As I was lying awake in bed last night, sleepless, worrying about: (1) my pipeline of work, (2) my billable hours, (3) my collections, and (4) whether or not I was a “center of economic activity” at my law firm, Johnny Paycheck’s acerbic country 80s classic Take This Job and Shove It came to mind, quickly followed by the lyrics of the O’Jays’ For the Love of Money, summarized by the Bangles’ (by way of Prince) Manic Monday. After a sleepless Sunday night worrying about all of the above, I realized sometimes I really dislike the private practice of law.
I hate the cursed billable hour!
I hate continually selling billable hours – mine and others!
Sometimes I just HATE MY JOB!
I know, I know. As a “leader in the profession” I am never supposed to express any sort of negative feelings about my chosen profession. But I am only human.
But, as I reflect on what I dislike (my mom always told me “hate” was a strong word that should not be thrown around lightly) about “my job,” what I am really expressing discontent with is not the profession of law but the pressures that exist within the practice and business of law. Being a lawyer isn’t a bad job. In fact, being a lawyer is a great job, especially at my law firm, Fredrikson & Byron. But being a lawyer is a very “personal” job, where the value of a lawyer is judged continually by extrinsic factors such as success rates, productivity, and client acquisition.
So, intrepid readers of this blog, what are you supposed to take away from this collection of songs about kicking your job to the curb (because your dog died and your women left you), money, discontentment with one’s job on a Monday morning, and my very specific dislikes (this week) about my very personal feelings about the private practice of law?
It is not a disservice to the profession or to you or others who are members of the profession to express feelings of discontent or anxiety about the economic pressures of the legal profession. Nor is it a disservice to the profession to mention the personal toll this profession takes on the lives of its participants. (Hint: now I come to the meat of this blog.) As a profession, we need to openly, honestly and humanely grapple with issues such as depression, suicide and substance abuse among members of our profession.
The operative words in the immediately prior sentence are “openly,” “honestly,” and “humanely.” If you read that sentence and thought, “Not everyone can handle the pressure of our lauded profession,” then consider Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, lauded by many as one of the greatest songs of all time and the tragic suicide of Nirvana’s lead singer, Kurt Cobain. We all need to remember to care for ourselves and others in our profession as we make our way through Monday.