Very recently, CNN reported that more lawyers are killing themselves than ever before. And this is not the figurative kind of killing themselves from working too many hours… it’s the literal kind — suicide. (news report here)
Sadly, I am not surprised.
On top of that, 40% of law school students are graduating depressed and disillusioned.
My heart hurts hearing that so many lawyers are struggling so significantly.
I get it. I remember coming out of law school, top of my class, starting a job at one of the best law firms in the country, married, with a baby, and a 6-figure salary and feeling depressed.
It was so confusing.
I had finally achieved all I had worked so hard for and I was simply miserable.
Billable hours, legal docs and forms-based practice I didn’t really believe in… clients who didn’t really care… commuting 20 miles a day (each way!) in LA traffic.
And I didn’t even have it all that bad considering what I’ve heard from lawyers who can’t even get jobs or are working in BigLaw during this cycle of the economy.
Yet, I knew I couldn’t do it for the rest of my life.
But with $100,000 of student loans, a baby at home, a husband without an independent income and the cost of living in Southern California, how could I do anything other than suck it up?
Except I didn’t. I got out. I made the leap into my own law practice with no safety net at all other than my resourcefulness and scrappy attitude.
I rented office space from a colleague in the biggest town near my house and traded 10 hours a months so I wouldn’t have to go out of pocket for the rent.
I bought some used furniture, a laptop, set my sister up as my bookkeeper (that was an error) and I was off and running on my own.
At first, I was happy. Excited! It was a brave new world. I had estate planning document drafting software, a computer and a great attitude.
I didn’t know anything about business, but I did know how to hustle. And how to be resourceful.
I didn’t have a lick of extra savings, but a few of the clients who really liked me at the BigLaw firm came with me and it was just enough that I could keep food on the table.
In fact, one of the things I can now say after 10 solid years in business on my own (wow, time flies), I’ve always brought in just enough. Always. Even now. The just enough has grown, but it’s always just enough.
It’ll be the same for you, by the way.
Once you make the commitment to making a change in your life and say yes to happiness, you can create it — the resources you need will show up.
It takes commitment to it though. So, if you are on the verge of suicide, depressed or just plain sad about what it turns out the practice of law is, let me know. (I mean it! I care. Nobody should suffer alone, and needlessly. Reach out.)
There ARE things you can do now to shift your life and your practice.
By the way, things didn’t get immediately better for me. The first year or so of my law practice was pretty depressing, but I got help and it got better. Stay tuned for next week’s blog post where I’ll tell you about the first 6 months to a year of my practice, what was so depressing and how I turned it around.