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Law Students and Young Lawyers

About Those Soul-Sucking Jobs

I once represented a doctor who wanted to stop being a doctor.  He absolutely hated it.   He was a nervous type, and he just could not cope with the responsibility of practicing medicine. The stress was killing him.   I helped him disentangle from another doctor with whom he had set up a clinic.  As far as I know, he never practiced medicine again.  I also know another fellow who became a doctor, hated it, and became a paramedic working on ambulances.   

Becoming a doctor takes a long time and a lot of money.  You would think that these people would have figured out much earlier than they did what practicing medicine was about and that they were not suited for it.

I have no idea why people are able to get that far in the medical profession when it should be obvious that it’s not for them.   But I do have some ideas about lawyers who get themselves in the same mess.  Mainly, I know that there are an awful lot of them.  So many, in fact, that there seems to be an industry developing in North America which is devoted to helping lawyers get out of the big law firms (see going solo) or to get out of law altogether (see getting out).  It really makes you wonder.   We are talking about people who have spent many years and incredible amounts of money to become lawyers before they figure out that they hate what they are doing.

It makes you think that there must be something wrong with a system that allows people to go all the way from applying for law school to becoming members of the profession without helping them figure out what is involved in practicing law and whether they are suited for it. 

Now, I can already hear the screams about ‘personal freedom’ and ‘a law degree being useful for things other than practicing law’ and ‘it not being the job of the law schools to determine what people will do with their law degree’ and yada, yada, yada.  I have no doubt whatsoever that everyone who says these things is passionate about individual rights and is not actually motivated by any financial considerations whatsoever.

But really.  Shouldn’t there be something that tells people who sign up for law school what they are getting into, or, God forbid, some criteria that screens out people who are destined to be miserable as lawyers before they spend all of their time and money on it?   Or, at a minimum, something early in the process which gives people the information that they need to make an informed decision?  But apparently there isn’t, or whatever there may be is woefully inadequate.

It would be easy to blame the people who get themselves into this mess, but generally speaking they are young and inexperienced, both in life and in the profession.  Surely someone else is really responsible. Perhaps the older, wiser, more experienced people running the law schools who make money training lawyers, or maybe the people who run the provincial Law Societies whose job it is to protect the public, which is presumably not well-served by lawyers who hate their jobs. At a minimum, someone other than me should be thinking about this stuff. 

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