Don't Be a Victim of the 'Victim Mentality'

(This post addresses a myriad of issues so I apologize in advance if it is a little rambling or disjointed.)

“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the nonpharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.”
John W. Gardner

There was a recent opinion piece in the L.A. Times called ‘No More Room At The Bench’ which created some minor discussion on Twitter and got a mention on Legal Blog Watch. Basically, the author is of the opinion that too many new law schools are opening, there are no jobs for those who are graduating and the ABA plays a significant role in this imbalance and won’t do anything to shut the flood gates on new law schools or sufficiently regulate the information provided by law schools on the reality of employment.

You might be surprised to learn I disagree that opening more law schools will hurt future students or lawyers.  And dare I say that the average consumer of legal services actually wins.  Competition allows for change. Competition allows new programs to be devised, innovation in the delivery of legal education including online programs, and forces those law schools which cling to the old ways and the high tuition costs to suffer a major blow. As costs go down only the fittest and most responsive law school will survive and the students will ultimately determine this.  It very well may mean that older, more established law schools will close for failing to change. Lower debt for loans ultimately allows greater access to justice for the general public because lower debt allows the lawyer to make choices, who to service and at what cost. It brings back opportunity for those who get their degree because lower debt means they can choose NOT to practice, too, but utilize their law degree in other ways without feeling as much distress.  When you are suffering from crushing debt your choices are few.  In addition, if you stop law schools from opening leaving only those which currently exist to have a monopoly on the market, you will make law school the exclusive province of the elite and the existing law schools hold all the cards, along with the ABA who regulates their existence.  With an educated consumer of legal education and more choice, the law school marketplace will weed itself in a natural selection process leaving only those schools the students can afford and with an education they can use. The USNWR will have less and less sway as these newer schools opt out of this pointless and ruinous pageant.

Quite frankly, there isn’t a law student or lawyer today who doesn’t know the abysmal job most law schools do.  There isn’t a law student or lawyer today who doesn’t know that law school has their own agenda which has nothing to do with placing the majority of their students.  God only knows I’ve railed for years ad nauseum on this blog and in newspaper columns about it, especially about career placement offices, false employment numbers and lack of practical training in law school.

Law students should be able to get the whole pie, not half the pie when spending the money they do on their education.  They shouldn’t first have to go out and get a job to learn how to be a lawyer.  They shouldn’t have to first participate in a mandatory additional one year state mentoring program.  They should have the option to immediately practice law because they were given the skills.  Whether or not they choose this option, whether or not they feel secure with this option,  the option should still be made available to them.  But it doesn’t exist.  What does exist is unemployment and lawyers out there who want to make use of their education and don’t know how.  And when they try without guidance, that’s when costly mistakes are made. Sadly, it won’t exist within law schools for a very long time even with the pressures placed upon them today and even with new schools opening with a mission to be different.  Their agenda will always be different than the students’ agenda. That’s a fact.

Don’t try to change the market.  Market yourself to be current.

If Wal-Mart or some cultural shift has turned what you do into a commodity, don’t argue. Find a new place before the competition does. It’s not easy or fair, but it’s true. You bet your life.

Which brings us to those who would rail against and demean lawyers, mentors, law students, the legal profession, legal education and any one in any incarnation who tries to help those who ask for help while doing nothing to help themselves. They themselves are the victims of the victim mentality.

There are a few benefits of the victim mentality:

  • Attention and validation. You can always get good feelings from other people as they are concerned about you and try to help you out. On the other hand, it may not last for that long as people get tired of it.
  • You don’t have to take risks. When you feel like a victim you tend to not take action and then you don’t have to risk rejection or failure.
  • Don’t have to take the sometimes heavy responsibility. Taking responsibility for you own life can be hard work, you have to make difficult decisions and it is just heavy sometimes. In the short term it can feel like the easier choice to not take personal responsibility.
  • It makes you feel right. When you feel like the victim and like everyone else – or just someone else – is wrong and you are right then that can lead to pleasurable feelings. (Full post here.)

Almost half of all private practicing attorneys today are solos.  These lawyers generally have evolved on their own, some with major success, some with moderate success, some with minimal success and some with failure.  But they are no one’s victim. That’s the way it works in law and in life.

In today’s economy there are no sure things.  There are no handouts. There are no free rides. The only lawyers who will succeed, BigLaw or solo, are those with fortitude, self-reliance and NO victim mentality despite too many law schools, too many graduates and false employment numbers.

