October 5, 2006
Professional Reading: What Do We Know about Lawyers' Lives?
Published in the June 2006 issue of the North Carolina Law Review: Empirical Studies of the Legal Profession: What Do We Know about Lawyers' Lives? [Westlaw]
From the Introduction by John M. Conley and Scott Baker:
A hallway conversation sparked the idea for this Symposium. As academics who study the profession, we found ourselves frustrated by the lack of reliable evidence about its state. It is not that law professors, judges, and lawyers don't talk about the profession. They do. One hears and reads the constant refrain that the profession is bad and getting worse. Lawyers are more likely to become alcoholics, suffer from depression, commit suicide, and so on. [FN1] Large firms are full of people who will gladly set aside ethical rules to make more money. Partners at large firms kow-tow to clients and facilitate corporate scandals, of which Enron is but one example. Large-firm associates have a miserable life. They have to bill an oppressive number of hours under the never-ending stress of the partnership tournament. Solo practitioners and small firm lawyers don't have it much better. The stress of maintaining a practice and serving clients requires a twenty-four-hour workday, leaving little time for leisure or family. Indeed, the negative refrain has carried over to law students, who are thought to be more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than other professional students.
But rumor and anecdote, not evidence, seem to support many of these claims. As empirically-minded scholars, we were curious about the actual state of the profession. Did it mirror this conventional wisdom? Or was that wisdom legal "urban legend" that had taken on a life of its own? To help resolve this dilemma, we asked several prominent legal scholars, two economists, two practitioners, and a federal judge to consider the state of the profession. The papers in this Symposium reflect their considerable talents and energy.
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