I have been reading with interest the complaints of contract attorneys nationwide. Washington DC and New York seem to be cities full of unhappy J.D.s in temporary attorney sweatshops grousing about this not being anyone’s dream job, being “hell on earth,” and surreptitiously looking for other jobs during lunch. (see “Attorney at Blah,” http://washingtoncitypaper.com/printerpage.php?id=34054). Of course there is also blogger Tom the Temp and his annual “Beastly Behavior Awards” and quest to “help expose the nasty sweatshops, swindling law schools, and opportunistic staffing agencies.” (see http://temporaryattorney.blogspot.com/ ).
Okay, life for the attorney that invested $150,000 of borrowed money into a law school education, betting on getting a six-figure salary upon graduation, is unhappy when he or she doesn’t get the expected payoff. They bought an expensive lottery ticket and it didn’t pay off. So they sink into a deep depression, don’t know how to explain their “failure” to friends and family (much less their student loan creditors), and take any work they can get, even mindless document review through temp agencies.
Some still hold on to their lottery tickets, sending out resumes and frantically job searching while they waste away in law firm basements with dusty documents, hoping against hope that some law firm will rescue them from their fate, and that the weeks, months, or years of contract lawyering won’t be held against them.
Other contract attorneys try to be more optimistic. “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is their creed and they try to see the light at the end of the tunnel (“I won’t be doing this forever”) or try to enjoy the flexibility, even though flexibility with a temp agency means you never know from day to day whether you will have work.
COME ON PEOPLE! You are bright, educated, driven individuals. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have made it through undergrad, certainly would have failed law school, never passed the bar exam, and would not have the privilege of paying annual bar dues. You can do better than allowing yourself to be treated by employers in a manner that is unacceptable. You have a voice – use it! You have feet – start walking!
You are in charge of your career future and no one has your interests at heart better than you do. Not a law firm (large or small) and not a temp agency.
Here is the thought question for the day – if you could structure your work week anyway you wanted (if it was not dictated to you by an employer), what types of work would you want to do and what compensation and benefits structure would you want? If you don’t know precisely what you want, you can never get it.
Next, we’ll discuss taking your goals for your legal career and talk about the necessary steps to making it a reality.