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Running from the Law: Why Good Lawyers Are Getting Out of the Legal Profession
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Running from the Law: Why Good Lawyers Are Getting Out of the Legal Profession

A good overall critique of today’s legal profession by an experienced attorney who gave up the life of a corporate lawyer to help others caught in the same career dilemma. Organized by case-history and personality profiles, the result is highly engaging, and avoids the typing by legal sub-categories that the public usually applies to lawyers. Her complaints are many: boiler-room pressure; cut-throat competition; office politics; the boredom of endless paper-pushing; long-hours with no time for family life; professional pigeonholing; lack of contribution to social progress; lack of creativity; constant rudeness and incivility; stress; depression; and a daily diet of “dispute, confrontation, and hatred.” The cause of all this misery she primarily attributes to the adversarial nature of the profession, which, she asserts, has resulted in public disrespect for lawyers.

Her criticisms are largely accurate and Arron deserves credit for articulating them. However, her remedies are superficial and barely worth repeating. She proposes the usual bromides of less obsession with hourly billing; less combativeness and more mediation; less hierarchy and more “democracy” (whatever that may mean); and kinder, gentler law schools with required liberal arts and humanities courses for law students with required courses in professional civility.

However, the legal profession is adversarial for several important reasons. First, because the foundations of American law are based on individual rights, not social compromise or saving face. To change this would require not merely an act of Congress, but a new Constitution and a new government. Perhaps desirable, but highly unlikely. Second, the public disrespects lawyers primarily not because of what lawyers do, but because of the news that lawyers bring, i.e., knowledge of the law. It is the law itself that the public is most unhappy with, and having no way to resist what they see as unfair laws, they take out their frustration on the messenger, lawyers, regarding them much as they do the IRS—a necessary evil whom they wish to always be pursuing someone else, never themselves. The very people, in fact, who criticize lawyers the most, medical doctors for example, are often the first to hire the big guns when they themselves feel cheated, and demand nothing less than 100% of their “rights,” whatever the cost. Angry people are never satisfied with mediation; and no one gives money to a lawyer unless he or she is angry, or worried stiff. Even when they do opt for mediation, it typically only exposes them to more time and money down the drain, a mere tactic used by the party with the deeper pockets.

Arron is correct when she states the overall profitability of the profession is declining. But this reflects another fact that she strangely fails to mention—that a law degree today has become the equivalent of a high school diploma fifty years ago, essential to the successful pursuit of virtually every other profession, from real estate to medicine. Therefore, what she perceives as a failure of the profession is, in fact, a natural consequence of the growing necessity of a law degree in today’s increasingly complex world, whether one intends to practice law or not, and whether one’s personality is suitable to litigation or not.

The most obvious solution—which Arron again fails to suggest—would be for the U.S. to adopt the English system of dividing the profession into barristers and solicitors, the former licensed to litigate, and the latter restricted to contract and desk-work, which is what most lawyers have always done, and always will. Arron herself admits that, far from “running from the law,” she herself is now a practicing contract lawyer. Since she admits to retaining her license, it seems she did not run very far.

As for making law schools kinder and gentler, they are already inundated with liberal arts majors who can’t find satisfying work. Since law schools see their role as largely remedial, turning “brains full of mush”, as Professor Kingsfield observed, into razor-sharp minds, it is highly unlikely that law schools will step backward and accommodate those students whose personalities make them more suitable to be therapists and communication specialists, as most of Arron’s case histories ended up—mostly women who entered law school in the first rush of feminists into the profession in the 1970s with little notion of what they were about, with many eventually dropping out of the profession to raise children.

Another potential criticism that Arron omits to mention is that the legal profession is the only profession that cannibalizes its own. No other profession routinely seeks to profit by attacking its own members, resulting in an assumption among lawyers that every other lawyer is an enemy until proven otherwise. This too could be easily fixed by prohibiting privately-prosecuted malpractice suits among attorneys, bringing some measure of elementary camaraderie, as is the norm in every other profession. This would go far in restoring some respect and professionalism to the practice of law, and enable more lawyers to actually serve the public instead of constantly looking for huge judgments to cover the costs of their large malpractice premiums and office overhead. Why this is not being proposed by the powers that be, this reviewer does not know. Neither does Ms. Arron.

For the most part, however, her litany of complaints—accurate though they may be, and this reviewer agrees with most of them—nevertheless apply to most other jobs that this reviewer can think of. The boredom of paper-pushing? Try pushing hamburgers instead. Rudeness and incivility? Try sales or retail or teaching high-school. Pressure and competition? Try being a stock-broker or a doctor. No family life? Try working as a professor with the pressure to publish. Stress, depression, and lack of creativity? Well, that applies to most of the rest of the jobs out there.

Get over it, Deborah! Plenty of careers reward years of hard work and boredom with nothing more than bankruptcy and a pink slip. And given your repeated complaints of ulcers—someone should have mentioned that ulcers have nothing to do with stress, but are merely a bacterial infection. A few pills is all it takes to cure them. —SiriusReviews.com.

Sirius Reviews

Running from the Law: Why Good Lawyers Are Getting Out of the Legal Profession, 2.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
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