He wrote that book because he saw lawyers getting more miserable during his last decade in practice, which ended around 2008, Harper told Above the Law.
The root of some of that unhappiness is a “failure of expectations,” Harper told ATL.
“People go to law school thinking they’re going to grow up to be Atticus Finch or Alicia Florrick, and actual practice turns out to be quite different,” he said. “Real life doesn’t bear much resemblance to such images.”
The law has probably always involved a little drudgery, but life as a young associate lawyer has gotten more stressful and boring in recent years, according to Harper.
There’s increasing pressure to work as many hours as possible (and bill clients for those long hours) so firms can show up on relatively new ranking lists of profitable law firms, Harper told NPR’s Diane Rehm.
This drive for profits has spurred big firms to have young lawyers sit behind desks to do a lot of grunt work rather than learn more interesting parts of the law like trial work. Again, this boring reality conflicts with expectations many young lawyers had when they went to law school, Harper says.
“You didn’t go to law school because you thought you’re getting to sit in front of a computer screen for hour after hour after hour reviewing documents,” Harper told Rehm. “You thought you’d get into court once in a while, maybe meet a client, maybe do a deal, be involved in a transaction in a significant way. But the way the law firm has evolved, the emphasis now is on metrics that create a much different experience for most associates.”
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