NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

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jarofsoup
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NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby jarofsoup » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:08 am

Did anyone else that read this article get freaked out? Not with the drug problem, but how someone can get so lost in their work?


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/15/busi ... ealth.html

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:09 am

It's horribly sad. It's not surprising at all to me that people get so caught up in their work, though - I think people do it in lots of professions, the other professions just aren't maybe as toxic as law.

jarofsoup
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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby jarofsoup » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:12 am

Yeah. I know partners that have good family lives at big law firms and are not drug addicts. I think you have to draw the line in the sand somewhere. At a certain point if you have to choose your job over your family it is not worth it. The only reason why I work hard is for my family.

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elendinel
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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby elendinel » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:32 am

jarofsoup wrote:Yeah. I know partners that have good family lives at big law firms and are not drug addicts. I think you have to draw the line in the sand somewhere. At a certain point if you have to choose your job over your family it is not worth it. The only reason why I work hard is for my family.


I don't think it's that simple. Even if you choose your family as your reason for working so hard, you will still be vulnerable to depression/etc. if you end up in an environment that is high-stress and where you have to deal with all of that if you want to give your family the lifestyle they've been accustomed to. There are plenty of lawyers who became alcoholics/drug addicts/etc. and who were working hard for their families; it's not just the workaholics.

The example with the surgeon was on-point; there are few other professions where, on top of the volume of the work and its meticulousness causing stress, you're also dealing with people actively trying to tear down your work so that they can advance in their own career (not only in LS but in many areas of the law post-LS). That can cause stress regardless of your intentions for advancing in the field (for status, for family, etc.).

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:40 am

Definitely a sad story and it's an important reminder of how important it is to take care of your mental health, especially in high stress environments. I am only taking the bar now, but I have been in high stress work environments in the past and was addicted to amphetamines, cocaine, and sometimes meth for a couple years (almost 10 years ago now).

I think one of the biggest favors you can do yourself is to make time for people you can talk to who are actually supportive of YOU, not enabling you to just feel superficially better and not supportive of getting you to be more productive, but supportive of YOU being healthy and whole. Whether that be a parent, a spouse, a friend, or a therapist, as we get older, it's extremely useful to have that sort of relationship. Do this BEFORE there is a big problem, because once there's a problem, it becomes harder to force yourself to seek help. Not impossible, but harder.

It's also important to take breaks. Breaks don't need to be huge, but we need them. Don't keep pushing off a break till tomorrow. Remember - things that you think seem like a big deal are likely not in the grand scheme of things.

jarofsoup
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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby jarofsoup » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:59 am

I think everyone in the profession has come across the true broken workaholic. Who has nothing but the job and has lost everything. I look at those people as something I fear to become.

While I love practicing law at times, I want out of private practice. The sacrifice is not worth it.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby crumb cake » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:09 pm

The Law School Effect

Some research shows that before they start law school, law students are actually healthier than the general population, both physically and mentally. “There’s good data showing that,” said Andy Benjamin, a psychologist and lawyer who teaches law and psychology at the University of Washington. “They drink less than other young people, use less substances, have less depression and are less hostile.”

In addition, he said, law students generally start school with their sense of self and their values intact. But, in his research, he said, he has found that the formal structure of law school starts to change that.

Rather than hew to their internal self, students begin to focus on external values, he said, like status, comparative worth and competition. “We have seven very strong studies that show this twists people’s psyches and they come out of law school significantly impaired, with depression, anxiety and hostility,” he said.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby jd20132013 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:39 pm

jarofsoup wrote:I think everyone in the profession has come across the true broken workaholic. Who has nothing but the job and has lost everything. I look at those people as something I fear to become.

While I love practicing law at times, I want out of private practice. The sacrifice is not worth it.

Agreed

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:51 pm

This definitely hits home. I often question whether the toll on my body from the drug use (benzos, weed, adderal) is worth the payoff. But, I've paid off about 100K in my loans since starting biglaw, and I still have a ways to go (140 in law school + 40k in undergrad). I definitely have problems that I need to address with a professional, but I still think my current habits justify the payoff. Sad perspective to have, I know.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:57 pm

I read it and it hit closer to home than I would have liked. I haven't (yet) abused drugs at work and the only hard drugs I have used are recreational (i.e. Coke to have fun, not to wake up for work) but I can't remember a day in the past few weeks that I haven't been wasted at some point. I completely get it. And my work life balance isn't even that bad for a megafirm. I'm probably depressed and almost definitely have a problem with alcohol.

Especially interesting to me were the studies about 0Ls compared to after ls.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:15 pm

I have 1 to 2 drinks a night. Drink more on the weekends. Dont want to exceed that.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:59 pm

This article was really intense to read. I shared with some family so they have a better understanding of what my job entails, and there is no real way to just "suck it up" and do it for the money. The stuff about law school is so true. I went into law school having never give two-fucks about anything and came out of law school depressed, anxious, and in serious-debt, and that is coming from someone that went to a great school and made lots of friends.

