I have heard it said that “an expert is someone from out of town with Power Point.” This expression has some old roots. When I originally heard it, it was “someone from out of town with overhead slides.”
Apparently nowadays you do not even have to travel to become an expert. A young lawyer contacted me recently to ask me my views on the legal profession because he had been told by the Managing Partner of his firm that I was an expert on the profession, a status that I appear to have achieved by ranting on social media.
I suspect that my status depends on who you ask (for example, I don’t think that my former partners would agree) and will dissipate after a brief wrinkle in time. So, I am going to seize the moment and explain the root cause of work/life balance and mental health issues in the legal profession, and what’s more, I am going to do it in historical context.
Here I go:
- In the beginning, there were lots of clients and not that many lawyers. Lawyers were respected and made a reasonable income.
- Over time, as capitalism took hold, more and more businesspeople were willing to take great risks to make more and more money.
- Those risk-taking clients retained lawyers to help them make even more money and hold onto the money that they had.
- These lawyers envied their clients and believed that they were also entitled to make a great deal of money, even though they did not take as much risk.
- So the lawyers started piling on the hours so that they could live in the same neighbourhoods and drive the same type of cars as their clients.
- Eventually those lawyers got tired of working really, really hard, so they devised a pyramid scheme, putting themselves at the top of course, so they could occupy the same snack bracket as their clients without working too hard.
- This rather elegant solution required those at the bottom to work many hours to keep the senior people in their luxury cars.
Do you know how we pay professional athletes and entertainers millions of dollars to do stuff, even though they may not be that bright? Society values some things more than it values the talents that lawyers have. Most of us accept this. Too bad. So sad. Life is not fair.
But lawyers have a problem with the idea that dumber people make more money than they do. At least that is how they see it.
I figure that you can define intelligence in many ways, and perhaps someone who knows how to make a tonne of money by taking risks that I am unwilling to take may be a whole lot smarter than I am.
To sum up: You can trace work/life balance and mental health issues in the legal profession back to the fact that lawyers want to ignore the fact that society does not value what they do nearly as much as they themselves do.