Superior Training. The Reality

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There are many lawyers who have started with ordinary law firm career track from junior to senior associate to partner, and wanted to get back on.

I guess it was like seeing a movie of your own screw ups played and replayed before your eyes, 20 or 30 times a day. It made me want to be God in this job, or at least to have magical powers. For the younger attorneys, I wanted to be able to hand out a gift of time, to take them back to the start of their legal careers and let them re-think their decisions. And for the older ones, I wanted to be able to concoct an attorney's Garden of Eden, a place into which they would walk, with resume & in hand, and be greeted with warm shouts of welcome as they were led to people who desperately needed the hard years of experience that they had accumulated.

I don't want to make my role at job seem sweeter than it was. Along with their tough situations, some of these people were nasty. You may have felt sorry for them, but that's the last thing they wanted from you. If anything, your sympathy only made clear that you were not buying their cool, relaxed stories about how they had decided to try something new in their lives - as though it were a mere coincidence that they were coming to you only now, just as their classmates were being made partner or their firm was falling apart.

In a few cases, I thought I might be able to find something for them. But in the vast majority of cases, I couldn't. They didn't have the background that it took to land the top-flight jobs that we handled. Like all head hunters, we dealt with experienced people only, so I had nothing to offer the many who wanted to switch to a non-legal job, or even to a different specialty within the law. As poignantly phrased by Terry Louise Fisher, the co-creator of the TV show L.A. Law,"

We get stacks of letters from attorneys who want to work on the show - as writers, "consultants, as gofers on the set - anything. I guess there are a lot of lawyers out there who really don't like to practice law. All the time I did "Cagney and Lacey, I didn't get those letters from cops.

Yet, despite the complaints that you hear from these attorneys, nothing happens. They may be diligent in every other way, but somehow they cannot bring themselves to tackle their own career problems. Instead, they get comfortable, settle down with their salaries, and stay in law after all. They slowly stop griping and, eventually, may even be the least tolerant of other attorneys' gripes.

There are good reasons why many dissatisfied attorneys don't actually leave the law. Most don't have MBA degrees to fall back on, for example, and I'll bet that most don't pursue many different kinds of non-legal jobs. Also, of those who do, few will accept big cuts in prestige and salary.

As an attorney, you're used to being coddled. You come out of the simplistic world of school and go straight into a job that pays a lot and gives you a level of prestige that other people get only after years of work. It can be perplexing to see how complicated the non-legal job market is, and to discover, for perhaps the first time in your life, that potential employers are fully able to think that you are not so amazing.

Young attorneys indulge in lots of pipe dreams to avoid this ugly reality. Besides imagining that they could get a job on a corporation's legal staff and then switch easily over into management, they like to think that clients will try to entice them away with attractive offers of employment as business partners. In the real world, though, if your clients want to hire you at all, they'll want you as a lawyer, not as a partner. The clients who really could offer you an attractive non-legal job won't be in the habit of thinking, "Gee, she looks frustrated. Maybe I should give him/her a new career.'' If they see your dissatisfaction, they'll probably avoid you, lest you let your unhappiness foul up their legal work.

I mean, it's not as though successful businesspeople have a hard time finding people who'd like to be their partners. They've got friends, friends' kids, their own kids ... the list goes on. Lawyers do get offers to go into business, but the offers are rarely attractive. When it comes to the task of finding jobs after law, for those who wind up going in that direction, I can say only that there are no handouts.

The Plan? Superior Training. The Reality? Too Much Intensity.

As the joke goes, when you practice law, you have to deal with the dregs of society - and their clients. In that spirit, kindly consider this quote from an article in the ABA Journal about criminal law practice in Miami:

"A criminal lawyer's dream come true," says attorney Roy Black. "What interests the true professional are the most unusual and arcane cases, and that's what we have in Miami." Attorney Josi Quinon agrees. "Two years ago, I got a case where the guy intended to kill the president of Honduras. You don't see that land of case anywhere else."

What sets Miami apart is its abundance of extraordinary crime - a singular mixture of sensation and intrigue. Miami's underworld is so right and slimy it has become a cliché to call the place Casablanca. What a great place to be a lawyer.

It's possible, in a climate like this, to lose track of just how rich a vein Miami's criminal defence bar is working. Quinon is co-counsel in the Lender drug trial.

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