Saturday, July 14, 2012

Keeping Up With the Dow Joneses

May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’ That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine on it.  (Job 3:3-4)
There's something about the story of Job which draws everybody in, religious or not.  The story of his struggle is legendary, and rightfully so.  It has the drama of legends like the Ramayan and the reality of relatability.

Today, a down legal market has many struggling.  There are scores of underemployed and unemployed lawyers out there. These jobless are unfortunately not Jobless, which makes the whole scenario very unfortunate.

When the legal market sank, many lawyers who worked for big corporations and big law firms were let go from their "top tier" jobs.  That is because firms and companies wanted to cut costs.  The best way to do that was to get rid of pricey lawyers.  These "top" lawyers then sought jobs on the next tier below.  Employers rushed at the chance to hire these legal brains.  This resulted in the standard crop of applicants to this level looking elsewhere for jobs. The steps downward continued all the way.

Trickle down economics, if you will.

One of the drawbacks of the legal industry is that lawyers can practice law until the day they die.  A working body is not needed.  So long as your brain works, you can practice law.  As a result, lawyers can and do practice into their 80s and 90s and don't retire or die soon enough.  Longevity, as great as it may be in many other cases, is a real problem for the legal industry.  The new breed is effectively stumped from gaining critical legal experience in their young age.  The top guns in their old age, for some reason, are not taking advantage of the situation and training these young, moldable minds.

How does this prevent jobs from opening up?  If old lawyers (most who are partners in law firms) are not retiring/dying, then those jobs do not become available.  As a result, the lawyers below their status do not have an opportunity to move up to that position.  And if those lawyers cannot move up, then the lawyers below the other lawyers cannot move up.  And if those lawyers cannot move up, then their jobs cannot become available to other lawyers available for hire.

Again, trickle down economics.  

[Digression: Lawyers, for the most part, love to talk, and if they love to talk, then they love to talk about themselves. That's what we in the industry call "networking".  If you are a new lawyer or a law student, you attend networking functions and ask the lawyers about themselves and keep making them talk about themselves.  Then the lawyer finds that he had a very interesting conversation with the young lawyer or law student, perhaps not realizing that the entire conversation was about the lawyer, which is why the lawyer finds the young lawyer or law student interesting.]

Back to the old lawyers.  They have a desire to do as much as they can as their minutes tick away.  However, if they have a desire to make an impression in the legal world, then the greatest way to leave an impression is to train the new breed of lawyers.  By training the new breed, one is guaranteed to live forever.  Thus, the wealth of knowledge the senior attorneys have does not go to waste when they retire or pass away.  The knowledge becomes an inheritable treasure which can benefit others long after the lawyer has passed on.  

Those who evolve, externally or internally,
are the ones that get to keep on keeping on.
Otherwise, we continue in our current stage where lawyers apply for jobs at all levels.  And lawyers with little to no experience apply for whatever they can get.  This leads to employers clearly stating in their job postings for paralegals "JDs need not apply" or "paralegal certificate required".  A law school grad not getting a job as a paralegal is like a chef from Umberto's not getting a job at Domino's.

It is all a cyclical struggle.  And why wouldn't it be?  If we didn't struggle, then what's the point?  Why lounge around in total comfort?  That's not what the grand thing called "LIFE" was ever meant to be.  Complacency is never an option. This cycle is crucial to who we are as humans and a testament to what we can become.

In the period when we're "between jobs", we feel like Job.  We cry out Job's sorrowful soliloquy (part of which begins this article)  and we send our complaints to the heavens, only to know that the answer from God has been the same since time immemorial:
Brace yourself like a man.  (Job 40:7)
At the worst, and best, of it all, that is all that we can do. And, hopefully, that is what we will do.