Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Is being a lawyer all that bad?

Sorry I was MIA, I ran the 10 miles on Saturday and ended up with a nasty cold. I think I was starting to get sick Saturday morning and then running 10 miles in 20 degree weather just didn't help. It was the hardest 10 miles of my life, and I have run a 1/2 marathon before. I ended up walking a few times. I averaged 10 min/mile, which is slower than I normally run. I finished the 10 miles in 1 hour and 40 minutes. I will post a picture and my ipod playlist from Saturday later today.

A few posts ago, a reader Gabriela asked if being a lawyer is really that bad?

So I'm going to try to answer that . . .

I really enjoyed law school. I loved the thought involved, and I love reading and didn't even mind the endless amount of law reading I had to do. I love having the legal knowledge that I acquired from law school. So, I'm not trying to discourage anyone from going to law school, but you might want to find out a little about the legal market right now. Maybe check out this blog: http://www.abovethelaw.com/.


I don't know that I necessarily hate the practice of law as much as I think that I'm not a very good match for my current employer. I'm a corporate law attorney, and I work for one of the 10 largest law firms. My firm has about 2000 attorneys worldwide (although impending layoffs might change this really soon). When working in a large firm there is a huge emphasis on billing hours. Currently I struggle in this area because I came to a large firm wanting to do corporate work. I really was hoping to do mergers and acquisitions and other transactional work. Well I graduated in May 2007, began work in September 2007 and the last two years have not been good for corporate work. So I am forced to take any work I can get, just so that I can bill hours.


My ideal position would be working as an in-house attorney for a corporation. I was offered a position with a corporation prior to law school, but always thought that I needed a "big firm" on my resume. Also, the pay for in-house positions are often not as high as big firms. I have learned that money isn't everything, but when you are offered a big firm salary as a naive law student with almost a hundred thousand dollars in student loan debt, money is hard to pass by.

The most enjoyable work I have done at my firm is pro bono work for people that can't afford legal fees. These people are always so kind and thankful for a 20 minute phone call from me, where I try to help solve their legal problem. Thanks and praise are not common in large law firms.

My last problem with being a lawyer is that I didn't realize how much I would hate sitting at a desk all day long. That is why I said if I wasn't a lawyer I would want to be a personal trainer. I get up and go to the water cooler or bathroom so many times during the day, just because I hate sitting still.

I'm hoping the economy turns around and I can start having more billable hours and obtain work in areas that I like. Who knows, then maybe I'll be so happy with work that I'll encourage all my readers to become lawyers : )

Have a great Tuesday! If anyone has any more specific questions about my thoughts on law school and lawyering, please ask!!

Keep reading, because I have a lot to catch you up on including my first day of Girls on the Run, Dave's Killer Bread from Andrea, and POM juice. So I promise more posts.

50 comments:

VeggieGirl said...

Ahh hope you feel 100% better!!

Great information on being a lawyer!!

A Toronto girl out West said...

Isn't the sitting THE worst!?!? lol I honestly can feel the energy draining away from me!

Thankfully since I'm a litigator I get to spend a good chunk of my time in court where I get to stand. But the sitting . . . oh the sitting!! lol

HangryPants said...

I think for me it wasn't the actual practice of law that was a problem, but rather the associate life style and pressures. I think a lot of people are drawn to law school who are over achieving perfectionists. In school, it's an advantage. The desire to push and study more generally lead to perfect grades, but then the test was over, the article written and a break inevitable. In the real world, there is no break so it was constant go go go in the most perfectionist way possible. The pressures of law + my personality were a lethal combination that led me to become a complete ball of stress!

Good topic. :D

Betsy said...

Did you go to law school here in Pittsburgh? Joe (my fiance), is graduating from Pitt this spring and we're waiting to hear back from schools. He applied to Pitt & Duquesne, and already got into Duquesne. Any thoughts on pgh law schools??

Megan said...

I am also a lawyer, although I mostly do regulatory work and I share many of your complaints about the law. The sitting . . .ugh!! It's the day-to-day details like that of a job I wish I would have considered before taking out massive loans to go to law school. Most of the time I dream of a way out of the legal field, but I feel trapped!

Erin said...

