Friday, July 23, 2004

I asked one of my colleagues if he wanted to play golf after work this evening, and he said he couldn't. He has to "babysit," he said. "Someone else's kids?" "No, my own. My wife's going out. It stinks." People here -- and I don't excuse my own behavior here -- aren't really parents, regardless of whether they have kids. At our partner lunches people talk about how it's awful that summer camp doesn't cover the entire summer, or how they don't know how to avoid giving the nanny a holiday bonus, or how they don't know why their kids hate them. They hate us because we're never home. They hate us because we're pulling out our Blackberries all weekend while we pretend (and they can tell when we're pretending) to enjoy being around them. They hate us because work is #1, and they're #2 -- or #3, or #4. It's sad. Because it's not like years from now we're going to regret not checking the Blackberry more often. It's sad because time passes really quickly and it starts to feel like "too late" very quickly. That's what keeps people here. By the time, maybe eight months into your first year, maybe a year a half -- but not much longer than that in most cases -- by the time you realize what this job is doing to you it feels like you're stuck. "It's too late." And so you hope it gets better. And you hope, and you hope, and you work, and you work -- and then it's no better, and even more so, "it's too late." And then you may as well stick around and try and make partner, and then if you're lucky enough and skilled enough and effective enough at what you do, and the right people know it, you make partner, and you think it's all going to change. And a lot does change. But the hours are still long, and there's still a hierarchy so you're never really at the top of the totem pole, and the money jumps but the pressure doesn't really slow down, and the people you compare yourself to change, and you aren't really relaxed about it... and it really is "too late" now, because this has gone from a job to a career, and you're stuck. And you never see your kids. And they hate you. And then you don't even want to go home, and so you stay at the office, and the spiral continues...

This is so sad. There were several partners in my old firm who had reached that not-wanting-to-be-around-each-other phase with their families, and it was upsetting to see. These guys were, in their partnerish way, genuinely nice people who were often pleasant to pass the time withbut it was clear that their kids had no such relationship with them.
How old are your children? There's always time. Let me tell you from personal father is a high-end physician and the emptiness I have from him never being there will never be forgetten. The psychological effects that will prevail later in your children's lives from this type of upbringing can last forever. Try harder to fake's in your child's best interest...
Everywhere there's piggys leading piggy lives, you see them out to dinner with their piggy wives, clutching forks and knives to eat the bacon
The Manson Family loved that song, too.
The solution is so obvious and so simple. What's stopping you? Just quit. It's not like anyone (apart from yourself) is forcing you to stay. So you give up the hundreds of thousands or even millions you're raking in on an annual basis. So you give up or significantly scale down the lifestyle that that kind of money has bought for you and your family. So you have to endure all the negative or worse comments your friends and family and even strangers say to you or behind your back. So what? So what if a man gains the entire world and loses his own soul?
At what point do the hours do this to you? 1800? 2000? 2500?

And how much money would you give up to have that back?
When I was an engineer I heard the same story. "You can't quit" , "You're riding 'the wave'" or "Once you start you can't go back" Its all bullshit of course. Its just a job and it sounds like, apart from the money, its a shitty one at that. Once you're dead and buried there is no credit for riding the wave. You can't come back. You know what has to be done. Be a man!
Why do you care so much about seeing your kids? Your wife is there, that's all they need. Tell them to stop whining and to appreciate what you're doing. Or quit and take away all their toys and gadgets so they get used to what it's like having a father who makes nothing.
You're right, AL. This turns people into jerks.
After 14 years in this business, I'd say your comments are right on the mark. Where I work now only myself and one lawyer a few years younger than I care a hoot for our families, and the other fellow frankly does much better than I about making time. Looking back on my own father, who gave up a lot of work time to be with us, I'm really disappointed with myself.

I don't know that it is too late, but lawyers have no marketable skills, in the real world, other than practicing law. And it's darned hard to get out.