Practicing law (or being involved in the legal/finance scene in NYC) for the past three years has been horrible. Good thing is I don't drink much anymore, mostly since I started early in life and continued through college, so my body is screaming stop after a few drinks now. However, I have smoked weed pretty much every day since starting law school and seen it go from something I just like to do sometimes to a real crutch (I would literally have my SO come to the office, pick up cash from me, and then call my dealer so that when I got home at 2 am, there would be a bag waiting for me). I stopped smoking two weeks ago to take back some control of the habit as I approach 30. I was also addicted/prescribed adderall, but quit after getting heart palpitations in a month I billed 300 hours. Any job where you need stimulants like that to survive, is not a job you should be doing.

The good is that I've paid off half my debt (down to $130,000), saved up over $100,000 and am pretty much riding out the firm life avoiding work until I get shit-canned or find another job. Profession isn't worth it, job isn't worth it and this article just reinforced that to me, so i'm grateful for the author for putting this out there.

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sublime
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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby sublime » Sun Jul 16, 2017 7:20 pm

Super sad. And while I don't think the profession is completely to blame, it's also super fucked up.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 16, 2017 7:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Definitely a sad story and it's an important reminder of how important it is to take care of your mental health, especially in high stress environments. I am only taking the bar now, but I have been in high stress work environments in the past and was addicted to amphetamines, cocaine, and sometimes meth for a couple years (almost 10 years ago now).

I think one of the biggest favors you can do yourself is to make time for people you can talk to who are actually supportive of YOU, not enabling you to just feel superficially better and not supportive of getting you to be more productive, but supportive of YOU being healthy and whole. Whether that be a parent, a spouse, a friend, or a therapist, as we get older, it's extremely useful to have that sort of relationship. Do this BEFORE there is a big problem, because once there's a problem, it becomes harder to force yourself to seek help. Not impossible, but harder.

It's also important to take breaks. Breaks don't need to be huge, but we need them. Don't keep pushing off a break till tomorrow. Remember - things that you think seem like a big deal are likely not in the grand scheme of things.


Why can't legal employers do more about the environment that leads to this? I asked this of the firm I summered at and got a crap answer that basically puts it on us. Stress management activities that were recommended were really couched as ways for employees to cope, not for how we can be better to each other and re-orient our incentives.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby elendinel » Sun Jul 16, 2017 7:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I shared with some family so they have a better understanding of what my job entails, and there is no real way to just "suck it up" and do it for the money.


Yeah I hear you. I think it's also really hard to get the help you need when you don't have a support network that gets what the legal field is really like, and who downplays your stress because you make a lot of money. A lot of people assume that it's easy to deal with anything if you're paid a lot of money to do it, and don't really see why lawyers are paid as much as they are paid to do the work they do.

I certainly did before I started working in a biglaw firm; I thought I hit the jackpot because I'd be earning more straight out of school than my family ever did combined growing up, and didn't realize how hard it was going to be to use the money as a way to motivate myself to keep going. Some things are just really hard for the average person to cope with, regardless of how much money they make.

Anonymous User wrote:Why can't legal employers do more about the environment that leads to this?


In some ways they can't fix it; some aspects of the law are inherently adversarial and there's not much that can be done about that.

In other ways there'd be no motivation for them to do so, because the only other things firms could do to reduce stress would be to cut back hour requirements/create advancement routes that aren't hyper-competitive, which they don't really have any motivation to do, considering it'd hurt their bottom line and so many people are trying to get into law that there's no real concern of a shortage of lawyers, even if a third of them crash and burn.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby megamega88 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 7:44 pm

I remember 1L I met with a professor to discuss my exam for a class that I had gotten a B in. I was happy and content at that time and I guess my professor could tell from my face. The first thing she said was you should not be happy with a B. I was a bit shocked that my grades had to decide my level of happiness but I guess this is law school and that is how it has to be.

I am happy that NY Times actually published this article because it sheds light on this profession. I don't know if anything will change but at least the information is out there for future law students.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby jarofsoup » Sun Jul 16, 2017 7:46 pm

elendinel wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I shared with some family so they have a better understanding of what my job entails, and there is no real way to just "suck it up" and do it for the money.


Yeah I hear you. I think it's also really hard to get the help you need when you don't have a support network that gets what the legal field is really like, and who downplays your stress because you make a lot of money. A lot of people assume that it's easy to deal with anything if you're paid a lot of money to do it, and don't really see why lawyers are paid as much as they are paid to do the work they do.

