Going by recent statistics, only a half of lawyers are satisfied with their work. The question then is, if only a half are happy, what about the other half? If only a half of lawyers are satisfied with their work, then that leaves us with the irresistible inference that the other half are unhappy with the same token. A lot of reasons have been cited for why the one half of lawyers find their work sickening. Here are some;
(1) Staggering student debt
In Nigeria, law students enjoy the rare privilege of having their parents foot the entire cost of law school without incurring student debt of any kind. So they graduate from law school without a boulder-sized debt hanging on their shoulders. This means less pressure for them. But their counter parts elsewhere in the world are not having it that easy. In the US for instance, the cost of attending law school is astronomical so much that many law students run up student debts in the thousands of dollars in other to live their dreams of becoming lawyers. With these debts to pay up and jobs being far and few in between, many lawyers enter the profession under a lot of pressure and this can often leads them to take up jobs they wouldn’t normally accept in a bid to meet up – this makes them unhappy.
(2) The work is boring
While a modest proportion of lawyers are likely to find exciting and rewarding work, the other half don’t have quite the same luck finding work that truly enthralls them. For the most part, lawyers are paid to do drab, repetitive lifeless mechanical work. The fact that the legal profession is moored in traditions that require strict adherence to precedent makes the lawyers work very predictable. They have to perfunctorily apply the law the same way every time. This is no fun for some lawyers.
(3) There is work overload.
Being a lawyer guarantees you one thing – that is long slaving hours of work. A lawyer’s daily work schedule is a typical 9 to 5 in six days a week and with little prospect of down time. In addition, the adversarial nature of justice contemplates only winners and losers and since no lawyer would want to enjoy the infamy of losing a court case, this puts them under a lot of pressure to deliver good results by putting in insane hours to work out every aspect of their case for maximum success. I need hardly tell you the result – it`s a massive burnout.
(4) It`s less autonomy
On the average, most lawyers receive handsome take home pay but have no autonomy over the kind of work they do. In every case, they must dance to the clients tune. They must diligently act according to the client’s instructions or those of more officious senior associates and partners within the law firm’s hierarchy. Not everyone would like this. Some clients may even lay a stake for your soul just because they think your services have been paid for.
(5) The pay isn’t great
Unless you land a job at a big law firm, any dream of earning a six digit salary would be an illusion especially when one considers the sea of wigged heads jostling for narrow advantage in the legal job market. The overwhelming majority of lawyers end up in jobs with less than satisfactory pay.
(6) There are deadlines
Lawyers have to meet a lot of deadlines in practice. They have to meet up with client expectations most of which have deadlines. There are also deadlines on hearing and filing motions. This deadline dominated schedule does turn up the heat on some lawyers who would rather they did their work in their own good time.
(7) The adversarial nature of justice
Lawyers in litigation are more adversaries than comrades. Legal proceedings are hostile and adversarial with opposing lawyers having a go at each other. In legal proceedings a lawyer is required to locate the chink in the other party’s armor and then go for the jugular. The maxim is “do others or they will do you”. You have to have what it takes to crush other people and if you happen to be the sort who couldn’t kill a cockroach, then your clients will berate you. This can really suck.
(8) The nature of the attorney-client relationship.
The nature of the lawyer’s relationship with client’s means they take on the problems of other people and this can present complexities. Certain cases may present a lawyer with emotionally difficult facts while in the other cases the clients behavior can be both annoying and unbearable. Sometimes clients will try to second guess the lawyer’s work, interrupt their schedule and be unappreciative of the lawyer’s work.
(9) There is poor media perception
Lawyers are looked upon with derision and a pronounced measure of skepticism. The lawyer’s decisions are often questioned time and time again. They are often thought of as liars or people skilled in the circumvention of the law. People question why lawyers would defend the guilty and all sorts. All of these contribute to the lawyer’s woes.
(10) Some people chose law for the wrong reasons
A lot of people chose to become lawyers for the most unpopular of reasons.
Some chose it for the prestige it would bring, the promise of a six figure salary and when eventually they are offered a reality check, their once lofty ambition would metamorphose into a career nightmare.
A youngish lawyer with penetrating insight, Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Lawstudenthub, a site dedicated to helping new wigs find their footing in a trickily slippery legal profession and stay current with emerging developments in the legal industry. He holds an LLB from the University of Benin and a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja. In his spare time, Patrick doubles as a professional writer and copyeditor.
If you have any urgent enquiries, you can email him @[email protected]