Depressing stuff

resume girlA few weeks ago, I asked for stories from former solo practitioners who have closed up shop and their reasons why. I received a fair number of responses. Some did well, moving on to BigGov, better larger law firms, or decent non-legal jobs, and some even started profitable businesses.

Others dug themselves into a deeper hole. Some got further into debt. Others made no money for years. And others became estranged from family and friends.

From time to time, I want to feature these stories as case studies for people considering going into solo practice.

For today’s inaugural feature, I will profile a lawyer who became a solo practitioner because he had no other options. Things seemed to be going well until something went wrong….

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When you are starting your solo practice from scratch with no connections, clients, or money, expect to make many sacrifices in the beginning. You must sacrifice time with friends and family to attend networking events meeting people — most of them in the same position as you. You will miss many Simpsons episodes to read legal treatises and practice guides. Money will be spent to pay for office overhead — gifts, luxuries, and even student loan payments will have to wait.

Unfortunately, for one solo attorney, her pursuit of professional success required her to sacrifice one of life’s most treasured partnerships: her marriage. Over the weekend, solo practitioner Vivian Sobers announced on her blog that she and her husband of 11 years have decided to separate and eventually divorce.

Vivian’s story is not unusual. Most of us in our line of work have either experienced rocky relationships ourselves or know someone who has. What is unusual is that she is open about it, and I commend her for that. But here’s the question: is her law practice is to blame for the divorce, or did she bring this upon herself by choosing her career over family?

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Law school can ruin your life if you are not careful. It’s very expensive and the rewards are far from guaranteed. And even if you reap those rewards, you might not like what you’ve become.

But if you do everything wrong, law school becomes just a tragicomic microcosm of poor planning and bad luck.

Forbes has an article up about a woman who is $350,000 in debt and living at the poverty line. Oh, but she has a law degree, and people who haven’t been paying attention are surprised by that…

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Being a lawyer is time-consuming. First, you’ll have to subject yourself to spending three years in law school cramming knowledge into your brain. After you graduate, you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time trying to pass the bar exam and find a job. (If you’re incredibly lucky, you’ll have a job waiting for you at a Biglaw firm.) Last, but not least, once you’re working as an attorney, you’ll get to spend the vast majority of your waking hours at your desk.

Most practicing lawyers are lucky if they see sunlight, let alone have any semblance of what could be called a social life. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all of the tasks that need to be done. That’s why being a lawyer landed on the latest ranking of careers that could have disastrous effects on your social life.

How high did lawyer rank on the “No Life Careers” list? Keep reading to find out…

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Bert and Ernie. Peanut butter and jelly. Salt and pepper. Some things just go together; these natural partnerships add up to more than the sum of their parts. So when I came across a press release announcing a partnership between an ediscovery vendor and a law school, it made perfect…

Wait.

What?

There is going to be a doc review shop at a law school. And apparently the law school is okay with that, even excited.

What exactly is going on here?

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Welcome to working in South Carolina!

Stop it South Carolina. Okay, not like everyone in South Carolina, but based on the tips we keep on getting it appears to be one of the worst markets for contract attorneys. This is not the first time the Palmetto State has been featured as one of the worst jobs, and I fear it won’t be the last. Once there are a few bad jobs (particularly as “bad” relates to wages) in a regional market it can trigger an avalanche effect and even staffing agencies and vendors that used to consistently offer projects above the market rate start to heed the downward market pressure.

And I know exactly how it happens…

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Lawyers, by nature, are not very optimistic people. Maybe it’s a function of assessing risk constantly — with your ass on the line no less. Or just that lawyers tend to get called in after the s**t has hit the fan, so we aren’t generally exposed to the very best of humanity.

I can no longer remember if I was an optimistic, glass-half-full kinda person before law school, but surely there was some spark in me that saw the good in people and situations. I know because I just felt that small flame of hope flickering in my chest get extinguished. And it’s all because of a job posting

So what job is so bad it has me questioning my very faith in humanity?

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I used to be smart.

I read cases. I ginned up clever distinctions. I examined witnesses and knew what the evidence said. I argued appeals. I wrote real, substantive articles.

I had interesting things to say about multidistrict litigation, class actions, and product liability defense.

I spoke at CLE classes — both to maintain my (and my firm’s) profile and because I had worthwhile things to say.

I coulda been a contender.

But that was then.

I’ve been in-house for nearly five years now, and I’ve become a fool. . . .

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Having personally experienced the lows of depression and the positive energy that comes from blogging and social media, I have to believe the effective use of social media could prevent depression for many lawyers.

In a story outside of law, AP sportswriter John Marshall (@jmarshallap) reported Monday on the positive impact social media is having on a six-time Olympic gold medal winner, Amy Van Dyken (@amyvandyken), just a few weeks after she suffered a life-threatening spinal injury.

Not long after Van Dyken’s first surgery, her husband Tom Rouen, a former punter for the Denver Broncos, placed a cellphone in her hands:

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The legal job market remains challenging, but there are some bright spots. As we reported on Friday, entry-level Biglaw hiring is up by almost 10 percent compared to last year.

Many law school students and graduates view working at a prestigious law firm as a cure-all. And it’s true that a starting salary of $160,000 is one of the best ways for law school grads to service six-figure debt loads.

But for some young lawyers, a Biglaw job is far from a panacea. The stress and long hours create new problems — problems that can be hard to solve while holding down a demanding law firm job.

Here is one associate’s very sad situation. What would you advise him or her to do?

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