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Burnout in the profession

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On 2/4/2019 at 3:52 PM, happydude said:

Burn out is real.

I don't have any tips for you OP. I am in my second year of call and am feeling it.  

For me it isn't the sheer number of hours that hurts. It's the stress. I could work 60+ hour weeks relatively easily if it was stress free (or at least had much less stress than I currently have). But in law you are always worrying that you did something wrong on a file. How it might prejudice the client. How it might lead to rage from a partner. For me, personally, it isn't sustainable and isn't worth the financial pay outs that even partnership could bring. And since you are on call 24/7, how can you even enjoy your time off that people are suggesting as a cure? You'll just be stressing in the back of your mind the entire time that urgent emails could fly in at any second to torpedo the "vacation" you finally splurged on with your partner as a reward for how hard you've been working. If I were out of town when my firm needed something urgently, that wouldn't go over well. 

I can't see myself lasting, but that of course can change on a dime - be it with a new firm, new practice area, simply getting better at managing it all with more experience (and being higher on the totem pole!), moving into a law adjacent gig, etc. Welcome to the uncertain and stress filled adventure that is life, OP. Embrace it. Do your best and forget the rest. That is perhaps my only advice and what keeps me sane. Things have a way of working out. We could be homeless with our stressors being where we are going to find shelter. Or in poor health worrying if we will ever be able to work again. Etc.

So much this. Enjoy and have fun with school, practicing is 100x more stressful. 

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I would go back to law school in a heartbeat - law school was so much fun and a low-stakes place to learn. Appreciate it for all it is worth!

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16 minutes ago, providence said:

I would go back to law school in a heartbeat - law school was so much fun and a low-stakes place to learn. Appreciate it for all it is worth!

Yup. Me too. Law school was a lot of fun and made my career options much better. It wasn't as expensive when I went, but even at today's cost, the return would be worth it.

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On 2/4/2019 at 3:52 PM, happydude said:

Burn out is real.

I don't have any tips for you OP. I am in my second year of call and am feeling it.  

For me it isn't the sheer number of hours that hurts. It's the stress. I could work 60+ hour weeks relatively easily if it was stress free (or at least had much less stress than I currently have). But in law you are always worrying that you did something wrong on a file. How it might prejudice the client. How it might lead to rage from a partner. For me, personally, it isn't sustainable and isn't worth the financial pay outs that even partnership could bring. And since you are on call 24/7, how can you even enjoy your time off that people are suggesting as a cure? You'll just be stressing in the back of your mind the entire time that urgent emails could fly in at any second to torpedo the "vacation" you finally splurged on with your partner as a reward for how hard you've been working. If I were out of town when my firm needed something urgently, that wouldn't go over well. 

I can't see myself lasting, but that of course can change on a dime - be it with a new firm, new practice area, simply getting better at managing it all with more experience (and being higher on the totem pole!), moving into a law adjacent gig, etc. Welcome to the uncertain and stress filled adventure that is life, OP. Embrace it. Do your best and forget the rest. That is perhaps my only advice and what keeps me sane. Things have a way of working out. We could be homeless with our stressors being where we are going to find shelter. Or in poor health worrying if we will ever be able to work again. Etc.

There are lots of firms (or practice areas within firms) that respect boundaries and vacation time.

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6 hours ago, wakawaka said:

There are lots of firms (or practice areas within firms) that respect boundaries and vacation time.

Yes agreed - we are encouraged to take all of our vacation time and emails are only rarely directed to us during this time. 

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I know hundreds of lawyers in many different types of practice/employment situations. I don't know even one who would have the type of problem that @happydude describes, as "If I were out of town when my firm needed something urgently, that wouldn't go over well."  This is not common and is not something that law students and prospectives should be expecting in their futures.

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1 hour ago, TheScientist101 said:

Yes agreed - we are encouraged to take all of our vacation time and emails are only rarely directed to us during this time. 

Same. 

I'm not even expected to respond to anything outside of my normal work hours. 

Files are covered by colleagues during vacation times. 

If someone in @happydude's position leaves the profession before exploring other, more reasonable employment options, that's a shame. 

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I find the 3 things that help me keep stress under control are:

1. Exercise - most people in high-powered jobs turn to either exercise or alcohol/drugs to cope. Stick with exercise and make it a daily part of your routine, if possible. Do something where you're moving  and/or reacting quickly and don't have time to think about work (e.g., team sports like hockey or basketball, cross-fit, running, etc.)

2. See my friends every weekend - it helps to associate with people who are not in law so that you can talk about things other than work

3. Perspective - When I go to bed and when I wake up, I try to make a conscious effort to be thankful for how good I have it in life compared to many others, or to myself in the past. If I'm stressing about work at those times of day, sometimes I'll think about the laborious, low-paying jobs I worked before law school and find myself thankful I'm working in a comfortable office with a view and getting paid more than both of my parents combined. Sometimes I'll think about how several of my friends have had parents get sick or pass away recently and find myself thankful that my family and I are all in good health and get to see each other every day, and that's far, far more important than some work deadline.

Edited by hitman9172
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On 2/9/2019 at 4:13 PM, QuincyWagstaff said:

If someone in @happydude's position leaves the profession before exploring other, more reasonable employment options, that's a shame. 

I'll just put it out there, but his experience is how a number of people, at least in my 3L classes, see their futures going post grad. It's why probably...50ish percent of people I speak to in-depth about the future have already thought of exit options. 

Edited by whoknows
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It continues to surprise me how differently everyone experiences practice depending on the firm.

Even though I have more stress than I ever have before, I enjoy practice way more than I did articling, just as I enjoyed articling way more than I did school.

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I wholeheartedly agree with @mountebank. Law school was terrible. Who wants to go back to all that worry of the future, job insecurity, financial insecurity, grade pressure and the like? Practice is waaaay better. And I say that as a family lawyer! 

