Humble Beginnings

They say there are too many of us. As of June 1, 2012, there were 93,895 lawyers licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. In Florida alone, there are 11 ABA approved law schools. The result of this is an alarming number of prospective lawyers who sit for the Florida Bar each year.  When I sat for the Florida Bar, I sat with 3,034 other would-be Florida lawyers. And of those 3,034, potential lawyers, 2,433, or 80.2% actually passed and became lawyers. Thankfully, I was one of those. On April 18, 2013 I became a lawyer and associate at Aronfeld Trial Lawyers.

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Overall, in 2012, 3,905 prospective lawyers took that leap of faith that is sitting for the Florida Bar Exam. One can’t help but wander, are there 3,905 legal jobs available? One would hope so, considering obtaining your JD requires taking out loans equivalent to a mortgage. Yes, that’s right, becoming a lawyer cost as much, if not more, than buying a house. However, a 2011 New York Times study found the following. In 2010, there were only 2,027 legal openings. That same study quoted that in 2009, there were 2,782  Bar Exam Passers. That’s a surplus of 755 lawyers.

Its commons sense; a surplus of labor makes that same labor less valuable. Unfortunately, this is not an example of strength in numbers. The more of us there are, the less powerful we become. The less demands we can make. An employer can offer a new lawyer a ridiculously low salary as a first year associate because there are 754 other hungry new lawyers standing in line waiting for that same job. And as many of us will attest, this is exactly what has happened.

The point of these blinding statistics is to set the stage for what’s to come. I am one one of the lucky ones because I have a job. I avoided the bread lines of 754 new lawyers waiting for the opportunity to practice law. In retrospect, however, luck played but a minor part in avoiding those lines. Instead, it has been a journey filled with sacrifice and hard lessons learned. Astonishingly, this is only the beginning.

The profession I’ve entered is NOT the profession portrayed on television and airport bookshelf novels. The portrait of a lawyer as a young man is not a Mona Lisa or even a Michelangelo. No, it’s a doodle on a coffee stained napkin sitting in the corner of a Starbucks on 12th Street and Washington Avenue. There is no glamorous, penthouse lifestyle where champagne flows like water over the back of a brand new Porsche 911. The only victories are the quiet celebrations in the moments to come when we realize, “Yes, we made it through another day.” Another day closer to the dream which comforts us when we find some peace in starving hours of slumber and waits for us with open arms when the sun lights the promise of a new day.

It’s a life of hard work and setbacks; a life of quiet reverie. It’s a life of eager anticipation. It’s the life we have chosen.

They say there are too many of us. And I say they are probably right. However, the lawyer in me accepts this truth knowing that its acceptance is only temporary until we have the chance to prove them wrong. Pablo Picasso’s doodle on a napkin is not just a doodle on a napkin – it’s a Picasso. And Earnest Hemingway’s obscure note in a weathered journal is not just a note – it’s a Hemingway. The road ahead is long and hard. But there is a destination – a fabled promised land. I believe that one day we can and we will be great again. When that day comes, we will look back on this and remember the blood, sweat, and the innumerable tears it took to get here. On that day, we will smile at the remembrance that this, this was our story.

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11 thoughts on “Humble Beginnings

  1. Dom, well written account of your journey. I believe that as an attorney, you will blaze a trail for a new breed; a breed of men and women that practice law where integrity is a foundation for success. Many have told me that it is impossible to run a business without some level of dishonesty mixed in the foundation. I found that this was not the case. I found that honesty in business allows honest relationships to develop and through those honest relationships business thrives.

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  3. Dom, The crisis could have been predicted. Demand for legal services boomed in the 1990s and 2000s. College graduates, drawn by skyrocketing pay & government-guaranteed loans, flocked to law school. Law schools hiked tuition & the higher prices people were willing to pay for legal education encouraged law schools to enlarge classes and open additional law schools. Not surprisingly, supply overtook demand. Also, the development of technology which substitutes for some legal work, including online services that enable people to fill out legal forms. The excess supply of lawyers is reducing the price of legal services!! This crisis is just part of the normal cycle of the economy. We can fault the Government, the Law Schools, loan forgiveness etc….One realistic way to help lawyers today is to increase the demand for legal services, the government for example to pay for adequate representation of indigent defendants. I bet that will be a long and never ending battle.

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