JCougar wrote:The hardest part about document review isn't the terrible pay and work conditions, nor is it realizing that there's hundreds of underemployed attorneys in mid-sized cities (and thousands in the larger cities) ringing up billable hours for the Biglaw partners, where 20 of us combined don't even make as much per hour as one partner. Hell, there's more JD's from my trap school class on this one project alone than there are at all the NLJ 250 firms in this city combined.
The hardest part is trying to describe the work experience to other people without generating one of two reactions: 1) a terribly sympathetic reaction where people go "awwww...I'm sorry things are so bad for you," and 2) people who flatly disbelieve that you have it so bad and think that you're just not "tough enough." Regarding #1, sympathy just makes things worse, so STFU with your "awwws." Regarding #2, I mean sure, probably working on an assembly line down south with no air conditioning and no union or working as a nurse's aid wiping old people's butts every day is more revolting work (as I've mentioned before, I've done the former myself). But you have to realize that most nurse's aids and assembly line workers--even if they have a medium-sized criminal record and barely graduated high school--have a far superior net asset position than about 80% of law school grads even 5 years after graduation. The thing is, most doc review and shitlaw jobs don't even pay enough to make the interest payments on your school loans. So your asset position actually gets worse as you "move up" in your career. It's a hole you will never ever dig out of, as the people who have bounced around in the gutter of this industry for the last 20-30 years will tell you. "Average" salaries of mid-career attorneys only look good because most of these people are forced to leave the profession by economic necessity before they reach the mid-career stage.
0Ls have no idea of the pyramid nature of the legal industry. You simply don't get hired at any private firm unless the partners can charge and pocket around a 300% premium on your labor. You're there to make profits for the partners, and you do that by billing hour upon endless hour. And when you get too expensive, there's plenty of fresh fish waiting around mired in debt--desperate to just get back to zero net assets. For firms that represent Fortune 500 companies, this works okay for law grads, because you end up making just enough money to get back to square one after about 5 years--which is what is deemed "successful" in this industry. But with smaller firms, this means your pay rate is probably a bit closer to $20/hour--or less, when you factor in all the hours and the fact that you don't get overtime.
Honestly, being a nurse or a CNA would have been a better career decision for most of us. Bricklayer is another profession that pays a lot more than your average lawyer gets when you factor in debt. In fact, some of us on this doc review project routinely challenge the homeless beggar down the street to see if he can make more than us in a day. He usually doesn't beat us out, but when you factor in taxes and loan payments, he actually comes out ahead. See, I can at least play guitar, so I always joke with him that I might become competition soon. Beggars with guitars do much better. Where I volunteer, I represented a guy who worked at a factory making $20/hour. He had a few DUIs on his record and a GED. I mentioned to my coworkers in doc review that I don't even make this much as a lawyer, but they are always ones to look on the bright side--at least I figured out from that which factory to send my resume to.
This is what it comes to kids--beggars make more than most lawyers. And this guy isn't even in Manhattan, where you can clear $30/hour if you have any sort of panache or artistic skills. I have a friend from high school who used to sell weed, skipped college completely, and then became an auto parts sales specialist. He has a wife and only 15 years left on his mortgage--things I will likely never have as long as I live due to my law school debt and unattractive, depressive state. I used to at least have some mojo back in the day because I can be a funny guy at times--but the law school and the miserly legal profession have sucked basically all the wind out of my sails, and have caused me to gain weight and don a permanently-overtired, pale complexion.
Come to think of it, janitor is even a more prestigious job, because most places have creative names for their janitors these days (they call them things like "Maintenance Technician" or "Environmental Services Associate" and stuff, which actually conveys the notion that it takes skills to do their job, where as any lobotomized human can do the job of a doc review attorney provided they have a functioning brain stem and can still fog a mirror and inch their index finger down every once in a while to create a "click"). We might have had to deal with gross or physically demanding situations at our jobs if we chose other, blue-collar careers, but at least we'd be able to provide for our kids (or for those of us not married--afford to even go on dates). The inconsistent nature of the work is the worst part about it. Small firm turnover is enormously high, and it makes Biglaw look like a stable job. And in doc review, you can be fired at any minute--for going too fast, going to slow, working too many hours, working not enough hours, asking the wrong question, not asking the right question, the case may suddenly settle, etc. And it may be months before you get picked up on another project.
