So, the short story is that I'm not all that happy in private practice. I guess you could say that I'm the opposite of happy.

It's a little hard for me to express exactly what I don't like about it. I guess it's a combination of things. I guess the biggest reason is that I just don't feel like I'm doing the work that I've always wanted to do.

I think about it a lot. Unhappiness in general. I've thought about maybe seeing a therapist of some sort. My doctor wrote me a prescription for an anti-depressant but I haven't filled it. (yet.) For a few reasons. Partially because I don't have prescription coverage. (But that's a lame excuse if you really are depressed.) Partially because I don't think I believe in anti-depressants without therapeutic support, and partially because I don't have the time to see a therapist. Partially because I believe (and I've seen) that medical records are not private as we'd like to think, and I worry about having that kind of mark of my medical records for the rest of my life. Partially because it would involve some sort of admission, even if only to myself.

But, mostly, because I don't want to just feel better. I believe some people are just depressed, even if they have nothing to be depressed over. And, therefore, therapy and medication are necessary. I believe some people are depressed because of things they can't control, such as some tragic incident or circumstance. And, again, therapy and medication are necessary.

But, in this situation, I don't really want to just be happier about where I am. I want to make a change. And I worry that taking an anti-depressant would placate me into staying in this job longer than necessary. And if I could carve out an hour a week to see a therapist, that hour might be better spent looking for a new job. Right now, I think finding a new job would do more for me than any amount of therapy or drugs.

So, the next step is to figure out what my next move will be. First, and perhaps the best option, is to be a public defender. I can apply to be a public defender in the area where I work now. Which would be a huge (really HUGE) pay cut. I could maybe go back to the public defender's office where I worked before. I could maybe take another bar exam and work in another state, but I think that might just slow down the whole process by a few months (the next exam would be July, I would probably get results in the fall?) And I'm starting to feel some urgency to leave.

Outside of being a public defender? I can try an entirely different area of the law. Which, might have the same problem of not-doing-what-I'm-meant-to-do. Although I could possibly stay at the same firm, which would be good financially.

I can try something non-legal. Maybe work for a political party. Maybe teach, although I'm not sure what I would teach.

Maybe I could do something involving less stress. Maybe something artistic. (No, I don't have any creative skills besides maybe writing, if you think I'm any good at this. But I'm convinced I could develop some.) Maybe I could quit my job as a lawyer and be a dog walker. I'd like that when the weather was good at least. It might sound strange, but I also think I'd really like to be a tour guide of some sort. I would love to do something mindless. But not too mindless - I've already turned down a completely random offer from the prosecutor's office.

Overall, I think I might be at square one, faced with the same dilemma I faced at the end of law school: I want to be a public defender, I've just got to figure out how and where. I might just send out a batch of applications and resumes, legal and otherwise, and see what happens. Whatever will be, will be.

But, you already know what the flip side of this is. Every week, I feel like I should hang on for one more paycheck. And maybe one more after that. You know the drill. The money is what makes this worth it. I know I can't make it to another Christmas bonus, although that one I got was nice. I don't even know if I can make it to my one year anniversary, or through the summer, although I know public defender jobs in particular are slow to become a reality.

So, that's where I'm at. I won't depress you with the tragic details of just how unhappy I am. Just suffice it to say, I don't write about my job now because I don't like my job now. And I know I could try to write about things other than my job, but it's just hard to write upbeat posts when you're just not having upbeat thoughts.

Stay tuned.


  1. A common trait of people with chronic depression problems is the idea that all they have to do is change some part of their personal circumstance and everything will be fine.

  2. I'm sorry to hear that you're unhappy at work. Ultimately, no amount of money can offset the stress of being at a job you hate.

    I agree that a anti-depressant without therapy is not going to be productive. Find the time to do the therapy. Pay for the therapy in cash and don't give your real name if you are worried about privacy. If you had physical therapy because you'd broken a bone, you wouldn't skip that. Short term therapy, like maybe six or 8 sessions might make all the difference.

