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Author Topic: Depression in Law School/Depression as Lawyers in Practice  (Read 3631 times)

cantina

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Three Years of Hell To Become The Devil
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2007, 03:51:52 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.

NeoElle

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Re: Three Years of Hell To Become The Devil
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2007, 10:33:13 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.

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     
OSU Moritz College of Law c/o 2010 --I think, see below =(

Waitlisted: ND, GW, UIUC & WUSTL

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jacy85

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Re: Depression in Law School/Depression as Lawyers in Practice
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2007, 12:09:17 AM »
Comparing learning the law to science is a pretty poor analogy.  The rules may change, but the law, as a body, is very much the same.  It's not like technological advances can really make a huge difference as it can in medicine and science.

AFter all, law school is about learning how to think and analyze in a certain way, it's not about learning a solid set of rules (like how the nervous system works in med school).

NeoElle

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Re: Depression in Law School/Depression as Lawyers in Practice
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2007, 01:46:08 AM »
Comparing learning the law to science is a pretty poor analogy.  The rules may change, but the law, as a body, is very much the same.  It's not like technological advances can really make a huge difference as it can in medicine and science.

AFter all, law school is about learning how to think and analyze in a certain way, it's not about learning a solid set of rules (like how the nervous system works in med school).

I wasn't comparing anything specific but attempting to compare the way we are trained. Yes, as attorneys our brains will become the most effective tool in our arsenal.  But, do we still think the exact same about the same rules of law as we did in the 1800's?  Of course not.  So why not update?

I personally (keeping the common law in mind of course as the basis of our legal system) would focus more on present day law, and a little less on the build-up of old, overruled law which is in-itself largely responsible for the law school experience becoming a major exercise in hiding the ball.  If you really want to argue here you could say doing this would simultaneously abolish the rigor-filled frustration and endless second-guessing that law school is so prestigiously known for.  But in all honesty, so what? Isn't this the very thing that's depressing us in the first place? 

We've all taken the LSAT, and know we deserve to be at the school we're at.  I think once we've proven that we have the credentials to get in (assuming there is a degree of difficulty/scrutiny in the admissions process of your particular LS) the rest shouldn't be too much of a mystery. 
OSU Moritz College of Law c/o 2010 --I think, see below =(

Waitlisted: ND, GW, UIUC & WUSTL

Haven't heard from: UCLA

jacy85

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Re: Depression in Law School/Depression as Lawyers in Practice
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2007, 08:42:56 AM »
Learning those old, overruled (in some jurisdictions) rules helps us learn how to analyze change in the law, which is what our clients will pay us to do.  Learning the foundation that was in place for so long also helps because, frankly, some states are pretty "backwards" and still have a lot of these older, traditional rules on the book.

Also, things that law students like to say are completely irrelevant, like future interests, still may see these concepts in practice.  Wills written under the old rules still operate under those rules, even if we now have new, simpler rules in place.

And hiding the ball?  Ok, so your professor wants you to think very critically about everything, look for the wrong answers, the ways out, the policy arguments justifying a different result?  What's the problem?  Not everyone is like this, but more than a few people that I know who get pissed about professors "hiding the ball" want to do as little work as possible, and want their professors to just hand them things.  You may learn a few rules that way, but when do you learn legal analysis?

People obviously disagree, but I really think the reason we learn the law like we do is because it's tried and true, and it works.  I don't know. Maybe I'm just happier with my legal education than many other people are.

TexasRanger

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Re: Depression in Law School/Depression as Lawyers in Practice
« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2007, 06:22:18 PM »
I've read quite a bit about the epidemic and it seems to be most prevalent in Corporate Law for obvious reasons. The most happy attorneys seem to be public defenders and prosecutors. I personally want to become a prosecutor, but the $51K starting salary a year doesn't seem too exciting especially with the law school debt. I would be making more as a police officer (because they have a strong union) and most officers around here just have a high school education. That is simply ridiculous.

On the other hand doing something like family law can get emotionally charged because many times you have to see the kids suffer as a result of your work.

It would be neat if both happy and unhappy attorneys would post on here and give us their points of view.

TexasRanger

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Re: Depression in Law School/Depression as Lawyers in Practice
« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2007, 06:26:27 PM »
Here's a clip from USNews.com regarding "Poor Careers for 2006"

Poor careers for 2006
By Marty Nemko
Posted 1/5/06
Attorney. If starting over, 75 percent of lawyers would choose to do something else. A similar percentage would advise their children not to become lawyers. The work is often contentious, and there's pressure to be unethical. And despite the drama portrayed on TV, real lawyers spend much of their time on painstakingly detailed research. In addition, those fat-salaried law jobs go to only the top few percent of an already high-powered lot.

Many people go to law school hoping to do so-called public-interest law. (In fact, much work not officially labeled as such does serve the public interest.) What they don't teach in law school is that the competition for those jobs is intense. I know one graduate of a Top Three law school, for instance, who also edited a law journal. She applied for a low-paying job at the National Abortion Rights Action League and, despite interviewing very well, didn't get the job.

