BAY STREET LAWYERS -WHERE IS THE MELODY?
"Recent research by the American Bar Associates suggests that lawyers are more likely to experience mental/health struggles the more successful they are in their field. The study from the University of Toronto published in the "Journal of Health and Social Behavior" compared two national surveys of thousands of lawyers in both the United States and Canada."
"The stats of addiction and mental health problems lawyers have are typically 2.5-3.0 times the national average, 21% of lawyers have drinking problems, 28% struggle with depression. Lawyers holding down careers at larger law firms in the private sector widely considered to be the most prestigious were more likely to experience poor health outcomes.
The top 1% of lawyer’s who earn the seven figure incomes too often have poorer health predictions. Simple, the more that lawyers work the more money they can bill leading to their poor health. Their
work-life- balance can be torn asunder.
Expensive law offices in the towers of affluence in Toronto, New York, London England are often the norm. The rent/ administrative staff including para legal, secretaries are paid out of the accounts receivables . The senior partners (5%) who have their names at the top of the pyramid are rewarded
with bigger pieces of the pie. There is no equal distribution of the proceeds based on merit or work
The young lawyers are at the beck and call of their superiors slave ridiculously long hours to impress
the partners are stressed and can not have a normal life. They can not: "work 8 hours, sleep 8 hours leaving 8 hours for fun."
In law you are only as good as your last court appearance . The winners are appreciated and the
losers, no matter how hard they worked, are yesterday’s advocates. Perfection is not just a adjective
but rather an expectation to do it all with aplomb regardless of the mental/physical costs.
Work schedules of 55-80 hours a week for lawyers are often the norm but with new technology of
mobile devices the lawyers are often connected to their phones 24-7. For too many it can be a unwinnable tread-mill- trip which can be very demoralizing effecting one’s long term health and well being.
Long arduous oversea plane trips of 8-20 hours in length trapped into your first class business class seating flying across various time zones is not conducive to good nutrition or physical/mental health.
At some point in a lawyer’s career the rules of the game changes. Most junior partners are not to
simply log long hours: rather, they are expected to bring in new clients while trying to keep the old
clients happy and delivering profitable results.
Being away from the family for weeks-on-end is sure hard for the custodial parent who is usually the mother who because of her husband’s law career is like unto a single- stressed-out- care giver.
Partner’s wives for the most part do not/can not work outside the family home being on tap to care for their children.
The late Eddie Greenspan, a famous Canadian Criminal Lawyer, when he proposed to his girl friend, Susy, told her of the reality of her marrying a lawyer: "she would always be his mistress and the law would be his wife". She reluctantly agreed with the terms of the marriage proposal. Eddie died at the relatively young age of 70 as a result of a cardiac arrest.
My late brother, Jack, a "Type A lawyer", had heart failure at the age of 38 while playing tennis with
three medical doctors. His first wife who had two law degrees was a partner in the law firm but did not practice law. It sufficed that she was a lawyer’s spouse. His cardiologist told me that "young men have bad heart attacks." Jack beat the odds. He survived. The divorce cost him $1,00,000 to get off the
tread-mill life of the rich and famous.
I do not want to paint the honorable career of law in a totally bad light. Lawyer who act-in-house for corporations on the whole have a normal life style being home with the family for supper but the huge incomes are not feasible. Small town lawyers in general practice drawing up wills/estates and
real-estate transactions are for the most part content with their simple life styles.
Litigators in their black robes, who are for the most part, are actors playing a role enjoy the lime light in the courts and being quoted by the media for their legal expertise.
Being able to shop for $1,000.00 suits at Harry Rosen’s fits the life-style of the Bay Street lawyers. Private schools such as Havergal, Upper Canada College for the children at $50,000 per school year
are now a must. Expensive country clubs, million dollar homes, nannies, BMW’s, Audi’s. week-end at
the cottages in Muskoka and holidays in the Carribean and Europe are the norm.
The life of a Bay Street lawyer may be akin to " Gold Plated handcuffs" a client from Toronto told me.
The money keeps you chained into a arduous/ stressful life style trying to keep up appearances.
If you are planning to be lawyer perhaps you would be very wise to read the book: "The Monk who sold his Ferrari" by Robin Sharma. Julian Mantle, a litigation lawyer, walked away from his career at the age
of 25. He decided to be a humble monk after he survived a heart attack in the court room. Julian chose
to sell his expensive Ferrari to embrace the simple life style of a humble happy monk.
Life is all about having a melody/balance. No melody and there is no music to dance to. Your time and health are non renewable resources; when they are gone, they are gone. A young Bay Street lawyer
will gladly give up his/her health for wealth but an out- of- shape overworked lawyers can not buy back their health. Your health is your wealth.
Thank you to my former student, a corporate lawyer, for your wise council.
Len Lesser is an education/career counselor in Dorchester, Ont. www.career-education.ca