If you’re like me, you might find that practicing law sometimes feels like a questionable way to spend the best years of your life. As I have previously noted, legal work is both extremely stressful and incredibly boring. Moreover, it requires lots of hard work, often to the exclusion of other, perhaps more meaningful, life pursuits. Given all of these difficulties, I sometimes can’t help but wonder: is life is too short to be a lawyer?
Depending on your feelings about your job, this inquiry may or may not send you careening into an existential crisis. But before you get too carried away, let’s get real. You have student loans to pay and, more importantly, probably a family to feed. And although quitting your job to open a bed and breakfast in South America may seem like a great idea on House Hunters, unless you are comfortable living off $20,000 a year, this probably isn’t a realistic option for you.
Assuming you are stuck in your law job for the long haul, what can you do to make the most out of your life? While I have previously discussed ways to achieve a more satisfactory work-life balance, the unpleasant reality about these suggestions is that we are all limited by the number of hours in each day. While I think these suggestions work, they obviously cannot eliminate the underlying problem, which is that you probably spend most of your waking life in your office. Assuming we can’t add hours to each day, how about adding years to our lives? How about living forever??
Sadly, lawyers are a group vulnerable to succumbing to addictions. In fact, according to one study, while 10% of the general population suffers from alcohol addiction, this number increases to 20% among lawyers. That’s right: one in five lawyers are alcoholics. At this point, you may be starting to wonder who in your firm proves this statistic. I would advise against this game, however. Although it may seem mildly entertaining at first, you’ll quickly realize that it’s actually pretty sick. This is because, of course, the statistic is true.
I remember being warned about the problem of substance abuse in the legal profession during the first week of 1L orientation when we watched a video about addicted attorneys. Unfortunately, this movie — which followed high functioning alcoholics and a woman with a shopping problem — failed to have its intended effect. That is, instead of scaring me away from drugs and alcohol, the film left me with the misguided impression that being a lawyer is easy. After all, if those people could practice law when they were completely wasted, doing it sober must be a breeze.
Notwithstanding my experience during 1L orientation, I do realize that drug and alcohol abuse is a serious issue in our profession, and not one to be taken lightly. If you or anyone you know has dealt with an addiction, you know how hard it can be. The question is, why are lawyers at such a high risk?
Key to writing a self-help piece? Pictures of bland smiling people.
Self-help books are amazing. So simple, so pedantic, so lucrative. If I could muster enough “human compassion,” I’d get in on that action. But, as is I’ll have to stick with mocking dumb lawyers online. It’s a living.
A self-help book for lawyers is out and boasts some advantages for lawyers choosing to live a “wellness” lifestyle.
If you’re wondering what “wellness” means, it’s kind of a catch-all pop psych term for “not being a f**kup.” Glad I could help out….
As I mentioned earlier today, I’m probably dying. Having the flu is like being drunk without any of the fun or reliable breathing.
I’m feeling better today than yesterday (thanks for asking), when I blew off work via a text message that read, “Not coming in tomorrow. Sorry.” Actually, I don’t remember if I included the “sorry” part, because I wasn’t, but “sorry” seems like a nice thing that I hope I said. I have a pretty sweet job for calling in sick. Here’s how it works: I get sick, I tell somebody (doesn’t really matter who), and I go back to bed.
That’s not all that different than how I rolled in Biglaw. Of course, I didn’t last very long in Biglaw. In Biglaw, people act like overcoming illness to work on documents makes them Michael Jordan in the flu game. I always thought it was stupid, and borderline malpractice, to attempt to work on sensitive client matters when you’ve got enough Duane Reade in you that it’s illegal for you to drive a car, but I’m also the guy who used to remote into work because it was “too cold” and took a “personal day” whenever Madden dropped.
Let my mistakes be your guide. Here are five times when I called in sick and I didn’t get dirty looks from all the partners when I returned. So I can only assume that these are the five situations where it’s “okay” to be sick.
I’ve put it together in the form of a listicle because I can’t be bothered to put in transitional phrases like an adult. For those who might be interested in using this list as a guide for scoring a day off, I’ve ordered this from the most believable ways to call in sick to the least…
Notice how this is a child? Don't act like a child.
True story: when I was a lawyer, sometimes I’d leave work and fantasize about jumping in front of a slow moving bus or cab and getting injured. Not enough to be in a life-threatening situation, just serious enough to be put in some ward of the hospital where my doctors wouldn’t allow me to do any more work. I knew just having a “note” from the doctor or being “sick” wasn’t enough. If you could see, you could review documents. So I needed an injury where somebody would prevent my employer from making me do any more work.
And an injury that was serious enough to allow me to quit would have kept my parents off my back. That’s the real business. If I had gotten, say, my left arm chopped off (I’m right handed), I figured I could credibly explain to my family that I had “a moment of clarity” and didn’t want to “waste my life in an office” anymore. Then I wouldn’t look like a “quitter” to my friends and family, and I’d look almost heroic for efforts to overcome my new disability. It would have worked!
I never did it, obviously. Eventually, I realized that quitting my job and dealing with the disappointment of my family and the unfounded perception that I “couldn’t cut it” from my friends was way more intelligent than cutting off my arm. And I think history has proven me right. For instance, I have two arms, which is awesome.
But I thought about it — you think about all kinds of crazy things when you feel overwhelmed with work. It seems like a Brazilian university student took her thoughts a step further. To avoid completing her dissertation, she faked getting kidnapped….
Not to be all on Catherine Rampell’s jock today, but the other thing I read in the Economix while I was catching up on the internet seemed far more interesting than imagining Shearman & Sterling partners bitch about how flat profits per partner left them with only $1.56 million, on average, to play around with in 2011.
On the one hand, it’s an obvious point: a study about the most “sleep-deprived” professions found lawyers to average only 7 hours of sleep a night. Only “home health aides” received less sleep.
It doesn’t come as a galloping shock to anybody that lawyers average less sleep than almost anybody else. What did surprise me was the figure. What the hell kind of lazy lawyer is getting seven entire hours of sleep every day?
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
Non-attorneys would think the stress comes from preparing for a big trial, deposing a hostile witness, or crafting the perfect contract for a picky client.
But that’s nothing compared to the constant, nagging, real-life kind, the kind you get from the day-to-day grind of being a law-abiding attorney.
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The firm handles sophisticated, high-end cases for plaintiffs, including individuals and businesses with significant claims in a wide array of matters. Our cases often have important public policy implications, and are litigated in state and federal courts throughout Connecticut. Representative areas of practice include medical malpractice, catastrophic personal injury, business torts, deceptive trade practices and other complex commercial litigation, and products liability.
Additional information can be located on our website, at www.sgtlaw.com.