Tony Soprano once (rhetorically) asked his psychiatrist, “Did you ever feel like you came in at the end of something?”. He was, of course, referring to the Italian Mafia, and how it felt to him like the good times and easy excesses were in the rearview mirror; that the government, technology, and modern society have evolved to a place where the Mafia could no longer really thrive.
I feel the same way about the legal profession. I feel like I got in near the end of our run, and that the legal profession is not a good career option for future generations for the following reasons:
- Lawyers are subject to “personal” liability for errors. Save for doctors and accountants (i.e. the professions), people who make mistakes in business, are (short of fraud) never personally liable for someone else’s losses. But an attorney is. There is no corporate shield- as with all other types of work. Even if insurance covered the cost of a mistake, the attorney may not be able to get such insurance renewed going forward if he or she has lost a lawsuit. Personal liability for lawyers is very unfair.
- Lawyers can be reported for ethics violations. Even if an attorney is not legally negligent or financially responsible, he or she can be punished for crossing ethical lines based on a “large” body of ethics rules. Ethical violations are committed by almost everyone else in the business world (and in the personal world) almost every day. I hardly know anyone left who I find to be frequently ethical. Yet, attorneys must meet unreasonably high standards, no matter how clients treat us.
- A law degree, coupled with a college education, costs a fortune.
- Lawyers have rules and restrictions on sales, cross marketing of services, and on using creative brand names and domain names.
- Before the Internet, most people, except very sophisticated businessmen, knew only one or two lawyers … if they were lucky. Now, at a keystroke, people can find hundreds of nearby lawyers. The old saying, “someone always needs a lawyer” should be amended to add, “and one can always find many”. Try finding a qualified attorney for a serious problem … it will be easy. Try finding a qualified electrician for a serious problem … he’s worth his weight in gold.
- In addition to the personal liability described above, and the ethics rules described above, people can make comments about their lawyers online. In a society that already complains about lawyers and legal fees, this is just the last straw- a place where people can publicly deride their lawyer? Who needs it?
- The legal profession used to be about relationships. Now it is about SEO and reviews and public critiques from complete strangers who often have never used a lawyer before and don’t understand how legal services are supposed to work. They have no context or basis for comparison. They just have costs and anger.
- It used to be that lawyers could add new services based on the needs of the economy at any given time. For example, an attorney would practice real estate law in good times and bankruptcy law in bad times, and injury law in terrible times. This was the basis for the old saying, “A lawyer can always make a living”. Because of the Internet, this is no longer the case. People want to see deep history and a long track record in the area of law affecting them. Internet search results, and landing good clients, requires attorneys to have years of dedication to a certain area of law, rather than one who pivots to keep up with economic changes.
- For those who do good research, answers to minor legal issues can be found online. Legal forms to handle certain transactions and situation can be found online. While I do not advise handling a legal matter on your own- the fact of the matter is that people often do.
While numbers 1-4 above have always been the case, numbers 5-9 have added insult to injury and have made practicing law an unattractive career option. Why would anyone, based on the above, seek a career in personal services with so much risk and a finite upside? As for working in a large law firm, law firms have made major staffing cutbacks over this decade, causing the remaining lawyers to work twice as long for the same money. If you break down the salary earned by a big law firm lawyer to an hourly rate, it may not look pretty. It’s evenings and weekends, and the work is stressful and grueling with no room for mistakes. There is not a lot of creativity and laughter and high-fives in law firms.
As for practicing law out of passion and not just for money, I know criminal defense attorneys who came out of good district attorneys offices (which was always the gold standard for becoming a defense lawyer), and because of the size of Legal Aid, which is financed by grants and donations, they can’t get clients who have been arrested because Legal Aid helps many defendants for free. Plus, can you imagine the online comments against any lawyer whose client went to jail- with the things that people of that ilk would be willing to write? And that’s not to mention the thought of having such unsatisfied clients be able to use the Internet to easily find where their criminal defense attorney lives. Not fun. Add to that the personal liability, ethics complaints, and online harassment from clients … passion only goes so far.