I certainly did before I started working in a biglaw firm; I thought I hit the jackpot because I'd be earning more straight out of school than my family ever did combined growing up, and didn't realize how hard it was going to be to use the money as a way to motivate myself to keep going. Some things are just really hard for the average person to cope with, regardless of how much money they make.

Anonymous User wrote:Why can't legal employers do more about the environment that leads to this?


In some ways they can't fix it; some aspects of the law are inherently adversarial and there's not much that can be done about that.

In other ways there'd be no motivation for them to do so, because the only other things firms could do to reduce stress would be to cut back hour requirements/create advancement routes that aren't hyper-competitive, which they don't really have any motivation to do, considering it'd hurt their bottom line and so many people are trying to get into law that there's no real concern of a shortage of lawyers, even if a third of them crash and burn.



Have you ever seen what happens to a colleague after they go on medical leave? I know someone who had an accident, had a concussion and couldn't focus because of it so went on leave, and was given the talk when they came back.

Firms just don't care. They just want people who will bill over 200 hours a month, do a base line quality of work and maintain level of productivity for 3 to 5 years. The lucky ones go to a client and refer business back to the firm.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:02 pm

I think sometimes it isn't just the number of hours, but also the environment that you work in. I usually do about 50-60 hrs a week at work to bill 40 hrs as week. I have some non-billable work that I have to do. While it doesn't seem to be a crazy ton of hours, the pressure of the work is sometimes pretty high, especially when you deal with compliance issues that have actual consequences. A lot of it seems to be the lack of different levels of review. At least the group that I work in is very thinly staffed where most matters are partner and associate. There is very little double checking to make sure that everything is right. There is a lot of pressure to get things right by the associate. This is pretty different than how audit, IT, or architecture is done. The only other comparable field is healthcare and doctors. Even for healthcare and doctors, doctors often have nurses and pharmacists around to double check mistakes.

Second, I also believe that big law and legal practice in general has a lot of people that have huge personalities and are difficult to deal with. The only other comparable field is Ibanking. I think this is really noticeable after I went in-house. After I left I talked to a few other people who worked at that company, including some that worked in legal (no biglaw experience and only inhouse), and they all told me how they thought the work environment was slightly sub-par. I was shocked to hear that. I thought the work environment was great.

Perhaps another reason is that there is generally a lack of sympathy too. When I spoke to friends and family about the pressure in law, they have no sympathy. They just assume that you sit in an air conditioned office for 50-60 hrs a week and make 150-200k. How tough can that life be?

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:36 pm

I can attest to the law school part. I was never one to be super stressed about anything until entering the law school atmosphere. Besides the Socratic Method, which fucked with my head a lot, it's the ever present rat race and the environment of people furiously preparing for class and talking about how busy they are and all the activities they are doing outside of class that just wore me down.

1L year I relied on alcohol to unwind on the weekends, but it would turn into multiple day benders. Friday night would turn into Saturday drinking all day, and oftentimes still into Sunday. I would sometimes get the shakes from withdrawal and most Mondays and Tuesdays were spent in a haze because I would get insomnia on Sunday and Monday nights from drinking so much. I once showed up to an 830 class on a Monday morning hammered drunk. I somehow got through it all and am able to have a mostly healthy relationship with alcohol now. I haven't been able to talk to anyone about this, not even my SO.

I'm worried that this will happen again in biglaw, but I've tried to make some healthy adjustments to my life to prevent that, and it's (mostly) worked.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:14 pm

Yea. I could work the hours if I knew up front. Constantly waiting for an email to fuck my life up kills me.

jd20132013
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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby jd20132013 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I think sometimes it isn't just the number of hours, but also the environment that you work in. I usually do about 50-60 hrs a week at work to bill 40 hrs as week. I have some non-billable work that I have to do. While it doesn't seem to be a crazy ton of hours, the pressure of the work is sometimes pretty high, especially when you deal with compliance issues that have actual consequences. A lot of it seems to be the lack of different levels of review. At least the group that I work in is very thinly staffed where most matters are partner and associate. There is very little double checking to make sure that everything is right. There is a lot of pressure to get things right by the associate. This is pretty different than how audit, IT, or architecture is done. The only other comparable field is healthcare and doctors. Even for healthcare and doctors, doctors often have nurses and pharmacists around to double check mistakes.

Second, I also believe that big law and legal practice in general has a lot of people that have huge personalities and are difficult to deal with. The only other comparable field is Ibanking. I think this is really noticeable after I went in-house. After I left I talked to a few other people who worked at that company, including some that worked in legal (no biglaw experience and only inhouse), and they all told me how they thought the work environment was slightly sub-par. I was shocked to hear that. I thought the work environment was great.