Funny, we just got a new summer clerk who keeps coming around seeking verification that he wants to do this. He's a real family man. I'm not providing the verification.
6:41am --

I read your previous comments on the July 21st post too and, putting both together, it makes the life of a lawyer sound really, really, really sad. AL doesn't exactly sound happy (to say the least) in his chosen profession either. And neither do a lot of other lawyers who have worked for several years. E.g., I have a cousin who graduated from a top 3 school and worked for a prestige firm with relatively good quality-of-life, and he too recently left the law for what sounds like pretty much the same things you guys are now saying (and against considerable protest from all quarters -- friends, family, other associates, partners even).

So. All these comments are causing me reconsider this whole law school and lawyer thing too. There's one thing I have to ask, though, if it's alright, please: are you saying that, even at the very "best" culture and quality-of-life law firms (and not necessarily the highest paying), lawyers are increasingly unable to spend time with their families and/or friends or to pursue other outside interests? I'm obviously not unwilling to do my best and put in as many hours as possible, as any career would demand of its newly "baptized," to learn the ropes and to contribute to the firm and work for my clients, etc. But at the same time, I'm looking to establish myself in a solid career *in* *order* *to* provide for my future family, to have time with my friends, to lead a good life, and all that. I don't want to have to waste the years slaving away for a firm, for little purpose, or perhaps because there are no alternatives, as it sadly sounds like AL and other attorneys are doing. In other words, is there any hope for a young, aspiring attorney to have both a good legal career as well as to simply a good life? I'd sincerely appreciate any comments you might have. Thank you.

(By the way, if you'd rather not post a reply here, or to respond directly, my email address is Thanks again.)
2:11 PM

I really hesitate to respond to your question, given as I don't know you, and you do not have the advantage of knowing me, and therefore being able to weigh my character. That is, I may be a well reasoning solid soul, with an opinion deserving consideration, or I may just be a whiner, whose opinion should be disregarded as I'd be unhappy anywhere. It's impossible to know over the internet. And my circumstances and type of firm I am in may so impact my view that I may be incapable of weighing other types of legal work with validity. Maybe if I was writing from some other firm, or if I had some other type of legal work, I'd be happy as a clam but don't know it.

I'd recommend, for that reason, seeing if you can really talk to lawyers who you can be relatively certain will give you their real opinions. Keep in mind that casual acquaintances or lawyers you only know as lawyer will likely not give you a straight answer. There's a strong inclination to validate the profession to non members, even if we do not care for it ourselves, or so I feel.

Having said all that, I'll address your question from my perspective, which is mine alone, and maybe highly flawed.. Your question is "In other words, is there any hope for a young, aspiring attorney to have both a good legal career as well as to simply a good life?"

The answer, in my opinion, is that it is unlikely if you are a well rounded balanced person. But, some are happy, if they have a natural talent for the law, and they like it for itself.

Being a "good" lawyer means a massive dedication to work, and its a dedication that resembles that of the Prussian General Staff to the Kaiser. We don't question, at least in litigation, the moral nature of what we do, and we don't care. We care about winning, and if we win within the rules, that's what counts. At this point, I hate to loose with a passion, but I get no joy whatsoever out of winning. Just more billable hours is all it amounts to. Moreover, all lawyers in a firm (and I'm in a Western firm which would be regarded as small anywhere else but here) are in a cut throat economic competition with each other mandating hours far beyond what is sane. You may have, if you are lucky, one real friend in a firm, maybe two, but everyone else is an acquaintance ready to stab you in the back for an extra dollar. Most will gladly crawl over their fellows dead bodies when the time comes.

