Thank you to those who have submitted problems - please remember to post any problems in the comments section below for The Legal Agony to carry out due diligence into the issue.
Now, a problem of a reader.
“Now that I am 10.5 PQE and am quite sure that law is super boring, I realise that I have nothing at all to look forward to and that my ageing parents, who have never done anything fun or worthwhile in their lives, have things as good as they get.
Should I commit suicide by cop?”
Let’s break down your problem:
10.5 years qualified: Yes, if you are quite sure that law is super boring I’m afraid it's not going to get better. The early years are filled with learning (which some enjoy), (generally) a good salary and some status. If you are in a larger firm, you get a ready made group of friends in the trainees and NQs. You probably have a boyfriend or girlfriend who is a lawyer and you enjoy the weekends in expensive restaurants and the skiing trips. All your friends work similar hours and your social life fits with your working hours.
However, over time you notice the cynicism and disillusionment setting in. Some people are leaving to do something else. Some people find that the life and stress of the law doesn't work with a young family. Man or woman, there’s only so much texting from the corner of Legz Akimbo children's gymnastics a parent can do and not feel they are neglectful of both child and job. By the time you get to 10.5 years your friends are dropping like flies. Contemporaries who are bankers, accountants, entrepreneurs or even estate agents all seem to be doing better than you.
Even the people from law school who seemed marked for mediocrity are partners ahead of you. Those friends who took a job in a small provincial practice are doing very nicely, living in the Old Rectory with paddock space, children at private school and garaging for the speedboat, whilst you are in a one bedroom flat in Queen's Park, “living the dream”.
It’s like the 7 year itch in a relationship - except that it starts at about 4 years and continues until retirement. However in this case there is something better out there and the grass really is greener.
Super boring: Yes I agree - even when I did work experience I found it excruciatingly dull. It was only the people I worked with and the social life in a large firm which made it tolerable, until the social life drops away and you are left only with the work.
“You wanna see a REALLY boring job”
Nothing to look forward to: We can all become institutionalised in work and, as our horizons close in around us, we lose track of what excites and interests us.
Between the office, the gym and/or pub, the family and the odd foreign holiday, we concentrate on short term gratification as a reward for the daily grind, rather than aiming for long term satisfaction. The challenge of major change is scary and it is easy to lose your nerve and go back to the job you know. You console yourself with a holiday or a new phone or some other low hanging fruit, which gives you a quick and easy win, with a release of serotonin, and temporary relief from the unhappiness of the real problem.
However you have to reconnect with yourself and what makes YOU happy. You deserve - and need - to do that.
“John, I’d love to talk about the gaping void I feel in my life, the hopelessness that hits me like a punch in the eye every time I start my computer in the morning, but I have so much work to do! I’ve got at least three hours of unimportant e-mail to reply to before calling the prospects who said ‘no’ yesterday. Gotta run!”
Tim Ferris, "the 4 hour work week"
Ageing parents: Be kind - we will all be there ourselves too enough. Indeed some of us may already be ageing. From 17 it's all downhill.
Who have never done anything fun or worthwhile in their lives: Your parent’s generation probably did lots of fun things when you were younger and they just didn't bother to tell you about it. Wife swapping was big, as was bridge, gin and tonic and caravanning. Ask them to tell you some stories. As for worthwhile, well I guess they raised you, so it’s up to you to decide whether that counts.
As good as it gets: Unfortunately this is the condition of all those generations which followed the baby boom and Thatcher’s Britain. The rise in house prices, drop in price of consumer goods, improvement in medical care and most importantly the availability of cheap wine delivered to the door have all made the condition of the “older” generations reach a level which will never be bettered.
Whereas we “younger” generations face environmental risks, nationalist politics, the death of globalism and the increase in the subscription for Netflix, which combine to make our prospects seem as bleak as any since the industrial revolution. Even those who survived the First World War at least had a few years where they thought they had fought the war to end all wars.
Suicide by cop: In this day and age where police are increasingly armed it is probably quite easy to go outside with a table leg in a plastic bag or the wrong skin shade and have it all ended for you. However I can't help feeling that there may be a better way. To live, that is, not a better way to end it all. I am not alone in being convinced that many people in legal practice are suffering from some form of depression - see here.
So: Use this realisation of what is wrong with your life to focus that energy on reconnecting with what makes you happy. It may be enough to get in touch again with hobbies, interests, old friends, exercise, etc. It may be that you can change the way you work or where you work to find some interest once again.
Or it may be that you decide to leave law. Ask your parents to give you some of that money they have amassed or let you move in with them for a year and help you to transition to a new and satisfying career. Even though your parents spent years working to raise you and give you the advantages to let you become a lawyer, they I am sure only want you to be happy and, if they can, use some of those material things to help you escape.
It's waiting out there for you.