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Fascinating. As a shrink, I am eager to sit down with that treatise from Vandy Law Review.

Much of what you say here about law school would also apply to med school (the prestige game, the hierarchies, the abuse of the youngest members of the profession, the options closed by debt...) Many physicians I know would or have actively discouraged their children from following in their footsteps.


fantastic summary -- thank you. :)

Have you read "In the Shadow of the Law" ? I enjoyed it - it really delves into what biglaw does to the attorneys. It's written by a former Sup Crt clerk - an interesting perspective. I recommend it as a thoughtful legal thriller.


nice summary.


I would agree with the comments from Turboglacier in regard to medical school and its similarities to law school. Even more so with the changes in insurances and malpractice - my husband actively discuourages young people from going into the profession - especially if there is any thought about financial security involved.


Great post. sigh. I am in the process of figuring this all out. I always knew I never wanted to just "be a lawyer" and have that be all anyone said about me. But man, it is tiring trying to be yourself everyday, when who you are is not the image you are expected to have. I'm (fortunately)in the small office of a big law firm, but I still deal with the "your billable hours are low" crap and the pecking order crap and how no one can really own up and admit when they don't know how to do something or what comes next! Fortunately I am one of those people possed with very little shame and have always asked questions, so I have no problem admitting that I don't know how to do something or know what comes next.

I have a story that I think about when people give me a hard time or a weird look for something I do. I was once on my way to a trial practice class taught by a very cool AUSA who did the administrative stuff in his office (he was a managing partner equivalent, I guess). And I was skipping to class and humming because I was happy (default status) and no one was around and it made me feel good. And somehow he saw me skipping - I think he may have been behind me - and he told me, very earnestly, that I had something special about me and that I should never change. He also told me he hoped I didn't lose this specialness. And I have to say, when people give me a hard time about things - that I knit, or am happy, or believe the best of people or have blurred the line between attorneys and staff or chose not to participate in the hirearchial crap, or simply still like to skip at 28 - I think about this moment and I smile and keep on keepin' on.


I'd have to say many of these issues are also similar for biomedical research scientists as well. The major difference is, in our training stage of postdoctoral work (I guess you could equate this loosely with an associate at a law firm) our pay is ridiculously low for the amount of schooling we've had (minimum 5 years in a PhD program). On the other hand, we didn't have to pay to go to grad school, so we generally don't have the huge debt that you guys are saddled with. But we are faced with some of the same expectations of giving up our life for our work. Personally, I resist that entirely. I'm at work usually 9-5, M-F. I'll stay late if I have something important to do, but I don't make a habit of working nights or weekends. In many people's eyes, this probably makes me a bad scientist. My view is, it makes me a better human being.


I'm finally in my third year of law school, and couldn't agree more with what you said. Its amazing how many people seem to follow what everyone else is doing and what they think they're "supposed" to be doing, without even questioning their choices.

I made the choice not to do law review (sounded boring and tedious and I couldn't think of a good reason TO do it), I haven't killed myself to get the best grades, and I didn't interview for any big firm gigs. I worked my second summer at a federal agency (the job I went to law school hoping for) - and I was amazed at how many HAPPY and BALANCED lawyers there were. And its not like they aren't easily making enough money to live off of. I've come to the conclusion that it is very very possible to have a happy and fulfilling career in the legal profession. I don't understand why more people don't put a higher value on quality of life ... its all about the prestige ...


Well, I just took a 50% pay cut to leave the big firm and return to my hometown and work for a small firm. I'm having to retool completely, dealing with completely different stresses and problems, but I hope fervently that it will help with balance and with the deep despair I felt having to go to work every day. I have other fish to fry besides work. I already really miss my very specialized practice area: it was interesting and I was well-suited to it. But I don't miss the attendant disasters.

The pressure was extreme and all, but the billable hour is poisonous. It changes the way that you look at your entire life to measure everything in six minute increments. I knew I had to reduce the pressure when my child was dawdling on the way to the car in the morning, trying to catch a bug, and I could feel this anger welling up: the sooner I start, the sooner I can be done billing today and get out of the office. Don't you understand I have a QUOTA? I realized I simply couldn't live like this.

I still have to bill by the hour. But the expectation that I be available to clients 24/7 is gone, and the high hours requirement is knocked down to something doable. I feel that the profession is alienating, especially for women. But biglaw is particularly hard for any honest person, I feel. The pressure to bill is just soooooo great. I had to get out or lose my ethics. Perhaps that is weakness on my part.

Prestige is not the problem: fear and pride are. Both stem from insecurity born of the brain washing you get at the firm. There is also the golden handcuffs problem. Feeling trapped is corrosive.

Rayne of Terror

I'm a 3L and am at the point of questioning why I did this to our family. Is it worth it? Definately not sure at this point. It is a hard hard row to hoe for a young family just for me to be a mediocre student.


I think the point about prestige is an interesting one, but I think perhaps the root is in some deeper phenomenon, of which 'prestige' is only one manifestation. The pattern itself repeats in many, many industries. People make great sacrifices in return for intangible concepts. If you look at the music industry, for example, you see many people being inspired by artists who have been discovered by a major label. These artists have achieved 'fame'. However, the toll is often high, and requires a lifestyle where they are always on the road, doing often-pointless radio interviews, and living from one motel to the next. Are these musicians happier than the "less successful" ones who make a more modest living being paid for live performances in local venues? Generally not.

Arguably, fame offers some rewards in the form of preferrential treatment; the same can probably be said of prestige, albeit with a more limited scope. However, when the payoff of preferential treatment is only realized occasionally, and cannot be applied back to the toll itself, it cannot be the driving factor.


Couldn't agree more...except with the small firm comment. Most lawyers go to law school with grand ambitions of analyzing issues and making decisions about important issues, but most don't end up in big law. They end up in "small law" litigating neighbor's boundary disputes, or ex-girlfriend's anti-harassment orders for a middle class wage with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.

I was just let go from a small firm though I did great legal work (so I was told), so excuse me if I'm a bit bitter. Now that I'm looking at careers outside the law, I see the years I wasted that I could have spent specializing in the industry I was in prior to law school where I would now be a person with a skill set in demand, rather than another unemployed generalist lawyer.


I am agree with this comment. An excellent personal statement will separate you from the sea of candidates with similar academic qualifications.

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It is a lifelong commitment and many things would alter with time and no one can guarantee eternity. Hence, silence becomes the best solution to all difficulties and hardships. Since we cannot make a for-sure promise, why do we still bother to boast too much about it? We still need to get down to our business with our own effort.

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