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18 comments on “Don't Be a Victim of the 'Victim Mentality'

  • You’ve hit the nail on the head, Susan! It seems like lately, the comment section to every story or blog post about the legal job market is quickly co-opted by what I call the Whiners: those who want to sit back and lay blame, rather than taking positive action.

    While law schools and the ABA are the Whiners’ main targets, the Whiners also blame what they call the “solo practice cheerleaders” (you, Carolyn Elefant and me) and ABA Formal Op. 08-451 (which addresses outsourcing). Indeed, it was refreshing to see a recent comment thread on Above the Law that *wasn’t* full of negativity and personal attacks (see http://abovethelaw.com/2009/12/is_solo_practice_a_pipe_dream.php?show=comments#comments).

  • But they [solos] are no one’s victim. That’s the way it works in law and in life.

    I love this line though unfortunately, some solos fall victim to themselves and the kinds of attitudes described at the post that Ed linked to. I call them “sad sacks” and I am sure that you know a few yourself.

    The other point that I can’t understand is that even why lawyers aren’t embarrassed to broadcast their victim mentality. We all have our moments of being down, but at least, hide it in public!

    • Caroyln, should victims of assault also hide their victimhood in public? Imagine if everyone hid their problems and put on a happy face – there would be no need for lawyers!

      We are trying to inform potential law students of the false and misleading picture presented by the law schools, i.e. we are trying to help a few people avoid crushing six-figure student loan debt. Maybe if you were not so emotionally wedded to the industry, you could see that.

  • Don’t you guys feel just a twinge of shame at peddling this solo practice Kool-Aid? My buddy just turned down 3 DWI cases this month alone since the clients were unemployed and couldn’t pay a dime! One guy wanted to trade him auto-body work for representation! This is like “To Kill a Mockingbird” where the farmer pays Atticus with a sack of walnuts! Sadly, Sallie Mae and Access Group do not accept walnuts or auto body repair. They want real money.

    Guess what else: he wastes $300 a month on Google Adwords to solicit these deadbeats who have “big problems and empty pockets.” Says he’s had enough and is closing up shop. Good for him.

    What good are these so-called “skills” when no one wants (or can) pay for them?

    • There is nothing to feel shame for…not even a twinge. When asked, I’ve helped lawyers open their own practices for years. I don’t peddle anything. Never have. I don’t tell people who have no interest in going solo to go solo. And I am aware of your blog post. The saddest part about your blog post is you insulted lawyers who are trying to make a living for themselves utilizing their education instead of railing against the world. I personally could care what you think of me. It was actually an amusing visual.

      In spite of your experiences, there are lawyers and law students who can’t waste valuable time on anger and disappointment. They actually want to do something instead of complain. And they want to learn how to do it cost-effectively, intelligently and right. They are the ones who are incredibly thankful Solo Practice University exists.

      If it’s not an option for you, no one is suggesting you should do it. No one is mandating you do it. While I don’t know your friend, it sounds like he should close up shop. Why? Because he’s trying to figure everything out himself and making costly choices which would discourage anyone. It’s not for everyone. No one has ever suggested otherwise.

      BTW – this is not Above The Law. If your followers or friends decide to start a comment frenzy on this blog I would encourage them to read the comment policy first. Of course, I always welcome intelligent conversation.

  • There’s nothing wrong with expressing some realism regarding law school when it is such an expensive undertaking. You rightly point to the high cost, fraudulent employment figures, and absolute lack of practical training that comes with law school. I think these are fine reasons for people to stay away from law school in the first place.

    I hope Mr. Greenbaum’s op-ed encourages prospective students to find alternative careers. There are more than enough lawyers currently available to handle the limited number of legitimate legal matters out there.

    If those who have already been duped by the law schools can find some financial salvation with practical training such as Solo Practice U, fine – though with the glut of lawyers out there, I’m quite skeptical. Personally, I think the better route is to just try to get out of the law altogether instead of digging oneself in even deeper.

    Nonetheless, those who have not yet enrolled in law school have a chance to avoid this unfortunate fate. As one of my friends stated, this isn’t whining, it’s a warning.

  • Hi–I thought this was a candid article, but I knew before I even looked at the comments that I’d see some of the familiar “sadsacks” there.

    The “victim mentality” points in the article are so clearly illustrated in what I call these “scam blogger” sites if anyone takes the time to read through their posts. It is quite sad, although I have seen these types of groups in other walks of life as well.

