Every few weeks I get an email like this one:
Dear Professor Campos:
First I want to commend you on your excellent blog. I have begun to read through your articles. The positive thing that I’m getting from the blog is that I don’t feel so lonely anymore thinking that I got scammed when I went to law school. I started law school in 2002 and graduated in 2005. Prior to going to law school I had heard rumblings about how being an attorney was not as profitable as the schools made it out to be. I was also warned by other attorneys that it was very stressful. Unfortunately that information did not sink in and I bought the hype that [average-ranked law school] offered. So I spent three good years of my life working on a degree that I believe should have only taken two.
Then reality really hit when I entered the job market. It was not good. You could find jobs but for $40,000 to $50,000. At first I thought that it was me, that I had not done the right things, ie kiss up to the right people, done unpaid internships, etc. So I decided to hang up my own shingle. I opened my own office, and tried to make a go of it. It has been an incredibly difficult five years. For many of those years I would blame myself for not doing better; I began to believe that there was huge mistake that I was making or I had made that had alienated clients, or that I wasn’t advertising properly, or any number of things that could be attributed to an office that produced income, but not that much. I worked long hours by myself trying to satisfy clients that could not be satisfied. I panicked at little mistakes, and thought the worst case scenarios for every misstep. It was a miserable existence and it put me in a depressive state with bouts of anxiety that were difficult to control.
So I went to therapy to get my head back on straight and that has helped a little. I also found blogs (like yours) and additional information that has allowed me to put my career in perspective. The conclusion that I came to was that after I beat myself over the business not going as well as I would like, the reality is that the current situation was stacked against me. It is very difficult to succeed in today’s environment, and I don’t feel like my school has addressed that at all. Which leads me to my point in to this rambling email. Perhaps you have written about this, but I cannot stress this enough; there is a mental toll taken on attorneys. Depression and anxiety have taken the wind out of my life.
Depression and anxiety have taken the wind out of my life.
I’m getting help, a lot of help. I am aware of the dangers of allowing somethings to go untreated. People need to know how destructive this profession can be to some people, it has been for me.
I suspect it is for most attorneys because we all share the same stories. . . If you can, please write something on your blog about the dangers of depression, substance abuse, and suicide among attorneys. When I called the local state legal assistance program, one of the first things they asked me if I was thinking about hurting myself (unfortunately that had crossed my mind). It never occurred to me that it is so prevalent, it’s quite scary actually.
This blog has focused primarily on the most straightforward economic aspects of the failure of the American system of legal education. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that, as a consequence of that failure, lawyers and law graduates deal with much more than crushing debt burdens and career options that bear no rational relationship to those debt levels.
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