What the Hell is Wrong With Lawyers?

QuestionsI’m not asking this to be snarky, I really wonder:

What the hell is wrong with lawyers?

Think about it:

  1. Law School: Do you have any friends who are teachers? Ask them how effective they’d expect an educational system to be when there’s no practice and no feedback. Answer, not very. Surprisingly enough, it turns out law schools aren’t improving their students’ legal reasoning skills by any measurable degree. Shocked, I tell you. I’m shocked!
  2. Law Firm Attrition: If I told a businessperson I was going to create a business model where I’d invest tons of time and effort training my already highly educated workforce, only to see 75% of them quit in the first five years (just when they were potentially really profitable), what do you think he’d say? That I was crazy, and not very bright. So….why are all large law firms doing this? I don’t know either.
  3. Law Firm Billing: Try this one. Go up to the average person on the street and ask what they think about the idea of paying someone extra for working more slowly. I predict a lot of blank stares. Remind me how paying someone to be inefficient makes sense?
  4. The Bar Exam: Finally, everyone’s favorite dead horse, the bar exam. Suffice it to say that if you did what you’re required to do to pass the bar exam in real life — namely, make snap legal judgments in areas you barely understand without bothering to look anything up — you’d be disbarred in a heartbeat. THIS is what determines whether someone’s qualified to join the profession?

How does this stuff keep going on?!?

I suppose we can all collectively shrug our shoulders and say “Oh, well. None of it really matters anyway.” Except that it kind of does.

We’re talking about a profession that takes perfectly well-adjusted people, and makes them into depressed substance abusers in a matter of months.

Maybe part of the reason for that is that, fundamentally, we’re going about this all wrong.

That might lead to some cognitive dissonance, you know?

Read On:

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Comments

  1. Shut your mouth and get back to billing clients!

  2. I have no background in psychology or psychiatry, but having one foot in and one foot out of the legal profession, I strongly suspect that the substance abuse and depression that are more common among lawyers than the general population have two causes:

    1) Law has a greater-than-average concentration of insecure, status-conscious, and competitive personality types. Any group containing a lot of insecure people is very stressful to be in, whether they’re lawyers or not. What’s more, these traits are so common in the legal profession, that it can exaggerate these tendencies in people who normally are only slightly insecure, a little status-conscious, and moderately competitive.

    2) It is not socially acceptable in the legal profession to discuss anything other than success (your own or that of others) in public. Weakness, vulnerability, and failure are invisible. This means that if you experience anything other than success, you are alone. This makes success in law all the more urgent – not only do you have to fear the direct consequences of failure, you have to fear the loneliness and isolation of it. It’s very easy to believe that you are the only person who sucks at law if you have a bad day at a big law firm. People in other professions appear to be more comfortable talking about past mistakes as learning experiences – lawyers on the other hand seem to like to give the impression that they emerged from their mothers’ wombs writing perfect appellate briefs.

    I remember when I was at my firm, we had a mentor/mentee meeting in the conference room for junior associates and partners. One partner asked for suggestions about things they could tell us that might be helpful. I suggested that they consider sharing stories with their mentees about how something didn’t go right for them at some point in the past and how they bounced back from it – to show us that what they have achieved is possible for mere mortals and provide an example of how to overcome adversity. I was surprised at how visibly uncomfortable that suggestion made them.

  3. Businessperson says:

    As a business person I find it interesting that Lawyers always complain about their education, profession and colleagues. They also allude to the idea that the grass is greener on the other side i.e. another profession. Everything that is mentioned here is also found in all other industries. Similar observations can be made about every MBA program, every big company and so on. One advantage to being an Attorney is that you can practice the law on your own. That is virtually unheard of in almost all other industries. Good luck finding work if you decide to strike out on your own as an Independent Contractor with or without a MBA. Being a professional is hard. Working in an economy that is competitive by design is even more difficult. The grass isn’t greener on the other side.

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