Perhaps another reason is that there is generally a lack of sympathy too. When I spoke to friends and family about the pressure in law, they have no sympathy. They just assume that you sit in an air conditioned office for 50-60 hrs a week and make 150-200k. How tough can that life be?

yeah, this is why i don't really tell my family my real feelings about it

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I can attest to the law school part. I was never one to be super stressed about anything until entering the law school atmosphere. Besides the Socratic Method, which fucked with my head a lot, it's the ever present rat race and the environment of people furiously preparing for class and talking about how busy they are and all the activities they are doing outside of class that just wore me down.

1L year I relied on alcohol to unwind on the weekends, but it would turn into multiple day benders. Friday night would turn into Saturday drinking all day, and oftentimes still into Sunday. I would sometimes get the shakes from withdrawal and most Mondays and Tuesdays were spent in a haze because I would get insomnia on Sunday and Monday nights from drinking so much. I once showed up to an 830 class on a Monday morning hammered drunk. I somehow got through it all and am able to have a mostly healthy relationship with alcohol now. I haven't been able to talk to anyone about this, not even my SO.

I'm worried that this will happen again in biglaw, but I've tried to make some healthy adjustments to my life to prevent that, and it's (mostly) worked.


I hear ya man. I used to be pretty chill and easygoing before law school and now I find myself wondering if all people are closet assholes. And I went to a school that prides itself for its lack of competition. The big irony, of course, is that I'm much more of an asshole than I ever have been in my life... I don't know how long I'll last in biglaw. Being in an environment of prestige and money-chasing has me wondering what happened to the non-profit optimistic person I used to be before law school. If it weren't for family/kid and debt obligations, I would never have considered biglaw.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:36 pm

I've always been a heavy drinker, but it got much worse during law school. I like drinking, but the costs started to outweigh the benefits, and I know deep down that I can't moderate long-term. Booze has always been all or nothing for me, no matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise. In any event, two months sober now. I can say without hesitation I'm happier now than I have been in a long long time, and I hope I never go back.

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby elendinel » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I think sometimes it isn't just the number of hours, but also the environment that you work in. I usually do about 50-60 hrs a week at work to bill 40 hrs as week. I have some non-billable work that I have to do. While it doesn't seem to be a crazy ton of hours, the pressure of the work is sometimes pretty high, especially when you deal with compliance issues that have actual consequences. A lot of it seems to be the lack of different levels of review. At least the group that I work in is very thinly staffed where most matters are partner and associate. There is very little double checking to make sure that everything is right. There is a lot of pressure to get things right by the associate. This is pretty different than how audit, IT, or architecture is done. The only other comparable field is healthcare and doctors. Even for healthcare and doctors, doctors often have nurses and pharmacists around to double check mistakes.

Second, I also believe that big law and legal practice in general has a lot of people that have huge personalities and are difficult to deal with. The only other comparable field is Ibanking. I think this is really noticeable after I went in-house. After I left I talked to a few other people who worked at that company, including some that worked in legal (no biglaw experience and only inhouse), and they all told me how they thought the work environment was slightly sub-par. I was shocked to hear that. I thought the work environment was great.


Eh I think the supervision thing applies just as much to many other professions. In a large practice group you get a lot of paras/assistants who can spot-check a lot of errors for you, and if you're in a smaller one you have to do it yourself. In a large hospital doctors would be able to ask nurses to spot-check things for them, but in a smaller practice the doctor would pretty much be on her own, too. In the sciences you don't get a lot of supervision, either, and you have to make sure you double-check and meticulously keep track of everything you do to ensure you're not wasting hours or days worth of lab time. I think there are also big personalities in lots of different fields (they certainly also exist in tech companies/startups, VCs, doctors/specialists, politics, etc.).

I think what makes the law different, maybe, is that the legal field encourages antagonism in ways other fields don't. Like, a doctor who is consistently dickish will probably lose business for his lack of bedside manners, and tech CEOs are starting to get flak for acting like brahs all the time, but lawyers are expected to be argumentative about everything, so it's not seen as weird if a guy is willing to rip someone to shreds over a typo. And it's expected that lawyers will rip each other to shreds to show a company that their firm is the best one to get a job done, so all the games and undermining/one-upping is seen as part of the sport. There aren't a whole lot of ways in which lawyers are encouraged to act like normal people (at least not in private practice; I did pro bono work at a non-profit and people seemed a lot more sane there).

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Re: NY Times Article-The Lawyer, the Addict

Postby lolwat » Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:12 am

Man. I've never done drugs and don't plan to, and never got into alcohol much anyway (other than the occasional casual glass at an event, the bottomless champagne/mimosas at brunches, and the like), but the stress and overworking gets to me sometimes. I can bill 15-hour days and still get bitched at for not having something done that the partners wanted finished by the next day even when it's not a hard deadline, because WTF why am I not billing the other 9 hours of the day?




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