Why are lawyers miserable: want a list? – Times Online

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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Why are lawyers miserable: want a list? – Times Online:

  1. the dehumanising hours.
  2. the yawning gap between their intelligence and the mind-numbing nature of their work. At least if you flipped burgers for a living you’d have the satisfaction of giving people momentary pleasure.
  3. the yawning gap between the ideals of those entering the profession and the reality. Some go into law because they dream of fighting injustice, but discover on entering that most of what lawyers do benefits big business.
  4. the cumulatively lowering nature of the work. We all end up being shaped by our careers. Being a good lawyer involves assuming that people will do the most awful things and that treachery is to be expected.
  5. the vortex of hatred that envelops them entirely.
  6. the self-inflicted nature of their suffering.

Looking back over this list, I realise little of it is going to elicit much sympathy. Somehow, I can’t see the Red Cross diverting resources away from Darfur to come to the rescue of professionals earning £1,000 an hour.

But human misery isn’t relative, and I can’t help thinking these problems could be solved. All City firms need to do is take a moment or two to take a good look at themselves. But that must be difficult when time is (so much) money.

All of these points apply to U.S.-based lawyers, too, of course, perhaps even more than in the U.K. However, I think it is possible (I hope it is) to be happy as a lawyer, although perhaps it means giving up the lucrative and prestigious jobs with the big firms… (once the loans are paid off!) I certainly know that as an individual, I will have to take this route.

Personally, although perhaps this is unlikely, I think the big firms would do well to try to improve their lawyer’s happiness, instead of churning through them quickly (as they reportadly do). Issues such as work-life balance are more and more critical for U.S. workers these days, including lawyers. While centers such as the Center for WorkLife Law in San Francisco try to advocate for these issues, change is slow in the legal profession.

I suppose I can always go back to being a software developer.

(Via Slaw.com, Rob Hyndman, and the WSJ Law Blog.)