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Blawg Review #281

So I’m hosting Blawg Review #281 this week.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, check out this post for a rundown on what this is about.

I wasn’t actually planning on hosting a Blawg Review so soon, I was going to try and get a few more months of “blawging” under my belt before I hosted one. However, a month or so ago I sent an email to the Editor (Ed.) of Blawg Review commiserating that it was too bad Lawyerist phoned in their edition of the review, and that when I was ready to host the review I would do a bang-up job of it. Watch out what you wish for because, sadly, this is the schedule for Blawg Review at the moment:

So Ed. emails me asking if I want to go ahead and host. After my previous email, there is no way I can not oblige. Then Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice went and posted this diatribe about the state of Blawg Review. Go and read it, I’ll wait.

Back? Like I commented over at Simple Justice: “No pressure, huh?”

A confluence of events this past week have made me think a lot about “pressure” actually. For the unaware, I’m a “non-traditional” law student. A 3L I suppose, though I am due to graduate in December, and take the Bar in February 2011. I clerk at an insurance defense firm full-time during the day and attend classes at night.  I have a wife and a one year old son. In my free time (yeah, right) I run, lift weights, and compete in BJJ. Oh yeah, I run this blog too.

This past summer has been rough, as the firm has been especially busy and I’ve been overwhelmed at times between family, work, and school. I made stupid mistakes at work and beat myself up over it. I didn’t pay as much attention to my family as they deserve. I didn’t give it my all at school at time because I was stretched so thin that school was the last thing on my mind.

But this is what I asked for. This is what all of us who want to be lawyers, or are lawyers, asked for. To be thrown in the gauntlet and asked to step up again and again for those depending on us, when we are down or hurting. To provide counsel and guidance when we feel as though we can’t provide the same for ourselves.

I wasn’t thinking about this at all this past week, I was trying to think of some way to incorporate my blog’s theme into Blawg Review when I came across Isolde:

You can read about her here:

“No, I’m Not Dead Yet – Just thinking about it all the time.

A collections agency person called me several times at work today.  He made sure to let the receptionist know why he was calling.  He represents the good people at Sallie Mae who haven’t been paid in a while.  He basically called me a deadbeat.”

The practice of law is a hard one. It churns through people and spits them out. Sometimes it breaks them. After reading all of Isolde’s posts I went to Above the Law and typed in “suicide” into their search box:

It goes on for 8 pages. That’s just from the past few months.

This past Friday was World Suicide Prevention Day. It is meant to highlight the troubles and pain that those with depression and anger face and what we can do to reach out to those are in need, like Melody Moezzi, an attorney who succumbed to depression, but ultimately prevailed:

The dangerous thing about silence is that it breeds shame and isolation, both of which can be much more devastating than any singular psychiatric condition alone. It’s one thing to be crazy. It’s quite another to think that you’re the only crazy person on the planet.

By the time I made it to the hospital, I felt more alone than ever. After months of unsuccessfully wrestling with a seemingly relentless bout of depression, I finally just gave up. Within a few days, I had a well-planned exit strategy in place: go far away from home, leave a note full of love and apologies, take a sharp knife to a femoral artery and do it outside so that no one would have to clean up the mess.

What is it about the practice of law seems intertwined with stories of suicide? Is it their personalities? The job itself? The people in the field?

Certainly competition begins early, as the unraveling clerkship market reveals:

Schools are in a bind.  If they comply with the plan, they risk harming their students, as the increasingly limited clerk positions go to applicants from non-conforming schools who submitted “early”. But if they deviate, the remaining judges who still feel strongly that the plan is a good policy may blacklist them.  The result is that law schools probably can no longer be counted on to support the hiring plan, since it is not serving their collective interest.

A JD isn’t even enough anymore. Be sure to get that MBA/JD or MD/JD if you want to be competitive:

The Texas Lawyer reports that Texas Tech University now has its very first student in the university’s new joint J.D./M.D. degree program offered by the law school and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine.

And as Above the Law points out, If you can’t cut it, you could be left scrubbing toilets.

Even success can lend itself to illusions and estrangement:

If you still don’t believe me, you’re clearly not too familiar with the parade of horribles that is this blog.  If you were to meet me, your Legal Tease, at a party, you might think that I’m just the epitome of lawyerly togetherness.  What you wouldn’t see is that most of my non-existent spare time is spent rocking back and forth in a ball under my desk at work, praying for a time-machine.  Nor would you see that my most promising recent relationship basically amounted to rolling around on the floor of my office with a certified lunatic whose idea of courtship involved offering me a position as his mistress via drunk 11 a.m. voicemails made from the inside of his girlfriend’s coat closet.  And that’s just the low-hanging fruit.  Intimidated yet?

….The next time you meet a graceful, shapely, six-figure-siren who has a white shoe pedigree and lights up a room with her sparkly, charming wit, instead of running in the other direction to your man-cave of insecurities (or more likely, to your unemployed hook-up buddy in Astoria), take a deep breath and realize that this untouchable legal goddess probably has IBS, cries herself to sleep at least once a week and wonders how much of this year’s bonus she should use to freeze her eggs.

