A Loser’s Manifesto

It took me a long time to read the post at Big Debt, Small Law.  Not just because it’s a very long post, but because white text on a black background, a favorite combination of the Slackoisie, is hard on the eyes.  The post is a biting commentary on the misery of a Biglaw wannabe, who was happy to offer his mean-spirited thoughts without demonstrating the integrity of putting his name to them.  Calling himself Law is 4 Losers, he has well-developed metacognitive skills.  He is, indeed, a loser.

It’s not that his laundry list of criticisms of solo practice is wrong.  As Carolyn Elefant says (using some rather surprising language, I might add), they are largely correct:  “Solo practice is shitlaw.”  Or more accurately, it can be.

It’s long been my position that solo practice is hardly the panacea that some would paint it.  It’s fraught with difficulties, problems, annoyances, that one would never experience in a big firm.  The skillset needed for success is quite different, and broader, than is required to be a cog in a wheel.  And not every lawyer is cut out for it.  Indeed, I would argue that most aren’t.

And that’s the point that L4L doesn’t grasp in writing his Loser’s Manifesto. 

It would appear that L4L is a disenfranchised Biglaw wannabe who blew his wad on law school and now, after the fact, has come to the realization that he’s not getting the BMW.  He doesn’t fit into the pigeonhole of Biglaw library chair-warmers, can’t stomach the boiler room where contract attorneys toil and doesn’t have the chops to be a successful solo.

As much as every kid who thinks he wants to be a lawyer should read Norm Pattis’ post. Another Year in the Trenches, they should also read L4L’s New Single-Hangers Get Hung Out To Dry.  The Slackoisie need to know that this isn’t all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.  They need to realize what it means to be saddled with a mountain of debt and no BMW in sight.  They need to know that the law-as-a-business is a lousy, difficult, often unfulfilling one.

But for those who reject the law-as-a-business philosophy, who know what they are getting into and still, despite everything bad that can be said about it, choose to risk it all and join a profession, there is a potential for a purposeful life that L4L will never know.

I envision L4L to be surrounded by a legion of young, unemployed and unemployable lawyers, angry and miserable about how law school and life has cheated them.  And they have been cheated.  They were sold a bill of good about a future that doesn’t exist.  They happily took on the debt, and suffered the indignities of torts and contracts, believing that their happiness, wealth, fame, power, would be waiting for them as they walked out of the bar exam.  They were lied to.  There’s nothing outside the door but hard work.

Let every inchoate lawyer read about the misery of L4L’s life.  This could be their life as well, and it will hopefully scare away the vast majority of children whose mommies and daddies told them to become a lawyer and live the good life. 

It won’t scare away the few who belong in the profession.  It won’t alter those who want to dedicate their careers to providing excellence to their clients, to face incredible odds and power, and stare it down. 

Very few really belong in solo practice.  Far more are qualified to fetch coffee for partners or read page after page in a boiler room.  It’s quite difficult to hone one’s skills to the point that one lawyer can take on a government and prevail, but the best can and do.  Far better than any wheel-cog could ever imagine.

Let the losers flee.  Flee, losers, flee.  Those who remain are the lawyers.

39 comments on “A Loser’s Manifesto

  1. Norm Pattis


    I just read through the whole thing. Wow. Next time I feel as though I have become too bitter, I will reread it to feel mellow.

    I think he is writing about big-city markets like NYC. There is plenty of work in smaller cities and states. Folks who want to go solo need to go where the work is: It looks like big cities aren’t the place.

    My office is in the middle of nowhere in a small state. Yet we have more than enough to do, even if we don’t have more than enough money.


  2. SHG

    Reading it all the way through it a bit of work, and given the nastiness, it’s unclear whether it’s worth that much effort.  But while I agree that he’s NYC focused, he’s still wrong.  That’s the view from the outside, from the position of not knowing what success looks like, from not realizing that there are plenty of great solo lawyers in Manhattan, and only knowing those he who join him at the losers club.