    There’s a reason why the saying “misery loves company” is still so oft repeated today. They not only love company, but when someone attempts to shine a little light of reality into their midst they circle the wagons and bolster each other with more of their own pity and victimhood.

    I contribute much of the dissatisfaction with the entitlement mentality that many recent graduates unfortunately possess. You have to realize, some of these folks, maybe even most of them, probably have never worked a 40 hour week at a “normal” job in their lives. They may not understand what it takes to get a foot in the door and to be willing to work hard, show eagerness for a chance, etc. Instead, some people expect not to look for a job, but are offended when they’re not recruited for one. It’s a sad day.

    Lastly, most of these “sadsacks” as you call them feel blindsided, and I can empathize with them. When they applied ands started law school in 2005-2006 things were great. But, a lot can happen in 3-4 years time, and a lot has. So, these students went in with one set of expectations only to come out to the Hell (relatively speaking) that is the current legal marketplace. But, as the post here said, you have to ADAPT. The situation is different now…you have to adapt and work harder than you thought, and more people are simply not going to make it than would have been the case three or four years ago.

  • While I agree that sitting at home being negative does not do anything to improve your situation, there is no doubt in my mind that the “negative law blogoshere” i.e. tom the temp, jdunderground, ATL (not all negative)etc….has done an excellent job in the past 5 years in lifting the lid on the legal profession. Specifically, regarding the realities of practice, the conflicts of interest and greed of the student loan/law schools, fraudulent and misleading law school stats, the poor pay and massive loan payments, the poor ROI for many law students etc…

    To the extent that markets only work with complete information, this reality check is a welcome addition for students thinking about entering the legal profession.

  • Well I completely disagree with Susan’s market analysis – because there is no efficiently working “market” in the law school “business.”

    For one, the law school gets paid up front. They have no skin in the game. Compare to a normal business ….If I buy a Honda and get terrible performance, service and maintenance, I will not buy a Honda again, and may bad mouth that company to my friends and family further hurting their business. Thus once I have paid for the product they(btw I love my Honda!) still have an incentive to be responsive to the consumer for repeat business, goodwill etc…..Law schools have no such market to shape their behavior……they already have the money, their grads are not going to be “repeat customers”, they have the teat of federally backed loans, and I don’t think there is any doubt that they simply massage (at best) and/or give downright fraudulent (at worst) income and employment stats to cover up the mess they leave.

    Not to mention that with my car I could probably get my money back after paying if I got a “lemon”!

    Allowing more law schools to open will simply mean lawyers……but the number of jobs is finite. With outsourcing and technology advances the number of legall jobs is decreasing. A point that has been made by Attorney Elefant. For example, to give an anlagogy, a relative of mine has been in the family photography biz for decades. Up until 15 years ago they would have employed 30 people at their office. Now with digital technology it’s a one man shop!! Same applies with technology in the area. It zaps jobs. That’s a a reality and no amount of positive thinking is going to change that fact.

    When anyone with a pulse can get more than $150,000 in federally backed loans, then the “market” is not a market at all. The reason law school tution has gone through the roof in the past 20 years is because an efficient market has not been allowed to happen. Furthermore, as student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, there is no incentive for the lender, whether it be fed or private to make a proper assessment of the loan.

    Susan, simply put, more law schools will not lead to lower tuition while we have the current loan system in place. If that was true, then the explosion in the number of new law schools in the past 20 years would have lead to tuition reductions. In fact quite the opposite has happened! We have more law schools than ever, and staggeringly high tuition that has way outpaced inflation.

    PS
    There is no reason why law has to be the profession of the rich. Able students from modest or poor back grounds could and should be given grants from law schoools or the government to assist them. Law schools should also give generous loan forgiveness to students who commit to low paying but important public interest jobs. Only a few elite law schools do that right now.

  • I contribute much of the dissatisfaction with the entitlement mentality that many recent graduates unfortunately possess. You have to realize, some of these folks, maybe even most of them, probably have never worked a 40 hour week at a “normal” job in their lives. They may not understand what it takes to get a foot in the door and to be willing to work hard, show eagerness for a chance, etc. Instead, some people expect not to look for a job, but are offended when they’re not recruited for one. It’s a sad day.
    _________________________________________________________________

    L4L here. First off, there is an “entitlement mentality” but it sure isn’t coming from recent JD grads. Why do laughing-stock schools like Seton Hall, Brooklyn, Car-Bozo, Pace et al feel “entitled” to charge the same tuition as Harvard and Yale? Why do these schools feel “entitled” to publish blantantly false salary and employment data? Why do their deans, profs and admins feel “entitled” to earn 200-500 K a year for a do-nothing job?

