Jan 11, 2010
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.