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The Destruction of Young Lawyers

Beyond One L

By Douglas Litowitz

Publication Year: 2006

Young lawyers are morosely unhappy by every conceivable standard. They arrive at our law schools brimming with enthusiasm, but a decade later they are reporting staggering levels of anxiety, drug addiction, and depression. In legal circles there is talk about a “crisis of professionalism” and a “decline in civility,” but the problem goes much deeper. Through ignorance and greed, the legal profession has designed a complicated system of education, licensing, and practice that drives young lawyers into fear, alienation, and self-hatred. The author of this book---a law professor and practicing attorney---argues that young lawyers face a series of institutional absurdities built into the fabric of law school, the bar exam, and law firm practice. The current system is churning out a tidal wave of disaffected and bitter lawyers who see the legal system as a Byzantine maze, an endless artificial game totally disconnected from considerations of justice. “The Destruction of Young Lawyers” shows how these struggles can be reversed through massive structural change and is the first step toward diagnosis and treatment of the specific problems facing young lawyers.

Published by: The University of Akron Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vi-vii

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1. Unhappy Young Lawyers

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pp. 8-27

Lawyers are pathologically unhappy. The problem reached public consciousness about fifteen years ago with initial warnings that lawyers were experiencing mental health problems and “running from the law.”1 In 1991, the American Bar Association acknowledged that the legal profession was at the “breaking point” due to an “emerging crisis in the quality of ...

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2. The Trouble with Law School

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pp. 28-51

After more than a decade, the mere mention of law school still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. And I am not alone.When my ex-classmates get together, the conversation inexorably loops back to what a difficult experience law school was for all of us, even for those who excelled and seemed successful during those years. A good friend is fond of paraphrasing ...

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3. The Pointless Ritual of the Bar Exam

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pp. 52-69

The bar exam is a charade that should be abolished or radically reformed. It has no pedagogical purpose and it does not ensure that lawyers possess rudimentary skills. Ostensibly designed to protect the general public by ensuring that lawyers have minimum qualifications, it fails to provide any protection because the material on the exam is arcane and unrelated to ...

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4. The Structure of Law Firm Practice: Alienated "Associates"

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pp. 70-89

It is nearly impossible for a new attorney to open a law office. First, a young lawyer does not obtain the skills for practicing law while in law school, so she would be committing malpractice left and right if she opened a law office. Second, the market for clients is extremely competitive, and in any event, clients are hesitant to hire a young attorney. And finally there is the ...

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5. The Content of Law Firm Practice: Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do

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pp. 90-111

The large law firm—with hundreds of attorneys in offices throughout the country—has emerged as the gold standard for the legal profession. Industry magazines such as American Lawyer, the National Law Journal, and the American Bar Association Journal carry endless stories about the fortunes of large law firms, especially the powerful firms based in New York ...

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6. Technology and the Overwrought Lawyer

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pp. 112-133

John Stuart Mill once observed, “It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.”1 A similar question might be raised about the myriad technological devices that are now de rigueur for even the most pedestrian law office. Today’s fully automated law firm is a marvel of modern machinery, outfitted with ...

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7. Options for Young Lawyers

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pp. 134-145

In this book I have tried to account for a basic, incontrovertible fact: young lawyers are morosely unhappy. This is the verdict of countless surveys by bar associations and dozens of academic studies on young lawyers. Too many young lawyers find their lives alienating, their work demeaning, and their own behavior immoral. This is a terrible tragedy. The current system ...


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pp. 146-159


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pp. 160-163

E-ISBN-13: 9781935603719
E-ISBN-10: 193560371X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781931968317
Print-ISBN-10: 1931968314

Page Count: 163
Illustrations: none
Publication Year: 2006