    For your second point, I worked 70 hour weeks in the restaurant business and helped pay my own way thru college and law school. I’ve had my arm up grease traps, cleaned grimy stove hoods, scrubbed floors, waited tables- the whole nine yards. I foolishly believed that education would be a ticket out of this low-paying grind of a lifestyle, and took out over 100 K in loans to attend a private Tier 2 lawschools. While there, I earned decent grades and even won a moot court competition. I passed NY & NJ bars the first time. My law school listed average starting salary at 96 K and stated that 80% of grads enjoyed this outcome.

    In 2005 after bar results, I sent out over 700 resumes and finally took a temp job at Paul Weiss codng documents for $21 an hour. After a few months of this, I FINALLY got a permanent job at an insurance defense firm. Salary: 45 K. Mind you, I had $960/month student loan payment to contend with on this salary. Do the math. My idiot co-losers who are still there make a whopping 65 K four years later and I just heard the firm is closing down since there’s so few auto cases being litigated anymore in NY.

    I am very proud of my blog and have talked over 70 people out of going to law school so far. To know that my blog rescued these folks from a lifetime of crushing debt, miserable cut n’ paste makework, abysmal salaries, psychotic bosses, doc review boiler rooms, and the farce of “solo practice” is something very worthwhile. My blog’s comments are overwhelmingly supportive and in fact Mr. Greebaum who penned the LA Times op-ed said my Big Debt, Small Law blog is what inspired him to write about this disaster. I’ve also had private emails from some very successful lawyers who agree 100% with everything written at Big Debt.

    Everyone’s had their fill of the old “bootstraps” and “dust yourself off” gibberish. Law schools and the ABA are nothing but criminal cartels out to seperate suckers from wheelbarrow-loads of Stafford and Access Group cash.

    I’d love to see the numbers on solo practice, but my guess is that 90% of solos fail w/in a year. As I wrote on the blog, everyone in doc review is some kind of “solo,” but none can earn enough money to actually survive. The only people with a shot at solo success are the ex-Biglaw types who can milk their former connections (many ATL posters have explicitly admitted this fact).

    I firmly believe that recent law grads are victims in every sense of the word. They were told absolute, outright lies by their schools, taught nothing of value, and dumped into a market glutted beyond all comprehension. The behavior of law schools would be black-letter, textbook fraud if any other business engaged in it.

  • Doug:

    “I contribute much of the dissatisfaction with the entitlement mentality that many recent graduates unfortunately possess. You have to realize, some of these folks, maybe even most of them, probably have never worked a 40 hour week at a “normal” job in their lives. They may not understand what it takes to get a foot in the door and to be willing to work hard, show eagerness for a chance, etc. Instead, some people expect not to look for a job, but are offended when they’re not recruited for one. It’s a sad day.”
    ____________________________________

    Utter tripe.

    As we can see from clicking on your name that links to your blog, you are a “Jd to be”. It appears that you have not even started law scool yet….yet you make sweeping generalizations which have no basis in fact.

    So, frankly you are not in any position whatsover to be making critical remarks about recent law graduates.

    I didn’t go to law school until I was 30, so I had worked for 8 years before law school. This was more than most but I would say that about 50% had at least 2 to 3 years of work experience.

    Even those who went to law school from undergrad were hard workers. Not everyone in law school is a brilliant legal mind, but most work hard.

    This is the old strawman argument, where you try and paint law school grads as whiners, who are 100% to blame for their predicament. I know a number of very bright, hard working, proactive people that were laid off and have not be able to find gainful employment. These are people who did well in law school, have passed multiple bars and speak foreign languages. These are not lazy bums waiting for Sullivan and Cromwell to call them up.

    Law school has actually worked out ok for me so far, but I understand the predicament grads find themselves in.

  • Well, I appreciate all the candid and civil opinions being generated. Ironically, we are not disagreeing. Law schools have done a poor job. They have a different agenda then the students. No one disagrees. And no one disagrees this is a dismal market to graduate into.

    But you are on this blog which discusses the option of solo practice for those who want it.

