I received an interesting email from a law student Blogger and found the topic interesting enough that I though I’d share my response with whoever still drops by here.
Hi there, I run the blog at www.anonymouslawstudent.com. [interesting site] I'm trying to compile a post about relationships after law school. However, I don't know anything about that because I'm still in law school. So my plan is to email about 10-15 blawggers and ask them a few questions about their experiences and observations. If you'd take a second and help me out, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks!
Well, thanks for asking.1. What areas of law, in your opinion (assuming some areas are worse than others), tend to be harshest on a marriage or long term relationship?
Bearing in mind that, First, I’m a prosecutor, in an office full of prosecutors, which sort of limits my day to day contacts with the more mundane areas of the law, and, Second, I work in a moderate sized community where there are no pressure-cooker law firms to be found (I mean, we’re the biggest “firm” in town), and, Third, I’m 20 years out of law school and have pretty much lost track of my classmates, most of whom were of an age where serious relationships
were just starting, my answer is that it’s not the area of practice as much as it is the type of practice that screws with relationships. That is, my marriage was screwed up from things that had nothing to do with my job. The same is true of the other two or three marriages among my of the bench and bar that hit rocky patches. It wasn’t the job, it was the people in the relationship. Six of my colleagues are married to lawyers or judges and none of the marriage
troubles related conversations we’ve had over the years has ever involved the practice of law. One of my classmates divorced his wife shortly after law school, years ago. That seems to have been based on long-term incompatibilities that only came to light (or became intolerable) when they both started working more or less normal hours (she was a nurse, he’d been a student almost the entire time they were married) and were thrown into each other’s company for
hours and hours every day.
2. What mistakes, if any, do you think new attorneys make that cause problems or contribute to the end of their marriages or relationships?
Again, based on a very small sample - my classmates who took associate job with the “big” law firms in the Big City seem to have had more problems connecting with someone for the long term then my unmarried colleagues in the office do. Hours worked is my guess. Which is, in the current legal employment environment, even more of a dilemma for the new associate than it was when I graduated. If you are not billing some incredible number of hours, you are not going to find it all that easy to advance in the firm If you are working the hours necessary to honestly bill those hours, your are not going to find it all that easy to maintain any kind of relationship, let alone a marriage. One of our former interns took a job with a silk stocking firm in the Big City and is working the insane hours the partnership track seems to require with out too much damage to her marriage. However, by prior arrangement, her husband took up the mantle of househusband when she passed the bar and began to work in earnest. It helps, I’m sure, that they had their first child while she was still in law school.
3. Do you have any advice on how to balance work and home life?
Sorry to say, based on my own experience, it’s the job that has to give over the long term. Yes, when you are starting out you can work those 70+ hour weeks and a marriage will survive - as long as there is light at the end of the tunnel. But when I was active in the State Bar ssociation, I constantly met partners at big firms who were still putting in 60 or more hours a week. The only difference was, many of those hours were on behalf of the Bar or other volunteer supported organizations. Maybe that says something about the sort of drive (Type A personality, anyone) you need to make partner in a traditional law firm more than anything about the practice of law. I guess it comes down to simply having a balance and not letting work become the be all and end all of your life.
4. What seems to be the common thread in the relationships that survived law school and that went on to survive the new career as an attorney? What seems to be the common thread in the ones that didn't make it?
Can’t say. Except for the guy mentioned above, everyone I know from law school who was married is still married. And the legal work environment where I live and practice is such that the successful and failed marriages alike seem to succeeded or failed for the classic reasons. I’m sure work played a part in some of the failures (one local attorney divorced her husband and married the accountant she rented office space from, but I don’t see how the nature of her
job had much to do with that) but only in the way work relationships torpedo marriages all the time.
5. Is getting married right out of law school a good or bad idea?
I have to say it’s going to depend on all the circumstances. Assuming for the sake of discussion that we are talking about a fairly typical law school grad - 24-25, been in school non-stop since he or she was five years old, starting a new job, maybe in a new town, a ton of school related debt, you know the drill -- I’d have to say why would you want to add just one more brick on the load? On the other hand, if your debt load is moderate, you are going into partnership
with your Dad, and you took five years to do law school while working full time as a bookkeeper for the old man, why not?
I can't think of any more, but if you have anything else to add, please do. I appreciate your time..Thanks again,
Anyone else have any thoughts or comments?