a city be groups of its top lawyers.
Some students have made the coast-to-coast flight as many as three times this fall at different law firms' expense. In one class at a West Coast school, as the professor called the roll the students would identify their absent colleagues by calling out the name of the cities they were interviewing in -- Now York, Washington, Chicago, Boston.
Los Angeles firms are the nicest, said the woman from the top-ranked West Coast school who has been offered a job at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, one of the biggest and best firms in that city.
"They tracked me down in the Law Review office -- there I was sitting in my jeans -- and took me out to lunch and dinner, flew me down for interviews, wrote me letters," she said. "It's hard to keep it all in perspective; I come home and my mailbox is full every day with three or four letters saying, "We want you.'"
The future is secure for those students. Unless they do extremely badly during the summer they are sure to be offered full time employment once they graduate.
Even if the student does not like the law firm, an offer from a major firm can be converted into a ticket to many other jobs in the field, including scarce government posts and prestigious judicial clerkships.
"If I make the right choice how I'm really set," the young woman at the top-ranked West Coast school said. "I won't ever have to worry about grades any more because no one will look at my transcripts again. I'm trying to enjoy it. I'll never be as sought-after for the rest of my life."
It's not such a rosy picture for the bulk of the more than 33,000 law students who graduate each year from schools accredited by the American Bar Association -- an increase of 5,000 new law graduates a year since 1974.
The young man who graduated in the top fifth of his class from a lesser-ranked southern law school, for example, has been beating the bushes in Washington looking for a job.
He has sent out 70 to 80 letters containing his resume to general counsels' offices of most government agencies and has received no positive response. On Capitol Hill, where he worked before going to law school, he was told to wait till after the election. Even tips culled from the bulletin goards of placement offices in Washington's law schools have produced frustration instead of jobs.
He learned, for instance, that a Montgomery County Circuit judge needed a clerk -- a job paying $14,500 a year -- but found 100 applicants there ahead of him.
"When I heard that, I really got scared," he said.
Neither he nor the woman on the yellow brick road wanted their names or law schoosl used in this article -- one because it might embarrass the law firms that are courting her, the other becauser "it's humilating enough to be unemployed."
"Everyone thinks you get out of law school and fall into a job easily," the graduate of the southern school said. "I felt I would be fairly marketable in this city. I went to a fairly decent law school, I did well. But my resume just joins the stack of others in law offices."
His big mistake, he things now, was not joining the law review -- that highly prestigious journal of current legal theories and historical analysis that draws the best students and is a key factor in being hired.
Instead he said he opted for practical experience, working as a clerk for a U.S. magistrate, in a state attorney general's office and, during the summer of 1977, in a program here that allowed law students to appear in court helping people who can't afford to hire their own lawyers.
"I find that didn't seem to make a hell of a lot of difference," he said. "It seems to be very cut and dried -- the law school you went to and whether you were law review."
Adding to his frustration is the U.S. job freeze imposed by President Carter as part of the anti-inflation program. The young man is one of 400 applicants to 14 beginning-level attorney jobs at the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, but now "everything's frozen," he said. "They don't know how many attorneys they will be able to hire."
He's not the only one in that position. He says a friend knows of four George Washington law graduates job hunting and another friend from his school is unemployed here.
That surprised him "Graduates are drawn to Washington," he said, "because there are so many thousands of legal jobs here. Between the federal government, private firms, the judiciary, Capitol Hill, public interest firms and lawyers for trade associations, I always thought there would be a good opportunity in Washington.
"You would reall think there would be a lot of jobs."
His next move is to go door-to-door in the office buildings around Farragut Square -- which one Washington lawyer once remarked contain more attorneys than his entire home state of Oklahoma -- in the hopes of landing some kind of a job.
If any lawyer, does see him from one of those offices, very likely it will be a graduate from a higher-ranked law school who worked on the law review -- and who never had to pound the pavements looking for a job.