March 12, 2021 • By Dennis Beaver
Anne buzzed me: “A 13 year-old reader is calling from Chicago. He is worried about his father who is an attorney.”
Seconds later I was speaking with “Timmy.”
“Mr. Beaver, my father, Hal, is a lawyer and is so sad all the time. He works for an insurance defense law firm and comes home telling us that he just can’t take doing things, bad things that hurt people with insurance claims dad says should be paid but his boss tells him to fight the other people so the law firm can bill for more hours.
“Dad says over and over again that he hates being a lawyer.
“Mom says that he needs to get out of law, but dad says that we have bills to pay and he can’t just walk away. I love my dad and am worried, really worried Mr. Beaver. Do you have any suggestions?”
And then, my young caller began to cry.
One of Thousands of Lawyers Who Want Out
I ran this situation by the authors of a just published book, Your Total Wealth, subtitled, “The Heart and Soul of Financial Literacy,” by Lyle Sussman PhD and David Dubofsky, PhD, CFA. I’ll be doing a review soon, and these touching and common sense recommendations from the authors are an insight into just how down to earth and practical Your Total Wealth is.
Sussman: The case of a sad, unfulfilled attorney afraid to change careers because of financial obligations is far from unique. There are many successful professionals (physicians, engineers, dentists, lawyers) who toil only for the dollar while losing their soul, and their self-respect, little by little.
Unless he sees the future as possibility and potential rather than the past as an obligation, he will never be fulfilled professionally.
In short, he’s got to think in terms of “roots and wings.” At present he is rooted in a toxic situation. Not all roots bear fruit; he need a pair of wings.
My advice for Hal is to start cutting the roots now, with a goal of all roots severed within 12 months. And give your wife and kid a hug for their loving concern.
Dubofsky: I always tell my students to work in whatever makes you happy. If you enjoy what you are doing, it isn’t work, and you will look forward to every day, rather than dreading the start of the work week.
The young man says “Mom and I tell him to get out of law into something else,” but just what is “something else?” Does he have a passion that he wishes he was involved in?”
Hal’s Law Degree Can Be His Escape From The Planet of the Lawyers
To Los Angeles-based attorney Nicole Kuklok-Waldman, “The situation described by your young reader isn’t unique at all. Dozens of research studies over the past several years demonstrate that the highest rate of depression in any profession is law.”
“Close to one-third of all lawyers suffer from depression with suicide among the leading causes of premature death. The divorce rate–35%–is significantly higher than for most other professions.
But she is quick to shine a spotlight “On the tools that Timmy’s father already has which is a ticket out of The Planet of the Lawyers, if he chooses to leave law completely.
“About 25% of lawyers leave the practice of law within 10 years of being admitted to the bar. Being required to do things that violate their sense of morality–right and wrong–just to keep their job, ranks high in their reasons for getting out.
“By the way Timmy describes his father, Hal is in real trouble.”
A Legal Education is Applicable to a Wide Variety of Jobs
Kuklok-Waldman strongly maintains that, “Hal’s professional experience makes him a ‘lucky lawyer,’ well prepared for a wide variety of jobs, both in law and in completely different fields,” adding, “and I can tell you this from personal experience.”
Working as a first-year associate in litigation, she “Almost quit law completely, but explored other areas, left that firm and now love what I do as an attorney.”
She also helps attorneys explore other occupations through her online Lucky Lawyer course. “I help you figure out what you want and how to get it because I think you are lucky to be a lawyer. If you are unhappy, everyone loses, your employer, you and your family.”
Kuklok-Waldman concluded our chat with these reassuring comments:
“A lot of people feel stuck. My message is that you are not stuck. There is hope, there is a way to figure out a plan. There is a way to escape from the Planet of the Lawyers!
Anyone reading today’s story who thinks, “This sounds like me,” should visit her website, luckylawyer.net
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.