When I started I heard a lot of quality of life too. Because of my situation (I work in the town where I was born, I have close connections to the community, and I have non law economic interest, albeit minor, that are centered here, my wife was born here, our parents are here), I really focused on getting a law job in the location I was from. Indeed, the goal of being able to have a profession where I was from was the major incentive that lead me to the law, rather than any real interest in the law itself. This limited my choices, and you should, therefore, take some points off of my opinion. Anyhow, while one of my partners does take time off and go to neat places, etc., and most are better at it than I, we are all working very long hours. And only one person in my small firm really spends time with his family, and I try to. One lawyer has avoided a family, and another frankly admits he missed most of his kids growing up, but doesn't seem to have any regrets. I haven't had a real vacation in eight years. However, my wife does not have to work outside the house, and she is therefore able to watch our two kids, which means a lot. Indeed, my wife's fears about my ability to make enough to allow her to stay home is what, in part, keeps me at it.

Some lawyers are better at balancing life and work than I am by quite some margin. I'm not very good at it, as you can likely tell. For that reason, I probably should have looked for work I liked, rather than have looked for work in order to try to achieve the non work goals I had in mind. You may wish to consider that. If you love the law, maybe you'd be happy in it in spite of all the jerks, mercenaries, dolts, and others who are in it. There are probably some who meet that description, although. If you love money, and some do, perhaps, if your talents are employable in the law, you can make a lot of it and that will be enough. If you seek to use the law to support a life whose interest are elsewhere, well. . .

I am trying to abandon this profession, over the concerns of my family. Truth be known, I should never have gotten into it, although I'm regarded as good at it. I will not miss it, if I can get out.

In the end, only you can evaluate this. And you cannot take the advice of those typing over the net. Get some direct information from those you know, if you know somebody who can provide it to you.

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A thoughtful post (s) above. Note to the critiques: nobody sits here repeatedly hitting the 'enter' key - no telling why some posts double or triple. Let's save the juvenile obvious critiques this time - perhaps AL can delete the excess when he can.
Yikes, sorry about the multiple entries. Up until I posted here I'd never commented on a blog before and it was indicating it didn't put it up.

The 14-year veteran (the "Veteran") makes a lot of excellent points (poor guy). One thing that I can vouch for from my own (less lengthy) experience in practice is that you shouldn't go into law (or at least law-firm practice) if you're just lukewarm about the subject matter. Don't go into law because you think it will open doors for you, or because you want to make a lot of money, or because you want to support your art career or love of horses or whatever. Law requires far too much mental and spiritual dedication for that. It's not something that you can be happy doing with half a brain for 8 or 9 hours a day while you daydream about your next sailboat race or the plot of your novel.

At the same time, many firms, especially the biggest, best paying, and most prestigious firms, will overwork and undersupport young lawyers to such an extent that even those who truly love the law come to hate it. Nothing is so wonderful that 2500 billable hours a year of it won't make you sick.

Finally, to provide a perspective slightly different from the Veteran's view of intra-firm relations. . . . I summered at a firm that was like what the Veteran describes: despite the firm's excellent (legal) reputation, the partners could not hide the fact that they hated each other, hated their jobs, and hated their families. The only thing that kept them at it were the golden handcuffs (although several partners had managed to break away over the years, to do more agreeable and lower-paying work). Though I'm not a partner myself (I hope to get there in the next 2-3 years), I have several friends whom I knew as associates here and who are now partners. It's clear to me that (1) there are rivalries between certain partners, just as there are between higher-ups in any organization; (2) the vast majority of the partners get along with and respect the vast majority of their colleagues, and many of them willingly hang out with each other; (3) how much of the profits each partner takes home is a zero-sum game that can bring out the ugly side of some people, the way money has a tendency to do; (4) nevertheless, in law-firm practice, unlike other fields in which I've worked, how much you take home is primarily based on how much you actually produce, as opposed to how convincingly you kiss the CEO's ass or spread rumors about your rival's alcohol consumption; and (5) most of the partners desire to and do make time to spend with their families.

That's my perspective, anyway. As the Veteran says, you should seek out and talk to people other than the anonymous few on the Net.

STOP! Get out! Go solo. Refinance the house, don't get a new car. Find a nice office, and go.

