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Messages - NeoElle

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Current Law Students / Re: Three Years of Hell To Become The Devil
« on: March 23, 2007, 08:33:13 PM »
Legal Depression

Probably because it's the beginning of my first year, and I'm not really 'assimilated' into the culture of law yet, I'm being struck by a few observations. The foremost of these is that, at least by all appearances, lawyers may be a generally wealthy group, and may, on average, be smarter than their peers, but they do not seem to be a happy lot.

With the single exception of The Civ Pro Blogger, I don't know of a single practicing young lawyer (not in pro bono work or with some burning issue driving them) who would consider themselves mostly happy with their work, surely not enough to wax lyrical about it. It's a matter of legend (though I could probably provide blog references if I weren't up to my eyeballs) that people working at Big New York Law Firms are depressed and overstressed corporate drones. One young female lawyer who serves as a role model for me has, I've found out, decided to take a retreat to a Buddhist monastery this summer to get away from it all. (So that's why there weren't many emails.) On a slightly more academic level, one of the better pieces in Looking Back on Law's Century discusses in great detail the low level of job satisfaction endemic in the profession.

This doesn't bother me too greatly on a personal level: I have my own reasons for going to law school and becoming a lawyer, and whatever the problems, it serves my needs. But it does make me wonder why a lot of very intelligent people have managed to develop a system that makes them, at the same time, almost unjustifiably wealthy and yet certainly not proportionately happy.

While I'm learning about Civ Pro, Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law, I also want to spend some time wondering about why we've set up the profession this way, and what can be done to change it. So far as I can tell, for all the pro bono craziness that goes on in this place, it might not be a new Kuntsler or Cardozo who's needed. Perhaps, and it's just a thought, the greatest public good might be done by a new Hammurabi or Solon, particularly with a bent towards making the practice of law more humane not just for society as a whole, but for the profession itself.

If anyone has any suggestions for places to look for more information on this topic, it would be appreciated.

Update: One of my fellow 1Ls was discussing the 'morale' at the law school with me the other day. I was reminded of a P. J. O'Rourke saying that I can't quote directly, but it's from Give War a Chance. Roughly, he said, "Asking about morale is talking about how well things are going when they're not really going well at all. No one asks about the morale of a good drunken orgy or a summer picnic."

Thanks go out to anyone who can provide me with the proper quote.

While I'm learning about Civ Pro, Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law, I also want to spend some time wondering about why we've set up the profession this way, and what can be done to change it.

The legal profession has got to be the only professional profession today, where the way in which lawyers are trained has not budged or evolved since the 1800s.  Can you imagine if this were actually the case with Doctors or Scientists?  The dark ages would be everpresent and we would not be here- long ago consumed by some freakishly mutant disease.  Or, just the common flu come to think of it.  Change for the legal profession in my opinion, is long overdue.

As an aside, it took me 5 minutes to read your post cantina.  Your avatar perpetually drew my attention away from your actual words.   :D     

Current Law Students / Re: Note-taking software
« on: March 23, 2007, 11:12:13 AM »
I use OneNote as well, and like it a lot. Microsoft has a free 30 day trial, so google it, download it, and play around with it.

Hm, how useful is One Note for those w/out Tablet PC's?

Current Law Students / Re: How much debt does everyone have?
« on: March 23, 2007, 11:11:04 AM »
By the time I get out of law school I'll be 90,000 dollars in debt.  I was curious as to how this number compared to others on this board.  I should have went to a public school :(

I don't think you want to know.  Thank god for GRAD Plus loans.  If it wasn't for them I wouldn't be going to law school that's for sure.  So far between educational and private living expense loans between undergrad and business school I've racked up approximately 150k.  That's BEFORE I start law school in the Fall.  Depressing isn't it?  Pretty much BIGLAW or drown forever in debt for me. 

People that say they can never finish their reading, they work all the time on weekends, etc. I think are usually exaggerating.  I've had my outlines up to date before classes end (I start about half way through the semester), do all of my reading, and have enough time to do practice problems before finals every semester.  I do more work than quite a few of my classmates, but I still take breaks, watch TV, go out with friends, etc.  I'd have even more free time if I could stay off the internet. :)

While there is always something you *could* be doing, you have to ask yourself if its really necessary.  There are tons of supplements you can work through, and you can choose to spend your time reading a bunch of them.  I do my reading, I might look in an E&E or something if there's a specific concept I don't get, but other than that I don't use them during the semester.  I'll go through the E&Es while reviewing/studying for finals, do the problems in them, and work through practice problems either provided by the professor or commercial ones.  For me, that's how I study best.