The problem is, document review and/or shitlaw are so disdained by the "elite" lawyers that they will throw your resume in the trash just for having it on there. It's like stamping a big red "L" for "loser" on your forehead the way the Puritans used to stamp adulterous women in the 1600s. It doesn't matter whether you went to the same law school as these people--you received 0.1 less GPA points, and you're pretty much a loser for life. You build no usable skills, never get any promotions or raises, etc.
The thing is, pretty much 90% of people from TTT schools and at least 50% of people from trap schools, and even 10% or so from "elite" schools consign themselves to this lifestyle for thinking they can climb up the steep slopes of this pyramid. It's amazing how many magna cum laude people from third-tier schools make it in to these places--not to mention people from "Top 20" schools like mine who were outside the top 25%. Even Georgetown manufactures a throng of doc review monkeys each year. Schools will always highlight the handful of graduates who have "made it," hawking their wares like a televangelist on public TV--the greased hair replaced by shiny brochures showing multi-million dollar buildings built on the failed dreams of those that came before. "You too can be like this guy/gal, with just a little hard work, designer résumé paper, and networking!"
The dirty little secret is that, for this pyramid to work, it's completely necessary for the majority of lawyers to constantly be drolling away at the bottom--stepped on, spit at, disregarded, and whipped--doing the pointless shitwork that partners want to bill for but would never, ever do even to save their own lives.
Most of the 20,000-30,000 lawyers who graduate each year with job prospects no better than this pretty much keep this a secret, because it's extremely shameful and embarrassing to explain to the general public that you are a "fancy lawyer" an yet you still managed to figure out a way to fuck it all up. Most people just can't grasp the undeniable math: there's waaaaay to many law grads out there and close to zero good jobs. You can see this phenomenon on most doc reviewer LinkedIn profiles. They come up with countless methods of covering up their failure, such as calling themselves a "solo attorney" or "discovery specialist attorney, esq."--or they just "forget" to update it after they get canned from shitlaw for looking at the partner the wrong way. The reality is that we are all just a glorified click-monkeys for 40 hours per week, building exactly zero skills, except for maybe some skills relating to how to survive in a prison camp without going completely mad.
And even if you do have the courage to admit it, most 0L-types or other members of the non-legal population will assume that you're either a complainer or a unique sort of loser who just could never get on the beam. It's really hard for people to grasp the cold, hard reality that this is still the fate of the majority of lawyers out there. The few that survive this experience usually do so by moving on to a different career and trying to start all over--paying off student loan debt until they die.
Dude, have you considered Zoloft? Prozac? Wellbutrin? Lexapro? Or any of the others available? I get you think your life sucks, but is droning on about it really what you want to do with your spare time? Maybe you should get a hobby, join a gym, take martial arts, or otherwise do something to better yourself and improve your disposition. Yes. I realize I may be giving you more fodder to add to the narrative (e.g. "People just don't get it. They sometimes judge and blame you for feeling sorry for yourself."). But it doesn't have to be that way, dude.
True, you may never get out of student loan debt. But your complexion and weight and disposition are fixable, and until you fix these things you may forever be un-promotable and unattractive to employers and the opposite sex. At some point the line begins to be blurred as to whether circumstance drives perception, or the other way around. In your case it seems like you can only fix one of those two in the short term. If you do fix the perception (or at least the disposition) you have a fighting chance at the rest. If you don't fix the disposition the reality will likely never improve. To look at it in a less New Age light, you might as well do what little you can to fix the things that are fixable and improve your existence.
Someone mentioned the Serenity Prayer once ITT, and though I don't think it is the answer to all your problems the gist of it is a start.
Someone else once told me that the thing about sitting in your shit is that it kind of has a warm squishy feeling. The thing is you walk around smelling like shit.
I'm not really sure if you think you are doing the Lord's work by attempting to fend off 0Ls. If that's all it is then maybe you are less of an "Eeyore" in real life. But if go around thinking and feeling like is reflected in your very long narrative, replicated over and over, then you really aren't doing yourself any favors. If this really is your disposition, I don't think it is law that is the problem and you would probably not be satisfied doing anything. And I can relate to your constant dissatisfaction, feelings of failure and having made grave missteps, and even hopelessness. But it doesn't have to be that way.
There is a happier life waiting for you. Even if you can't shake law, doc review, and debt.