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Angry With Your Job as an Attorney

published December 23, 2021

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You may know it from your personal experience, or you may have seen it among your peers and co-workers, but many lawyers are frustrated and angry with their jobs. Law is a trendy field to go into, so you might be asking yourself why most lawyers are unhappy with their jobs? Hopefully, this article will uncover answers to this question and tell you how an attorney's status plays a role.
 

My Experience With Anger in the Legal Industry



A few decades ago, I started a company BCG Attorney Search dedicated to legal recruitment, or rather, how I like to call it, legal placement. Attorneys approach us, and we do everything in our power to research the market they are in to find as many opportunities for them as possible to ensure that they come out of our collaboration successfully (i.e., with an invitation for interviews/offers from jobs they applied to).

However, this approach is demanding and time-consuming, which means that we are selective with who we work with to make sure that we are using our time constructively and not wasting the client's and our time on something we cannot deliver. Not overtly selective, we want to help as many legal professionals as possible. But a bit particular as not to set ourselves up for failure.

So when a solo practitioner with no law firm experience and less than stellar results in law school approached us after being unemployed for years, we had to turn him down. And not once, as he was pretty persistent. His name was Michael Winston, and he was pretty unhappy that we did not want to work with him. So disappointed that he created a website bashing my company with articles full of false statements and me.

He made up stories of how I was trying to keep attorneys unemployed and only used the company as a front to write my articles. He said BCG Attorney Search was a complete scam, never helped anyone, and only worked against honest attorneys like him who wanted a job. Unfortunately, he had his audience of attorneys who believed him - mainly people we could not help, just like him. And I was left wondering - how can anyone think stories that clearly cannot be true? There is evidence of the hundreds of attorneys we have been able to position! However, I forgot to factor in the competitiveness that is ingrained in every attorney.
 

Competitiveness in a Law Firm


Competitiveness is one of the core characteristics every reasonable attorney has. It has to be. The core of many legal jobs is about competition - one side loses while the other one wins. You would never hire a lawyer who does not want to win to represent you, and neither would any other person who wants to succeed with their case.

But the competitiveness of attorneys and law firms manifests in other ways besides winning cases as well. The best attorneys have the highest billing rates. The most prominent large law firm and best lawyers bill the most hours, not because they have to but because it shows that they are the best in the competitive world of law firms.

Attorneys who can get into the best law school and compete with their peers to get the best grade and finish at the top of their class get into the large best law firm. If they bill the most hours and generate the most business, they can be sure to be the most well-off and most secure in their job.

In my long career as a legal recruiter, I have also seen how strong competitiveness is in the recruitment process. Many employers will choose more competitive candidates even if they do not have the best credentials out of the candidate pool. An employee who graduated from Harvard is useless if they do not have the drive and competitiveness that will lead them to do everything they can to succeed and be better than their opponent.
 

The Biggest Competition Among Attorneys


One of the things I noticed attorneys compete about the most is their status or perceived status. The position is significant for attorneys. They feel good and successful when they know they have high quality, but if they feel like their situation is not high enough, it can make them feel insufficient, bitter, and angry.

Status only means something when you can compare yours with someone else's. That is why attorneys are always quick to reach their "measures" of status - What law school did you go to? What law firm do you work in? Better law schools and more prestigious law offices, of course, mean higher status for law students.

When an attorney is confronted that their status is lower than that of another attorney, they have two options. If they don't accept their lower level and do nothing, they will "fight."

A similar thing is happening in law offices as well. Partners have a higher status than associates or contract attorneys. But there is also a hierarchy among partners, as there are equity and non-equity partners. Working in more prestigious firms is associated with higher status, so switching firms can increase or decrease your level.

You can never escape your status and the comparison in the legal profession. It is essential for all legal professionals. And because attorneys are very competitive, as I already mentioned, when an attorney finds out they lack the status they want to have, they usually do something about it to improve their quality. They have several different options:
 
  1. Attorneys can try to improve their situation.
  2. Attorneys can help improve someone else's status so that the other person would reciprocate this and, in turn, elevate the attorney's status.
  3. Attorneys can use other people to help improve their status.
  4. Attorneys can damage the status of other attorneys to feel better about their low rate.
  5. Attorneys can use other people to help damage the legal profession of attorneys who have a higher level than them.

You should always try to make one (or more) of the first three choices and avoid the other two choices.
 

Improving Your Status on Your Own


Improving your status is genuinely the best thing you can do in this situation. Suppose you are doing it on your own. In that case, you have to work extremely hard, generate a lot of business, get a postgraduate degree from a prestigious law school if you could not get your first law degree in one, and do what you can to become a better lawyer.
 

Improving Your Status With the Help of Others


You can also improve your status with the help of others. This can be done by first working hard to help another lawyer enhance their status and return the favor. They will feel obligated to do what they can to help elevate your status, which they will do with their higher quality.

However, if you have good relationships with other people or have good family connections, you can get them to help improve your status even without doing something for them first.
 

Why Attorneys Rarely Improve Their Status and Rather Choose To Damage the Status of Someone Else


Unfortunately, lawyers rarely choose one of these options. Most of the attorneys I have worked with make themselves feel better by damaging someone else's status. They may not want to go this route initially, but they resort to this solution when they feel vulnerable and insufficient because they perceive quality. I have found that this feeling of being threatened is one of the main reasons many attorneys are angry with their jobs. As a result, they are angry and hostile and spend a lot of energy tearing down others.

