A few blogs back I wrote about a self-help book for attorneys called “Lawyer Wellness is NOT an Oxymoron” that offered strategies to combat the gloom and doom that author Andy Clark claims permanently permeates the disposition of all-too many legal eagles, and I’m going to link to it here because after reading this column, boy, are you going to need some cheering up. When it comes to attorneys getting dumped on, the “hits” just keep on comin’!
U.S. News & World Report recently came out with their annual “100 Best Jobs” list, and “attorney” has plummeted out of the Top 50 for the first time in memory. Its position on this list has fallen so precipitously that a “lesser” line of work might sue for “defamation.” As it stands now, in the pantheon of prestigious professions “barrister” is barely indistinguishable from “barista.” A couple more years on this trajectory, and Willie Nelson will be singing “Mama Don’t Let Your Sons Grow Up to Be Lawyers.”
Falling out of the Top Fifty, even barely, is quite a blow, status-wise. At position 51, “lawyer” is a mere six slots ahead of “Bill Collector,” a job where if people merely curse your mother before angrily hanging up, it’s considered a good day. Also dangerously close to overtaking “lawyer” is “exterminator,” in the # 61 spot, and you don’t have to spend three years and go into debt for tens of thousands of dollars in order to kill cockroaches.
Speaking of which, “lawyer” is also two spots behind “Nail Technician,” formerly known as “manicurist” or “pedicurist,” the workers who spend their days wearing white masks and handling customers’ disgusting toenail fungus.
Now granted, this list has some gaping holes. For instance, “Professional Baseball Player” is nowhere on the list, and neither is “Rock Guitarist,” two professions that most guys would list as pretty awesome dream jobs. Not many kids grow up fantasizing about being a “Sales Manager” (# 73) or “Logistician” (#75), but yet there they are, whereas the former two are absent. Also missing are “Super Model,” and “Movie Star,” two other gigs that most folks would agree are, to paraphrase Billie Holiday, “Nice work if you can get it.” But that’s one of the list’s biases: it’s “curved” towards professions that offer young people a decent chance of breaking in. If you’re already ensconced at a firm, you probably leapfrog right over “Middle School Teacher,” the job in the #50 slot, and a few other careers as well.
But even so. Clearly something needs to be done before “attorney” falls behind “guy standing on the corner asking for spare change” on the list of desired ways of making a living.
One thing “to be done” could be standing up to surveys like this, and saying, “Hey! Enough is enough! Knock it off!” Because, for one thing, the median salary for lawyers, at $113, 000, dwarfs that of many of the jobs in its orbit. Those “nail technicians,” for example, who edged attorneys out of the Top 50 by appearing in the #49 slot, have a median salary of $22,000. In fact, Financial Advisors, occupying the #41 spot with a median $67,000 salary, might do well to advise those technicians to go to law school if they want to make some $$. Pharmacists, holders of the Fifth Best Job in America (think about that for a second), “median” virtually the same as lawyers, but the latter don’t have to wear silly white lab coats pretending to look like scientists. Or filling bottles with pills. Not to mention that the work is varied, you get to use your brain, and depending on the kind of law you practice, there really is the potential to right enormous societal wrongs.
In fact, I might even suggest that if you want to feel better about being a lawyer, you can forgo that “Lawyer Wellness” book. Just compare what you do for a living with some of the jobs that supposedly rank higher, and thank the stars you’re not doing those.