This is not to say that attorneys are not needed, especially those with specialized skills; and this is not to say that an attorney can’t make a good living. But it is like any other career- one needs good marketing skills, a good marketing budget, good relationships, and the desire to do the job, and, if you work in a law firm, the desire to work long hours under great stress.
We lawyers have a had a good run … but times have changed. I’d rather see my children go into anything else- even sales or SEO services. Even lawyers need that now.
“The world is filled with some crazy people. As a lawyer you meet them all … and you meet them when they are in their most desperate and irrational places.”
- I would not, in fact, like to see my children make the performance of SEO services their career choices. There are far more valuable and interesting things to do with one’s life. This was an exaggeration for the purpose of illustrating a point.
-Neil S. Siskind, Esq., President
The Siskind Law Firm
Neil Siskind is the Founder & Chairman of The Fatherhood Assignment
Learn more at: http://www.neil-siskind-the-fatherhood-assignment.org/
Neil Siskind is the Conservator of the Neil S. Siskind Nature Preserve
The Neil S. Siskind Nature Preserve is over 7 acres of environmentally-pristine waterfront land in a magnificent setting along New York’s majestic Hudson River. The Preserve includes a variety of species of animal and plant life, and is a precious example of the thoughtful maintenance of New York’s priceless open spaces. The land’s uses are limited to outdoor recreation such as hiking and climbing, and the study of ecology, nature and land use. The Neil S. Siskind Nature Preserve allows for the intelligent contemplation of our valuable natural resources and the most effective ways to maximize them and keep them protected.
Neil Siskind, Founder, “National Fatherhood Day” – March 29th
To encourage recognition of the needs of boys and girls who are living without fathers or father-figures in their lives.
Read about the non-profits and charities whose missions Neil Siskind supports and promotes: www.neilsiskindsupports.com
Caring is Free®
You can read what clients and associates say about Neil Siskind at: http://siskindlawfirm.com/neil-siskind-bio/.
Neil Siskind’s Volunteer Work:
– Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Volunteer
– Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, My Fundraiser- Help Neil Siskind help children with cancer to be more comfortable: http://mskcc.convio.net/site/TR?px=3182108&fr_id=2632&pg=personal
– Make-A Wish Foundation- Help Neil Siskind make sick children’s wishes come true by creating your own fundraiser: Neil-Siskind/Help-Make-A-Child-Smile.htm
– DonorsChoose.org- Donate to one of my needy public classrooms: http://www.donorschoose.org/NeilSiskindGiving
– Champion Children– We seek to inspire people through stories of children who have overcome challenges: http://siskindlawfirm.com/neil-siskind-champion-children/
Neil Siskind’s Pro Bono Work:
– Saving Senior Citizens- Protecting New York’s senior citizens from fraud and financial abuse www.savingseniorcitizens.com
– Senior FreeStart Business– Pro Bono: We seek to help put senior citizens in the right direction so that they can face the challenges of the modern economy: http://siskindlawfirm.com/free-start-business/
– Veteran FreeStart Business– Pro Bono: We seek to help put Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in the right direction so that they can face the challenges of the modern economy: http://siskindlawfirm.com/free-start-business/
– In development: The Neil S. Siskind School of Hope: A free school to teach inner-city youths the skills of entrepreneurship and importance of economic self-sufficiency.
Neil Siskind’s Government Work:
– Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Boston, MA, 1994, Intern
– Office of Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Newington, CT, 1992, Intern
– Hartford County Department of Probation, Hartford, CT, 1991, Intern
Neil Siskind’s Community Assistance:
Financed & operated a legal clinic providing low-cost legal services to struggling Long Islanders during the recession to help clients resolve debt, organize finances, and launch new businesses.
Neil Siskind’s Professional Curriculum Vitae: http://neilsiskind.com/
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