For a while there, it seemed like not a day went by without us reading of some firm or other laying off a mess of lawyers. Things have changed. Now, it seems as if not a day goes by without us reading of some law student getting upset at the dearth of law jobs out there. It was bad enough hearing about the lawyers losing their jobs, but the students’ complaints are somehow more upsetting. And not for the reasons they probably think.
Reading about the firm layoffs, day after day and month after month, evoked some real sympathy for our (mostly) transactional colleagues whose niche was no longer in so much demand. But it wasn’t all that distressing. The positions being eliminated had been created to satisfy the needs of a ballooning financial industry, and when the balloon popped, the elimination of those jobs was a rational correction. Not pleasant, but not distressing.
What is distressing is reading the law students’ lament that there are no jobs waiting for them, that the jobs out there don’t pay enough, that they got saddled with all this debt with no way to pay it off, that the lives of young lawyers are miserable, and somebody (besides the students themselves, of course) must be to blame. It’s upsetting — not to hear how bad they have it — but to think that so many of these people are getting ready to enter our profession.
To put it bluntly: they are not wanted here. It only takes a moment’s thought to realize that, if they were wanted, then there would be a place for them. But the ones complaining loudest seem to be the one who did the least research before deciding on law school, so perhaps they haven’t done this bit of thinking either.
They are not wanted here, because there is no market demand for them. And they are not wanted in the profession, because when they join the bar they will only serve to weaken it. They do not realize that it is a profession — the law is not a job, it’s not a business, it’s not a stage. It’s not about you. What sets apart the three professions — medicine, the clergy and the law — from all other occupations is that it is always about the person who came to you for help. A professional’s duty is not to himself, but to his patient, his flock, or his client. It’s not about you. It’s never about you.
And if you’re going into the law for “a job,” or in order to make money, then you’re doing it for precisely the wrong reasons. You’ll be the kind of lawyer who makes the rest of us look bad. You’re not wanted here.
Now there’s nothing wrong with making money as a lawyer. There’s nothing wrong with making quite a lot of money. But that’s not the point. If you’re very good at what you do, and you provide a service that’s in demand and has good value, then you’re going to have a hard time not making money — no matter what the economy is doing.
And there are always plenty of jobs in the profession… for those who belong here. Seriously, there is always room for another good lawyer. If you’re in law school because you really want to practice law, not just because you want a job as a lawyer… if you’re smart enough to have earned a spot at a decent law school… if you’re working hard enough to be getting very good grades (remember, it’s hard work and not brains that makes the difference in law school grades)… then you are in all likelihood a driven and accomplished person, who is here for all the right reasons, and you are exactly the kind of person we lawyers want working for us. We want you in our profession. No matter what the economy is doing.
So the irony is that the students most likely to be complaining about lack of money and jobs are precisely the students least suited for the profession in the first place. Maybe they should think again about whether they really want to go through with it.
But they won’t. They didn’t think about it before going to law school. They didn’t do their research and figure out their chances of actually landing a high-paying job on graduation. They went to law school because they “heard” that lawyers make a lot of money. Or because they couldn’t decide what else to do with their life. Or because law school seemed like a good way to ride out the recession. Or because they want a job with status. Or any number of reasons that are all about them and not at all about doing it right.
Well, those students do have good reason to worry that they won’t have a job. But we in the profession have all the more reason to dread that they will. That they will fill our ranks with exactly the wrong sort of lawyers. The ones who burn out, after trading their lives for a living. The ones who put their own interests ahead of their clients. The ones who screw their clients with crap representation, or worse.
We cannot repeat it enough: they are not wanted here. There is no demand for them. The job market is basically screaming this basic truth in their ears.
One would think they’d have gotten the message.