I was away for a few days, hanging out with some women friends of mine, so I haven’t been able to keep up with my daily dose of blogosphere drama. I came back to the office this morning, put my four cup coffee pot on to brew, and sat down to read my ‘stories’. I check out Brian Tannebaum’s My Law License, which makes me giggle (even though he probably doesn’t mean it that way), and saw this post on a commenter to a prior post.
I remind you all, in case you’ve forgotten, that I haven’t been around in a while. I don’t know who the slackoisie are or what their problem is or why people are so offended by them. But, as I read Tannebaum’s post, I got it. I finally really and truly got it.
When I decided to go to law school, the refrain I kept hearing was that when I graduated, I would be a lawyer. I wouldn’t have a job, I would have a profession. I could do anything, anytime, anywhere. No matter what the ecomony, the circumstances or the situation, I could always practice law. It was its own ticket. All I needed was my law license and a place to hang a shingle. (We didn’t have ‘virtual’ offices back then. The only clouds were in the sky. Hell, I wrote motions on a typerwriter. I bought white out by the 3 pack.)
Folks, the economy is shit. It’s hard to find work. Criminal defense lawyers aren’t hiring. Big firms aren’t hiring (side note – to this day when people mention the names of big law firms, I have to pretend like I’ve heard of them) – the MAN is hardly hiring. But who cares. Why does anyone need someone else’s permission to practice law? It’s not 7-11 where you need to have a million bucks in order to start a franchise. It’s not horribly expensive to rent office space (get a cheaper cable subscription and cancel netflix and you’d be able to afford it to) and if you do good work, eventually, the clients, and the money, will come.
It’s not easy.
There I said it.
It’s very, very, very hard. But, I am assuming that getting into law school and doing well there was hard to. I cannot believe that the legal profession graduates a bunch of panty-waists who are afraid of going out on a limb and taking risks. We are LAWYERS. We fight, we advocate, we shake things up, we change the world. While I am not on the slackoisie bandwagon, I do agree that ya’all need to get off your asses and make shit happen.
I am not able to cherry pick clients, the bills pile up and I don’t always sleep soundly at night. But I’ve been to that sweet spot before and I’ll get there again. Dear young lawyer, please stop belittling the profession I worked so hard to enter. If you want a job, get one. If you want a life, practice law.
I agree that people need to get off their butts and get going. But I don’t know that the failure to do so – or this sense of entitlement I keep reading about – is unique to either the legal profession or to the new generation of lawyers coming out of law school.
There were certainly slackers back when I was in college. My wife and I also know many people from back then who went into law for all the wrong reasons. These are the same people who are still miserable today but who, because of the big house and the kids in college, have no choice but to soldier on. The only difference between then and now, I believe, is the state of the economy.
I have seen one website in which a bunch of unemployed lawyers complain and criticize the legal profession. Let them vent. I don’t think they represent the many lawyers I know who are struggling to establish a legal career during these difficult times. Nor do I think they pose any more threat to the legal profession than the slackers we knew back when.
I would be curious to hear if your experience is any different.
I know lawyers who work – either for biglaw or small law or as solos or as contract lawyers or whatever. I know lawyers who are looking for work and pounding the pavement. I don't know any who feel entitled in the sense that the founders of the word "slackoisie" mean. I do know many who are afraid of going out on their own and not having someone else write their check for them. Fear is understandable. Not conquering it is not (to me, anyway.)
I don't think its unique to our profession, but I think that's neither here nor there. If you go to tech school and learn the art of fixing cars, you can look for a job in some other guy's auto shop. If you don't get one, you can fix cars on your own and get paid for it. If you are a cosmetologist and can't get a job at SuperCuts, you can rent out a chair in some other salon and build your reputation.
I feel some of the slackoisie pain, which is why the post is called 'starting over'. I'm out there hustling with the young guns these days. But I don't agree that people should go to law school so they can get a job. It's so they can be lawyers.
As a graduating 3L (ten days!) I agree with what you've said to a great extent. However, BT's reaction was a bit over the top and failed to consider a few things.
First, for the last three years the word malpractice has been used to conjure images of bankruptcy and public humiliation in us. While I'm considering opening my own practice (if I don't get in with a public defender trial office), I don't feel like I should inflict myself upon unwitting clients without having someone to provide some guidance. I've semi-resolved that by making good contacts with criminal defense attorneys with a great deal of experience who are willing to provide insight where needed. Still, it's a frightening prospect and a blanket admonition to "hang your own shingle" may not be the best idea. That aside, the pre-furnished offices with internet, phone, receptionist, shared conference room, etc., run $400-$500 per month in the cities in my state. The courthouses have Westlaw access for free and there are night jobs to get you through. If these grads are hell bent on practicing law, suck it up, dig in, and quit whining.
Regarding the "entitlement" issue, I feel like BT also read that incorrectly. Very few of us new or soon-to-be grads feel entitled (excluding the law school country clubbers). However, we did think we were making a sacrifice by going to law school and expected to at least be able to cover the necessities, even if we weren't able to go buy racehorses. That was the perception, that we would do this and there would be at least something, even if not ideal. That's given way to a legitimate fear of unemployment, or non-legal employment, even among those of us who jumped through all of the law school hoops to end with a high rank and do the extras. It's not as if we demand it or "deserve" it, we just expected it, and I don't think we had a reason not to.
It's a scary time for a law student to be entering the market. What few entry level openings are available are being poached by displaced, experienced attorneys. We'll try to keep the whining down, I hope the rest of the profession will forgive our grumblings.
*BTW, I love the blog and I apologize for the length of the response.
PVP – Congratulations, first of all. Second of all, yes, do not commit malpractice. It's good to have a healthy fear of that. Establish contacts, have a mentor, work with other people who know what they are doing. I was lucky when I graduated from law school, I was lucky when I moved to Maryland. I got jobs (first with DA's office, then with a firm doing criminal defense). In fact, in 2005 I turned down four offers at non criminal firms, and one with legal aid, in order to do what I loved and get paid by someone else for it. That lasted all of 6 months and I started my own firm. Then I stayed home and am starting all over again now. You know why I can? Because I have a law license and no one can tell me I can't. You earned it. Use it.
Be brave, my comrade. Be brave.
I went to law school so that I could some day travel the modern day legal circuit, like those great lawyers of old, my favorite being that of John Adams.
Practicing law certainly is a noble profession, and unlike those dreary everyday "jobs," the law provides each one of us with the opportunity to live outside those every norms, seeking new and exiting challenges day after day.
Great post! You hit it right on the head!
I worked Biglaw, I worked SmallLaw. When the SmallLaw job dried up recently, I decided – after begging for advice – to go solo. Yes it is scary as all hell, but I am happy with my work, and I have my life back. I may start working at 6:30 am, but if I want to spend a few minutes hitting the blogs I can. I took on a part time gig that covers my bills and I am building a practice just like lawyers used to to do before BigLaw was as big as it is. It can be done and I think that the naysayers need to pull themselves up and get cracking. Whining doesn't accomplish anything,
Scott, you haven't written in your blog in 3 years! Get on it! And yes, it can be done. It just takes time and effort.