Interesting topic, I'm planning to go to law school in the Fall, which is scary!
So far I've been accepted into a really good school which is also extremely expensive and would leave me with a ton of debt. I've also been accepted into a state school that would practically be free.
Do you have any advice on if big name schools are the worth the debt?

AnthonyP said...

:) It would take me pages to answer that question !

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is that bad!

Anonymous said...

I work for a top 10 law firm too in M&A. I used to work as an investment banker and decided to give that up because the hours were too stressful.

Now, although my hours are a lot better, I still hate my job. Truth is the work you get at a law firm is complete crap compared to what I used to get at an investment bank. I should have went for a boutique investment bank where all I do is work from 9am to 7pm.

In M&A, all you're doing is some monkey execution work at a law firm. But lawyers really have no idea what the companies really do - they don't understand the numbers, synergies etc - things that drive the deal. They're there to execute.

Anyway enough ranting... back to work. I wish I was still in finance

Yeoman said...

I've been doing this for 20 years (practicing law) and for all 20 I've been hoping it'll get better.

It doesn't. It gets worse and worse. I'm less able to handle the stress of this now than I was 20 years ago.

Never in a million years would I do this again. I desperately wish I could get out of it now.

10yrsout said...

I've been a prosecutor for 10 years. If I could do it over again I would have gone to nursing school. If you are out there reading this thinking of law school seriously consider the time and debt you are about to dive into. I have great govt hours and reasonable pay for my area but I wish I had a job that I didn't think about on the weekends etc. And don't get into criminal law, it's a trap. Unless you want to be a prosecutor and defense atty forever, no one is impressed with criminal experience - it's useless.

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Anonymous said...

I went to law school as a complete idealist and interned for several years at the Public Defenders office in San Diego, which honestly was a great experience. I left Sand Diego to return home and went to work at the PD's office in my home state.

At first I really enjoyed the work, but it was only a short period of time before I started to hate my job. I had an completely unmanageable caseload, (about 4 times what the ABA recommends) and though I tried my best, in complete honesty, I was malpracticing most cases. Not due to ineptness, but just lack of time. When you have on average 6-8 new cases a day, it is impossible to do a good job on all of them. I worked for two years straight, never took a day off, worked almost every weekend, and still was not even remotely close to properly preparing all my cases. Would it have made much difference if I did have the time? Probably not, you learn how to evaluate the merits of a case pretty quickly, but I was not satisfied with my work.
The clients also hate you, do not trust you, and are never thankful, even if you do an amazing job or work a miracle on their case. You end up dealing with a segment of the population that is angry but also due to their lifestyle, feels a sense of entitlement to getting a free attorney. They get free housing, healthcare, food, etc., so do not expect any gratefulness from a client.

After two years I was burned out completely and left for private practice. If you start off in criminal law, you are pretty much limited to criminal law the rest of your career, as most firms are not interested in taking on someone with criminal experience. I graduated in the top of my class, had a ton of trial experience and honestly was pretty damn good. No one cares.

So I was stuck going into business for myself, which I will not even describe the horrors of private criminal practice. At least before I felt somewhat noble for performing a public service. Now I am just a mercenary for some real assholes. I had such high hopes and reality really kicked me in the face. I have no idea what I am going to do with my life, but this is not working. Some people love private practice, but it is just not for me.

Anonymous said...

All that I have read here has given me, oddly enough, a sense of peace. I have been a lawyer for over 15 years now and have finally given up on the hope that one day I will be truly passionate about what I do. Practicing law is not glamorous, it has sucked the life out of me. I switched from a top New York firm to a smaller firm thinking that "all would be good" after that. BS. The pressure is the same, maybe even worse in some cases; I am always on "on" mode checking my blackberry quite often even on weekends...struggling with the hours, the time sheets, dealing with partners who are never satisfied no matter what you do. I went to an ivy league school and, even if it's the last think I do - I AM GETTING OUT! If you feel the same as I do, don;t be discouraged. There is always something out there. It may take some time but you will find it. Best.

Anonymous said...

