No, not me. I actually got into this profession for the right reasons.
And although it's hard for many to admit, many of today's law students and lawyers, didn't.
I call it the L.A. Law syndrome. It started right before I started law school. The T.V. show L.A. Law showed us that law offices were nice places, in tall buildings, with nice furniture, and beautiful people. L.A. Law caused a whole generation to go to law school. The work was tedious for those sent to BigLaw, but the golden handcuffs were tight. Where else could a 25 year old make $100,000 the first year out of school? It wasn't about the "profession," or "representing clients," or building a practice. It was about the paycheck.
And like the last line in "Goodfellas," "now it's all over."
So to no one's surprise is this article in the ABA Journal about a legal career consultant who claims 25% of her clients want to leave the law.
As a result, the ABA Journal posted a poll, which is running 50/50 now on those that want to leave the law.
The article is nothing to write about, but the comments are:
Elena (whose name probably isn't Elena, nor is the comment probably real, writes:
I would like to leave the law, but not the paycheck. So the only way I can leave the paycheck is to find a guy who will support me. I am having difficulty finding a guy willing to pay for me and my lifestyle. So I must continue to work, even though it is not as interesting as shopping and eating out in restaurants.
Dream boat, probably a close friend of fake Elena, says:
I would like to find a nice gal to support and pamper, too bad you are a lawyer. The thought of freely spending time with a lawyer makes me nauseous. Otherwise it would totally work.
Robert takes the first easy shot at BigLaw associates:
There’s more to “law” than working in a big firm where one has to expect to be told what to do, and that some of what one is told to do is .... distasteful; after all, you have to figure that if the work employees do could be considered “fun,” the Bosses would do it themselves, right?
You also have to figure than most employee-employer relationships will tend to degrade to “employer pays employee just enough so they won’t quit, employer does just enough work to not get fired.” That’s not enough for everyone, but it’s all a “career counselor” usually has to offer.
Then here comes the "wait, it didn't happen like I thought it would, otherwise commenting as "Looking for the right fit:"
I would like to find the right fit in the law, but I graduated right when the crash struck and so it has been a while since school. I’ve done some contract work here and there, but I’d really like to use my legal degree to help start-up businesses get off the ground.
How do I transition into this? I’d like to stay in the law but have a more interesting and stable life!
A police officer who took the bee line back to being a police officer because the money is better there in this economy, blames the ABA for creating and selling law school as a ticket to cash:
From JD to PD:
I just graduated, pass the bar, and will return to my previous field of law enforcement. I will get all of my loans paid off with 10 years of public service. Plus, get a great pension, start at 50k per year, and get a months vacation.
It is sad the ABA keeps accrediting more schools who publish misleading salary stats. Who thought you could make more money as a nurse having an AA degree than a lawyer.
And no comment section would be complete without the "get off your ass" cry that offends so many new graduates:
I think it’s great you found a government job with good benefits. Good for you. To all those who are bitter about JDtoPD’s good deal, instead of complaining, get up and do something about it. Instead of denouncing the public sector’s reasonable pay/benefit packages, why not demand that the private sector provide the same. Yes, I know the biglaw lawyers chained to their blackberries 24/7 are well compensated, but most lawyer-employees in the private sector have a much worse deal, and calculated hourly probably do make less than a nurse. These lawyers need to demand more of their stingy employers or quit and open their own law offices and compete with their stingy former employers.
That said, JDtoPD, don’t get too caught up in the nurse-with-an-AA comparison. You with your law degree have a much greater upside. Ten or 20 years from now you could go into the private sector, hang your shingle, and command many times per hour what a nurse makes.
Just bringing this up infuriates today's law school graduate and young lawyer. Those that know they went to law school for the cash, and aren't making it, or aren't making much of their career as a lawyer, don't like to discuss this. The others will admit with righteous indignation that "yeah, I went to law school for the $160,000 salary first year out. Who I feel sorry for are the few who actually thought about becoming a lawyer before entering law school. Those numbers are few, and diminishing.
Ever wonder why ethics are more and more of a problem? because more and more law students see law school as career school, not professional school. They see law as a business, not a profession. It is a means to a nice living, not a high calling.
I've written before about the lack of shame a lawyer should have in deciding to get out. The question always is "and do what?"
My answer? "Something else."
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.