How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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I admit that in addition to feeling sympathy for this guy's misery, there's a large dollop of "Get over yourself." For crying out loud, if he hates his job, there are a scrillion other things he could be doing as a lawyer--public service jobs, jobs at smaller law firms where there's no partnership track to fight over, or types of law where he spends most of his time advising people rather than fighting in court.

But I do see a lot of lawyers like that poster, and I'll tell you that I don't believe they're as unhappy as they say they are. They like bitching about the misery and competitiveness of their jobs, but if you suddenly put them in a job with no office politics, no confrontational opposing counsel and functional co-workers, do you think they'd be happy? I doubt it. On some level they're uncomfortable without the dog-eat-dog atmosphere--or at least their perception that it exists. They need to be the center of their own dramas; it's a little hard to give an angsty soliloquy if you have no reason for angst.

Joseph Welch

Cash grabbing is harder than it sounds. I've been in practice long enough but still get too absorbed into the 'being a lawyer' part of being a lawyer too concentrate on the business end of my practice, i.e., collecting fees.

At least my two-year-old isn't going to end up like me some day... ask her what a shark says, and she'll answer 'money up front'. She'll also tell you that sharks wear wingtips, and to temper the message, that sharks help people... which might explain why the people at her daycare give me funny looks.

Eh Nonymous

I hate to be that guy - among other things, it always results in producing one's own error - but...

Definitely compl_e_ment, not compliment.

An interesting post. Lawyers may in fact be unhappier than comparably well-paid and high-status professionals.

I like JW's comment, above. Smart two year-old!


Hmmm. Here we have an unhappy lawyer, who is apparently trapped into some sort of brutish job by educational and mortgage debt. He would apparently prefer not to be doing it, but finds that he has to for the time being because the opportunity cost of actually becoming a lawyer has forced him into this situation.

Then, we have at least one commentor who suggests that nothing is wrong with the guy's job, but that it is the guy himself that is the problem, and he should get over it. In fact, the guy has created the problem because he likes problems, and if it wasn't this problem, it would be a different one. In fact, the commentor suggests that if one were to actually think the guy's complaint was a valid one, then one would be just as stupid and self-indulgent as the guy.

I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that the first commentor is either a partner or independently wealthy.

Ray Ward

I don't think that practicing law causes depression — I know too many happy lawyers. I do think that law school and the legal profession attract people who are prone to depression (the point of my guest post), and that for some, the demands of practicing law are not conducive to mental health.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll return to sipping my self-medication of choice.


stan, stay out of Vegas.


The problem with depression in the profession is that it attacks many of the lawyers that we need most in the profession: conscientious, compassionate, honest and highly intelligent persons who can positively influence the legal world.

The depression rate for lawyers is double that for the entire adult population. Some studies show that 40% of lawyers have a major clinical depression during their legal career. This is not mere whining and bitching; there is something about law practice that destroys a lot of lawyers.

I know. After 19 years of law practice I stayed out for seven years because of depression, and although I finally returned to the law, I now work for a government agency and take the maximum dose of Wellbutrin daily. My job is more congruent with my values, but it's still not easy.


there is something about law practice that destroys a lot of lawyers

Or, perhaps, that the same personality characteristics that draw people to the law are those that make people prone to depression.


Without a doubt, unhappiness comes in many different professions. However, I know many CPAs... none of them drink themselves to oblivion on a routine basis. I know at least two lawyers who do. When I decided to go to law school, every one of my attorney friends (at least half-a-dozen or more) save *one* told me not to do it, that they hated their jobs. Seriously. Now, that's all anecdotal, I will grant. But there is *something* to being a lawyer and being depressed/depressive. Of course correlation does not equal causation... but I'll be damned I don't know a lot of unhappy lawyers!

Helen, school teacher

I see your point Dave. But it's the world's biggest problem that many people do not what they really want to. Not because the lack of choice, no. Just because they were not given a chance to think about what they were born for, to feel themselves.

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