    What I’d like to ask L4L is this: You’ve identified what is wrong (as have countless others). You’ve got a following who agree with you. You’ve dissuaded those who don’t have a passion for the practice of law to not go to law school and identified yourself as hardworking, ethical and responsible. (None of this is said with any sarcasm. I’m just re-stating.)

    With all your anger and upset at the law schools, the legal profession and the ABA in general what concrete personal steps are you taking to change your current situation? I’m not saying to get rid of your upset. I just want to know.

    You see, nothing you have said is new to me. I’m not a fan of the law school machine, the way they behave, the financial aid hucksters. If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written you would know this. I’m also not a solo cheerleader. I’m a realist who understands thousands of lawyers are being churned and burned. But there are those who don’t want to be ‘victims’ of this. Those are the ones we try to encourage and help because they seek out the information provided. It’s not pollyannish. It’s not blowing smoke up anyone’s skirt. It’s not peddling a dream or untold wealth. They just want to be practicing lawyers and the old way formula towards partnership in a big firm isn’t working so they want to try it themselves. The majority have been told it’s insanity…myself included.

    You don’t have to be a believer in solo practice. But half of all private practice attorneys are solo practitioners. They obviously believe it can be done.

    But, again, I ask you. Do you want to use your law degree or throw it away because you are angry? When you know, really know, then let me know and we’ll take it from there.

    • I’ve had a similar experience to L4L, and as of Jan 1, have closed my solo practice for lack of funds. There simply aren’t enough cases out there for the amount of attorneys, at least in my area. I figured that, if I had zero overhead, I would be pulling down about $5 an hour. But with the overhead (phone, website, office rent, a tight ad budget, power, a minimal Lexis account, and other required software), I was barely clearing enough to buy lunch on a daily basis and pay for the gas to go to court. My student loans, and other living expenses, have simply gone unpaid; if I didn’t have my parent’s attic to crash in, I would have literally been homeless long ago.

      I’m not going to deny that there are some solos who are surviving. Somehow. But for me, I’ve completely capitulated; and no, I won’t say to what I’m capitulating, because the last thing I need is a thousand other lawyers following me, to saturate yet another market.

      My personal opinion, based on the last two years of experience I’ve acquired, is that anyone with no experience as an actual attorney who is considering going solo, who is not an excellent salesperson, should go work for Burger King instead – you’ll make about ten times more money. And if you are an excellent salesperson, you should be selling something that people are actually willing to pay for – whether that is used cars, insurance, drugs, whatever; you’ll be more fulfilled if you can actually believe in the product you’re selling.

      The advantage of being a solo is you can honestly call yourself a lawyer. The advantage of not being a solo is you have the time to get a paying job in a field somewhere other than law. It’s a no-brainer, folks. Opening your own office, for most people, is just throwing good money after bad.

  • L4L here.

    Susan, it might surprise you to know that I operated a solo practice for about 14 months. I worked 80 hour weeks in doc review for almost a year to save up 10 K of seed money. I rented a nice little space in a suburban NJ office condo for only $150 a month, hung my degrees on the wall, bought about $250 of used office furniture at an auction, and was up and running as they say.

    I stretched my ad dollars as much as possible. I spent $10 a week on a church bulletin, $30 a month to be in 5 condominium newsletters (to try and get RE closings when people sold and also wills/trusts for young couples having kids), and my one “big” ad, a $250 a month half-page display ad in a penny saver magazine with about 35 K circulation. I even did one of those paper “placemat ads” that was in 15 local diners/bars (it cost $250 for a run of 100 K placemats, and I thought it might be just the sort of “guerilla” marketing that might work for blue collar personal injury or DWI clients.)

    Nope. Not a single case in the 6 months the placements were out there. I also spent $1200/ year on a malpractice policy. And of course those good old NJ bar dues and CLE rip-off fees.

    I looked into Google Adwords but the cost for my town’s name combined w/ any decent adword was VERY high- like $7 a click. I did try it for some time but it led to no clients. (All NJ solos I’ve spoken to have had no luck with AdWords- the big firms just outspend them by too great a degree). One very nice guy I met on doc review ended up 5 K in the hold from AdWords without a single client, and he has 15 years of experience in his area.

    I also joined the local bar association and tried to get court-appointed work, but it’s a real “old boys club” and they never sent me a single case (still haven’t 2 years later and I’m still on the list LOL). The local bar here is another “old boys” club and the only people my age were the younger halves of father-son team who obviously were in a much different position than me.