You can make a nice confortable living practicing law on your own. No, you won't get rich, but you won't go broke. Do it now, before the divorce.
Dear 6:41 aka Veteran and Hans Sach,

Thank you guys so much for responding! Your opinions really do matter to me, and I'll definitely keep asking around, especially with people I know. It's just that it seems -- with the more people I talk to, the stuff I read on the internet, and off -- that there's so little satisfaction in the field and a considerable amount of dissatisfaction. Sigh. (Again, I'm not afraid of hard work, but I do want a life with my friends and family, too.) You boys are right, though, I guess it's just one of those things I have to find out for myself.

Thanks again for all your help,

2:11 aka Patty
Patty -- One more thing I would suggest, since it sounds like you're not a law student yet. Do yourself a favor and get a job doing something else, anything else, for at least one whole year (preferably three or more) before you even decide that you want to practice law. Even if you ultimately end up going to law school, a hiatus of several years will have absolutely no negative effect on your career, and I believe it will make you a lot happier in the long run. You can always become a lawyer, but it's hard to un-become one once you've incurred the law-school debt.
I was the only associate at my firm with a child. He was very sick his first two weeks of life and I couldn't take time off because the Partners didn't understand that I wasn't on the team that had a case at trial. I was with him at the hospital from 8pm to 8am and at work from 9am to 7pm. After he came home I only saw him on weekends for his first 8 months because he would be sleeping when I left and when I came home from work on weekdays. After that I started leaving early to help take care of him since my wife had gone back to school. It wasn't long after that when the partners sat me down in their office to talk about my schedule and my hours. They didn't understand why I needed to more flexible hours. It didn't matter that I could still bill my requisite hours. It only mattered that I was there when they wanted me there. I continued to leave early when my wife's schedule required that I share the responsibility of raising this child. It wasn't long after that that the Managing Partner let me know that there wasn't a need for my services - there wasn't enough work to go around they said. Practicing in this specialty area of law was all I had wanted to do for the past 6 years and I was doing it. I was enjoying it. I was doing good work. I realized early on that spending time with my son was more important to me and that if it means sacrificing my career and taking a job other than that one so I am available -- so I'm there to play with him and watch him grow (not just sleep) then so be it. I'm much happier now. And I'm glad I learned this now and not after he's fully grown.

What did you end up doing by way of a replacement job?

Years ago I actually had a senior partner sit me down and expressly tell me that devotion to anything but time in the firm was a path contrary to partnership. He did not indicate, to be fair, that he thought it was a bad choice to be focused on something else, but it was clear that in this firm that was not a path to partnership. I've tied to ignore it and I'm a partner anyway, but a viewpoint where you work like that is bound to have an impact on you.

"The Veteran"
dammit. a western firm small by east coast standards. this guy works at munger. i thought munger would be tolerable and offer a high quality of life with a decent work-play balance. i was wrong. tell me you DO NOT work for munger please.
I don't work at Munger.

You can always find time to earn more money, but you cannot for any amount of money earn more time.
The years with your kids will never, never, never, never repeat. Never.
Seize these days now.
There is only now.
Maybe I am just a coldless bastard, but should we really be feeling sorry for the children of rich lawyers? It's like when the media feels sorry for the child of a president. "Oh, the stress they must go through because they have less privacy!" - nevermind that their entire life is set and they can do anything possible simply because their father is president.

I mean J. F. Christ, the extravegent lifestyle more than makes up for the lack of a father. At the end of a day, a father's main purpose is as a financial provider, not as a emotional provider. I had a father who was home all the time, because he was a lazy deadbeat. The concept that somehow male lawyers have to also be the same father as a auto mechanic is a baseless idea if you live in the real world.

I would not feel sorry for my kids if they were driving in their BMW to the Hamptons feeling sorry for themselves because their father never played catch when they in the backyard. Get over it. Your private prep schools, Ivy league education and 0% possibility of failing in life because of your father's wealth more than makes up for not being taken to the ice cream parlour with your father when you were 6 years old. Get the hell over it.
One of they really huge myths about practicing law is that equates with being "rich". It doesn't.