There might be two reasons for this:
 

High Status Is Difficult To Obtain and Maintain


Because high status is so valued in the legal profession and lawyers are very competitive, it isn't straightforward to obtain it and even more challenging to keep it. Getting into the best and most prominent law firms is difficult as every attorney is fighting for that position, so getting there is a huge success and takes a lot of work. However, you cannot relax after getting there. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of lawyers waiting to get hired for the position you are in, so making the slightest mistake or not trying hard enough will very quickly result in being replaced by someone who will not make those mistakes.
 

Blaming and Putting Down Others Is Core to Attorney's Work


When you think about it, blaming others is what attorneys are trained to do. When they represent their clients, one of the main things is to make the other side look bad. We praise those attorneys who can dig the dirt on everyone in opposition of their client, which often wins cases.

Attorneys are trained to always stand behind their clients. So, if there is an issue, anybody but the attorney's client is at fault. Once the attorney has the "scapegoat" that is at fault, they work to build a narrative that this person (or company) does not deserve respect, can be attacked, and talked badly about, and the client does not have a drop of responsibility in what has happened.

This is a blueprint of what happens in litigation or transaction matters. Just look at any well-known trial. A great example is the case of OJ Simpson. His lawyers made sure to find someone else to blame, which was, in this case, the police force and their poor police work. They compiled information that proved that they were incompetent and even racist, which helped them in their case.
 

What the Constant Blaming of Others Can Do


This blaming others mindset that attorneys are taught to have at work unfortunately often leaks into their own lives. In that, they are their client, and because the client should never accept even an ounce of responsibility for anything, they fail to take responsibility for their issues in their own life. And that is why they often blame other people for their lack of status. They cannot accept that they could be responsible for being unsuccessful. That can be a dangerous thing.

Firstly, no one gets ahead by putting others down. Have you ever met someone promoted only because they pointed out that someone else is terrible and not worthy of that promotion? Me neither. Sustainable success is built on working hard, creating the right relationships with the right people, chasing opportunities, not pushing someone else down, and blaming them for what you cannot do.

But there is also a much worse consequence of constantly blaming others: the huge negativity it creates in the world. Many wars, genocides, mass murders, other violent crimes, lawsuits, and countless other negative things in our world were created as a result of blaming others for someone's perceived lack of success. And the legal industry is full of people quick to jump on blaming everyone around them and tearing them down just because they cannot fulfill what they believe instead of looking at where they are making a mistake.

When an attorney gets a bad performance review, they will often blame the person who has evaluated them and start talking badly about them. Attorneys who fail to the bill are not at fault for their mistakes because the firm does not have enough work or puts obstacles in the way of their work and not the attorney. Not getting promoted, not being made a partner, or getting fired is always because the firm is racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, too conservative, too liberal, or any other characteristic that supports the attorney's statements. Being unemployed and not finding a job in a law offices is always because of the economy, state of the market, the incompetence of the recruiter, etc., never because of the attorneys themselves.

Attorneys are experts in this line of thinking. They can always find another person to blame and another reason why they are innocent in the situation. It is what makes their clients look better and wins them their cases. But when it starts being your philosophy outside of the work as well, it is a problem.
 

Mr. Winston's Anger Continues


Michael Winston (and some of the readers he has acquired) has blamed me for the lack of success. He continuously wrote more angry and bitter articles on his website and directed all of his anger toward me. He even wanted to "uncover" BCG Attorney Search and me as a scam that intentionally keeps lawyers out of work.

He researched a location of our company that was a few hours away from his home and decided to make this trip to confront me in the office. He did not research this thoroughly enough. He chose to visit our Chicago location I was not operating from, even though we have the information that I reside in the Los Angeles office clearly stated on our site. So, when he asked for me at the reception and was told I am not working in that office, he assumed the most logical thing in that situation - my company nor I exist.

Of course, he immediately wrote an exposé about this, and the following he has gathered was over the moon with the news. We were, after all, responsible for their lack of success. I could not understand. How could I be responsible for that? I am not even a legal employer that could hire them! But that was not important at that time. I could not change their mind. After all, I even contacted him and offered to help him, but his writing continued and got worse and more severe with every post.

When someone Googled my name, they could not miss these negative articles and all the comments from Winston's supporters. I did not have any other option than to sue him to delete his defamatory articles. He took them down but quickly published them again and again. He even got a job as a prosecutor but has not stopped writing these angry articles. He could not keep the job for long and afterward resorted to opening a solo practice defending criminals.

But then something shocking happened. All newspapers ran a story about a lawyer representing three individuals in a drug trafficking case who had shot himself after escaping from a shooting scene. The lawyer was Michael Winston.

I never found out whether he had anything to do with the shooting or why he committed suicide. But I knew he was a furious man with some issues who blamed his lack of success on anyone else around him but himself. And while this is a very extreme case, it illustrates what many attorneys do with blaming others for everything wrong that happens to them. And it also demonstrates that blaming others will not make you happy.
 

Conclusions


Putting others down is highly prevalent in our world. Finding mistakes and negatives in others to make us feel better is the whole purpose of tabloids and reality shows so popular. Parents who might not have a lot of money often tell their kids that their more affluent classmates only have so many toys and things because their parents are overcompensating for the lack of time, care, and love they have for them.

When I was a kid, a family member of mine used to show me all these big houses in affluent parts of the town and told me how these people had to work all the time and do bad things to live like that. I was taught that everyone is successful and had money had to have done something terrible in their life to get to that wealth. And I am sure I was not alone in being taught that.

But constantly putting others down to feel better about ourselves is no way to live. It does not help anything or anyone, and it only feeds our negative side. Even if you put down everyone around you, how long will the positive feeling last? Not long enough to justify such behavior. The best thing you can do is forget about the status of others and what they have. Focus on yourself and on improving your situation based on your accomplishments. It is a much more sustainable and long-term solution.

See also:
 

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