    I got 2 nightmare DWI clients who bounced multiple retainer checks and the judge refused to let me out of the cases until I sent 3 registered letters (with copies of their files) to their last known addresses (at $25 a piece for postage). I did a real estate closing for a friend’s mom where the septic tank failed and I had to spend 40+ hours on the file for a $700 flat fee (she couldn’t pay more since she was stretched so thin w/ the septic problem). I got one good personal injury case that another lawyer stole from me b/c the client was treating at a “medical mill” that probably got a fat kickback to steer patients to the firm (filed an NJ Bar grievance on that one and of course nothing happened).

    I called many older lawyers to ask for “overflow” and they laughed hysterically and said business is so slow they are thinking of retiring! Most of them advised me that going solo is a terrible idea nowadays and that law’s best days are long since past. Many of these guys were clearing 200 K just a few years ago (late 90s early 2000s) in personal injury, but now NJ has such strict tort reform with auto work that there just isn’t any $$$ in it anymore. The big mills with TV/Radio/#1 Google clicks take the few good cases out there and all that’s left for the rest of us is BS soft-tissue garbage cases that you couldn’t settle for a song.

    DWI was likewise tough because VERY few clients have access to the money needed to put on a proper defense. In reality, there isn’t much of a defense for 95% of these cases, and all the lawyer can really do is just beg for the minimum suspension. People have really wised up to this fact anymore, and the majority of DWI clients just beg and grovel themselves rather than shell out 3 K for me to do it.

    I worked as a realtor prior to law school in the same town I started my solo shop in. Once I had my office I went to all the Sunday open houses and passed out cards hoping to get closings etc. I also got invited to a couple Realtor office meetings where I spoke on NJ realty issues and tried to cross-sell wills and estates. Nothing came of this either. A huge real estate firm in the county hogs 90% of the closings and “butter up” the realtors with listing leads and other goodies that I couldn’t provide. Now, of course, the real estate market is all but dead anyway.

    I also wrote a couple articles for a local free newspaper about personal injury cases and estate planning, etc. I got one call out of it from a woman who wanted to sue Best Buy because her washing machine leaked and ruined a hardwood floor. I guess she thought I was a plumber as well.

    I did most everything recommended: kept expenses low, stretched my small ad budget to the max,
    tried to get court-appointed work, networked with established lawyers, and most of all did a GREAT job for my few clients. My adversary on the real-estate closing with the septic issue was stunned when he saw me at closing, and said “wow, I thought you’d been practicing 30 years the way you handled this nightmare.” He was expecting someone with gray hair and a cane apparently!

    But sadly, doing a good job doesn’t mean much when you can’t earn enough to pay your bills. With $900 a month in student loans, I couldn’t even come close to earning enough $$$ to live (or just break even). My business just wasn’t growing at all, and if anything things were getting even slower (funny story: a few local scumbag firms saw my ads in the condo/church bulletins and w/in weeks had placed their own ads 10 X the size of mine in these same publications to shout me out.) Guess they didn’t want to risk losing even one will or DWI to the new kid in town.

    I guess I could’ve tried some niche area like special education law or whatever, but with cash flow so incredibly poor I couldn’t really take a chance. I think a big difference b/t today and 10 yrs ago is that back them solos could get a few bucks doing little stuff like LLC formation, wills, traffic court etc, but today LegalZoom and the internet have taken away these areas for the most part. Without at least a trickle of steady cash, you can’t really get started in obscure niche areas of law.

    It’s much worse for the newbie JD’s now, many of whom owe close to 200 K and have min. payments of $1600 a month just in student loans! I’m sorry, but the chances of any of these people succeeding as solos is almost nil. No one can dig themselves out of that deep a hole with the saturation level out there and economy getting worse by the day. They won’t even have the doc review option that I did now that the ABA has outsourced this work to India.

    Needless to say, after 12 months of these drips n’ drabs and my hard-earned seed money exhausted, I closed up shop. Rather than rent storage space for my furniture, I just threw everything (including my framed law and college degrees) into the parking lot’s dumpster and walked away for good. The experience left me personally, spiritually, and financially crushed. All those hours staring at the doc review screen to save that 10 K startup money (which I could’ve just put toward my loans) was now on its way to the landfill. All the hard work and “networking” and designing my ads, writing articles, trying to do a good job- all for naught.