Others use commercial stuff more often.  Some people type up elaborate briefs, which I don't do.  You need to figure out what study plan and techniques work well for you and ignore everything else.  If you read around here, you see a lot of people talking about how to study smart, not study more.  Some schools may be different, but I absolutely find the work load to be managable overall.  It's about striking a balance, and knowing when you need a break.

Hey Jacy85, your post made me think of something I wanted to ask you.  I don't know if this is what you meant when you said "you do all your reading" but it provoked a thought nevertheless. Thought: Do people when handed the syllabus the first day of class, actually read ahead in law school? 

Okay so 90%+ lawyers and former law students that I've spoken with say that law school is nothing more and nothing less than-drudgery. 

Now I read a statistic saying that the Legal profession ranks at the very top of all professions for which individuals are suffering from depression (I apologize as I know this is not a new statistic). So why is the law depressing us so much and is there a way to look at things so that it doesn't? 

P.S. This is particularly worrisome for me because I have a mild form of anxiety anyway, which often triggers or coincides with depression-like symptoms. 

Anyone out there currently depressed in law school?

This is an interesting question - not discussed as much as it should be. I don't know that anecdotal evidence means anything and I don't trust statistics much. My father use to say that "...statistics are like a bikini on a beautiful woman - what the bikinin reveals in interesting - what the bikini hides is essential..." My concern is not the the numbers reveal but what they hide.

1. Is law school depressing? It is in a special way that can't really be described - it has to be experienced. One reason for this, in my view, is that law school is an endless series of trying and overwhelming events. Substantive classes are a series of lectures on complicated concepts and rules that have your head spinning mixed constantly - even if you get it you don't really GET it. Writing classes are like being punched over and over about the head and body - you feel bruised and sore - no matter how well you do from assignment to assignment (I do VERY well in writing) you still feel put down and wrung out. It's a break you down and build you back up process (1L) that proceeds to a series of brutal mental exercises (2L/3L). right now, it doesn't seem to end. It is stressful BUT is not depressing in the "I'm crying all the time" sort of way. It's just difficult - nor more than that for me. The depression comes from the fact that it doesn't seem to end.

2. What kind of person is drawn to the law? I'm confident that my classmates - brilliant nearly to a person - would be doing something else to drive themselves crazy if it weren't for the law. I can only speak for my section on this. We all work full time day and go to school evenings - doctors (one the forensic dentist for the Dallas Coroner's office who comes to class in scrubs) and teachers and engineers and businesspeople who ALL make a good living and don't really need to go to law school. So, why do it? I think it's the constant desire for improvement - taking your professional skills to the next step (even if you don't really know what the next step is...). We work our butts off during the day and we work our butts off during school and we would be working our butts off playing golf...or whatever we do. That's the kind of people we are. Some take the pressure of achievement - comnpeting with your contemporaries - better or worse. In any case, the trial by fire ahs bonded us in a genuine manner and we are no longer the green rookies who started not knowing what a rule, ALR, Restatement or any of those other fun things are. Now, we know something...we don't know everything but we are eager...even now.

This particular moment is tough for 1L's - our open memo grades are in and our trial brief is upon us )due in two weeks). We have practice exams, 1L moot court competition, preparation fro pro bono and internships this summer, and all the other fun things that go along with law study. It's truly fun - in a masochistic sort of way. Even now I love it - it drives me nuts but I DO love it.

3. What are some solutions? One way to deal is to accept the fact that the law school process is what it is for a reason - if you knew the law already (and the skills associated with the practice of law), what would be the point? I've run my own business for 15 years - I deal with large contracts and dozens of employees around the country and world. Still, the skills I'm learning in law school are new to me - I have to birth them from scratch just like every one of my mid-20's classmates. Every worthwhile thing - becoming a Marine, learning to ski, bringing a baby into the world, etc. - is somewhat painful and bound to make you wonder what the hell you were thinking. That's life - you can hide in a cubicle (like in Office Space) or you can embrace the challenge. Watch and NFL or NHL game sometime - players that just got the crap knocked out of them sit on the sidelines and can't wait to get back in the game - I look at life like that. It's a brutal experience filled with challenge and crushing blows and it's great. I can't wait to get to it every day...some are better games than others. Still, it's a long season...if we lose today we can always win tomorrow.