I think it was Webster who said that it was the mark of most lawyers that they "lived well and died poor". I doubt that's even fully true now.

Money in law depends upon a lot of things. Type of practice, the firm you are in, etc. I'm a civil litigator on the defense side, and I'm far from rich. I make less, far, far, less, that really good Plaintiff's lawyers. I don't care for doing the Plaintiff's side, so that's the way it is in litigation.

Even in firms, some lawyers have niches which do not equate with cash, depending upon the region you live it, etc. Lawyers in firms who handle mundane routine matters may make enough to keep being there, but that doesn't mean they are getting rich.

Nobody has mentioned solo practitioners, or small firms, but the same is true of them. The average attorney in those firms is somewhere in the middle class, sometimes down at the bottom of the middle class.

Suffice to say, most lawyers aren't rich, or even close. In certain types of work, hardly anyone is out of the middle of the middle class. Some lawyers make it big, it is true, but that's true of any profession.

Where I am, in my line of work, with overhead and everything else, I'm probably about average. I make enough that I can pay for my house. My newest car is eight years old. My wife doesn't have to work (which is very unusual anymore). I make enough that everyone is comfortable but for me, but I don't make anywhere near enough that I wouldn't have a financial train wreck in a manner of months if I quit.

Patty brought the query about what law practice is really like. If a list of perceptions about what it was like were listed, and compared with the truth, I wonder how much would hold up? Not too many.

Funny, on kids, I joked with another partner, who has a young (less than one year old) son the other day that this was his future partner. He very seriously came back and stated that his son could do anything at all other than practice law. I've made that statement myself. A cousin of mine who practices in this town as a solo made the exact same comment to me at a family gathering, adding "We know what our parents didn't" about practicing law.

Don't kid yourself about the practice. It doesn't make you rich. In litigation, it is mostly just fighting, and has all the attributes that fighting everyday has.

I'm 35 yeras old, a dad (with a 21 month old son) and I'm considering applying to law school, and I'm glad I came across thsi post. It's a picture of exactly what I don't want to become. If I do go to law school, I'm printing this out and taping this to my bathroom mirror so I can read it every day, just as a reminder.
So f-ing quit already!
"So f-ing quit already!"

Probably exactly the thing I would have said earlier in my career, or before I took it up.

However, in the real world, a presons ability to quit a job are much more limited than you might think. It is easy to say that it is just an attraction to money, but unless a person is independantly wealthy, they have to work.

And lawyers have utterly no marketable skills other than practicing law, particularly after they've practiced for awhile. A law degree, I've found, is a deterrant to anyone hiring you outside of a law firm. I've actually had an instance where I applied for a job I would have liked to have a had (at much lower pay), and never received a response. I called them about it, and they were glowing how impressed they were that a lawyer would apply. Baffeled as to why I didn't receive a call, they told me, "Oh, you're a lawyer, you wouldn't be interested in this. . ."

Or people will think you are earning so much money, that there's no way they can hire you.

Or that you are a trouble maker.

Choices in life aren't open endlessly. And as a person up above notes, a father does have to support his family. A lawyer can practice law, that's it. Unless you have a large reserve, if you have obligations, it isn't really easy to quit. Or it may not be possible at all.

I do intend to, FWIW, but I can't walk out the door and not have work. And I have no intention of opening my own firm in a career I lack interest in. So, I'm here for the time being, perhaps a long time being.
No other success can ever account for failure in the home.
It's possible I didn't read every post closely, but it appears I am in the minority. I'm a partner in a medium-sized, southern, AV-rated firm. My partners expect me to bill 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, or thereabouts. Most of us do it, some of us don't. Nobody is so up in arms about the issue that it rises to the level you could actually call "backstabbing." When I don't make my hours, the principal impact is on my bottom line due to our compensation agreement.

