The writer uses a pseudonym, Atticus Grinch, and with good reason. His snarky, self-indulgent whining could potentially win him the title, Prince of the Slackoisie, despite stiff competition.
I was at a fundraising event downtown—accountants, doctors, entrepreneurs and engineers mingled about, cocktails in hand. A young, smug-faced finance guy with expensive shoes came up to me, shook my hand and asked what I did for a living.
A smirk began to curl on his lips and he said: “Hey, what do you throw to a drowning lawyer? His partners.”
Did he laugh? No. Did he cry? No. He did what a self-indulgent whiner does: his thoughts devolved to himself.
Little did he know that earlier that day, I had spent an hour of unbillable time researching effective suicide methods on lostallhope.com.
If his life is so miserable that he’s seriously contemplating suicide, then it strongly suggests one (or both) of two things. He’s either suffering from clinical depression and needs professional care or he’s made an exceptionally poor choice by becoming a lawyer and needs to get out.
This isn’t a huge mystery. As law schools opened on every street corner, sucking in ever more ignorant children with government-backed loans, and refusing to vet their matriculators for their ability to withstand the pressure of the profession, new lawyers who lacked the qualities necessary for a successful, happy future doing what lawyers do, serving their clients, clogged the tubes.
Indeed, we lawyers should be a happy lot. We’re paid well, many of us earning six figures within the first few years of practice. We’ve got smarts; research suggests our average IQ is a not-too-shabby 120, for whatever that’s worth. We’re lucky in that our skill set can easily align with our social values too, whether that means serving big business or helping refugees. And while everyone has a lawyer joke up their sleeve, parents are generally proud to say their kid is a lawyer. We should be winners in the pursuit of happiness.
No, no, no. Somebody lied to you, and despite your “not-too-shabby” intellect, you were stupid enough to believe them. This wasn’t about you. This wasn’t the magic of being “winners in the pursuit of happiness.” This was about what lawyers exist to do, and that’s serve clients.
He then runs through the typical litany of lawyerly misery that pops up at every lawyer group therapy session, because it’s so hard to be a lawyer, and so many lawyers he knows, between blow, booze and body odor, are all screwed up. Because it’s so hard to be a lawyer.
And, yes, we snuff it. Our suicide rate is six times greater than that of the general population.
What makes us so gloomy?
Does that statistic bring tears to your eyes? Does that persuade you that we’re “so gloomy”? Then you’re in the wrong job, not because you’re depressed but because you aren’t smart enough to recognize nonsense when you see it.
At the core of this self-indulgence is the fallacy that lawyers are special. Our suicide rate is so very high? Six times the average? That sounds so serious. That’s the sort of statistic that children in the happiness industry use to sell their snake oil. But we’re not special.
We don’t even crack the top ten professions inclined toward suicide, and we’re no different than lathe operators. You want misery? Stick your hands into people’s mouths everyday and inflict pain. Dentists are number two, with physicians leading by a wide margin.
First, this is the statistic that matters, not that lawyers are more likely to commit suicide than the general population. How do lawyers fare in comparison to other professionals, and the answer is we’re doing pretty well. This doesn’t mean any suicide is fine, but that we’re hardly overwhelmingly prone to it.
Second, rather than whine about the laundry list of self-indulgent causes of lawyerly misery, our “pessimistic explanatory style,” the pressure of the “billable hour,” the “dispiriting nature of the work itself where the quality of the job I perform can have little to do with the outcome,” grow up.
We’re not unique in having to endure pressure, ambiguity, hard work, outcomes beyond our control. That’s the job. That’s our responsibility. If you don’t want to endure the terrible pressure of being a lawyer, don’t be a lawyer. But don’t be a doctor. And don’t be a dentist. And forget about being a lathe operator.
This baby Machiavelli’s whining will resonate with his fellow slackoisie, concerned only with their own feelz of unhappiness. That’s what happens when you only look in the mirror and forget that you’re not the center of the universe. They will wring their hands and shower appreciation on him for writing the words that they feel as well. Oh yes, I’m so sad too. You have captured my misery. You are so right.
If those are your feelings when reading this tripe, then get help and get out. Nobody promised you that being a lawyer was the surest path to happiness. What you were promised was that you would gain certain skills that would allow to help other people as their lawyer.
You want misery? Try being injured through no fault of your own and lacking the ability to pay for medical care or feed your children. How about spending 27 years in a prison cell for a crime you didn’t commit. But some kid tells a lawyer joke and you feel the need to look up ways to off yourself?
The last feature at the shit-carnival is other lawyers, aka “colleagues.” I put that word in quotes because we also call them “adversaries,” revealing a distressing paradox. Unique among professionals, ours is a zero-sum adversarial system. Scaring, devastating, surprising, misleading and stressing out your enemy-colleague is part of winning. We’re trained to not trust anything they say and have everything confirmed in writing.
For people who belong in the legal profession, the adversarial system is a feature, not a bug. That’s because of the one thing wholly unmentioned in this pathetic philippic, clients. The adversary system isn’t a scheme to suck the joy out of your life, but the heart of why lawyers exist, to represent clients with divergent interests and provide a means to resolve their differences short of broad swords.
If representing your client isn’t a good enough reason to wake up in the morning, put on a seersucker suit and go do battle, then you have no business being a lawyer. But for crying out loud, stop whining about it and demanding that the legal profession reinvent itself to make you happy. It’s not about you. It never was. It should never be.
So you fucked up by going to law school? Cut your losses and do something else. You are in the wrong profession.
H/T Cristian Farias