    Best of luck,
    A loyal fan in blogdom.

  3. I'm sorry to hear you're going through this. Don't think you're alone on the job dissatisfaction front. I think a lot of us go through (or are going through) that. Hang in there.

  4. In "Eat, Pray, Love" which I am about halfway through, nice discussion about how hard the author resisted taking anti-depressants. There is no easy answer to that one. Good luck!

    I used to be a private practice lawyer; no point to it once you pay off your student loans, I say.

  5. *Delurking to empathize*

    Oh you are so not alone. After being laid off from my private practice job I to the first job offered to me which happened to be a position with the State. I very quickly realized that not only did I hate my new job but I hated being an attorney. I bought a few books about non-law jobs for lawyers but didn't have the cojones to follow through. I wish you the best of luck in your search. Nearly 3 years later I'm still not happy and longing for the days I worked fast food in high school or maybe a job as a cashier at Target, if only they paid double hourly digits.

  6. Sorry to hear that you're unhappy. Private practice is a different beast. I don't think I could ever do it.

    Maybe you want to figure out where the dissatisfaction stems from: Is it just the new job or the job itself?

    You were happy as a pd, weren't you? Try another state or something, if you can.

    All the best!

  7. I think lawyers, and litigators in particular, are especially prone to dissatisfaction in our jobs. The highs are few and far between, but very high and rewarding. In between, especially in private practice, the lulls can be very depressing. At my last transition, I was so burned out I thought about quitting law practice completely. I looked at in-house jobs, public interest, government, think tanks, and some law firms. Five years later, I'm now a partner at a national law firm, and my sister has been a public defender for a few years now. I wish I could say that we are both happy in what we do, but we're not. We're not necessarily unhappy - or at least not all the time.

    We each look at the various aspects of each other's jobs and think, "That sounds like a lot of fun," and "Wow, I'm glad I don't have to do THAT!"

    I have no answers for you other than saying, you are NOT alone. I don't know if you have friends at work whom you can confide in - but they can help a great deal in finding your path, whether it is staying at the firm or doing something else, or easing into something else.

    I also wanted to point you to a friend's blog - not mine - which is thoughtful and addresses many of the issues endemic in BigLaw practice. Again it is just one person's view, but she seems to be finding a balance most of the time. Plus she's just a rockin' good writer:


    Also, I have been reading your blog for a while now - your sensitivity and humor are most refreshing. If you ever want to email me, feel free. I won't have any answers, but maybe it might help?

    Lefty Lawyer

  8. You are not alone. There are several people in my office, myself included, who left for private practice, only to come back. In my case, I was gone for less than a month. You may need therapy for other reasons, but not because you hate being a private attorney. As Tennyson said, "that which we are, we are." If you're a PD, you're a PD.

    Best wishes.

  9. Hey Blondie, soryy to hear that the money didn't come with job satisfaction. Do you think you would have a better quality of life going back to your old job and taking that pay cut? If so, I say do it!

  10. Before taking anti-depressants, think back to when you were a PD. Did you feel the same way? No doubt some people are depressed and need medication. But maybe others are depressed because they don't like their life. If that's the case, then it seems to make more sense to change the life, rather than conditioning the brain to accept it.

    I'm not sure there's anything we're "supposed" to be doing. To me, the question is, are you enjoying your life more than you could elsewhere? Money is a factor, but job satisfaction is another factor. It's no good being rich if you hate your life, but it's also no good loving your job if you can't pay rent or save for retirement. Find the balance, as they say.

  11. I hear ya. Sounds just like me.

  12. I, too, have been less than thrilled on my own. I think I'm in the wrong field of law, so I'm going to try to change that. Do what it takes to get out of your depression.

  13. If you truly believe that by changing your job you'd be more content, work on changing your job.

    If you can't focus enough on changing your job because of your unhappiness, maybe you should consider brief therapy as a way to explore which direction would make you happiest and motivate you enough to get your resume done and get it out on the street.

