Law Practice

Alec Scott, Esq: 'Why I Escaped the Law'

It isn’t just many American lawyers who feel overworked and dispirited.

Their Canadian counterparts increasingly feel the same way, according to an article in next month’s issue of Toronto Life magazine. Author Alec Scott, a lawyer who is now a journalist, says that getting fired from a big Toronto firm after several years because of lackluster performance was the best thing that ever happened to him.

He recites a litany of complaints, backed by personal anecdotes from attorneys still in practice, that will sound familiar—very familiar—to a number of American attorneys. They include: long hours at the office, followed by more work at home, mind-numbing assignments, no time to spend with family and friends—and the tyranny of the billable hour. (For more on the billable hours issue, see an earlier post on this month’s ABA Journal cover story, “The Billable Hour Must Die.”)

All of this represents a sea change from the time when his own father, at a similar age, was in practice, according to Scott.

Because of their unhappiness with big-firm practice, many Canadian attorneys—particularly women—are looking for an alternative, Scott writes. One attorney, to whom he refers as “the natural” because of her top-notch skills and credentials, took a $150,000 pay cut (in Canadian dollars) to work at a public agency and has never regretted her decision. Before she jumped off the big-firm partnership track, “I worked with hundreds of lawyers for five years,” she tells him, “and I made exactly three friends.”

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