HangryPants said it perfectly -- my personality does not mesh well with the practice of law. The stress is nearly overwhelming to me, and I feel like it never ends. I can't imagine myself practicing law for the next 10 years ... or even the next 2 years, to be honest. Hell, I'm struggling to get through the next six months, if I'm being honest. There are things I really love about being an attorney -- counseling clients, discussing strategy, learning new areas of law, and sparring (when well-prepared) with opposing counsel (I'm a ligitator) -- but, in all, I am a nervous wreck all the time. My stomach constantly hurts, and I have a lot of trouble sleeping. Yuck.

Anyway, great blog, and I enjoyed reading the comments as well. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow...my boyfriend is a lawyer and your post and the comments to your post are so true. My bf has said many of the same things, especially the anonymous poster that said, "always on "on" mode checking my blackberry quite often even on weekends...struggling with the hours, the time sheets, dealing with partners who are never satisfied no matter what you do." My question is how are your personal relationships? I feel like his job, as a lawyer, has taken a toll on OUR relationship (been together 5 yrs) because he's always consumed with work... :-(

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Jora Trang said...

At this point, I'd rather be sitting. I'm a trial lawyer representing indigent clients on a regular basis - and the stress is killing me. give me a job where i can sit and just read and type and ... but you probably have a lot of stress too...oh well... how can I do something else with this law degree and not go broke?

Jessica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Anonymous said...

I, too, have been a lawyer for 15 years, and after the thrill wore off from the first exciting year, it has been an exercise in total misery. I can't spend a single day off or, God forbid, vacation day, without cases and argument and statutes and trial dates running through my head. I wake up tired from the same thing. After a while it's a constant state of mental exhaustion.

After my first employer retired and closed his office, I took a job in family law, thinking it would provide a temporary haven. I have been stuck in family law ever since. Much like criminal, family law is utterly useless to getting a job in any other area of law, and the stress is unbelievable. The cases go on, and on, and...

I loved law school, but I kick myself every day for ever going to it. It was a hugely expensive mistake, and I have no idea how to get out of law without a major financial nose dive.

Amit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I read the comments like those found above, lamenting a career in law and the suffocating, painful, stressful existence that it is. And then I begin to feel nauseated...

...because during year 1 of law school, I began to realize all of those things you veteran practioners are saying...and yet I still lacked the courage to drop out. It was the same lack of courage which made me leave my $60,000 consulting job before law school.

I am now graduating, jobless, directionless, and even more lost than when I entered law school. I have $0 debt though, and have an unbelievably supportive woman at my side.

I know i can't make 50 years out of law practice, but those areas which I truly care about (marketing, media, etc.) will not let me get a foot in the door.

Emily said...

Wow! I was in a similar field - business consulting, but I lucked out because I smoozed my way up the ladder so I didn't have to do the MBA and be saddled with more debt. Debt is slavery folks. I'm not knocking you at all, but you are stuck because you are snowed in under debt. Do what I did and downgrade EVERYTHING. Get a studio apartment and don't buy anything you don't need and just throw all your money at the student loans and cost of living expenses... It really doesn't take that much to live. As a consultant, I paid off my student loans in a year AND stashed some in savings, quit, and took a year long sabbatical. Now I am FREE - totally, utterly, and completely FREE. And I'm bartending while preparing for seminary school. You can make more money bartending than you think and BE HAPPY. Humility is a secret weapon. Learn to be humble.

Also, know that the system has failed you. You have not failed.

Kerry O. said...

I hated practicing law. And then I went into private solo practce. While practicing law is always what it is (not creative, not colorful, not necessarily "fun"), I have found a way to make it as enjoyable and low-stress as possible. I spend probably 30%-50% of my week working away from the office at a coffeehouse, restaurant, park or at home, just to reduce the stress of deadlines and demands. I run a paperless office and have a virtual office arrangement to keep mobile and keep my overhead low. I get to be myself with my clients and choose my cases and terms. Many of my clients appreciate the work I do for them and graciously express it. The first 18 months was rough, for sure, but once my early cases started ripening to settlement and trial, money started flowing. My bills get paid every month and that's all that matters for the time-being. I can't imagine ever practicing law another way from now on.

