The Snow White fairy tale has been reimagined countless times. Many generations have seen Disney’s 1937 animated classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I often hum “heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s home from work we go” as I leave the office… I hum a lot. But take a look at this clip from the film and then come back to me.
Last Thursday I spent a lovely late afternoon on the lawn bowling field at Brit’s Pub with about a dozen intrepid members of the HCBA New Lawyers Section. As I stood in a light drizzle with these lawyers, I couldn’t help but think about my own early enthusiasm and heartbreak with the legal profession. I can recall like yesterday my first couple of years of practice, working furiously and diligently with an immense desire to master the law, guided by learned senior partners who looked at me much like Doc looked at Dopey when he puts the diamonds in his eyes (watch the clip, I mean it). I can also vividly recall my fear of failure as I ventured into something new and the heart-wrenching dread I felt when I wasn’t busy. But I was fortunate. I started my legal career in a large law firm where I was mentored and sponsored and guided and groomed. I had a Doc to my Dopey.
As I enjoyed a libation with these early entrants into the legal profession and heard their various stories (much like the different personalities of Snow White’s beloved friends), two undeniable truths slowly became obvious to me:
- for a very few new entrants into the legal profession, not much has changed in the 18 years since I entered the profession (heigh ho, heigh ho, let’s mine for gems—watch the clip, I mean it);
- but… for the bulk of new entrants, the legal profession is a whole different ball game where these players might be able to pitch, hit, and catch, but they don’t have bats or gloves or even a team on which to play.
As I drank my fourth Diet Coke after 6 pm (thinking, or humming, rather, to myself how there was no way I was going to get any sleep with all of this caffeine after lunch), I heard about their struggles to find any sort of legal employment, the staggering debt loads they were carrying, how some struck out on their own taking on pro bono cases just to do something legal until a paying job came along and how others took on multiple low-paying contract jobs and non-paying positions with nonprofit organizations.
As I processed this information, my heart broke (remember, I am in Snow White character here) for the entire legal profession. How can we expect this next generation of lawyers—many of whom have been so battered and bruised during their entry into the legal profession—to take on what the legal profession’s establishment considers the most revered and important aspects of the profession: public service as a judge, pro bono, providing service that provides access to legal and economic justice, or other professional obligations? Our happy Snow White fairy tale is no more.
In the 2012 re-telling of the Snow White fairy tale, Snow White and the Huntsman, Snow White is still there and the dwarfs are still there, but the world is drastically different from 1937, with evil Queen Revenna beautifully portrayed by Charlize Theron perfectly symbolizing the struggles and turmoil many of our new lawyers face and probably what we will face as a profession if we don’t figure out some of the pressing questions that we face in the new legal landscape.