T. Durden

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Re: Depression in Law School/Depression as Lawyers in Practice
« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2007, 06:59:38 PM »
jrut, I am mesmerized by your prose.        

puke.

shimra

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Re: Depression in Law School/Depression as Lawyers in Practice
« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2007, 08:51:24 PM »

Many people go to law school hoping to do so-called public-interest law. (In fact, much work not officially labeled as such does serve the public interest.) What they don't teach in law school is that the competition for those jobs is intense. I know one graduate of a Top Three law school, for instance, who also edited a law journal. She applied for a low-paying job at the National Abortion Rights Action League and, despite interviewing very well, didn't get the job.


That's a silly anecdotal example of the alleged difficulty of finding a public interest job. I don't know how you can tell if you "interviewed well" aside from getting feedback from the employer.  A public interest organization isn't going to be as interested in factors such as school ranking as other employers, and is more inclined to hire people who seem to care the most about helping people.  Coming from a top school could be held against you if you come off as potentially snobbish or elitist. 

PSUDSL08

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Re: Depression in Law School/Depression as Lawyers in Practice
« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2007, 09:50:11 PM »
I've read quite a bit about the epidemic and it seems to be most prevalent in Corporate Law for obvious reasons. The most happy attorneys seem to be public defenders and prosecutors. I personally want to become a prosecutor, but the $51K starting salary a year doesn't seem too exciting especially with the law school debt. I would be making more as a police officer (because they have a strong union) and most officers around here just have a high school education. That is simply ridiculous.

On the other hand doing something like family law can get emotionally charged because many times you have to see the kids suffer as a result of your work.

It would be neat if both happy and unhappy attorneys would post on here and give us their points of view.

My father is an assistant homicide prosecutor in a crime plagued city, and absolutely loves his job because he knows that he is helping to put violent criminals behind bars. My father suffers from depression, and his first couple of years after graduating, his depression became so bad that he didn't work for 3 years. Once he finally got help, his first job was with a law firm. He absolutely hated it. He then opened a private practice,   and hated it. He eventually became a prosecutor, and it changed his life for good. Once a couch ridden depressed young man, he is now a vibrant professional who, 25 years later, loves getting up every day for work. He just put a gang member behind bars and received a letter from the mother of her murdered 18 year old son raving about what a great job he did and how they now pray for him and my father every day. It brought him to tears just knowing that he was able to help this family obtain some closure. He doesn't make a lot of money, but makes more than the average professional, has great job security...and in fact he said that he doesn't plan on retiring until his early 70's!

My friends father is a prominent real estate attorney in the same town in Northern, NJ. He makes a shitload of money, and when my friend mentioned to him that she was considering going to law school, he advised her otherwise. He has specifically told her that he hates his job but makes too much money to back out of it now. He just couldn't give up his lifestyle for the sake of having a more satisfying career.

The reason I bring all of this up, is that I've learned from this that I'm not going to put that much pressure on making money or having some big prestigious firm job. I will probably seek employment with a mid sized firm upon graduation as a learning experience. However, I'm not going to let debt, "prestige", or the possibility of being wealthy keep me employed in a job I hate. I think too many lawyers are hellbent on making the big bucks, and compromise their happiness for the sake of wealth and prestige. And even some of the financially successful lawyers might be depressed because they're not doing as well as they thought they would. I think these things lead to the depression, divorce, alcoholism, etc...that is so prevalent in our profession

If I can find a job where I make good money and love what I do, great. However, if I hate the firm life, I'm either going to hang a shingle or do some type of government work. If it means I'm only making $50K starting out, and can only climb up to $75K or so as a plateau...then so be it. The way I look at it is, I'd rather make the minimum payments on my loans for 30 years and enjoy life, than be like my friend's dad...unable to escape the drudgery of his job because he's grown accustomed to living a lavish lifestyle.

Speaking of depressing jobs...While I'm only 25, most of my friends my age, or a little older are stuck in crappy, dead end business jobs. The few of my friends without graduate degrees that actually like what they're doing aren't making much more than $35K. The ones that make more than that either openly admit that they hate what they do, or try to sugar coat what they're doing. I think the way to tell whether someone really likes what they're doing when they tell you they've found a "great career" is whether or not they actually provide examples of what they like doing (specific clients they've met with, who they've helped) vs. giving you a job description that you'd likely find on a company's vacancy website. For example, my friend got a job doing IT work for a pharmaceutical company, who when I asked him about his job, gave me a BS line that "It's a real professional atmosphere where I'm integrating their business information systems and coming up with integrative technological solutions for corporate problems"...which I translate as "I wear a shirt and tie to work despite being an IT female dog for my company...and the highlight of my week is when the hot girl from sales calls me when her Microsoft Excel crashes or when she can't locate a file on her hard drive"