OMG I was *so there* last year. I graduated in 2009 with nearly six figure debt, clerked for a year, then came out to nothing. It took me a year of stumbling from crappy job to crappy job to finally land a per diem mediating gig through a friend. Six months later, that office offered me a full time job, which is where I am now and I am stupid happy with it.
Don’t give up on law entirely. It’s not all just a game, and there are good lawyers out there who just want to be straight up and get the best results they can given the cirumcstances. Don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch for you. Keep plugging on the prosecutor job. If you really want to work with kids though, and make a difference, consider being a public defender or a law guardian (or the equivalent in your state- they’re the attorneys who represent the interests of the children in abuse and neglect cases). I actually really wanted to be a law guardian for a long time. And consider the state attorney general’s office too- you can make a huge difference there. Just remember that you are not going to like all of your clients- some of them are just assholes, and that’s no matter what side of the courtroom you stand on. And keep applying! Those agencies go through hiring fits and spurts. Our public defender’s office just hired 20 attorneys in the last three months, after not hiring a soul for a year and a half.
Stay in touch with your law school friends, and if you’re not already, get your butt on LinkedIn. I wouldn’t be where I am now but for my friend from law school who got me the per diem gig. My friends were my lifeline when I was job hunting- they kept me sane, encouraged me, and gave me leads. I can’t tell you how vital it is to keep those lines of communication open.
If you’re hell bent on getting out of traditional active practice, explore mediation. It really is a cool field that still lets you be a lawyer without having to go to court and argue cases. And all you do is listen and talk to people. Or look into court staff positions- in my state a lot of our court staff are lawyers or former lawyers.
Consider volunteering for CASA if there’s one in your area. They are child advocates, and it’s a great cause that will put you back in touch with what you originally wanted. Or look into being a victim witness advocate.
Don’t give up. I assume you’ve passed at least one bar at this point, don’t let that go to waste, it’s a huge accomplishment that is still worth something. If you get desperate for money, look into document review through a temp agency. The work sucks, not gonna lie, but it pays well and will keep you financially afloat and flexible enough to job hunt. Some people even end up enjoying it and staying on it for years, moving from project to project.
Also, private sector law practice will not have you at a computer all day. The six months I was a private practice attorney (personal injury, family, and criminal defense) I think I sat at the office maybe four hours a day, the rest of the time I was driving around and going to court.
Reconsider what you think it means to be a lawyer. No, law is not really about chasing justice- it’s about efficiency, economy, and getting the best result for your client. A friend of mine who’s a public defender said something great today on Facebook- something to the effect of she avoids juries because they tend to want facts, which distract from the winning legal argument. It was tongue-in-cheek, but she’s right. Law is not Law and Order, and it was hard for me to learn that the hard way too. You are not always going to like your client (in fact, you’ll usually hate them, and they’ll usually be 100% wrong), and there are blessedly few a ha moments.
My best advice is to keep applying for law jobs til you find something you like. You have the degree, you don’t have the money to finance another, so just suck it up and try different things. You might stumble on to something you like. Oddly enough, my favorite job I’ve ever had is a toss up between the mediation and when I was interning as a public defender for civil commitment hearings- representing people who were in mental institutions. I didn’t even know that work existed til I went in for the interview, but I took a shot and it was amazing.
Sorry if this is disjointed, I’m really tired and had a long day, but just… Keep plugging. The economy sucks, and law is undergoing some major changes because of it. But keep plugging. Try something new til you find something good- you eventually will.