My family is more important than my work. I don't understand the mindset of someone for whom that statement would even remotely be troubling. Work puts food on the table, it's necessary, but it's not my life, or my reason for living. I more or less enjoy the practice of law; I'm certainly not capable of making this kind of a living doing anything else.

I don't work on weekends for the most part. I generally don't get into the office before 8:00 and I leave around 5:00 every day. I eat lunch.

I have had some dealings with attorneys at top firms in NYC, Chicago, Kansas City, Atlanta, and other places, and I could detect some of what the original poster wrote about, but I'm damned if I can really understand it.
Some lawyers seem to be like totally overworked and some seem to have a good work-life balance. i don't get it. so what is it like to work as a lawyer at for example a mid sized firm on a day to day basis? Is it pretty ruthless or is it pretty sane? is it pretty much what you make of it (so there's hope) or is it pretty much up to the firm (so they control your hours etc.)?
In my experience, it depends on the firm. An associate I knew a few years ago had to leave at 5pm every day to pick up her child from day-care, but she came in early and often took work home to do after her child was asleep - she still recieved a number of warnings about "not doing her part". And she eventually left that job for another one with a firm at the same level and at the same pay who was prepared to be flexible. She's still there some 4 years later and still loving it.

You need to be realistic. If you work a minimum number of hours because you want to spend time at home, that's your decision to make. The person sitting beside you who never goes home is more likely to make partner. But does it really matter?

I have no desire whatsoever to make partner - I earn a comfortable living as things are and I enjoy the work I do and the autonomy with which I can do it.

And I have a life outside work.
"And I have a life outside work."

phew! THAT'S AWESOME! there's hope after all!
That is awesome.

But, one thing a person who hasn't experienced it may wish to keep in mind is that not every firm structures the nature of partnership and associate status (not even addressing those attorney's who have some other status) the same.

In some firms, partnership can almost be automatic, but you eat what you kill and can suffer economically if you do not bill enough.

In others, you will only become a partner if you meet certain expectations.

In those firms, you may, or may not, be able to hang around if you do not become a partner. A person not making partner may be basically asked to leave.
7:03 is right -- the compensation & promotion structure is very different from firm to firm.

In some firms, you either make partner within a certain number of years (generally between 6 and 10) or are required to leave. In certain other firms, almost all associates make partner after a certain period of time. There was even a New York firm (which I believe no longer exists or is no longer run this way) where every lawyer was a partner from the moment he/she was hired.

In my firm (and many others), there are both equity and non-equity partners. Equity partners are true partners, contributing to the firm's capital and sharing in its profits (or lack thereof). Non-equity partners (in most firms labeled "of counsel") have partner-size offices and most partner perks, but they are in other respects just higher-paid associates. Some people prefer that status, because the pay is good and the pressure is relatively low. In some firms, being "of counsel" is kind of a stage you have to pass through before becoming an equity partner.

Firms also differ in how equity partners divide up the pie. In some firms (the minority, I believe), how much you get depends entirely on your seniority. In other firms, how much you get depends on how productive you've been over the past year -- how much business you brought in and/or how many hours you billed (yes, you, the partner -- lawyers work long hours even after making partner). Some large firms have a committee of a few partners that decides how big a slice each partner deserves; in others, all the partners negotiate and wrestle with all their colleagues in determining who gets what.

Firms also differ in how the compensate associates. Some have "lock-step" associate pay, where every associate at a certain level of seniority gets the same pay. Others have merit-based associate pay, with more productive associates getting more money. Bonuses also differ from firm to firm. Some firms give every associate a big annual bonus; some firms do so sporadically, as firm income allows. Some firms give big bonuses only to extraordinarily productive associates.

These are important things to know before you sign on the dotted line. But still less important than knowing whether you will like the people you're going to be working with.
7:03 - you are right to a degree, but that's assuming that you don't make partner because you're a bad lawyer or "don't fit the firm ethos" - which comes back to my comment that it depends on the firm.