I wish the best for all the lawyers out there who truly feel unhappy in their career. I can totally relate and I have never even had those high billable hours requirements that so many associates have. Those billable-hour lifestyles are *inhumane*, unnatural and all-around disgusting. The biggest shortcoming of so many people in life is the inability to see their options. Take a look at yours - there are so many that your fear and hesitation do not want you to see. And make sure you stop every week to spend time doing something creative that you love - cooking, music, writing, woodworking - whatever floats your heart's boat. Or, better yet, if no one else's well-being is at stake (I have a family with 3 kids), you can take amazing leaps into fun areas that you never thought you would ever do.

Eduardo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tino said...

interesting forum...

Anonymous said...

I too hate practicing law. After college I didn't have a job so I went to law school. After navigating law firm life and a stint in public practice 10 yrs in the business, i'm exhausted. I recently learned that my firm is letting me go. I was happy for the out bc I was miserable anyway. Partners still want me to work like crazy knowing I'm about to be out! Luckily I started on the fast track to paying off my student loans early, so I'm blessed to start this new chapter in my life debt free. All in all my impression is that lass is good if u get into a great school get a high paying job or on s tuition payback assist program otherwise you are committed to a life of slavery! As in my case if you are female and start having kids you will likely become a target too

Anonymous said...

Wow. It's almost comforting to know there are so many others out there with the same problem. Directionless and depressed are the two words above that rang true to me.

I'm an associate attorney at a medium-sized firm in the South where I'm basically the errand boy for the lead partner, for whom I ride a rollercoaster of "golden boy" or "comeplete screwup" depending on his current state of dementia. He constantly writes me these "cover his ass" memos completely mischaracterizing issues that come up in the office.

Last week he brought me in the office and handed me a new memo, telling me I have 2 months to find a new job. I'm happy that I'm out of the velvet prison (steady salary, crap work), but I've got a mortgage and a family so I'm not happy to be jobless in this economy.

kev07wan said...

Deciding to go to law school is SO HARD. As a recent liberal arts major, I'm finding myself with no real qualifications to do ANYTHING, and law school seems like an appealing solution. Then I read things like this and change my mind!

Anonymous said...

Kev07...do yourself a favor and do NOT go to law school. It was the worst decision I have ever made in my life. I've never been so miserable. I've only been practicing for 2 years and I'm getting out. I refuse to do this for the rest of my life. Sad thing is that I know over 300 lawyers and only 2 of them like it.

Jacquelyn Gwin said...

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with this profession. Actually, law school is a roller coaster ride! You'll get the chance to meet different people coming from different backgrounds and different walks of life. It's a challenge that has a very fulfilling finish line, and you need to compete and know your capabilities to be able to come out on top. It is, actually, a great training for people who want to achieve more in life! :)

Regards,
Jacquelyn Gwin

Renee Colbert said...

Wow. It's almost comforting to know there are so many others out there with the same problem. Directionless and depressed are the two words above that rang true to me. I'm an associate attorney at a medium-sized firm in the South where I'm basically the errand boy for the lead partner, for whom I ride a rollercoaster of "golden boy" or "comeplete screwup" depending on his current state of dementia. He constantly writes me these "cover his ass" memos completely mischaracterizing issues that come up in the office. Last week he brought me in the office and handed me a new memo, telling me I have 2 months to find a new job. I'm happy that I'm out of the velvet prison (steady salary, crap work), but I've got a mortgage and a family so I'm not happy to be jobless in this economy.

Anonymous said...

Law school is semi fun, i made lots of nice friends which have carried me out in the work force...but only do law if you are passionate about the law! I kind of did it for the money...I got good grades, hopped out of high school and was not sure how to make the best me i could...so i thought this was the guaranteed good, safe path to take...now im 30, and looking for ways how to get out of it without increasing further education costs of retraining/getting a masters for marketing or media or another kind of creative industry. Seriously, unless you love the law and do not mind thinking about law 7 days a week, enjoy a high pressure work scenario, and have a very strong back bone to your boss, competitive collegues, opposing solicitors and the terrible ramifications when things go wrong, do not pursue law and rack up a huge student debt. do something you love, stick with it, and be good at it, and you wont have a midlife crisis like i am at the moment of deciding what can i do to make me happy. You have such a long working life, do something you love and put your mind body and soul into it!

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