Thursday, December 19, 2013
State 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.