I can't speak to the law profession in general. I can say that people I encounted day to day in every profession seem to be pretty bummed...they didn't pick a path that makes them happy or they picked a path the didn't understand and now it generalyl sucks. I say, to them, get up and do something else. Hate being a flight attendant? Be a teacher. hate teaching? Drive a cab. Hate driving a cab? Be an accountant. The problem is not the job - the problem is the person not getting a job they love and that challenges them in a good way. I don't suspect lawyers are different than the world in general. Doctors are depressed too - and acocuntants - and schooll teachers - and the employees at the DMV (see much smiling whne you go to renew your driver's lisence?). This is not the law. It is life.

Do I dance my way through life? No. I work 60+ hours every week anyway so it's no different for me. being aware of what school will be like and what it will require of you is an important first step - that will help it be less of a schock - only less but STILL it will be a shock...take my word on this. But, it's a trip that can suck the life out of you OR bring you to life. Your choice.

My .02.

jrut, I am mesmerized by your prose.  It was written by a hand that met life as an enemy, and through challenge and introspection, you now call life your friend. 

I do love the law because it presents so many chances to evolve and become better.  So many individuals cannot deal with change and must be static in order to feel as though they are in control of their lives.  I suppose is the dilemma.  Our Type A-Must be in control-personalities (which I assume many of us as law students are) have great difficulty grasping that the law is not something that can be controlled.  It is as varied and diverse as the people and places in engages.

Again I thank you for your thoughtful comments.         

I went through some mild depression last year second semester.  This year has been ok.  Depression in law school I think is caused by 2 main things.  First, there is a lot of work to do, and depending on how much you bust your ass, and the type of work and activities you take on, being busy and stressed out for a long time can cause depression (it does for me).  Second, I think many people have NO idea what they're getting into when they go to law school.  They go because they want a lucrative career, w/o researching LS or being a lawyer, because they don't know what else to do, etc.  They get in, and they realize they hate it and they don't want to be a lawyer.  They feel stuck b/c of the debt, or they still want to make a lot of money, so they stay, and get depressed because they are so miserable at what they do.

The rate among lawyers is likely caused by similar things.  Young associates who chase after the BIGLAW jobs may find that 60-70 weeks are no fun.  Everyone from young associates to grizzled partners may still hate what they do, but like the paycheck, so they stay in a profession they hate, causing them to become depressed.

And then there's the fact that the legal profession may tend to just attract many individuals that are prone to depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, etc., which raises it even more.

If you're concerned about getting depressed in school, you can prevent it/take care of it.  First, really research law school.  Talk to current students, talk to practicing attorneys (both those who love and hate their jobs).  Find out what they do day to day, find out a little on the law, etc.  Try to see if you're really interested in law.  Second, just stay on top of things.  Be aware of how you're feeling, and try to analyze whether you're stressed, starting to feel depressed, etc.  Evaluate your feelings.  It's easy to see counselors, therapists, etc., and most schools offer excellent mental health assistance.  Also, try to do what you can to cut down on your stress.  Be extremely organized, start working on legal writing assignments early so you have time to rewrite, edit, talk to professors, etc.  Don't leave outlining till the last minute, etc.  You'll still be busy, and there's always stress, but keeping on top of your game and not having to do things at the last minute can really reduce the stress.

Interesting.  I think you are saying that if you 1, stay organized and 2, stay on top of the workload it will seem more manageable and therefore less depressing.  But I've heard it often told that there is no end to the actual work.  There is always something to do.

Forgot to mention that BIGLAW in Ohio recruits very aggressively from OSU.  They are the top law school in the entire state of Ohio and therefore have incredible alumnus ties (Jones Day and Baker-Hostetler immediately spring to mind with 10+ partners having graduated from OSU).

Just though I'd add that little bit of info since I'll soon be a Buckeye!   ;D 

Why can't those statistics be interpreted as people drawn to the profession of law are more likely to have issues with depression? Doesn't that seem more likely than saying the study or practice of law induces depression?

That's certainly a possibility.  We're not exactly a sunny bunch.

Okay so 90%+ lawyers and former law students that I've spoken with say that law school is nothing more and nothing less than-drudgery. 

Now I read a statistic saying that the Legal profession ranks at the very top of all professions for which individuals are suffering from depression (I apologize as I know this is not a new statistic). So why is the law depressing us so much and is there a way to look at things so that it doesn't? 

P.S. This is particularly worrisome for me because I have a mild form of anxiety anyway, which often triggers or coincides with depression-like symptoms. 

Anyone out there currently depressed in law school?

Current Law Students / Re: Note-taking software
« on: March 23, 2007, 05:31:46 AM »
Aren't there computer programs that help integrate your notes with other study materials and outline formats?  I think there's one out by Aspen Publishing called Study Desk-->

I'm really curious as to whether or not anyone has tried this one or not because it looks really helpful. 

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