Provided you are a good lawyer who works efficiently and effectively, any firm which pays lip service to offerering a work/life balance will usually be happy to keep you on as a senior lawyer without becoming a partner. There are usually expectations within the profession that, if you are really good at your job, you'll WANT to be a partner, but I'm not really good at complying with expectations. ;o)

I've found that there is a big difference between ambition and the ability to be a good lawyer. I get calls from head-hunters about once a month, so I know I could earn more money at another firm, but I like that fact that I never have to work more than 12 hours a day and my weekends are my own, and I enjoy the work I do, so I stay where I am.

For me, it's a matter of priorities.
Why do you think the life of a lawyer in a big law firm is any different at all from the life of a manager at a company, a doctor, or pretty much any job at all in corporate America today?

I work for an insurance company, and everyone there eat, breathes and sleeps their job. We don't have to worry about billable hours, but we do have to worry about being laid off, being purchased by a new company, etc. For a lot less money than the lawyer is making. They are traveling all the time, carrying the beeper on call, and going into the office to catch up on the paperwork that they can't get done during the week.... because everyone has a case load now that is equal to what 3 people carried 5 years ago.

I just think that's life in America these days, not necessarily limited to life in the big (or little) law firms.
"I just think that's life in America these days, not necessarily limited to life in the big (or little) law firms."

If that's true, it shows what fools we really are.
If that's true, it shows what fools we really are.
True enough. I think it's consumer society; somewhere along the line we started evaluating ourselves by our possessions. It's all about financial worth and "stuff." More billable hours = more "stuff" and more financial worth = therefore I am good enough.

But we have to recognize it and make a conscious effort to get off the treadmill and concentrate on the things that really matter to us.
Of course, using an insurance company as an example of most people's reality is probably no more valid than using a law firms. Insurance company's and law firms are part and parcel of the same overall cost adjustment system.

A person's preceptions must be measured against their experiences. If a person has only worked the law, that's one thing. If they've worked other jobs at one time, or if their law job keeps them in touch with others, that's another.

Law is different. Or at least litigation is. In most jobs you are not engaged in intellectual combat all the time, and when you go home you are not really working. In litigation for many you are. But not for all, as the Southern Lawyer's post shows. Indeed, when people in other occupations get a close look at what we do, the most frequent single comment I get is "I can't believe you do this. . ." They can't believe it, because they don't.
Knowing what you know now, would most of you guys still have had gone to law school? Would have become a lawyer?
And what would you have done if you hadn't gone to law school?

(I know everyone will have a different perspective, different expierences, etc, and I'm still trying to figure out for myself what to do with my life, but i thougth it'd be nice to hear what people who've worked as lawyers might say about their own career choices.)
And lawyers have utterly no marketable skills other than practicing law, particularly after they've practiced for awhile. A law degree, I've found, is a deterrant to anyone hiring you outside of a law firm. I've actually had an instance where I applied for a job I would have liked to have a had (at much lower pay), and never received a response. I called them about it, and they were glowing how impressed they were that a lawyer would apply. Baffeled as to why I didn't receive a call, they told me, "Oh, you're a lawyer, you wouldn't be interested in this. . ."If you really believe that the only thing a lawyer can do is practice law, you need to get out and meet more people. Seriously. I know lawyers who are managers/VPs of insurance companies (really common), lawyers who run their own consulting businesses (for things related to law, like jury consulting, etc., and things like consulting to human resources departments and doing corporate training), I know at least three lawyers who own car dealerships, I know an absolute SHITLOAD of former lawyers who now work as mediators (great job, by the way... no paperwork, just show up and try to get the parties to agree to a settlement)...oh, yeah, and plenty of ex-lawyers are in politics!!

Just like anything else, if you don't like what you are doing, look for other things. Cast a wider net and look for "best case scenarios" rather than worst case. Live below your means, sock some money away, and consider lots of possibilities.
In response to 10:23's question: Yes, knowing what I know now I still would become a lawyer. I love this job, with all its faults.
Re 10:23's question, I would not do it again.

