Wednesday, July 12, 2006

ANTI-LAW SENTIMENT OUT THERE

One thing I have noticed in the past several weeks has been a large level of vitriol towards the legal profession in a number of articles popping up on the World Wide Web.

Cameron Stracher in the Wall Street Journal basically came out with an article claiming that a law degree isn't something you should treat as some sort of degree that will keep your options open; instead, the debt load that students have to carry is so high that people have to grab the highest paying jobs they could possibly find, just so they can pay all this debt back. If you want to be a screenwriter in Hollywood, your law degree is no good, he says.

Avi Klein in the Washington Monthly wrote an article trashing the legal profession as well. He says that the system is designed to force debt-ridden grads to take corporate law jobs that force them to work all the time. And he talked about how the system forced people to strive for top grades in order to get these jobs, and how a bad grade could ruin your shot at these jobs. It's a sad, sad state of affairs.

Of course, I found out about this article at Tom the Temp's blog, and he has gone hog wild in the past few weeks. He has been bodyslamming the major law firm of Paul, Weiss for their terrible treatment of contract attorneys who work on document review projects. This is basically a 60 Minutes story waiting to happen. Apparently, Paul, Weiss has been accused of forcing these temporary attorneys to work in lousy, cockroach-infested basements! These are supposed to be lawyers like everyone else, but they are basically being treated like the lowest form of trash. And document review work, from the sounds of it, is no way to get ahead. It's not even considered a foot in the door at a big firm like Paul, Weiss- instead, they simply dismiss people at a whim whenever they feel like it.

He also trashed Ann Israel, a New York legal headhunter whose job-hunting advice columns have been featured in various legal publications over the Web for years. Tom the Temp calls her the "propaganda queen" and basically says she doles out the Biglaw party line in her "advice" columns. When women who want to be stay-at-home moms ask for advice on how to do this, Ann responds that they should work 12-hour days! And for people who didn't go to Top 10 law schools or didn't finish in the top half of the law school class, she basically tells these folks that their grades will haunt them the rest of their careers! She is no help at all to any of these people. So Tom the Temp is trashing her for that.

Of course, this adds to the Opinionistas blog and all the other writings out there about how bad this legal profession is, and how terribly the workers are treated. I gotta say, these stories all make the legal profession look very bad. It makes it look like an unforgiving, dead-end existence where the slightest misstep can not only get you fired, but destroy your career. On the one hand, the people at the top of the class are stuck in corporate law jobs where they have to work 16-hour days! Then there are the poor souls at the bottom, who scrape by with terrible salaries at insurance defense dumps, public defender positions and temp law jobs in cockroach-infested basements.

I have to say, the problem with the legal profession right now is the completely condescending way in which the workers are treated. Workers simply have no say in the type of work they are given, and too often the future is out of their hands. A lot of it comes down to office politics, pure and simple. Anyway, it ought to raise a lot of red flags for everyone when they see all these stories about the legal profession getting trashed in print like this all the time.

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