  3. Blake

    Your post seems a bit mean-spirited and also seems to have missed the point of his post. He (or she) is addressing all the future losers who wrongly think they have what it takes to be a lawyer, big, small or solo, or that even if they don’t become a lawyer, that getting the J.D. can’t hurt, and more specifically, he is excoriating the industry of leechers who have bloomed under the pretense of teaching said future losers how to be successful solo practioners. You two seem to be more in agreement than not, since you acknowledge that few people have the salt for solo practice, yet you decide to pile some additional (misguided) misery on his/her head.

    As to not having the “integrity” of putting a name to his “mean-spirited thoughts” (how ironic of you to call him out for that), if you were a temp depending on doc review cattle calls instead of a successful self-generator of business, I suspect your name wouldn’t accompany your satirical observations on your life either.

  4. SHG

    Has L4L come out to defend himself?  And he turns out to be a whiner.

    I’m not obliged to make my post as long and tedious as yours, and I certainly can’t touch it for nastiness.  And are you really asking me if I would be a coward like you if I was a loser like you? No wonder the best you can hope for in your legal career is to do boiler room doc review.

  5. Mark Bennett

    If I were a temp depending on doc review cattle calls, too much of a loser to make a living as a solo, and everyone I knew was too much of a loser to make a living as a solo, I might think that nobody could make a decent living as a solo. Which was the text of L4L’s post.

  6. A Temp

    i just want to point out to some of the critics of L4L…

    i am a temp who depends on doc review cattle calls for a living. i’d have started a practice long ago but i need to save money and pay off some debt first before i feel anywhere near comfortable enough to do that.

    i just want to point out that there are indeed temps out there who are just as disgusted by L4L’s whining and sense of entitlement as you guys are.

    i am not going into solo practice by choice or due to a calling but by sheer necessity. it is the only option available to me in law outside of doc review or a really, really crappy legal job at this point. but i have been researching the hell out of solo practice, reading every solo practice book and blog i can from cover to cover, picking the brains of every successful solo i know, finding out the realities of solo practice financially and workwise…i want to take every precaution i can to make sure that once i enter solo practice i won’t be forced to go back to temping for any reason.

    so i won’t lie, solo practice is something i’ve been forced into. it’s not my first choice for how i envisioned my legal career. but what i do know is that i have a burning desire to salvage what is left in my legal career in any way possible and make up for lost time in any way i can and never, ever EVER have to temp again.

    the point of all this is, it gets really discouraging as a temp when you get the scorn and belittlement and messages of hopelessness from both sides of the arguments. you have temp blogs like L4L filled to the brim with self pity, whining, scorn and hopelessness for temps. then you have solos and big law bloggers and commenters piling on too and telling us it will be hopeless.

    not all of us are temping because we are too stupid to be good lawyers or because we don’t have what it takes to succeed at solo law or because we can’t find jobs. for some of us temping is the only way we could make the money to pay down our crushing debt while living in a big city and/or save the seed money to open a practice.

    again, don’t lump all of us in with the unmotivated, the defeatists, the untalented and the toxic types you may see on the temp blogs.

    1. O Solo Mio

      Based upon your post, I would never hire you. Try using proper grammar, including using uppercase when starting a sentence or referring to yourself. Perhaps then you might be able to get out of temping.

  7. Jake Howard

    Mr. Greenfield:

    Love your blog!

    I tried to get through the whole thing – couldn’t do it. I have been on the business end of document review. I also hung my shingle out of law school and I’m struggling to build a solo practice in Chicago.

    I’m curious about your experience going solo (or, more accurately, “partner”) out of law school? Inquiring minds want to know…

  8. SHG

    A thought. Stop worrying, stop listening and do what you’ve got to do.  Solo is no panacea, but working for a firm isn’t either.  Be the best lawyer you can be, take care of your clients first and make sure you give them everything you’ve got.  Don’t waste money on legal pads with your monogram and don’t try to make a name for yourself by being the cheapest lawyer around. Now go practice law.

    And who cares what anyone else says. It’s your life and your practice. Do it.

