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Op-Ed

Tired, broke lawyers

October 18, 2021

A lot of lawyers are exhausted and a lot of lawyers are in debt. Many of them have trouble with math.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

Sometimes I think we spend too much time compiling and obsessing over statistics. Sure, data is important — but not if it doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know.

For example, did you know that 20% of corporate lawyers are “highly exhausted?”

OK, I didn’t know either, but I wasn’t exactly shocked. It also turns out, according to a press release issued by something called Gartner, Inc., that tired lawyers think about leaving their firms or abandoning projects.

Who knew?

And if you want help with this perplexing problem, you can become a Gartner client and sign up for events.

I might have ignored this — and probably not seen it — if the American Bar Association Journal website hadn’t run a story based on the press release. It begins with this: “Burnout among corporate lawyers is a problem that affects retention and projects, according to survey findings.”

Breaking news!

I can’t be too critical of this because I can relate. Sometimes you’re highly exhausted and all you want to do is rewrite a press release. Sometimes an editor is highly exhausted (or dumb) and makes you rewrite a press release.

Be that as it may, it’s true that tired lawyers need help. If you don’t feel up to signing up for professional events — you are exhausted, after all — here are a few free tips to help you out.

Take a nap. You might think this would subtract from your billable hours, but the opposite is true. Simply list your nap time as “trial preparation” or “attention fortification.” If you take your nap with other lawyers, you can call it a “focus group.” These descriptions are true and your client should be happy with the results.

Delegate your work. If possible, delegate all of it. If you divide it up among enough associates, no one will notice you’re not doing anything.

Invite your client to join you in meditation. You’ll relax and your client may become more reasonable.

And now for more fascinating numbers. Another survey — this one provided by the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association and the AccessLex Institute Center for Legal Education Excellence — has revealed that only 47% of lawyers under the age of 36 thought their legal education was worth the cost, but 60.9% said they would do law school again anyway.

There are some people in that group that I’d keep away from my finances.

Then there’s this: “A key finding of this study is that most young lawyers were not aware of the costs/debt associated with attending law school nor the realities of the legal job market before they enrolled.”

Well, you do go to school to learn things you didn’t know before.

The study also informs us that lawyers with more debt were more stressed out.

Who knew?

Yeah, OK, we all did. At least this comes with recommendations for solving the problem. They’re not particularly specific recommendations, but at least they were thinking about solutions. Or were they?

The final recommendation is astonishing: “Advocate for bar exam preparation expenses to be eligible for federal student loans.”

Fight debt with debt.

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