However, a short answer to that query doesn't provide any information as to why a person is thinking that way. As I mentioned in another post, I had some outside interest that impacted my thinking, such as the fact that I had/have a very small interest in a family farming operation that I wanted to be near, which limited my career choices, given where I live.

In retrospect, if I had to do it over, I would have avoided the law and sought a degree that would have put me in a field related to my actual interest, something outdoors and agriculture or biology related, in other words. A more practical approach, however, would have been, perhaps, to be less focused on trying to get back to where I started with a career, as I could have had a broader focus, and my local goal didn't really develop the way I'd hoped it might. But then our focus on certain things always tends to be more narrow than we suppose.

The "vet"
FWIW, there are published statistics on the "would you do it again" question. It seems to me I've seen them in the ABA journal.

A related question, for which there are also published statistics, is "would you discourage your children from doing this career?" It seems to me that the percentage who would discourage their children from doing it is higher than those who would not do it again.

State bar organizations will address this sort of thing from time to time, usually in a fairly laughable manner, IMHO. In our case, they'll address the evils of lawyer jokes or some such thing, apparently under the assumption that the discontent is caused by nasty jokes.

The "vet"
Thanks for those comments Hans and Vet! It's relaly intersting to hear even though I don'tknow you guys (obviously). But can I ask Hans why you still like it despite everything and Vet if you dont mind me asking, where do you live? I might be totally off, but it sounds like you don't live in a big city. Would you do it again if you did practice like in a bigger or big city?

To get an idea of why I like it, I would scroll way up to my post that begins, "The 14-year veteran. . . ."

In addition to what I said up above, there are 2 reasons why I like it: (1) I had a lot of other full-time jobs before I decided to become a lawyer. Some were fun and paid poorly; some were not fun and paid poorly; none was particularly challenging after the first few months. What I do now (transactional work in a mid-size firm) is far superior to those prior jobs on almost every level. (Measuring your efforts in terms of billable hours sucks, there's no disputing that.) (2) I love the law. I LOVE IT. I read law books in my spare time. I think about legal issues unrelated to my work. I'm a geek. But I don't want to be a professor; I would miss the rough and tumble of being a "real" lawyer (though I realize that litigators would say that transactional guys are not real lawyers).
If you know you want to be a transactional lawyer do you have to tell law firms upfront during the hiring process (or vice versa, if you want to be a litigator)? I always wondered how that worked? I don't want to get stuck somewhere that I don't want to be like being a litigator when I'd rather do transactional work.
You don't HAVE to tell them that you want to do transactional work. But why risk getting stuck doing something you'll hate? The worst that can happen is the interviewer will say, "Sorry, we're just looking for litigators. So how about that Phil Mickelson?" As an on-campus interviewer, I'd much rather know right away than bring somebody back to the office, or god forbid bring somebody on as a summer, only to find out that the person wants to do something we don't have openings for.
Thanks very much, Hans. One last question: If you do transactional work, does that mean you don't have to go to court? I defintiely prefer working with books and papers behind a desk than I do arguing a case in court.
Most likely you won't have to go to court.
In response to 10:23's question, I work in a medium size Western/Midwestern city. No, I wouldn't like it better if I was in a larger city.

The one thing I like about the law is that it did let me work where I wanted to. So, that part of it did pan out. I get a lot of exposure to larger cities, as I'm constantly travelling to them, and I would have washed out of law long ago had I worked in one.

Hans is correct, by the way, in being honest with a law firm about what you want to do. If you do not, the law firm will put you where they need lawyers, not where you want to be. I am a litigator, and I ended up there because that's what this firm does. By now, I couldn't do much else (other than the few odds and ends in my practice) if I wanted to.

"The Vet"
It is interesting to read Hans' comments here. I used to wonder if I might like doing something more along the lines he does. I know I wouldn't now, but maybe I would have. I did use to like reading cases and the ins and outs of the law a lot, while Courtroom work is the pits anyway you look at it after a while.

Oh well.

The Vet

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