  9. SHG

    Thanks JH. I never gave it much thought.  I had an offer from a big firm and a chance to do it with a partner.  Since I was never good at following orders, I went with the partner.  And we just practiced law, did whatever we had to do to represent our clients and worked our tails off.  Whining hadn’t been invented back then.

  10. A Temp

    thanks for the encouragement, and i definitely plan to do just that. i’ve actually been lurking and learning for quite a while and have been letting the negativity slide off my back and not deter me, but i guess today i just saw one “you’re a temp and will be forever because you’re stupid/a loser/incompetent” comment too many and just snapped for a bit. I’m okay again 🙂

    Don’t take this as a criticism of you or your site, you provide a wonderful resource.

  11. SHG

    I’m gonna tell you a secret, but don’t tell anyone else. OK?  Just between you and me.  Everybody else, go read another post.  Nothing to see here.  Move on. Yes, you.  Good-bye.  Alright temp, now it’s just us.

    There are plenty of people for whom all the negativity applies.  In spades.  And then there are always a few who read it and say to themselves, screw you, Greenfield.  These are the people who will make successes of themselves, because they see the brick wall that I throw in front of them and couldn’t care less.  It’s not going to stop them.  That’s what makes the difference.  I may offer problems, but it’s up to you to decide whether the problem will stop you or not.

  12. A Temp

    Of course that attitude leads to many failed solo practices. I’m well aware of that. But what are my alternatives? Lie to myself about why I am here and my motivations? Magically make this my first career choice or my deep love? I’m just being honest with myself and with others. At least being honest about why I am going into this can help me compensate accordingly.

    Some ex-cons stay out of jail and stay clean because they change and enthusiastically embrace the power of positive of living. Some stay out and stay clean because they desperately never, ever EVER want to go back to jail again. Doc review is jail to me. You’d be surprised what a motivator avoiding a personal hell can be. I will do whatever it takes and work however hard I have to and learn whatever I must to avoid ever temping again once I go back.

  13. A Temp

    I want to add something else.

    My parents were 3rd world immigrants who came to America and worked jobs they absolutely hated for over 30 years. Not only did they have no passion for these jobs, they actively hated them. Yet they not only showed up for work, they excelled at their jobs to the point they were promoted up the chain and both retired comfortably. Because they both hated the idea of ever being poor again way more than they could ever hate those jobs.

    This idea that only passion or a personal calling for a job can ever lead to success in a job is a very modern, Western/American viewpoint. It matters but I refuse to ever accept it as the be-all end-all to whether I’ll be successful at something. Sometimes you do the best with the cards you’re dealt.

  14. lawis4losers

    This is Law is 4 Losers, creator and publisher of the infamous blog Big Debt, Small Law.

    I enjoyed your critique of my blog. I’m curious what any rational human being could enjoy about law. The pay is much lower than garbage men & janitors, the work is dull, endless cut n’ paste slop, and the “clients” a bunch of broke and ungrateful losers. Everyone in the industry is an insecure, corrupt mouth-breather who was too stupid for medicine and other legitmate careers. A JD is a degree of last resort for losers too stupid and lazy to actually make anything of themselves.

  15. Mark Bennett

    I’m sure you can’t conceive of people who, because they are smarter, luckier, harder-working and more compassionate than you, love practicing law.

    There’s nothing like a narcissistic loser to make the rest of us appreciate the gifts we’ve been given.

    Thank you, L4L.

  16. lawis4losers

    It won’t scare away the few who belong in the profession. It won’t alter those who want to dedicate their careers to providing excellence to their clients, to face incredible odds and power, and stare it down.

    You’re a real piece of work. Sure must be scary “staring down” those traffic court judges to reduce some unemployed bozo’s DWI to a reckless for a $150 fee. And those “odds” and “power” sure are terrifying. I’ll bet you nearly soil yourself when some 26 year old ADA brings a mean shoplifting case against one of your craigslist “clients.”

    You better lay off the Kool-Aid, pal, or they’ll be fitting you for dentures before you turn 40.

