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» Some Hard Truths from Preaching to the Perverted
Sherry has a rundown of the Legal Lies that are bandied about in the legal profession, especially to law students and young lawyers. As a law student myself, I can attest that I've been told more than a few of these by people before. Some of them I sti... [Read More]

» Weekend from KittySays : : : Bad kitty....
I don't blawg too often (mostly because there are many, many others who are far better at it than I am, but also because I like to think about other shtuff when not working), but I do read entries of... [Read More]

» Weekend from KittySays : : : Bad kitty....
I don't blawg too often (mostly because there are many, many others who are far better at it than I am, but also because I like to think about other shtuff when not working), but I do read entries of... [Read More]

» Legal Lies from The Listless Lawyer
There are some legal lies posted over at Stay of Execution. My favorite was "We act as though law reviews mean something to us as a profession, besides as a marker that a student is a decent writer and can follow the rules and buys into the system".... [Read More]

» the siren is whinin' from f/k/a
Yesterday, however, she -- admittedly -- got "a little carried away" in a ranty piece called Legal Lies. . . the enthusiastic response of her Commentors seems to cry out for [Read More]

» Blawg Review #7 from Jeremy Richey's Blawg
“Wisdom is the chief and leader: next follows temperance; and from the union of these two with courage springs justice. These four virtues take precedence in the class of divine goods.” –Plato Wisdom Glenn Reynolds got a free copy ... [Read More]

» Before Bedding All the King's Men from Half the Sins of Mankind
Fowler takes issue with many aspects of the legal profession, but she seemed to enjoy her own practice when she was working in it, and doesn't appear horrified by the prospect of returning if writing doesn't (bite your tongue) work out. One of the ... [Read More]

» Sheherazade on Legal Lies from errata (title pending)
Over at Stay of Execution, Sheherazade has this brilliant post about lies that the legal profession tells law students. ... [Read More]

» When you don't have time to read or write you make lists from ambivalent imbroglio
These tape men are awesome. I really hate it when people set links to open in new windows. [Read More]

» The lies we tell others - and ourselves from Where's Travis McGee?
Here is a list of lies that lawyers commonly perpetuate. [Read More]

» Sherry Fowler on Legal Lies from Between Lawyers
One of the legal bloggers most admired by other legal bloggers and one of my partners in LexThink, Sherry Fowler, has written a post called "Legal Lies" that deserves a wide readership and much attention and thought. It starts out... [Read More]

» "Sherry Fowler on Legal Lies" from Stark County Law Library Blawg
Posted by Dennis M. Kennedy: “One of the legal bloggers most admired by other legal bloggers and one of my [Read More]

Comments

Scott Johnson

Bravo!

Jim

Amen!

TP

*clapping*

Grant Griffiths

Thank you for saying what most of us are thinking. My student loan debt is huge. I am a solo. I did not get the highest grades in my section, I supported a wife and four children while in law school. And by the way, what doors does a law degree open. Most people look at us with such dislike, they place their plumber above us. Not that there is anything wrong with plumbers. But in my area, plumbers make more and get paid on their bills better than a lawyer. Sad. Sorry for my rant and rave. But you hit a nerve. Thanks again.

Jill

Hurrah! I'm glad you wrote that. I'm a new reader -- I found you the other day through a Julie Leung link. I worked in a big law firm for almost six years, first as a paralegal to figure out whether I wanted to go to law school, and then in the firm's professional development group. There was so much dishonesty with young lawyers that I started to feel like I was working in a concentration camp for people's souls!

Bill Altreuter

I don't know-- it seems to me that you are really only batting .500 here, and probably less. The dirty little secret of our glamour profession is that it is not for everyone, and that too many people find themselves in law school because it is the terminal liberal arts degree. I would put it to you that better counseling at the undergraduate level would be the answer to a lot of what you are complaining about.