    Only if therapy doesn't work on its own would I take an anti-depressant. (And yes, I have indeed taken both anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds.)


    1. A-Ds take time to build up enough to find out if a particular one even works for you.

    2. If a particular drug doesn't work for you, it can be difficult to wean your off of that one before you can try another one.

    3. The side effects can be worse than the depression itself.

    Sometimes just taking some "you" time -- whether it's a vacation or a sabbatical -- and getting your head clear is enough to get your feet on the steady path again.

    If you ever want to chat offline, you know where to find me, okay?

    You're in my prayers.

  14. I completely agree with you about not taking antidepressants without therapy. But, if it's something that you need, then try to schedule the therapy. There are some counseling centers and agencies that work almost exclusively at night and cater to people in professional jobs that can't get away and are afraid of their privacy getting out. You should see if there's one in your area.

    As for whether you're chronically depressed, I recognize that what gary carson is saying is true, but I don't think that's your problem. From your blog, it doesn't appear that you're chronically depressed (although, let's be honest - we all hide stuff while we're blogging, so I can't really gauge this).

    It appears this is actually a job-related issue. You weren't unhappy when you were a PD (again, this is based solely on your blog). You weren't pleased with some of the stupidity of your job, but that happens in every job and isn't an indication of depression. And your current job dissatisfaction doesn't appear, based on this post, to be related to the stupidity inherent in legal jobs (and every other job).

    So, based on this (and my own experience with extreme job dissatisfaction for probably similar reasons), my loyal fan recommendation is this: get out. Get out and find a job you love, even if it means taking a pay cut. I think you should stick with the legal field, though, because I don't think it's all law that you don't like. What about becoming a federal PD? (In all fairness, you might have been a federal PD, but based on your stories, I don't think you are.) This has the following potential benefits: (1) You get the job satisfaction you had when you were doing something you felt made for, (2) it won't feel like you're going back to something but rather that you're moving forward to something, and (3) probably better pay and benefits than if you were at a local/state PD's office (at least I'm pretty sure that's true in my area).

    Hang in there. I know it's tough but I do think you're made to do something legally related. I think you'll be happy again soon - when you get back to the core of what makes you happy in your job.

  15. Yeah, I've had those days. "Oh look, Borders is hiring! I'd love to work in a bookstore.."

    That's when you know you've had enough. And sometimes a vacation just won't help.

  16. The job (or a relationship) can have everything to do with depression. It's worth some soul-searching to find out what really makes you happy, and it's *really* worth the pay cut to work at a job you believe in. I took a 30k/yr pay cut and I've never been happier - even though I have huge student loan payments and I live in 300 square feet above a pizza shop. The big law firm made me miserable. Working for the people makes me happy.
    Also, divorcing my husband made me very happy, too.

  17. Sorry to hear it's not going well... it's a good cautionary tale. Every time a financial crisis looms, I think about the bucks I could make taking that job offer a local firm has made.

    But balanced against the love I have for my work (plus the far saner hours vs. private practice), plus the support of an understanding spouse, so far I've resisted the call of the $$$.

    Go back to what you love doing, even with the crappy pay.

    'Course, you could try prosecution!

  18. Hang in there! BBall season's right around the corner...

  19. Sorry to hear that your depressed. It is particularly common in the legal field, so realize that you are not alone. I have a few thoughts that help me focus on what is important and overall lead me to a happier life. Let me share them with you.

    1) Realize that the money is an addiction. It is little differenent than any other drug. It can make you do stupid things such as giving up you happiness to feed the addiction.

    2) Ideally you want to wake up looking forward to another day. I find the best way to do this is to find something to be exicted about. If you have something to look forward to it is much harder to be unhappy.

    3) Desire is the root of unhappiness. If you can get rid of the desire, you can get rid of the unhappiness.