    L4L, author of Big Debt, Small Law

  17. SHG

    Boy, you couldn’t have proven yourself more of a dingleberry if you tried.  Your slackoisie assumptions fail at every turn.  I mean, you didn’t get one right, or even close.  There is a definite loser problem here, but it’s not the law. 

  18. Nando

    It is fun to watch those who “made it” poke fun of those of us who haven’t. This is especially comical when it is the older generation, i.e. the gray-hairs, engaging in this type of behavior.

    These dinosaurs went to law school well before tuition was $30K-$45K a year. Back before there were 200 ABA-accredited law schools (and dozens of unaccredited and online law schools, in operation). And well before ABA “Ethics” Opinion 08-451 allowed U.S. law firms to outsource American legal work to foreign lawyers and non-lawyers!!

    You need to realize that the ABA-accredited law schools pumped out 43,588 JDs in 2008. Now, genius lawyers, are there anywhere near that many available attorney positions in a good economy?!

  19. SHG

    No one is poking fun at those who haven’t made it, but those who want to blame the law for their personal failure.  It’s not the law’s fault when someone like lawis4losers lives in a delusional world of negativity.

    I’m well aware that law schools are pumping out too many lawyers, and have pressed that point many times here.  If you want to pretend you have an idea what you’re talking about, then you need to look around first before rushing to facile assumptions. 

    But then, no one makes anyone go to law school.  Did you bother to figure any of this out before going?  Whining about the miserable situation (and yes, it is pretty abysmal for young lawyers) afterward doesn’t help you.  Did you just jump blindly into law school as well?

    I suspect that the majority of law school graduates are like lawis4losers, and has no business being a lawyer.  So go find something more to your liking.  But don’t blame the law for your poor choice and lack of research before investing a small fortune in something for which payback is problematic and for which you have no passion.  That’s your fault.  Not us gray-hairs.

  20. Nando

    The fact remains that you guys went to school when the market was not quite as saturated – although there was some saturation back then.

    If you had graduated from third tier NYLS in 2008, your options would be much more limited. You would be paying close to $70K in total annual COA and the field would be that much more crowded.

    As to your last point, who produced 43,588 JDs in 2008? The AMA? The National Pastry Bakers Association? It was the ABA. You stick to being passionate about “the law” – as if it was some sacred institution or blissful existence. As for me, I will make passionate love to my wife tonight, and tomorrow night. (I think I will have more fun at what I am doing than you will.)

  21. SHG

    Making love to your wife and having enough passion to make it worth your while to be a lawyer aren’t mutually exclusive.  Is this the depth of thought that you’re capable of?  

    What is your point about it being the ABA that is responsible for all those lawyers?  Again, look around before you shoot half-cocked. I’m no fan of the ABA, and criticize it for its role.  The more you write, the more it becomes clear that you don’t have the stuff to be a lawyer.  Your failure may well be a blessing for you, so that you waste no more time in the law and move immediately to something for which you are more intellectually suited.  Retail, perhaps?

  22. Mark Bennett

    Hey, Scott, how much time have you spent worrying about the effect ABA “Ethics” Opinion 08-451 would have on your practice?

    Please explain to the narcissistic losers why the answer is “none.”

  23. SHG

    Just shows you how little they understand about the practice of law. So who gets his wife on Wednesday?

  24. Nando

    I realize now that my problems are solely of my own making and that I need not be a sad, pathetic loser my entire life.  I apologize for being such a blithering ass and blaming everyone else for my problems.  I simply cannot accept the fact that I, and I alone, am responsible for the worthless person I’ve become.  Thank you for straightening me out.

    [Ed. Note: Nando had some difficulty expressing his thoughts in a clear and rational manner, so I’ve assisted him (because I’m a helpful sort of fellow) and made appropriate revisions to his comment.  We wish him luck as he strives to dig himself out of his life of misery, though we doubt he will be able to do so given his negativity, narcissist and sense of entitlement.]

  25. John Bungsolaphagus

    Point one: L4L does not hide who he is. In fact, he outed himself, in a famous Wall Street Journal article in September of 2007, as Scott Bullock, Esq., who practiced at some of NYC’s most notorious toilety personal injury sweat and scam shops. He knows very well of what he writes.

