Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What Is So Wrong With Realizing You Never Wanted To Be A Lawyer?

The Miami Herald has some late-arriving advice for the laid-off lawyer crowd.

Ready? Got a pen?

Network, Volunteer, and Persist.

In other words, go meet some people, work for free, rinse, and repeat.

The reason this advice won't work is that the crowd of laid-off "lawyers" is advised to do this: "No matter which path you choose to pursue, pursue each day in your search with purpose, direction and passion."

Purpose, direction and passion?

C'mon, we're talking about laid off BigLaws and businessmen. Purpose, direction and passion? Oh jeez.

I've said before that there are no laid-off lawyers. Lawyers have clients. Lawyers can't be laid off. Those that are laid off are cogs in the biglaw wheel who work on files or businessmen who ran to "hot" areas of law.

But let's talk about the laid off cogs and businessmen.

Most of these people have never networked. They have been locked in libraries and offices, away from clients, or anyone resembling a client. They also can't imagine working for free. The phrase "they bill me out at free," doesn't sound so good.

In sum, these laid off cogs are not going to do well trying things they've never done.

Here's my advice:

Do something else. Get out of law.

I mean, lets be real here. Most of you never wanted to be lawyers. You wanted the trappings of what L.A. Law made you believe the practice was all about.

So get out.

Don't go into foreclosure defense, that'll be dead in two years. If you have no established practice in an essential area of law, get out. It's not going to get better in the next 5-10 years. If your goal is money, go make money. Buy a franchise, open a business. You went into law to make money, the money is not there, get out.

What is so wrong with realizing that you never really wanted to be a "lawyer?"

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com



Unknown said...

No lawyer should work for free unless it is a Pro Bono case for someone of limited or no means.

If you work for free it shows that you do not vlaue your work. So why should the client?

Unknown said...


You seem to take great pleasure in bashing Biglaw "cogs." What you say about them is true, they do not have clients However, we need cogs as much as we need solos. They have a place in the legal profession; a profession that is currently oversaturated, and thanks to the ABA, going to see much of its owkr outsourced to India. Soon people are going to wake up to the fact that it does not pay to drop $150,000 on an education to make $40,000 a year.

My Law License said...


you speak to the lawyers who don't belong in the profession - those who are evaluating the cost of the degree in comparison to the job salary.

It pays to drop 150k on a law school education, if you want to be a "lawyer," and not just "get a job." Many spend that much only to land the exact "job" they want - in the public sector as a prosecutor or public defender or legal aid attorney. Many of them leave and start private careers and make back what they spent on law school in a matter of months.

So you see, those believe they should reconsider law school because the degree costs more than their first year salary, should.

josh said...

I got a job, but my volunteer work (where I drive a van) has proved a source of biglaw connections (wives). I'm not interested - but perhaps the paper's advice, when combined with BT's, could work for the biglaw crowd. I'm just sayin' . . .

Chris H. said...

Looks like you hit a nerve with the laid-off cogs, Brian.

Love this post, and it resonates to true to me. I'm a law student with no aspirations whatsoever of big bucks or big law. I want to work with people, and I had to bust my derriere to get a scholarship and keep my loans low so I could follow my true passion and not have to be locked away in a big firm just to pay back my "prestigious" law loans.

Interesting comment from the person about working for free. That asinine response only confirmed everything you said in your post, so funny! "Work for free??? What the hell are you talking about Brian!!!" No clue...

If you want to make a lot of money get yourself an MBA, start a business, come up with a novel business model, or invent something practical that society needs.

Christian deFrancqueville said...

Your post speaks to me as well Brian. I knew I wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer when I was fifteen.(I'm 36 now. )After undergrad, I played music in a touring rock band (for free) and worked construction (almost for free but I learned) for seven years before I went to law school. While I was in law school, I started a contracting business to pay my bills, and did well with it. (I did very well in school as well.)When I got my license, I sought out the best and brightest criminal defense lawyers around, reached out to them, volunteered for them, studied criminal procedure, and attended as many CLEs possible. I took a 50% pay cut to work for a great lawyer. After a few months I learned how to operate a law office and three years after being admitted, I own my own practice that is doing well and growing. I have been working for "free" my entire life but now I have a career and lifestyle that is the envy of most lawyers I know.

Unknown said...

Wrong. I don't work in Biglaw. I work in a small firm 12 attorney firm.

I stand by the comment about working for "free."

If I was a solo I would work for free on pro bono (obviously), or maybe as a favour to a family member or close friend.

Otherwise, I did not got to school for 7 years and pass a bar exam to give out my services for free. Try asking a plumber or car mechanic to work for free and see the look you get.

Chris H, given that you are still in law school it is hard for you to comment about the burden and stress of loans. Obviously, every situation is different.

However, if you have $140,000 in loans you have to give money more weight than other things, especially if you are supporting a family.

Unknown said...

Chis H, one other thing. You shouldn't make assumptions based on my postings. You lazily assumed I was a laid off Biglaw cog and you were flat wrong.

Unknown said...

The Biglaw attorneys I know are well aware that they are overpaid paper shufflers.

I agree with you that they are not in the trenches.

They are just doign it to quickly pay down debt. Of course you went another route and it is going well. Good for you.