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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bar Report: 'New Lawyers Are in a Financial and Emotional Depression'

Depression 2State Bar of Wisconsin, New Lawyers Are in a Financial and Emotional Depression, Says State Bar Task Force:

Terrified. Disheartened. Disillusioned. These are some of the words new lawyers are using to describe their struggles in the legal profession, as revealed in a State Bar of Wisconsin report discussing the challenges facing new lawyers.

Attorney Arthur Harrington, co-chair of a task force created in 2012 to study the issue, recently stood before the State Bar’s 52-member Board of Governors and read anonymous comments from new lawyers who responded to a survey questionnaire.  ...

“My debt is higher than a mortgage for a nice house. It’s all I think about. And I know I will be strapped in a job I don’t want paying debt for the rest of my life,” said another.

“I’m buried under debt. I’m terrified that this is what the rest of my life is going to look like. I’m also scared to start my own practice, because I don’t have the practical litigation experience. I can’t afford a pet, let alone kids. I live paycheck to paycheck. It’s very, very scary and disheartening,” was another response from a new lawyer.

Another lawyer said the job search left the lawyer feeling “suicidal” and “terrified.” The lawyer also feels alone and scared of making a mistake in practice but is hesitant to tell anyone about these mental struggles for fear of being disbarred.

These types of answers left Harrington to pronounce that new lawyers “are facing a depression, both economically and emotionally.” Lee Turonie, a task force member and past president of the State Bar’s Young Lawyer’s Division, said the lawyers who made these sorts of comments “are fast becoming your average member of the State Bar.” ...

One recommendation is a State Bar-sponsored law firm providing short-term apprenticeship work for recent graduates with supervision, perhaps providing legal assistance to the poor or underserved. Other large-scale initiatives include:

  • a “legal residency” program that would give lawyers on-the-job training;
  • a program to help lawyers obtain temporary and project work;
  • a court clerk program, funded by law schools, where law students work as clerks in the court system to provide assistance amidst shrinking budgets;
  • a small business incubator to help potential solo practitioners;
  • and a program to help lawyers find work in rural areas.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/12/bar-report.html

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Comments

"The lawyer also feels alone and scared of making a mistake in practice . . . ." Is there anyone out there, who began practicing in the last 50 years, who did not feel "alone and scared of making a mistake" when they started out? Am I the only one who thinks it is a moderately good thing that new lawyers are scared of making a mistake? Being "scared" isn't bad--it's how you handle your fear that counts. Next thing we'll be worried because our new lawyers are anxious when they make their first appearance in court.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Dec 19, 2013 8:40:35 AM

This summary is only a portion of the article. I think the point of the subject's comment was that he or she had major anxiety because he or she did not have the training or mentoring that lawyers in the last 50 years have enjoyed. Law firms, traditionally the training ground for new lawyers, don't want to pay for training, or they aren't hiring. Thus, new lawyers are going solo. Everyone knows practicing law is inherently scary at first. But that fear is five-fold when nobody is there to help you.

Posted by: Duces Tecum | Dec 19, 2013 11:37:00 AM

These are kids who were taught from a young age to expect to get trophies for participating, and that you don't have to earn anything if you can borrow for it. It's too easy to tell them, "Welcome to the real world, now you're screwed." And it would be wrong. The blame goes to their parents and other teachers who indoctrinated them in those fallacious beliefs.

Posted by: Bob Newton | Dec 19, 2013 3:42:10 PM

I notice that all the "initiative", while providing some benefit, postpone earning money. If debt is one of the big worries, it will take some selling to convince new grads that the best way to deal with this worry is to forestall earning and join an internship or a mentoring program or a Bar-sponsored something else. These are all end-of-the-pipeline fixes rather than curbing the flow rate a bit.

Posted by: Carson | Dec 19, 2013 3:53:09 PM

Who enjoyed training and mentoring? I finished law school 35 years ago and was pissed to realize that while I knew what a fee tail was, and the Rule in Shelley's Case, I had no idea how to practice law. And not having been able to get a job, had to learn by myself in my solo practice.

Posted by: MarkInFlorida | Dec 19, 2013 4:54:34 PM

Duces Tecum: 50 years ago, about 70% of all lawyers were solos. The notion that most young lawyers were being trained at the expense of big law firms is a recent notion and even at its very peak (during the dotcom boom) was applicable to only 25% of new lawyers, mostly from the top 25 schools.

Posted by: anon | Dec 19, 2013 5:17:28 PM

Allow student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy. End federal guaranties of student loans. Given the current market, make sure that bankruptcy does not get one disbarred. BAM problem solved!

Posted by: Wut | Dec 19, 2013 5:38:34 PM

Anon: 50 years ago, you could also pay for law school with a summer job.

Posted by: Duces Tecumseh | Dec 19, 2013 6:24:08 PM

For years, the Republican Party insulted and disparaged lawyers in order to pander to its lowlife base. Now, the legal profession is nearly destroyed, as the Republicans destroy everything. The Justice Department should hire a bunch of these new and unemployed lawyers in order to put the criminal Republican Party on trial for its crimes against humanity and hate crimes.

Posted by: Brian G. | Dec 19, 2013 8:24:39 PM

Now lawyers are getting a taste of the fear they cause common Citizens. The fear of a predatory legal system optimized to provide income for lawyers with "justice" a laughed at afterthought. The American legal system is now just a crapshoot with no semblance of right or wrong but rather legal tricks, maneuvers and payoffs. You created this system lawyers, now we all hope you choke on it.

Posted by: Crackermike | Dec 20, 2013 5:14:50 AM

Schools in general should have some financial skin in the game; we really shouldn't be minting, at great student loan expense, substantial numbers of art history majors, lawyers or other graduates with severely compromised job prospects.

Posted by: Matt O'Malley | Dec 20, 2013 6:17:35 AM

Ahhh, advertising and usury. Two great tastes that go great together!

Posted by: Stanley Wonstock | Dec 20, 2013 7:20:57 AM

To Brian G. - check out the great mental health care benefits under 0bamaocare - worried about you buddy.

Posted by: Jackie Chiles | Dec 21, 2013 7:06:09 AM