    Law, for most, is cut and paste, make work, monkey work that is mostly about grifting money out of clients’ pockets through the billable hour scam. Law, for most, is not prestigous, not honorable and definately not profitable.

    Most JD holders drank the wicked koolaid served through most law schools’ fraudulent graduate employment stats, misinformation in society at large, false glamorization in the media.

    The fact is is that if one is not a member of one of the Preferred, Protected & seriously Connected (PPC) classes then one really has no business in law save for a few rare exeptions.

    Law is one of the most discriminatory, racist, classist and elitist so-called ‘professions’ around. It is mostly run by extremely wicked, racist, and classist wealthy and connected WASPS and Jews. Its not PC to say that but that is the god awful truth. Those types make law a living hell for most others. Period. Law for the most part, is not for decent, regular americans. It is for the wicked.

    Those who live in yesteryear have no clue what most recent grads go through in law today. Mr. Greenfield (and others of his age group and status) is no more equipped to comment on today’s lawland as per the suffering of recent law school grads as Sara Palin’s special needs child is prepared to comment on rocket science.

    Scott Bullock, who fired the shot heard round the toilet law world in the Sept. 2007 piece in the Wall Street Journal is infinately more qualified to speak truth to devilish power when it comes to the true status of today’s lawland for most.

    Thank god for Scott’s wonderful and highly truthful and informative blog. The wanna be legal lemmings should read and hang on evey word. They should digest those words as their stomachs should digest life sustaining, nutrient filled food because there is much iron of truth in Scott’s words. It was only a few years ago that there were no such wonderful blogs or truth sayers such as Scotty or prophtets such as myself who has predicted the implosion of the so-called ‘profession’ of the legal scamdustry. Now, there are tons of blogs on the net and articles in the mainstream media that spread truth to lemmings and devilish power. Now there is no excuse for any lemmings who are not members of the PPC’s to have recently attended law school.

  26. Fappiano

    Ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a hand for the marvelous Dr. Josef Gerbils… and his Thousand-Misspelling Reich!

    SHG, you may be interested to know that your post is being dicussed/analyzed/decried/lionized/complained about on JD Underground.

  27. SHG

    That’s thoughtful of you to let me know.  I would never have been aware otherwise.  It’s always interesting to see how young people perceive the world around them.  Young people are so much more knowledgeable than us old people.

    But Nando, unfortunately, isn’t quite the swiftest in the bunch, not that it’s much of a surprise given his comments here.  It might occur to him that he’s linked to a well-known (except apparently to the unemployed child-lawyers) psycho stalker, who is desperate for attention by anyone so ignorant as to notice his existence.  Apparently, he’s found just such a person in Nando.  Does Nando really think the comments attributed to Bennett were posted by Bennett?  I’m bet the question never occurred to him.

    What is unfortunate is that those who chose to dwell in misery would prefer to call me bitter, projecting their limited comprehension of motives onto me.  What makes this unfortunate is that they learn nothing.  They just bolster their misunderstanding.

  28. unfrozenlawyer

    But, SHG, are you okay with being called “mean?”

    I personally prefer being called a curmudgeon.

  29. SHG

    I prefer curmudgeon as well, but “mean” would describe how someone else perceives you.  If I’m perceived as mean, then to that person I am.  Mean, however, suggests that my purpose is to hurt someone else’s feelings.  It’s not.  But to those whose feelings are hurt by what I write, that’s little consolation. 

    The problem stems from young lawyers who have suffered little if any criticism in their lives, everybody tip-toeing around them so as not to hurt their feelings.  When raised in such an atmosphere, anything critical smacks of meanness.  I can appreciate this, but it’s also part of growing up.  As I’ve argued with lawprofs, who similarly cater to the twin traits of the Slackoisie, narcissism and entitlement, how do they expect their darling students to bear up the first time a judge smacks them down?  Will they cry in court?  Will they inform the judge that she’s a mean jerk?  They aren’t prepared to take a blow and keep fighting.

    But that’s a curmudgeon talking.  No trophies for everybody here.

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