Our local news stations
have been busy reporting on an apparent murder-suicide involving two lawyers, one in-house patent attorney, the other a contractor, at Cooper Cameron
It's an unfortunate incident that still needs time for a full investigation to uncover all the details, but it does remind me of two issues that may be overlooked during law school: Lawyer's Assistance Programs (LAPs) and the common misperception that contract workers are not contractors by choice.Learn about your local LAP
The State Bar of Texas created the Texas Lawyers' Assistance Program
to provide for the identification, peer intervention and rehabilitation of any Texas attorney or law student whose professional performance is impaired because of physical or mental illness, including chemical dependency and alcoholism***
TLAP receives anywhere from 300 to 350 hotline calls each month from impaired attorneys, their family members, friends, partners, office staff, and other attorneys, resulting in about 25 to 35 new cases. Approximately 75 percent of these attorneys suffer from alcohol or other drug abuse, 20 percent suffer from depression and the remaining 5 percent involve a variety of issues from Alzheimers to chronic physical conditions to severe mental illness. Since March of 1989, TLAP has helped over 2,700 Texas lawyers in crisis.
The ABA has a Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs
that also maintains a nationwide directory of local programs
Law students and lawyers should become familiar with the programs available through their local LAPs and school counseling services to deal with stress related issues, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems. Contract work gets a bad rap
There is a common misperception, not just in the legal field, but also in IT and other professional consulting areas, that contract workers are not contractors by choice. Most people are convinced a permanent position is the only way to have a decent career and prospects for a lucrative partnership in the future. Contractors are just brought in to do the unglamorous grunt work, get no respect, and live paycheck to paycheck. I suppose some contractors may fall in that trap if they are fiscally undisciplined, but if you know how to manage your time and money, contract assignments may teach you more in a shorter period of time - making you more valuable - than the cushy permanent gig you thought you needed.
The May 2005 issue of Student Lawyer
includes a feature story on "A Working Alternative" by Deborah Schneider
For law students who graduate without a job lined up, contract lawyering may be a good interim solution. It's also attractive to experienced lawyers who want a flexible work arrangement.
The article discusses many of the advantages some students and experienced attorneys see in providing contract services. Students have the advantage of learning how different firms operate in different practice areas without making a long-term commitment if the environment isn't quite their style. Experienced attorneys have the benefit of flexible work schedules and, often, the same (or better) income levels compared to equally experienced attorneys paid on salary. These are the same reasons I became an IT contractor in the mid-90's by choice, not by circumstance.
As a consultant, I firmly believe diverse work experience works to your advantage. Before you dismiss that next contract opening, ask yourself whether you are working to earn or working to learn
[UPDATE] This post featured in Blawg Review #5, hosted by the Conglomerate
. Take a look at what else they have included from the best of the blawgosphere! [/UPDATE]