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1 hour ago, artsydork said:

I wholeheartedly agree with @mountebank. Law school was terrible. Who wants to go back to all that worry of the future, job insecurity, financial insecurity, grade pressure and the like? Practice is waaaay better. And I say that as a family lawyer! 

Definitely depends on the person and their circumstances I guess. For me I didn't worry about the future - I had more hope for it than I had ever had before and I always felt there were lots of great options and my problem was picking one. There was lots of financial insecurity but there always had been so that was nothing new, and now there was light at the end of the tunnel. I accepted that it takes money to make money so my education was going to cost me initially. I wasn't worried about job insecurity or grade pressure that much - I had my moments of anxiety of course, but I was so enjoying learning and meeting new people that it more than cancelled out any of that. And even the worst day in law school was a picnic compared to a day in the trenches in criminal law, LOL. But for sure we are all different.

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I've gotten legal experience in both my summers so far, and I have to say I enjoyed the practice of law infinitely more than school.

I know this is different than articling, which is different than practice. It's still something which gives me hope though.

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4 hours ago, artsydork said:

I wholeheartedly agree with @mountebank. Law school was terrible. Who wants to go back to all that worry of the future, job insecurity, financial insecurity, grade pressure and the like? Practice is waaaay better. And I say that as a family lawyer! 

And the money. Mostly, the money. 

Being a student sucks unless you're supported by your parents or independently wealth. 

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I agree with people when they say law school was great.. before job pressures kicked in. One of my favourite years in my life so far has been 1L.

I worked hard don't get me wrong, and I was involved outside of just courses. But I also enjoyed my life, was meeting some really incredible people and making some awesome friends. Everything was great. And I did well (though I suppose for people who didn't do well, if they looked back onto 1L in hindsight, they would think they didn't enjoy it).

Upper years really sucked though. Job search and financial anxiety has been what's ruining my experience. It also doesn't help that job search on its own, making cover letters, searching for the right opportunities, not getting those opportunities, doing it all over again and having to widen your scope and "settle" to a degree - this all takes an emotional toll. It also compounds your anxiety because it's a time sink into an activity that, by definition, has 0 productivity until it has some productivity (i.e, getting it). 

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I always assume people who thought law school was great must have had awful undergrad experiences. I loved every minute of my undergraduate degree. Law school was superficial and utilitarian. I would have quit after the first semester if I had no desire to practice law. If not for the clinic experiences and summer jobs I don't think I would have survived.

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46 minutes ago, BabyRhinoRainbow said:

I always assume people who thought law school was great must have had awful undergrad experiences. I loved every minute of my undergraduate degree. Law school was superficial and utilitarian. I would have quit after the first semester if I had no desire to practice law. If not for the clinic experiences and summer jobs I don't think I would have survived.

I have a theory that students have, at most, one really good and formative educational experience in their lives. Some students peak in high school. Some have great experiences in undergrad. Some really find themselves in law school. I actually share your experience entirely. Things came together for me spectacularly in undergrad, for reasons very specific to my own life and which wouldn't be relevant to anyone else. But after that, law school was just something I had to get through in order to do what I wanted to from then on. I didn't hate it. But I didn't love it either. And yes, the clinics, hands-on experiences, etc. are what saved it for me.

Note, the theory above isn't really a firmly held opinion so much as a pet rule-of-thumb. I'm sure there are exceptions. But I guess my point is this. If we're thinking in terms of "stages of life" and how well you manage during each one, there are things you'll really love and there are things which, much as I hate to admit it, sometimes you just need to get through. Not that I encourage anyone to suffer in misery. But if what you're feeling isn't so much misery as it is "I don't think I want to do this for the rest of my life" then it's reasonable to take heart that the next stage can and should be different. Of course you have to take agency in making it different also. But I don't really believe that legal practice is some kind of extension of law school. To me, the two are very different indeed.

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3 hours ago, BabyRhinoRainbow said:

I always assume people who thought law school was great must have had awful undergrad experiences. I loved every minute of my undergraduate degree. Law school was superficial and utilitarian. I would have quit after the first semester if I had no desire to practice law. If not for the clinic experiences and summer jobs I don't think I would have survived.

Absolutely agree.  Law school was simply a means to an end for me and it was filled with pretentious and fake people.  It also felt too much like high school again with all the cliques and the gossip.  There were some very interesting classes, but undergrad was 100x more enjoyable for me. 

I do think Diplock is bang on with his theory that most people have one very good educational experience in their life. 

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3 hours ago, BabyRhinoRainbow said:

I always assume people who thought law school was great must have had awful undergrad experiences. I loved every minute of my undergraduate degree. Law school was superficial and utilitarian. I would have quit after the first semester if I had no desire to practice law. If not for the clinic experiences and summer jobs I don't think I would have survived.

I enjoyed aspects of undergrad but not as much as law school - it definitely wasn't awful though. Undergrad was more difficult for me for personal reasons as compared to law school in terms of becoming a single mother for the first time and deciding that my initial career goal would not work for me any more. By law school, I was a couple of years older and more able to handle adversity. But I did absolutely love the education I got in undergrad and the feeling of freedom and possibility, and I also had some very, very good friends and learned a lot about myself. I just like learning and being in school though. If I could afford it, I would do a masters and doctorate in law just for the fun of it. 

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I think it also depends on your situation before law school. If you left a decent job like engineering, banking or teaching for law school, and then struggled to land a law job, I can see how that would be very frustrating. Also I could see you second-guessing yourself if you had other options of, say, doing an MBA or a masters in STEM or something. However, if you were already broke before law school with no prospect of that changing unless you went to law school, I would think law school might be less stressful.

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