Depressing Things

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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Between 2008 and 2012, the median debt burden for newly minted JDs increased by 54 percent, from $83,000 to $128,000. (That compares with a 22 percent increase in medical student debt.) It is the responsibility of every aspiring law student to understand the implications of taking on such a financial commitment. For law grads who have already accumulated the debt, there may be options for you to better manage repayment. Thanks to our friends at DRB, today’s infographic takes a look at law student debt, including the possible benefits of refinance or consolidation. Click here for more details.

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An anonymous associate in New York City.

The hope is that after 8 years, I’ll be made a partner. Until then, the job description basically states that I will be worked to death.

[My greatest fear about the next 8 years is] turning 40 and not having a personal life. Finding out that I’ve gotten where I want to be, but there’s nobody in my life to give a sh*t about where I am or what I’ve done.

– An honest associate who agreed to be photographed by Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York and share his story about life in Biglaw.

(Do you share the same fears? Feel free to sound off in the comments.)

I’ll have been here for six years this summer, and I still read most of the comments to most of my posts. I rarely respond, unless I’ve been drinking, which I do almost constantly, so you do the math. But it’s been years since I’ve directly addressed commenter concerns in an actual post.

In my post about the Ivy League law grad who is struggling to pass the bar and build a career, I expressed sympathy for the graduate’s plight. It was a sad story that was powerfully expressed and tugged at my nearly blocked heart.

But commenters claimed that my sympathetic response to the Ivy League grad was because the person went to top law schools. They argued that I would not be nearly as nice to a person who struggled in the same way after going to a non-elite school.

If I my channel my inner Nathan Jessup: YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT I WOULDN’T….

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We’ve received many emails here from struggling law students or recent law grads who have high debt and no job. Some of them deserve mockery. Some of them are good jumping off points for a discussion on the failures of legal education.

But this one is just sad. I feel bad for this person. The kid went to Columbia, got an LL.M from Cornell, but has now failed the bar four times.

I don’t have any flip or snarky internet advice. I just honestly hope that somehow things get better for this person. I think I’m feeling what you humans call “sympathy”…

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Some people go to law school not in the hope of making buckets of cash, but to bring justice to their communities. With long hours and low pay, being a government attorney is a noble pursuit. The catch is that some of these poor souls didn’t know just how poor they’d actually be.

To that end, they certainly didn’t expect that they’d be paid a lower salary than the courthouse custodian, and they had no clue that they’d be members of the working poor.

Which state is allowing entry-level government attorneys to live in squalor?

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There’s a reason the Hero’s Journey doesn’t take detours through law school. It just doesn’t feel all that epic to spend your day highlighting cases and playing gunner bingo. When the most famous films about law school involve a pathetic whiner terrified of his professor, a white guy in blackface, and a ditz trying to get back at her boyfriend, you know you’re not dealing with the Guns of Navarone.

Whenever law tries to get heroic, we tell tales of lawyers who champion the downtrodden. And then fail miserably.

So it’s no wonder that this kid who feels they really are a hero is rudderless in law school.

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A hallmark of horrible regimes everywhere is the insistence that everyone around them profess a deep and abiding faith that they are, in fact, super-awesome regimes. This is why Kim Jong-un has at least 35 laudatory epithets attached to his name and holds parades about how awesome it was that he sprayed the populace down with AXE Bodyspray. Or something. I’m a little shaky on the details because bad regimes make a point of keeping the truth out of the public eye.

At least one law school has taken a lesson from mid-20th century fascism and adopted a total blackout on the truth about the substandard results it’s been getting. A blackout so absolute that, while hosting a candidate for the open position of dean, the school reportedly asked the candidate to leave and threatened to call security when he or she brought up the fact that, “hey, enrollment is down and those jerks from Above the Law make fun of us for our terrible bar passage rate” at a faculty gathering.

Can’t let the proles hear that.

So let’s have some fun — which law school do you think it is?

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