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Too Much Complaining: A Good or Bad Thing?

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I’ve been thinking alot about my colleague  Jon Stein’s recent post complaining that there are too many bloggers complaining about the practice of law and urging them to focus more on the positives.   Like Jon, I don’t have much tolerance for complainers (as exemplified by this earlier post).  But at the same time, complaining is a necessary part of bringing about change in the profession.

I’m not sure how long Jon has been practicing as an attorney, but I graduated from law school in 1988.  Back then, I’d say that 90 percent of my classmates assumed that they’d go on to work at a challenging, intellectually stimulating biglaw job, make partner in seven years and be set for life.  Back then, no one ever really complained about the drawbacks of large firm practice, the drudgery for young associates, the sacrifices you make for your family, the lack of experience and training that you actually receive at a large firm, and the seeming randomness, and sometimes even inequities of partnership decisions.   Blogging is changing all of that.  Blogging, even that of a whiny, complaining nature, exposes the dark underside of biglaw practice that so many lawyers were ashamed to talk about.  And more positively, blogs show that there are other career paths, options other than biglaw practice.

If it weren’t for the dissatisfaction and complaints of large firm lawyers, blogs like mine and Jon’s wouldn’t even be here.  One reason for our success is the unhappiness in the profession and the desire, the yearning in many biglaw attorneys to really practice law rather than shuffle papers and research loopholes.   I’m willing to put up with the complaints, now anyway, because this is just the beginning.  Someday, all of this complaining will lead to changes, changes that we’re already starting to see.

  • Carolyn –
    I think you and I are close. I don’t have a problem with negativity to effect change. In other words, someone saying “I, a new attorney, am ripping off my clients by billing $250 an hour when I don’t know jack” is fine. They are trying to point out the negative in order to effect change.
    However, I see a lot more of this whining aspect of it. In other words “The law firm model does not work” or “I am not happy at a big firm” or any one of a number of other negative comments. That is whining – negativity for the sake of being negative. I don’t care for that. If these people want to bring about change, that is fine. But, they need to redirect their approach.
    Finally, negativity that is anonymous is just negativity. There is nothing to be gained from someone saying “I think this needs to be changed but I won’t tell you who I am.” BigLaw Associate, Greedy Trial Lawyer, Opinionista all fall into this category. If you think something is wrong and you want to change it, have the guts to say it and put your name on it. Otherwise, keep quiet.
    Jonathan

  • Carolyn –
    I think you and I are close. I don’t have a problem with negativity to effect change. In other words, someone saying “I, a new attorney, am ripping off my clients by billing $250 an hour when I don’t know jack” is fine. They are trying to point out the negative in order to effect change.
    However, I see a lot more of this whining aspect of it. In other words “The law firm model does not work” or “I am not happy at a big firm” or any one of a number of other negative comments. That is whining – negativity for the sake of being negative. I don’t care for that. If these people want to bring about change, that is fine. But, they need to redirect their approach.
    Finally, negativity that is anonymous is just negativity. There is nothing to be gained from someone saying “I think this needs to be changed but I won’t tell you who I am.” BigLaw Associate, Greedy Trial Lawyer, Opinionista all fall into this category. If you think something is wrong and you want to change it, have the guts to say it and put your name on it. Otherwise, keep quiet.
    Jonathan

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