Depression

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ariel Salzer offers advice to overwhelmed law students.

When I tell students that I took almost every Saturday off during my first semester of law school and still did well, their incredulity is palpable. It’s not because this is some huge, amazing accomplishment on my part, because it’s not. It’s one day off! I think it’s because, as law students, we are indoctrinated to believe that we need to study all the time. A minute off is a minute wasted. It’s one more opportunity for our classmates to lunge ahead in the great race.

In other grad school programs, doing something like taking a day off each week (gasp!) would not be considered teetering on the brink of insanity. For some reason, though, the minute we get those crisp acceptance letters, buy those books that cost half our rent money, and buckle down to get As at all costs, our common sense tends to go out the window.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Professor Cheryl Hanna

Last week, we noted the passing of Cheryl Hanna, a prominent professor at Vermont Law School who was an inspiration to her students and a regular legal-affairs commentator in the media. Her death was something of a mystery at the time; she was just 48 years old, and no cause of death was given.

The state medical examiner’s office has completed its investigation. We now have additional information about Professor Hanna’s passing — but that information raises a new question.

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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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* “Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, if my client was the shooter, why would he have left the witness alive to testify? He’s a man who finishes the damn job.” [ABA Journal]

* Who would pretend to be a lawyer who is not? Apparently this public figure. [Legal Cheek]

* Jill Abramson is out at the New York Times. Could the reason be her decision to lawyer up? [Law and More]

* If you’ve hung around ATL long enough, you’ve heard us speculate that it just doesn’t make economic sense to attend most law schools. Here’s proof — only about 50 are even worth it economically. Which is hard to believe because I thought law degrees were worth $1 million. [TaxProf Blog]

* Lawyers get depressed, and not talking about it makes it worse. [Everyday Health]

* Seven-year-old kids are developing health problems from picking tobacco, because we let children work on tobacco farms apparently. [Slate]

* The Asian American Bar Association will be conducting a trial reenactment of 22 Lewd Chinese Women next Wednesday. Register here! [AABANY]

* As the new movie comes out, lawyers are really worked up over the Godzilla intellectual property. They need to hire Jorge Rivers: Godzilla Lawyer, whose ad appears after the jump (starring Thomas Lennon)…. [The Columbus Dispatch]

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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.

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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