Depression

Ed. note: Please welcome Shannon Achimalbe to Above the Law. Shannon will be writing about the journey from solo practice to a larger law firm.

Since my last post, the ATL editors have been busy covering multiple layoff stories. That, along with news that hiring will not return to pre-recession levels, is scaring the crap out of me discouraging. But as every lawyer and law school graduate since 1950 knows, finding any lawyer job is a Herculean ordeal – whether boom or bust. And finding the right lawyer job is like finding a needle in a stack of needles.

Because of my non-peer pedigree and the continuing economic malaise, the traditional method of job searching is not going to work, and I’ll end up getting either nothing or a dead-end temporary job. In order to get the job I want, I’ll need to create and execute a long-term career plan.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the “shotgun” method of job hunting. Towards the end of my third year of law school, I sent at least 500 unsolicited cover letters and résumés to every law firm, recruiter, in-house, out-house and temp agency my career counselor and I can think of. I must have spent hours customizing each cover letter and résumé for each firm explaining why I should be hired without sounding like a blowhard or a wimp. I took advantage of the free law student bar memberships and went to every networking event I could.

How did this turn out?

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Bad Therapist: A Romance, is available on Amazon, as are his previous books, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist and Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

“I never thought I’d end up working as a contract attorney doing doc review in a windowless basement,” my client bemoaned. “But then I read that piece about the lawyer who’s working as a clerk at Walmart. At least I’ve still got it over him in terms of job prestige.”

Well, you know how obsessed lawyers are with job prestige.

There’s a phrase, “the Downward Drift,” that crops up in discussions of serious mental health diagnoses like schizophrenia, and/or chronic substance abuse. The idea is that you are afflicted with serious mental illness, or become addicted to a harmful substance, which in turn leads to a slow, inevitable slide downward in terms of social class. Before long, the wealthy, Upper East Side business executive suffering from schizophrenia and/or severe alcoholism finds himself jobless, friendless, and eventually even homeless, sleeping in shelters and begging for change.

Weirdly, the same phenomenon — the Downward Drift — affects people who acquire Juris Doctor degrees…

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Ed. note: Please welcome Shannon Achimalbe to Above the Law. Shannon will be writing about the journey from solo practice to a larger law firm.

Some time ago, I met with a consultant to discuss how I could improve and expand my solo practice. I told him my future goals: to be recognized as an expert in my areas of practice, make lots of money, and have free time for my personal life. He said I could accomplish these goals, but it would depend on how much time and effort I put in. He then told me that I would need to “invest” money in marketing, blogging, networking events, and joining various organizations. I would also need to make plans to upgrade my office and get a staff. Finally, he told me to pick a religion, because I’d be praying often.

But when I looked at the projected costs to accomplish my goals along with the non-guarantee of success, I hesitated. A flurry of questions went through my head: Who do I need to connect with and hire? What niches are marketable and enjoyable? When would I start to see a return on my investment? Where are my potential clients?  How many more networking events do I have to attend? Why am I doing this? Am I going to enjoy doing this? When I found myself asking that last question, I knew it was time to look at other options…

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Disrespecting and intimidating students should be a right for law professors, not a privilege. If you roll into class unprepared, or even just looking stupid, law professors should be able to able to throw a hissy fit at you. That’s practice-ready training. Students should learn that in the real world, partners and judges will intimidate them and make them feel small and stupid for any reason, or no reason at all.

One law professor is having that right taken away from him. He’s been barred from campus. The professor claims he’s suffering from depression and Asperger’s Syndrome, and that the school violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by not accommodating his disability.

Disability? In my day, the moody professor who couldn’t keep his mouth shut or read social cues was the grindstone against which brilliant gunners sharpened their unique skills…

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Banks need panic buttons. Jodie Foster needs a panic room. I only panic when it’s nine in the afternoon. But the thought that American law schools should have a panic button in their career services office didn’t occur to me until I attended the NALP panel on spotting mental health issue in the law school community.

The panel consisted of Hanna Stotland, a career and admissions consultant; Dr. Nada Stotland, Professor of Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center; and William Chamberlain, Director of Career Services at DePaul Law School.

I thought I was in for a touchy-feely hour about how it’s wrong to exclude the awkward gunner in the front row from all the reindeer games. Instead it was a sobering medical breakdown of the mental illnesses that afflict 20 percent of law students — and what career services officers can do to help stop people from literally killing themselves, which happens at way more law schools than I realized.

And yeah, your CSO should probably get a panic button installed if it doesn’t have one already….

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