Monday, April 26, 2010

Brian, Be Gentle With Us

My post below, suggesting that searching for "any job I can get," may not be the best move, angered a reader. I'll call him "Juan," because that's his name when he comments.

Juan pulled out the "must be nice" script in response to my post.

Unfortunately, this is a new era. The jobs just aren't there
Personally, after seven years of school, a six figure loan balance (undergrad and LS), rent to pay, car payments, insurance, gas, etc etc, I cannot afford to cherry pick employment. I would never grovel or sound deseprate either, but I did have to accept emplyoment in a practice area I am certainly not enamored with. This is not a sense of entitlement. This is reality.

Do you hear that? Let me translate:

I put myself in deep debt for the promise of a $150,000 salary when I graduated, and now that it's not there, I really don't need you telling me creative ways to enter the legal profession. I went to law school for a job, not to be a lawyer. Maybe you did that 15 years ago, but things are different now, and you just don't understand. Please stop talking about this, it upsets us.

So let me clear things up.

I understand, completely.

I spend a pretty good amount of time with law students. I also talk to law professors and others involved in the Bar admission process.

Yes Juan, the jobs just aren't there. But neither is the same character that was there "when I went to law school."

Sure, there were students who were looking to get that $55,000 BigLaw job.

Yeah, $55,000.

I learned that in my last year of school. I never knew when I went to law school what BigLaw lawyers made, it wasn't important, it wasn't really discussed. Now, it's the reason college graduates fill out the law school applications. It's not an application for a legal education for the purpose of becoming an advocate, it's a lottery ticket for a job.

Think I'm the only one who sees this? A few weeks ago I was speaking with a Professional Responsibility professor who oddly, likes what I write here. I asked him if the students were "different" today.

Most of them see the practice of law as just a job, he said.

I appreciate Juan coming here and speaking for the new generation of graduates, those that don't want to hear anyone tell them the truth about anything. Sure, I know there are law students and graduates that are looking for a career as a lawyer, and not just a six-figure salary, but they are in the minority these days.

What is clear is that those that went to law school for the cash are now stuck. No one wants to pay them their entitled to salary, and the grads really aren't looking to make much of an effort to create the career they want.

Nor do they want to hear any advice that doesn't comport with their wants and needs.

I don't write this blog for anyone. I owe my readers nothing but my honest thoughts. I've been blogging 5 years now and am well aware of those out there that will never put thought to keyboard except to comment on other's writings, but who feel I should write what they want me to write. Read any blog, and you'll see comments asking why the author wrote about a certain topic, why the author didn't write about a certain topic and demanding that the author write what the reader wants. We all see these comments, and mainly laugh before telling the commenter that when they get their own blog, they can write anything they want - subject to angry commenters.

While I was writing this post, a commenter asked what was more "angry," Juan's comment, or my response.

I don't know. I don't care. Am I angry? Angry that a bunch of entitled kids tried to enter a serious profession and are now upset that people like me are telling them the truth, which they would rather not hear? Nah, I don't call it anger. It's more like disgust.

"Must be nice" is what jealous, angry, entitled people say when they see others who have what they want.

So let me anger you further with more advice.

You want a serious legal career that makes you happy.

Spend less time telling me I don't know what I'm talking about, and go build a career. No one owes you shit, and no one cares about how much you "need" to make.

Stop the whining, grow up, get to work, or get the hell out.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


Tina Gadson said...

Anger. Disgust. Yes, both come through loud and clear. In this post, and in many others. So do sanctimony and self-righteousness. And just a tinge of fascism.

You remind me of my grandfather complaining about how kids just aren’t the way they used to be. You translate Juan’s statement for us when no translation was necessary. Then you superimpose your own thoughts on what Juan really meant to say. Because you have us all figured out. Because you have grouped us all together into one amorphous mass and you know exactly how we feel.

I don't feel angry or disgusted. The only thing I feel, frankly, is kind of sorry for you. I read your blog and think: Really? Is this who you are? Do you like what you've become? Have you always been this way, even back in the good old days when lawyers were lawyers?

To me, you sound an awful lot like Scott Greenfield. Without the insights. Without the writing. Without the light touch. Without the charm.

I'd much rather be unemployed.

Brian Tannebaum said...

