No wonder educated one-time strivers are embracing Eastern philosophy. One of our favorites has been Buddhist nun Pema Chodron's "The Wisdom of No Escape." Those are exactly the lessons current lawyers have to sort out.
Pre-Crash, the burnt-out, the ones who didn't make partner, and those who recognized they had a bent for organizational life could migrate to in-house jobs. Historically the positions were there, they paid well, carried prestige and power within the corporation, and left time for a life. That's not the situation any more. For too many lawyers, it is no longer an option.
For THE CONNECTICUT LAW TRIBUNE, Douglas S. Malan interviewed a number of legal consulting and placement companies. The news was dark about in-house.
To begin with, as corporate continues belt-tightening, vacancies are being left unfilled and the work done by temporaries. Unless a lawyer's experience matches the company's business being hired will be tough. At the same time more work is being pulled in-house. This is no refuge from the legal rat race.
Secondly, the money is relatively lousy. Hildebrandt International says that the average compensation, including bonus, in 2008 for in-house was $229,000. That's a lot of responsibility for not much more than a first-year associate's base salary.
Third, the prestige and power are less as the role of investor relations and public affairs grow more important. As Jones Day partner Mickey Pohl frequently puts it, companies now realize that legal is just part of a complex problem which also involves other business priorities. Those might include maintaining the stock price and reputational capital. The company can win the litigation and never regain its former dominance in a market.
And, fourth, the hours and pressure can often be right up there with those of lawyers earning a lot more in law firms. This has been relatively recent. During the Rhode Island lead paint trial - whose beginning has its first anniversary today - in-house attorneys not directly involved with the litigation would discuss it with me. Those conversations continued into "Thomas" and the RI Supreme Court review. Then there was abrupt silence. There was no time for anything but doing their own jobs.
In short, in-house jobs are no option to what lawyers are fleeing or were pushed out of. Chodron as well as most Buddhists would assess that "no escape" as a good thing. It forces us to face those universal issues we have been able to duck through pursuing achievement one-dimensionally. In 2003, that wisdom was also superimosed on me Download Geezerguts. It broke open my talent. My take on chasing success "The Fat Guy From Greenwich" will be published early winter. Here are the first two chapters Download FGFGchapters1,2. On November 6, I celebrate my sixth anniversary as a FOB [Friend of Bill.] Being trapped in what is turned out to be okay.