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This is the time of year when the things that go bump in the night come out to play. In honor of all that’s spooky, here are some of the most terrifying issues that the legal industry’s facing today, including burnout, data security and … being female.
1. Burnout. On top of an already tough legal market, when you add shrinking support staffs, the recent record-setting legal sector jobs loss, and studies that say you’re either a psychopath or as trustworthy as a prostitute, it’s no wonder attorney burnout is an increasing problem. According to a CNN story, lawyers rank fourth in the number of suicide deaths by profession and “are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.” At least in the United States. As the Byrne Blog points out, while 1 in 3 Americans work the weekend, only 1 in 5 Europeans do. And a recent Global Legal Post story states that U.K. attorneys work an average of 45 hours a week, which (based on Gallup data) is two hours less than the average U.S. worker.
2. Big brother. Ever feel like you’re being watched? Well, if you have a smartphone and you’ve enabled the location-sharing services, you kinda are — and so is everyone else who’s enabled these services and uses Google, which tracks your location and stores it for 30 days. While some may find it creepy, it’s potential evidence, too. Just be sure to actively manage your preferences.
3. Hack attacks! Some myths abound about data security, such as small businesses (including law firms) thinking they’re too small to get hacked. But what’s the biggest threat to your network? An employee (or you) accidentally downloading a virus. In fact, according to a Lawyers Mutual post, of the top five areas of law firm vulnerability, only one (an outside hacker) involves an unknown agent. “All the others involve known — and therefore controllable — agents,” the article states. Other data security issues haunting law firms are questions about whether Gmail violates attorney-client privilege and phone line security.
4. Being female. Overt gender bias may be a thing of the past — let’s hope! — but young women attorneys report that “they are still seeing hints of the ‘old boys’ club,’” according to a Law360 article. While some have found that being in the minority has helped them stand out from the crowd, others only became aware of the gender bias issue when they began a family. Despite gains on maternity leave and flex time, women still make less than men in the legal field — 28.5 percent less — and account for only 17 percent of equity partnerships. Then, of course, there’s the maddening reality of having to “manage perceptions” when networking with men and the issue of never dressing too “sexy,” which just might cause another judicial meltdown.
5. The road ahead. It can be a little scary to ponder how much the technology and outward appearance of the legal field is changing. Take, for instance, the fact that when two law firms recently moved, one of them dumped 95 percent of its law library and the other got rid of its landlines. Dumping outdated resources is nothing new, but with virtual law firms predicted to become more common, you gotta wonder what the profession will look like in the years to come. One thing we know for sure, with fewer law grads becoming lawyers, it’ll look a lot older — and that might just be the most frightening thing of all.
Kandy Hopkins is a Contributing Editor at Attorney at Work. A Chicago-based freelance writer and copy editor, she specializes in legal and health care topics. Whenever she’s asked, “So, what do you do?” she always replies, “Whatever I think I can get away with.” Most people think she’s joking.
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