I'm sorry Tina, I forgot to ask where's your blog. Where's your thoughts, where's your contribution to the profession? Oh, its above. Another unemployed whiny loser who can't have a debate without acting like a 7 year old. The profession doesn't need you, nor do the people who appreciate what I write-those that aren't too fragile and weak to engage like a lawyer.

By the way Tina, you don't have to read this, not that you have anything else to do.

Juan said...

Wow BT! I usually agree with most of the comments you write here. I actually agree with most of what you wrote last week about narrowing job searches etc. I left another post last week about this which you did not publish ( it's your blog you can publish or not publish whatever you want). But it basically said, that I think your oversimplistic view of new law grads as a bunch of entitled kids was a bit off. Just a divergent view from one that you express quite often on this blog. Like I said, I don't feel entitled to anything, have worked for and earned everything I have. I also never expected a nice new 150K job to be gift wrapped together with my diploma from FSU law. This is true for most new law grads.

The reality of the current econonomic situation is that there are more law grads than there are open entry level positions. This includes "Big Law" small Law, government jobs etc etc...We are all just trying to put our best foot forward with potential employers and work hard and learn to be serious professionals. I appreciate your comments about how to best approach a job search as a new lawyer. But, there is no whining, I could easlily just default on my loans, obtain a deferement and sit around hoping for the "right" opportunity to come along. Instead, I chose to work hard and do what I have to do to better myself and build my resume so that the next application I submit, I can get a solid recommendation from my current employer and then be respected as a"serious professional". All the while not being a free rider on the government loans I got, by actually paying back what I owe rather than letting interest and fees add up so that I can be an additional strain on the government. As a criminal defense attorney, I'm sure you know that they (the governemnt) need all the help they can get.

I went to law school to become a lawyer, not a salesman, a banker or a "consultant". I think it is a magnificent profession ( my father, grandfather, two uncles and several cousins were or are practicing lawyers - albeit in another counrty). Safe to say, I have alot of respect for lawyers and for the profession. There are a few bad apples - no doubt. But I don't think ALL new law grads suffer from this "entitlement" affliction. In my limited experience, and being that alot of my friends are recent grads, most are just like you were 15 years ago, trying to break through and just find a good fit, whether it pays well or not. Luckily, you were able to and you have been successful. Again, that is awesome, I am not jealous, I am actually happy for you! I will say it again, It must be nice!for all your hard work to pay off and be in the position you are in. That is not the position new law grads are in. They have to go out and look for work, I agree that building websites and social networking, are not answers for new lawyers,so experience, real experience is what is needed, so new lawyers, like all good lawyers, must adapt to thier environment.

All I am really trying to say is that, hopefully, one day, we can all be just like you - minus the angry diatribes (again it's your blog - say whatever you want). I'll keep reading it and respectfully agree or disagree about whatever I want to disagree about. I'll leave this topic alone.


Juan said...

By the way BT, Juan is my actual name...

Marcus L. Schantz said...

My first post law school job paid exactly $55,000. It was in an area of law I had little interest in. I was damn happy too.

Mark F said...

I walked out of law school into a job paying whatever I drummed up in fees.

Loved the work, hated the business side. It was me, myself and I (plus an answering service). When I reached the point where I was making enough to hire help I also had an opportunity to leave to work for a state agency for a touch more than I would clear after hiring help initially and I closed my doors.

Nearly two decades later I have no regrets even though I discovered the bar association no longer had a spot for me and many of my law school friends considered it garbage work.

Funny thing is many are now reaching out to me to find out how to get such a "great job" because they've discovered they are pushing toward 50 with little to no retirement savings and the money isn't rolling in like it was five years ago.

The problem is they are going to be hard-pressed to find those jobs because I know from experience as a chief counsel most have learned bad habits that don't fit administrative law jobs. They've spent years dilly-dallying with cases flooding the judge and opposing counsel with CYA and annoyance motions we don't have time for. We write tight short briefs for trial judges and follow the statutory and regulatory requirements to a T and about half the time get home cooked by local judges. We promptly go to the state supreme court and kick their rear ends because we don't just enforce the acts and regs, we drafted them to start with.

The bar association puts on nice little CLE's about our area of law and won't dare let one of us teach them. Instead its the guys we beat 75+% of the time in court who teach them.