    Best of Luck

  20. Hmm, I'd say you should look into maybe clerking for a federal judge. It is better pay than a PD and you can still have the impact you are lookin to have. (Trust me, there are plenty of people who could use your perceptions of justice from the standpoint of the bench.) Otherwise, I'd suggest checking out the federal PDs office. More pay there as well, and your writing skills will go further.

    Good luck and screw the meds, we're all, (those of us hat care), a bit depressed or we wouldn't be trying to change things.

  21. Sorry you are unhappy at your job. I firmly believe your job has a huge impact on your general happiness. If you have been a trial lawyer, you could try to teach evidence or trial advocacy?

    Why not try the federal public defenders office, they usually pay more than state public defenders.

  22. Hey, I'm a baby lawyer (graduated in May, bar results this Nov), so admittedly I don't know much, but I totally felt the way you're describing at my first job out of school. I started in August and after 6 months I started feeling around to see if it would be possible to leave, and somehow ran into an amazing solo family law attorney with too much work, took a pay cut, and my life has been totally different for the last month.

    I too was considering teaching, and had actually started a teacher certification program when I took this new job.

    In the end, I think I would have been happy teaching, but I'm glad I made the transition and gave law a further shot. You've been a lawyer longer than me, so that's probably not as much of an issue for you but I can say that there was a while this fall and winter that I was severely depressed and anxious, and considering meds, and a job change did, in fact, make a huge difference for me. I don't think the people who say to take the meds and don't think you can feel any better no matter what you do are necessarily right, at least not for everyone. There are those people who are unhappy at any job because they're really unhappy inside, but just on the surface (I've followed you for awhile and am delurking here) that doesn't seem like where you're at. Sometimes it really IS the job. My 2 cents.

    Many good vibes your direction!

  23. Sounds like you need to branch out of the law tree and experience a new pond...even for a short while it should help give you some clarity to make a good decision ...and if people around you don't get it, tell them you are having a blonde moment and get over it!

  24. Depending on where you practice law now, and how many years you've been practicing (and I'm guessing the answer is at least 3 years) you can probably apply to be admitted to practice in another state without sitting for the Bar. For example, if you were practicing in Ohio for at least three years, you can apply to be admitted to the Michigan Bar without actually sittion for the Michigan Bar exam...(I'm not suggesting you would want to practice in either Ohio or Michigan, just saying as a 'for instance'.)

    I would not take an anti-depressant without trying talk therapy first...


  25. I am so sorry to hear that you are unhappy. However, I can tell you that we, as public defenders, would be happy to have you back on the team. If you are worried about a pay cut, try Alaska. I work in the Public Defender’s Office in Alaska, and love it. I spent twelve years in the lower forty-eight. Mostly working at firms, but also on my own. I did contract work with the PD in my private practice. The PD work was the only work I loved. When I decided to go into full time PD work, I found out that they pay much more in Alaska. Plus good benefits and 24 vacation days a year. Depending on how many years of experience, you can probably get 75k. Plus, no state income taxes and, in most of Alaska, no sales tax. It is worth looking into. A whole new life, plus back into PD work! Alaska is beautiful and is so different from the lower forty-eight. The only think we don’t have here, that you might miss, are big cities. Anchorage, our largest city, is only around 300,000. And, it is not as cold, or snowy, as you would think. Give it a thought, and do what makes you happy.

  26. Blonde,

    You're going to think I'm crazy - or kidding, but I'm not. Here's a tip:

    Judge Advocate General's Corps

    I'm not in even the smallest way kidding. The Coast Guard has a fantastic program - as does the Navy.


    1. Interesting people,
    2. Live in cool places,
    3. Public Service,
    4. Courtroom work is almost all criminal work,
    5. Even if you hate your particular assignment, or a person you work with, that will change in the near future - when you get your new assignment.
    6. Great healthcare and retirement benefits.
    7. Pay is more than you would think.
    8. Seriously, the people are great - I mentioned that before but it's worth mentioning again.
    9. Travel
    10. Your job expects you to socialize, continue your education, stay in good shape, and gives you a ton of autonomy.

    Seriously, humor me and look into it.