The tale of two attorneys: one attorney, a recent graduate of Pace Law School in New York, finds himself working as an assistant manager at a local RadioShack, while the other attorney having practiced for four years at a good firm is now laid off. The former is still looking for an offer working 11 hours a day, 6 days per week, carrying over $200,000 in student loans and credit card debt; the latter started his own legal outsourcing company that helps firms to save money for their clients by sending work, such as document review, to lower priced attorneys (usually temps). These stories resonate with many attorneys experiencing the same during this recession, our troubled economic times.
Call it instinct or an educated guess, even "yours truly" can empathize with the attorneys mentioned. During March of 2008, I decided to set out on my own when the practice I was working for started to see a decline in revenues. Then I was part-time with the one office and I was fortunate to have picked up part-time work for another attorney in the same office building. One top of it all, I went through a difficult divorce and was single again. The signal - albeit it was a strong impluse and impetus - for me was to start my own practice and to do the work I desired, admittedly out of some distrust of the job market and having had no confidence in being able to dodge a lay-off. Looking back, I am glad I did it!
Though some have seen the recession and their lay-off as a catastrophe in their legal career, others have found liberation, as with the story of the "other attorney." Certainly, graduating from law school with a mountain of debt, putting in our sweat-equity during the 3-4 year "grind," and being eager to start a law career as early as possible after having the diploma in-hand can severely deject and depress even the least eager of us. Then again, working for several years and meeting with the Partner to find out you have your final pay check in her hand, only to wonder if you can live off the unemployment benefit, can hit just as harsh. The feeling for many is, "I need to be employed as an attorney working for someone to survive!" Rest assured, this dependency is not a platitude for legal professionals. There are other avenues as seen with attorneys who have found opportunities in areas using their talents, although RadioShack may be just a necessary means for the short run.
This economy has seen many attorneys either starting their own practices or businesses, which for some has been the best excuse they have found to do something else they wanted to do because they did not really wish to practice law in the first place. We get out of law school and almost feel shame if we do not pass the bar and practice; yet, others see the potential in their training, education, experience and background to find an avocation that is the best fit for them, if not more fulfilling. And despite our "risk averse" natures, some have taken risk to start something new and their own, successfully. Nevertheless, this economy has also seen many would-be attorneys and in greater number wanting to go to law school with more people taking the LSAT last year than any other in the past. Which of these will end up among the dejected?
Now, imagine getting up in the morning and looking forward to going to work for the first time in your life. Many attorneys, almost 78 percent, are dissatisfied with their jobs! In the words of Henry David Thoreau, "Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still."