It's a fun area of the profession if you aren't just looking for a job.

If all you want is a paycheck every two weeks, your job is going to suck no matter what it is.

Over nearly two decades in different agencies I've shaped legislation, regulations, and case law. I've shut down polluters and closed businesses stealing the taxes paid by their customers. I go home pretty much every day knowing I've done good. Getting a check every two weeks is just how I'm able to afford doing it.

EdinMiami said...

1) Biglaw created the business model which drafted the "best" students from the "best" schools. Of course, no one, on a micro level, is entitled to a job but because this biglaw practice was well known it seems unrealistic to lay responsibility at the feet of people who are just trying to make a calculated decision hoping or thinking it is in their best interest.

2) Then there is the vaunted professionalism. While I subscribe to the notion and ideals, I have not witnessed it with my own eyes as a consumer. My professors talk about it. All the blogs I read endorse and praise it. Maybe my experience has been the exceptions or maybe it is something reserved for interactions between lawyers? I cannot say but I look forward to experiencing it for the first time.

David Fuller said...

Class of 2007 Graduate Here - law school is not and was not a promise of employment. Law school was, and theoretically still is, training for a profession. If you weren't busy taking cakewalk seminars - The Law and Protecting Your GPA - you should have learned enough of a professional skill that you didn't have to apply to every job out there.

I took every bankruptcy class I could. I took the time to talk to my professors about things other than 1) a law student's half baked pet theory, or 2) the final. Probably because I took the time to learn the nuances of bankruptcy law, I got a bankruptcy clerkship. When I couldn't find a job, I started my own practice confident in my professional training as a bankruptcy lawyer. Did I still make mistakes? Yes, some were cringe worthy. As my practice gets more sophisticated, do I still make mistakes? Yes, but not as cringe worthy.

Was I afraid to fail. Yes? Was I so afraid that I was afraid to take a risk and practice my profession? Hell no.

Becoming a lawyer is not about the expectation of getting a job. Law school is about beginning to learn about a long and storied profession and learning how to learn about that profession. Lawyers by tradition are Type A and self reliant. I went to law school with a lot of people who acted Type A, but were not self reliant. They expected that because they went to a certain law school, they were entitled to certain things.

You want to be a good lawyer, learn your profession and build your self reliance. In my two years of practice I've learned one very important lesson. When you're at the podium, your face towards a judge, and your back towards your colleagues, there is no one there to help you when the judge rains fire on your argument, it's just you and your professional skill.

Now that I'm in a position to become an employer, that's what I want to see. I don't give a goddamn about moot court, law review, or SBA. You better know the law and project the self reliance necessary to cover motion calendars.

Josh said...

There are plenty of folks graduating that are out kicking ass and taking names in a fashion that would bring tears to the eyes of these old-timers. There are also old-timers out there practicing with such listlessness and disdain for their profession that it brings tears of disgust to the eyes of the newbies. These sweeping generalizations about the slackoisie and the old-timers are both inaccurate and crude. There have always been shitheads and there always be shitheads - the old timers have just had more time to distance themselves from them.

Brian Tannebaum said...

Josh, I agree with you, and I have written about some great young lawyers. The fact that there is a new generation of lawyers that are lost because the "job" they went to law school is not there and they are pretty pissed off about it, does not take away from others who are working to build a career.

JPM said...

What was your debt to income ratio when you took your first job?
Since you graduated there has been an explosion in the cost of a legaleducation.
People who graduated 20 or 30 years ago simply do not face the same student loan problems that we do. For a start you guys could finance yor degree totally from federal loans.....the $18500 sub and unsub loan from the federal government has not been increaed since 1988. So students like me (2006) had to finance more and more every year from private loans with high interest rates, fees, and yes, I even get to pay Accessgroup a $1000 extra fee when I pay off my loan in full!!
You are comparing apples and oranges. The cost of a legal education in most private schools is the same as the average family income for US family!! Debt loads are enough to buy a house in some parts of he country.
That's not to say it can't be done. But someone who graduated 15 to 20 years ago has no idea.

Brian Tannebaum said...

Yes JPM, I am comparing apples and oranges. The graduates of the past were more willing to work to build a career and didn't see their law degree as a ticket to paying off loans and being appreciated by BigLaw for having gone to law school.

