Thursday, June 22, 2017

Lawyers and suicide

A few weeks ago, a well known litigator in Florida allegedly committed suicide.  His face had blessed the cover of magazines and he was touted as a successful lawyer in Florida.  He had many multi-million dollar verdicts and seemed to be the epitome of success.  I did not know the man personally, but I recall seeing his trial tips and story in a magazine.  

This man's alleged suicide was shocking to me.  He seemed to fit into the legal culture and was successful.  That is not me at all.  I don't like going to the local attorney meetings or participating in the local bar events.  I do not fit into the culture of practicing law in my area.  For example, I have gone to many a hearing on a case and I was the only female, the only minority in the room and the only one under 50 years old.  No one was unkind to me and the hearings have gone well.  However, there is a lingering feeling, within me, that I just don't fit in.  I also don't make a lot of money  as a lawyer.  I replaced an older white male attorney and I am paid at least $40,000 a year less than he was making (I started out making $50,000 a year less than he did.).  I've seen his old timesheets- I do more work than he did and I have more firm-wide day-to-day responsibilities than he did- yet there is a disparity in pay.  Is is due to my age, my race, my gender or experience?  I always have those lingering questions.  I don't like practicing law, it is just a stressful job to me. A job that I hope I will be able to transition out of and into something else.

Nevertheless, the practice of law is stressful and it can be depressing.  There are often feelings that you are not good enough. There is a lot of embarrassment,shame, anger if you lose a hearing/case/trial.  About 10 years ago an local attorney in a nearby town committed suicide.  I had interacted with him on several cases.   I recall thinking, "I wonder why he chose to end his life?"  He was a partner in a law firm, had just recently lost and lot of weight and seemed to have all the confidence in the world. 

I encourage everyone, not just lawyers, to get help for mental health issues.  I also would like to point out that many people suffer from mental issues. People who you never would suspect suffer from mental health issues. It is important to focus on kindness in your interactions with others. 

6 comments:

  1. How sad, on so many levels! It also goes to show that you just never really know what someone is going through. While I enjoyed my own career as a nurse, I felt from the beginning that after 25 years I'd put away my stethoscope and go onto something else. Money isn't everything!

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    1. I plan to get out of practicing law (At least litigation) as soon as I can. I wanted to pay off my law school loans prior to getting out of practicing law. I didn't want to start off in a new career (at the bottom of the salary scale) and still have those huge loans.

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  2. I too am a young-ish female lawyer, although not a minority. I have never felt like I fit into the lawyer culture. I'm not so sure I want to. I am preparing to transition into a different career. I find it is so stressful and yeah, the feelings of not being good enough are there All. The. Time. It's hard to deal with day in and day out. I have gone to many CLE's talking about how high the depression, substance abuse, and suicide rates are among lawyers. It is waaaay higher than the average population, and even higher than other stressful careers like doctors. It's sad all around. I think lawyers also feel this pressure to be strong and they don't always seek the help they need either. I've been guilty of that myself. Hang in there!

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    1. I am so happy for you recognizing the need to transition out of the law. I think as lawyers we tend to try and stick it out and make ourselves miserable in the process. I am having a hard time trying to figure out a new career choice that would not require me to start over at the bottom of the salary scale.

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    2. I understand that. I paid off my loans approximately 5 years after graduation (I'm at the 8 year mark now). I started my own firm and still do litigation. I find it to be very stressful because the whole idea of litigation is that you don't get paid unless you win. I just want a job where I do it every day and when I go home or on vacation, it doesn't keep stacking up while I'm gone. I want each day to be a fresh start. My husband is a nurse and last year made $2,000 more than I did as a 7-year practicing lawyer (and it was my highest earning year!). I find that people think lawyers make a lot more than they actually do and that there are other careers with more opportunities and comparable pay that offer more satisfaction. haha! To me, the stress is just not worth it. Also, I want the ability to live and work in any state I choose and not be just tied to one for my entire career (No, I don't want to take another bar exam :))

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