07.21.2013 10:10 PM

I left the Bay Street law firm where I was a partner a decade ago

…and I haven’t regretted my decision, not once.

I worked with brilliant, wonderful people. They were good to me. But I could see the writing on the wall. When I told them their biggest client was going to drop them, few at the firm believed me. But drop them it did. I left soon after.

I love the law, I love lawyers. But most of the lawyers I know are miserable. Or they say they want my life.

This amazing piece of journalism partly explains why.

Go to law school? Sure. But don’t ever go thinking you are going to be rich.

You’re not gonna be. Not anymore.

11 Comments

  1. Frank Garrett says:

    Unless you are an ‘ambulance chaser’, there seems to be a plethora of ads these days, promising to get rich quick on your injury.

  2. Lynn says:

    Very interesting, and after spending many years in the legal world, I am not surprised. The number of grads is astounding even in Canada. To go where? do what? the jobs and money are not flowing and the debt grads have is enormous. And not to be mean, but I have often wondered how half the class even got into law school. Cutting class sizes could possibly allow the ones who graduate a better chance for money and opportunities…and oh yes, the prestige of the firm name when they “make it”.

    • The Doctor says:

      Never mind cutting class sizes, how about not opening entire new law schools? That decision in BC to create and open Thompson Rivers Univeristy Law School was just plain idiotic. A very political decision that only added a bunch of law grads to a market where there already weren’t enough articling positions to go around. Dumb dumb dumb.

  3. Jeff says:

    Could not agree more Warren.

    One year of articling was more than enough for me. I worked with amazing people who I still keep in pretty regular touch with. But even in Ottawa where it is far tamer than what they outline in this story (and far tamer than Toronto), it was not the life for me. Or for anyone I know.

    Same thing goes for policy shops in Ottawa. I just don’t understand the point in driving your people into the ground with 12-14 hour days. What exactly is the point? Why do so many of this country’s leaders in law and government think that they must wring the lifeblood out of their human resourecs.

    Seems to me that work-life balance is just a lip-service phrase at far too many places.

  4. davidray says:

    ten years ago I lived in Corpus Christi Texas. 46 of the Yellow Pages directory were for law firms including front and back page, spline and inside front and back. Nothing else came close. Not even Automotive. Couldn’t make a left turn with a blown turn signal without getting sued. Population? About twice that of Kingston where I now live. Insane. Can’t imagine how bad it is now.

  5. Brent says:

    How about combining a Law degree with an Engineering or MBA degree?

    I know of a lawyer with an Engineering degree and is doing rather well with that specialization. Also I’ve encountered lawyers in regulatory hearings and they devoted themselves to that aspect of the law over the years and done quite well with long-term big clients.

    Top tier lawyers are quick studies in fields other than just straight law and do quite well. Just hanging out your shingle and hoping for customers is a formula for failure in the global economy.

    • The Doctor says:

      Well, you’re on to something there. What’s happening with technology, economic change, is that a “great sort” is going on in the legal profession, as with many other sectors of the economy. Those lawyers who have relatively rare specializations will continue to do quite well. The consensus seems to be that it will be the more “commodified”, not particularly specialized areas of the law that will get harshly affected by changes in the market. You already see this with stuff like contract management software, and that scourge of the court system (just ask anybody who works in it), the self-represented litigant.

  6. Ty says:

    People have too high expectations.

    You get a law degree, you get a flexible position that can work in any small town or big city in the province you get it in. Stay indoors, work your mind a bit, get paid a decent amount.

    Sadly, 75% of law grads don’t realize this. Big law may be suffering, but the smaller form sure beats most day jobs.

  7. The Doctor says:

    Canadian readers have to realize that there are some differences between the US and Canadian situations. The article is entirely US-focused. As with so many other things, the US situation is more extreme at both ends than the Canadian situation. US big law firms are much bigger than their Canadian counterparts, and their lead partners make more money. On the other hand, when the economy goes south in the US, law firms are hit harder than here. They soar higher, and crash harder.

    And related to that, a big factor mentioned in the article is the 2008 recession, which of course was way, way more severe in the US than it was here, so naturally the big law firms in the US were much more adversely affected than those in Canada. We’re dealing with some of the same market and technological change factors that the Americans are dealing with, but the market is different down there. It’s way easier to get a law degree in most US states, because they have so many fly by night law schools, along side the Harvards and Yales. In Canada these days, even a so-called lower ranked law school is not particularly easy to get into (and especially compared to dirt-chute schools in the US and elsewhere).

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