Friday, May 8, 2009

"Swine Flu" Killing "Great Lawyers of Harvard?"

A few weeks ago, in the midst of finals and an apparent pandemic that scared the whole lot of us, a friend passed along this article from Esquire Magazine. The article's an old one, but it poses a very relevant and oft-asked (albeit, in broader strokes) question: "Who's Killing the Great Lawyers of Harvard?" People come to law school for a number of reasons, but usually with the intention of practicing law. Yet, as Esquire explains it, many from Harvard Law's Class of 1990 are no longer practicing law:
A former hippie type now writes the television program The Street and an occasional Ally McBeal. He has no job security, but he's happier than hell and couldn't fathom going back to law. A woman who loved science fiction and crossword puzzles left law to sell cruises and is now a part-time secretary with a temp agency. "A failure, I know," she says, "but I'm finding myself--and at least I'm out of the firms." One partner at one of the country's fanciest firms confides that he's finalizing plans to quit his job. "I'll go crazy if I stay," he says. "But please don't print anything more about me. If my plan folds, I'll still need the firm.
This phenomenon is not limited to Harvard. Many law graduates who obtain legal jobs "quit" the law, and take up other tasks--often successfully--and there's nothing wrong with that. Law school is supposed to open doors, not close them. Yet it does make one wonder why everyone and their brother is dying to leave the legal profession (at least before the economy tanked). There are countless obvious answers: the hours, the stress, etc. Put simply, young lawyers may really be "in trouble."

Let me advance another subtle, yet possible, reason: the law school mentality. Increasingly, students are leaving law school with a compulsive nature that manifests itself in an obsession of self-control. It's a tiring obsession that leads to self-loathing and scorn when we ultimately realize that there are simply some things we cannot control. Swine flu's a good example. The panic was widespread across the globe, but was especially concentrated in our ranks. I'll be candid about it--I was terrified. Not because I thought I was going to get sick or die, but because I couldn't control my fate.

Maybe law graduates who leave the profession are liberated from this Foucault-esque obsession I've observed in myself and my colleagues?


  1. I don't think law schools make people this way, I think people that go to law school are already like that. A chicken/egg kinda deal. I agree w/ you otherwise, tho.

  2. Nice job on another ATL cite guys. I have a feeling that in the not-too-distant future ATL will be patting themselves on the back when Blackbook Legal cites them.

  3. Ok, so i'm a law student at this place and i'm curious about whether people are leaving the 'business' industries at a similar rate? E.g., are investment bankers and finance professionals just as unhappy (and fleeing) as lawyers, but a little more rich when they leave? If so, and i'm going to be unhappy anyway, sign me up to spend 5-years at a bank and then leave, instead of at a firm, because of a sheer bottom line concern.


  4. Major comma splice, sorry--fleeting thought. Still, don't let the poor grammar detract from the question.

  5. @ Frank--

    Thanks for the nice words, but I doubt it! We're lucky ATL is willing to give us link love from time-to-time; they're a fantastic blog with a very steady base.

    @ 7:39/7:40--

    I don't know the answer to your question, but I'd be inclined to hear some thoughts. I still think that personality characteristics we inherit from law school may be the cause, for whatever that's worth...

  6. This is what happens when you don't get enough sleep...I'd be *interested* to hear some thoughts. Not "inclined."

  7. I think you misunderstood Foucault...

  8. @ 11:20--

    I disagree, but feel free to explain more fully.

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