Of course, lawyers have to navigate the murky eddies of their offices:

Following on from the last blog, which was about adultery, a recent study has found that 37 per cent of women office workers believe that sleeping with the boss is likely to boost your career.

Female respondents to the study, carried out for the US Centre for Work-Life Policy, said they felt that no matter how high achieving, female executives will not reach the top of their profession unless they find a “sponsor” who will speak out on their behalf.

The courts have their own unique problems of course:

“This will have to be a new file. It is a special proceeding. There is a thirty-nine dollar filing fee,” I was told.

I was ready for that. I pulled two twenty dollar bills out of my pocket and slid them across the counter.

“Do you have change?,” the clerk said. “You have to give us the exact amount.”

This threw me.

“I’m sorry?”

“We cannot make change,” she said.

Of course, I had no change.

“Why don’t I just contribute the dollar extra to the office coffee fund,” I said, feeling magnanimous, but also sensing that a massive wall wave of bureaucratic irrationality was about to descend.

The clerk looked offended.

“We can’t do that,” she said officiously. It was as though I had offered a bribe.

You also have to be able to keep secrets and avoid scams.

Not to mention that to be a good lawyer now, you have to be engaged in social media – or didn’t you know? And all of that is just the trappings and accoutrement of being a lawyer. It doesn’t take into account long hours, hard work, angry clients, tedious amounts of researching, reading, and drafting documents. A lawyer’s career lends itself to enormous amounts or pressure and stress – if they care. It can be too much to bear for some and they can be gripped by despair and sadness.

And then there is that other type of sorrow:

The Madison skyline seemed to project a memory of the lost New York City skyline.

Yet even that day has been twisted from whatever intent people felt in the hours afterwards. However we shouldn’t let it define us or strangle who we are.

As Winston Churchill said: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, Never, Never, Never give up.”

In crises that are personal or global in scope, we must always attempt to prevail, give it our all, and push ourselves to overcome the obstacles in our path because “If you don’t extend yourself, you haven’t lived:”

If we do not extend ourselves, we limit our ability to perceive and understand the world outside our narrow vision.  When I let Ruth Bair’s words encourage me to try scuba diving during the Caribbean vacations my wife and I took before we had children, I was opened to an undersea world that was more beautiful and diverse than anything I had previously imagined.  When I allowed the mantra to push me to become active in the Boston Bar Association early in my career, I was opened to a legal profession that was much broader and more diverse than anything I had known stuck within the confines of my law firm.  When I extended my activities to service on non-profit boards outside of my profession, I made connections with new friends and role models who help to shape who I am and with whom I try to give back to the world in whatever modest ways I can.

It’s important to remember that “Seeking Help is Proof of Strength.” If you, or someone you know seems caught by depression, know that there are those out there who want to help you. Even if you or they are not aware of it, there are friends and family that want to help; they might just not know or be too scared to say otherwise. Reach out – they’ll be there for you.

Oh, and as for Isolde:

I’m having lunch with the managing partner this Friday.  I hope that it will be a constructive meeting.  One thing I will say about my new firm: you know what you are getting with these people.  They are interested in the bottom line.  They will be perfectly polite about it, but you know what it is they want and what is going to happen if you don’t deliver.  I’m glad because at least I know where I stand.  I would choose this any day over a group of people who come to your house for parties and ask about your children and give you Christmas gifts while they’re plotting to screw you.  I think I’m even beginning to let go of that anger, though.  I got a pleading on Friday from one of my former partners involved in the increasingly nasty post-firm break up litigation and I didn’t even melt down when I read it.

So, we will see how things go.  Thank you again for your kindnesses.  It means and meant a great deal to me.  I am going to try to pay it forward

From Ed. of Blawg Review:

*Note: The Review as been altered slightly, as I have taken down a section by the request of the author.

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Briefly, I’d like to take a moment to encourage readers to offer to host Blawg Review. It’s a challenging task but by participating you’re contributing to a pillar of the blawgosphere. It’s a great resource and a worthwhile endeavor. Step up to the plate, and thanks for reading.

Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.

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About Keith Lee

I'm the founder and editor of Associate's Mind. I like to write, talk, and think about law, professional development, technology, and whatever else floats my boat. I practice law in Birmingham, AL.

5 comments

  1. That was way tougher than I thought it would be. Tough to find links, tough to write, tough subject to write about. However, I hope that it reaches anyone out there that might need it. Don’t ever feel like there is no other way. Email me if nothing else. I’ll talk to you. People do care.

  2. Great Blog! Thanks for the mention of Ron Coleman’s great guest post at Construction Law Musings. I appreciate it.

  3. Great, if not unbelievably depressing, post. The practice of law is tough, and it’s no surprise that suicide seems to be on the rise for attorneys. It’s even tougher if you’re out of work, stories like this one don’t help lower suicide statistics either: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/09/03/outsourcing-lawyers-leaving-is-here-to-stay/

    Outsourcing lawyers seems to be the new big cost-cutting measure. Be ready for an influx at the suicide call center.

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