Another problem you seem to have is in thinking that the practice of law is somehow rote, uncreative work. G-d knows it can be, and a lot of lawyers practice that way, but it doesn't have to be, and lawyers who don't practice that way seem to me to be pretty happy people. Those are, quite often, the lawyers who benefited and enjoyed the classes that were not about "How to Practice", but were, instead, about "How To Think."

The big myth about law is that it is an easy way to make money, or a good way to make a lot of money. It is not. It is a good way to work hard and have a comfortable life, but it is hard to get rich doing it.

Yeoman

OUTSTANDING COMMENTARY!

You've said in a single post what I've been struggling to say in my blog since I started it.

Brilliant.

Yeoman

Goodness, this is good work on your part. Should be mandatory reading for all law students, and anyone thinking of going to law school.

And law professors too.

Richard

On the same day I read a critique of law schools, How Lawyers Lose Their Way, A Profession Fails Its Creative Minds (2005) by Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado, I read your post. Nicely done.

New Graduate!

It would be great it incoming 1Ls had a mandatory lecture on what a "billable hour" is, and how it was calculated.

This would have the very positive result of: (1) encouraging newly-minted law grads to put a lot of weight, when choosing a firm, on a realistic billable-hours requirement, and (2) firms (hopefully) responding and make themselves more marketable by reducing hours requirements.

I think most firms could do this, by reducing salary by a corresponding amount, and still attract top candidates. When you understand what a billable hour really means, you are more likely to be perfectly happy taking a (very comfortable) $75k instead of $125k if it means having time for family and outside interests. I know I would be.

I live in Europe,I earned my degree free of charge and now,as I'm facing the spectre of unemployment,I think I'd rather get the exorbitant fees but also get a job.

Jenny

I'm a long time reader and infrequent commenter, but I just have to say that this is outstanding. I just finished my 1L year and spent the past week in a smallish firm (15 lawyers is considered "medium sized" for New Mexico.) It was a really disorienting week.

The disconnect between legal education and the practice of law is really troubling to me, and I'm fascinated by what's going on with LexThink. Thank you for being such a leader in this area- your thoughtfulness is much appreciated.

energy spatula

Strangely, I have a post very much like this sitting in my "draft" file...but, of course, you did a MUCH better and more articulate job of saying pretty much what I've been thinking since I got to law school 2 years ago.

I could go on and on, but I won't. Maybe one day I'll finish that post, but in the meantime, you've hit the nail on the head. The saddest part to me is that we, our profession, do this to ourselves.

Nick

I'm a soon-to-be 1L in August, and I've read through the original comment and the response posts. OK, OK, I get it. Law is not what it's purported to be. I think most everyone understands that. But is there anything that you guys (who all clearly seem to have more experience than me in this area, so go with me here) can say that is good about the profession and its earning potential and so on? I mean, if it's so bad then why are you guys all in it?

Ima Fake

There is a great book about law school and the ABA by Jerold S. Auerbach called Unequal Justice: Lawyers and Social Change in Modern America. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).

Basically it explains how the law schools and bar associations struggled to keep the Jews and the Irish from entering the profession by taking the power away from lawyer and granting it to the bars and colleges. They ended the age-old method of Clerking in favor of a the system you so pointedly attach.

Great book. Well written and tells a little known story.

dgm

Looks like I'll be joining Bill Altreuter on Team Gadfly. I'm not entirely sure who the "we" is you are referring to--is it lawyers generally, or law firms, or older people? We certainly can't expect law firms or any other business looking to recruit people they think will make money for them, to say, "but before we hire you, let us also tell you how crappy your life will probably be if you work for us." Likewise, we can't expect law schools to say, "We'd love your money, but please make sure you want to be here first because it's actually a really stressful experience that will make you feel like the stupidest person here." Ultimately, the firms and the schools are just businesses, and they will act like businesses or they will no longer be in business. Do they have a "social responsibility" to the students, or do the students have individual responsibility for their own lives and choices?

