Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Thinking About the Business of Practicing Law


One of Schiltz's important pieces of advice to law students is to look at what lawyers do, not what they say. This seems a useful guide to evaluating his opening salvos about unhealthiness (which is more akin to what lawyers do) and unhappiness (largely what lawyers say). The high rates of mental illness and substance abuse and other problems in the profession cited by Schiltz are deeply disturbing, even if the evidence is somewhat uneven. I find it harder to interpret the unhappiness data, on which Schiltz focuses considerable attention. Lawyers have traditionally displayed an enormous capacity for self-critical reflection about the decline or moral failings of the profession. Indeed, anyone who has spent much time with lawyers knows how critical they are of judges, other lawyers, and, if it makes a good story, themselves. The nagging question I have when confronted with all this evidence of discontent is to ask for some evaluative comparison. Schiltz's citation of data on depression and mental illness, for example, is powerful because law is ranked with other occupations. All the unhappiness data is solely confined to lawyers. If, for example, lawyers were not that much more unhappy than people inside their corporate clients, or physicians struggling with the transformation of the health care industry, would it worry us as much as it does Schiltz? And if we were to postulate that both law and medicine are undergoing significant change, would it not be entirely understandable that young people commencing their careers with expectations of a large degree of autonomy are distressed at the increasing "corporatization" or dominance by the organizations of practice in their professions?