Friday, May 17, 2013

Judge Schiltz on Lawyers

I randomly stumbled across a very interesting and readable old (1999) article written by Judge Patrick Shiltz entitled, "On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession."

It's long, and somewhat outdated in its particulars, but it holds up rather well. It touches on some themes I've discussed here, but Judge Schiltz has perhaps a better explanation than I do for the apparently irrational profit-maximizing behavior of lawyers:
Why do you suppose sixty year old lawyers with millions of dollars in the bank still bill 2200 hours per year? Why do you suppose lawyers whose children have everything money can buy but who need the time and attention of their parents continue to spend most nights and weekends at the office--while continuing to write out checks to the best child psychologists in town? Why do you suppose one big firm partner I know flew into a rage after learning that his year-end bonus would be only--only--$ 400,000, while the bonus of one of his rivals in the firm would be $ 425,000? Why do you suppose that another lawyer I know (a lawyer making $ 1 million a year) came within a whisker of quitting his firm after losing a bitter dispute with one of his partners (a lawyer making over $ 2 million a year) over a $ 10,000 payment?
It is not because these lawyers need the money. Any of these lawyers could lose every penny of his savings and see his annual income reduced by two-thirds and still live much more comfortably than the vast majority of Americans. What's driving these lawyers is the desire to win the game. These lawyers have spent their entire lives competing against others and measuring their worth by how well they do in the competitions. And now that they are working in a law firm, money is the way they keep score. Money is what tells them if they're more successful than the lawyer in the next office--or in the next office building--or in the next town. If a lawyer's life is dominated by the game--and if his success in the game is measured by money--then his life is dominated by money. For many, many lawyers, it's that simple.
The whole thing is worth a read.

--Bart Torvik


  1. I originally read the title of this entry as "Judge Schitz on Lawyers," which seemed perfectly natural.


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