    The whole endeavor just seemed so foolish and naïve in retrospect, like a child’s pipedreams. I sat on the curb and smoked a cigarette after I loaded the dumpster and really felt like committing suicide. Remember, this is the town I grew up in, and my high school friends all laughed hysterically at how little $$$ I made and my cheesy placemat ads etc. They still kid me and call me an “ambulance chaser.” Hell, I’d laugh at me too. It’s beyond embarrassing. Most of them drive trucks and already own homes and have families, while I have nothing but loan debt and failure. In a few short weeks I was back on the 6 am bus into NYC to start another sentence in the doc review gulag for $30 an hour and no benefits. When the bus passed by my old office, I felt like throwing up.

    My blog serves only to apprise people of the enormous risks involved so they don’t end up like me (a fate I truly wouldn’t wish on anyone). I really believe that its better most people give up on law altogether and get into a career that actually has a stable future. Law is just too many people fighting over too few scraps. I’m most happy about the people who avoided law school altogether thanks to my blog, and only hope that more people don’t make my same mistakes.

    L4L

  • L4L, Oddly I don’t encourage anyone to go to law school either. When I went to law school and did a cost benefit analysis (earnings given up plus law school debt) it was a reasonable investment at the time and I chose a T4 because location and cost played a huge role. Today, it is quite different and you have to really WANT to be a lawyer no matter what challenges are in front of you. While there is a debate as to whether you should shoot for the ‘best’ school or the school you can afford rages on. I always advocate less debt.

    I don’t ‘sell’ solo practice as a panacea. I don’t ‘sell’ solo practice at all. You are advocating those who haven’t started law school to seriously reconsider. But there are legions are lawyers out there who have already incurred the debt and want to use their education. And there are those who specifically went to law school to open their own practices. The law schools fail them on this. The bars have done an abysmal job, too. Where do they go for help? It doesn’t help them to say, ‘just don’t be lawyers because you are going to fail.’ It’s also not true. What they are missing is affordable guidance from those who have done it and can provide the information to help them. Based upon your description of what you did in your solo practice, you did many things right and many things wrong…for today’s market. I won’t go into it in the comments section because I’m sure there is more to your story. And I do believe you are committed to cases and do them right for your client.

    But I have another question for you. You went back to doc review instead of leaving the profession altogether. Is this just a paying gig until you can save enough money to do something else? Or are you still nurturing a hope to use your degree in a meaningful way? Seems to me (no sarcasm) you still have a desire to be a practicing lawyer. If I’m wrong, please let me know.

  • I just wanted to respond to the comment to Nando and clarify. In my comment, I actually wasn’t talking about bloggers who cover this topic. I do agree that they are getting the word out and although I don’t think the approach is always effective, they are doing something.

    In my comment re: “the sad sacks,” I was actually talking about those lawyers who I meet individually, say things like “That won’t work” or “I would try that but there’s already 1 million people doing it.” Many of them, in fact, are solos.

  • From “lawis4losers”: First off, there is an “entitlement mentality” but it sure isn’t coming from recent JD grads.

    – Are you kidding me? You’re claiming that there “SURE ISN’T” any sign of an entitlement mentality coming from ANY of the recent JD grads?! I’m not painting with a broad brush here, but have you actually READ any of these scam-bloggers’ sites? Also, I think you may be in the minority with your background of work experience. At just about every law school I’ve checked into, the average age was usually from around 23-25. At that age, the average law student likely came into law school straight from undergrad with no real-world work experience and never having to support themselves or a family. Again, this doesn’t apply to everyone, case in point…you, but it does apply to a fair share.

    To JPHM, on my not having yet gone to law school… this is such a tired argument. I’m surprised, with all of the lawyers out there reading these posts, don’t ever mention how it has no merit. Please tell me how my not yet going to law school prevents me from reasonably commenting on the entitlement attitude and victim mentality of those that did? I’ve never claimed to know what law school is like or that I’ll be able to find work when I graduate. Maybe I won’t, and if I can’t, I will be posting that on my blog. But the fact remains that most of the scam-bloggers go so far off of the deep end that they just sound like whiny little entitled maggots.

    All the scam-bloggers talk about is how they didn’t learn any practical skills in law school, how they would be fined for malpractice if they tried to go solo, etc. All this article poster is saying is that if that is how you find yourself, don’t sit there and whine about it, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Nobody has to try to build their skill set by using whatever services this place offers, but damn, it HAS to be better than sitting at home commiserating anonymously over the internet with a handful of other bitter souls.

    Doug
    tobeajd.blogspot.com

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