Once there was a lawyer named Mark who considered himself to be an ‘idea man.’ Mark had a whole bunch of non-billable projects on his list of things to do, and he was always adding items to it.
I keep reading about mental health issues in the legal profession. Too many lawyers are terminally unhappy. The problem appears to be impossible to fix. Even The Washington Post just ran an article titled, “Want to be happy? Then don’t be a lawyer.”
This article has three parts. Do not act on the suggestions in the first part until you consider the advice in the second part and the rebuttal in the third part.
Part One: Murray’s Recommendations
Murray strongly recommends that articling students ask these probing questions and many similar ones before accepting a position:
For today’s diatribe, we are going to need a definition of ‘success.’ Although the traditional definition which relates primarily to making a lot of money is deficient in more than a few ways, since it seems to be the standard used by so many in the legal profession, I am going to choose that one.
There are only three ways to make money in the legal profession.
With this post I venture onto dangerous ground, but what the hell.
Some years ago I came across a Canadian law school which was offering a course on “A Feminist Perspective on Corporate Tax.” More recently, I came across a law school course on “A Feminist Perspective on Carbon Taxes.” It all struck me as kind of stupid.
Somewhere in some law firm’s ‘closed files’ archive, there is probably a file with my name on it. The subject matter line likely reads something like, “Possible Sexual Harassment Claim.”
When you get old like I am and hang out with people who are also getting long in the tooth, the question, “What’s your number?” is frequently asked.
No, this is not about getting picked up. I am not talking about phone numbers. I am referring to the amount of invested assets that folks who are looking to exit the rat race think that they need to have to retire.
The answer of course is always ‘more than I have,’ and that insecurity leaves many of us on the treadmill longer than we want to be there.
When I retired from the practice of law in 2020, I could not have told you what NCA stands for. I am willing to bet that the majority of home-grown Canadian lawyers in private law firms are just as ignorant about this as I was.
On the other hand, I have never met an internationally trained lawyer who did not know what NCA stands for.
I recently went for a ‘preventative health examination,’ which is code for ‘private healthcare,’ which is something that is in fact available in Canada – to those who are willing and able to pay for it.
I was given a stress test which involved having me walk on a treadmill while hooked-up to a computer. Being me, I quipped to the technician that I was counting on her to make sure that I did not have a heart attack during the test. She reassured me that if I did, I would be in good hands, because ‘back home’ she was a cardiologist.
It is not a very well-kept secret that in Canada we make it difficult for immigrants to qualify to practice their professions.
So let’s talk about lawyers.
By now everyone on LinkedIn has heard about Jon, a Cleveland lawyer who wrote a rather nasty email to a recently departed colleague who, having returned from her maternity leave, gave notice that she was leaving for another firm. The backlash was furious. Jon lost his job rather quickly.
From the flood of comments on social media, the idea surfaced that it is likely that Jon’s behaviour was not an aberration, which got me thinking about some of the people who I ran across while practicing law.