Yes, many law students incur huge debt for law school and a legal career that they are unhappy with, but I don't think we can lay the blame at the feet of the lawyers who don't disclose every dirty little secret about the profession. (Do we ask that of the medical profession? Don't some young doctors work even more obscene hours than lawyers? Why didn't the other doctors tell them it would be like that?) Isn't the problem really that many of the people perhaps don't take responsibility up front for investigating the investment before they make it? And then later they lack the courage to break from something they really aren't cut out for.

You've posted before on why more people aren't happy, and you posted just this weekend about your own choice to cut and run from starting your own firm--a choice you believe was the right one even though it is risky and may cost you financially. The posts are not unrelated. I think many people generally (including law students who don't really want to practice law) are unhappy because they don't go with their gut and try to find what they really want; they don't listen to their inner voice. I think you will continue to be happy because you do.

For the record, I'm not condoning actions by law schools and law firms that rise to the level of fraud; but I don't think what you've described rises to that level. And as a lawyer who now teaches, I make every effort to talk to law students and potential law students about their choice. But the fact is, I think it rarely makes a difference. Adults in their 20s, perhaps especially the types that make it into law school, are going to do whatever they set their sights on because at that point they are too young to have experienced the "woulda coulda shoulda" pains that hindsight brings a decade (or more) later.

curlygc

will you marry me?

Atlas

Thanks for shedding some light on this, because it just seems alot of people are naive about the reality of the profession. Ill say that even myself, I think of the $125,000, business suits, and the arrogance of knowing your well paid. I dont really think about the ball busting work, getting chewed out by partners, and not being the superstar (there is always someone smarter). In the end I guess knowing all this would turn people away, but even myself I keep on running towards the edge of cliff, constantly pushing myself to achieve this goal. I guess its just what you really want in life.

Isaac Laquedem

Are those lies of the legal profession, or mostly of the law schools and college placement offices? Law firms aren't jovially encouraging college seniors to sign up for $100,000+ in debt, nor are they saying that the students can do a lot of things with a law degree. (I will grant that large law firms bill -- excuse me, describe -- their work to law school seniors as challenging and creative when it is not.)

College seniors know what law school costs, and should know what they'll have to borrow to pay for it, before they sign up.

turboglacier

If it's any consolation, much of this is also true of the medical profession... except it takes even longer till you can start paying off the debt...

emma goldman

It's also true of academia, except you make a lot less than doctors or lawyers (if you can find a job at all, that is). The debt load can be lighter, but even $50k of debt is a lot if the salaries are around $40k/year.

But my real question, coming from someone outside your field: What IS a billable hour? What do law students need to know about it?

mythago

emma, there's a link to an essay about billable hours in the main text, up yonder.

salaries that are way out of sync with what the true value of the services they are able to provide

Not quite correct; with the services they are able to provide to clients, yes; with the services they provide to their law firms, no.

I once ran into a very disillusioned new associate with VeryBigLaw LLP who had just returned from the firm Christmas party. One of the name partners, who didn't know an associate was standing five feet away, referred to the firm's associates as "billable units."

This was a firm that was well-known for having no problems at all with hiring and promoting women and minorities, because they didn't care about the color of your skin or whether you wore a skirt; all they cared about was whether you were willing to put in 90-hour weeks. Most new associates didn't quite get that if a law firm pays you $X, they expect to bill you out for quite a bit more that $X, and the more hours you work the better return on their investment you are.

Gideon

well trained Indians?

*shakes his head*

emma goldman

thanks, mythago; brain cramp there.

emma goldman

Okay, then, a question: is there a way to think about lawyers' tasks that allocates specific hours/dollars to that task, no matter how many hours the task takes? Some cases might be more complicated/need more hours, but surely other cases might require fewer hours than the standard. I realize that this might not work--i.e., there may not be enough routinization to make this kind of generalization about a task or set of tasks--but are there any tasks that can be handled this way?

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