JPM said...


You just make a blanket assertion with no evidence to support it. You are painting some kind of fictional modern law student who just exists in your mind. People graduate from law school and they face the times as they are. I agree that if you have a poor attitude you will be in trouble...but a good attitude is "necessary but not sufficient." Heck, if you were smart enough to see the greatest economic crash since 1929 I salute you. I bet you sold all your stocks to cash the summer before..or maybe not.

Sure the 1991/92 job market was poor as well...but pales in comparison to now.

The simple fact of the matter is that graduates of the past had far lower debt to income ratios....and that gave them a certain flexibility.

Full dislcosure I have about $125k in debt. Luckily I have a job. After all my necessary expenses are paid, rent, car, bills, loans, etc...I live on $434 a month.....that's for food, and any other expenses. So I know how to budget. Heck, I got myself into this position and I'll get myself out....but I am so sick of people talking about a "sense of entitlement" from current law students. It's's the old rose tintend glasses sysndrome...""kids these days" and "the 1950s were so great" etc etc..

EdinMiami said...

If the overriding generalization is true, that an entire generation lacks the willingness to work, then how is it not true by way of further generalization that those who created the "slack" generation are not also responsible for the thing they created? Or did all these slackers somehow choose individually and without knowledge of any other to become slackers and did so in such numbers that it created a viable generalization?

If it is true that one generation leaves its mark on the following generation, then what merit is there in taking pride for the accomplishments of your own generation or in generalizing that your generation somehow how exceeds the one following?

Finally, has there ever been a generation within a profession which looked upon the following generation and felt comfort that everything would be ok when the baton was passed? Or has it always been doom and gloom, not because of the reality of the impending destruction of the profession but because as humans our egos resist the idea that there are younger people just as capable individually and as a group than we are individually and as a group?

Brian Tannebaum said...

JPM and Ed:

I don't know how many times you want me to say this, but I'll play along. I am not talking about a generation of lawyers. In every generation there are slackers and hard working people. My point, again, and again, and again, is that lawyers (not all) (did you see that) (not all) (did you see it again) graduating now have a different perspective on the practice due to the prior availability of $160,000 a year jobs out of law school. These types would go to truck driving school if the pay first year out was $160,000. They have no passion for law, and don't really care what they do, as long as the cash comes in.

I'm not making blanket assertions, but if it makes you happy to think that I am JPM, OK.

As to Ed's question about whether any generation looks to the young ones coming up and feels comfortable - that's a great question. The answer is, it's individual. I see great young lawyers working hard, I take nothing away from them.

Evan Hanson said...

BT I completely agree. I went to lawschool at 36, leaving an established career not to get a better paycheck but because I had a calling. These kids who whine about having to go out and find a job need to meet the real world.

N. Toes said...

Nothing irks me more than people who whine and complain about their $100k+ in law school debt, saying how that debt is forcing them to do things, take jobs, etc. that they otherwise wouldn't prefer.

Debt is incurred pursuant to a voluntary contract that YOU agree to. It's flipping stupid to go to law school and incur $100k+ in debt. If you come from a wealthy family, fine. If you don't, you're stupid, and the only thing you are highlighting when you complain about your debt is your own stupidity.

Did I get accepted to the first tier schools? Sure. Did they offer me enough tuition assistance so that I wouldn't have to amass debt? Obviously not, or I wouldn't have a degree from a third tier law school. The vast majority of law schools provide the resources necessary to get a LEGAL EDUCATION -- whether first, second, or even fourth tier. The question is whether each individual student is going to utilize those resources to educate themselves.

The point is that by going to a private school which cost $30k+ a year in tuition, without having a sufficient net in place to cover the cost, was a gamble. You chose that school for prestige, to get a good job, and not because the third tier and state schools didn't have law libraries or qualified instructors or clinics. You took that gamble, it was a stupid one, and you lost.

Bitching about the debt now makes you look like an old lady outside a casino, crying because she put all her quarters in an unlucky machine.

Suck it up. It's not pretty, the damage has been done. But taking personal responsibility for your past decisions is the first step is (1) making sure you don't make similar mistakes in the future, and (2) empowering yourself to take charge of your experience in this life.