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The 5 Scariest Things About Practicing Law

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 29, 2015 3:59 PM

Sure, fire fighters have to rush into burning buildings. Doctors occasionally, accidentally, kill their patients. High school students in Sunnydale must spend their nights fighting off the undead. Those are scary jobs.

But lawyering? That's scary, too. There's plenty to be afraid of when you practice, whether it's your murdering clients, your deadly billable hour requirements, or the nightmare of an ill-timed CLE audit.

1. The Debt

If your name isn't J.D. Rockefeller, Esquire, you probably came out of school with some debt. Some? Lots. A crushing, virtually insurmountable debt that promises to haunt you for years, if not decades. It's not uncommon for law school grads to emerge from three years of grad school six figures in debt -- and it makes no difference if you went to Harvard Law or a school just shy of being disaccredited.

The few grads who make it in to high paying BigLaw jobs and emerge years later, debt-free but with their souls absolutely crushed. The rest of us dole over huge sums every month for life, praying that some miracle will put Saint Bernie in office and wipe the slate clean.

2. The Clients

Sure, clients vary. Some are rapists and murderers (always innocent, however), some are corporate sociopaths, some are perfectly delightful people who for some reason can't ever seem to pay their bills on time. For all your great clients, there will always be one or two who keep you up at night: the difficult client, who is impossible to please; the deluded client, who'll never take your advice; the liar, who thinks there's no need for you to know the actual facts of the case; or the cheapskate, who refuses to pay then screams malpractice when you come after him. Those guys are scarier than any ghouls or goblins.

3. The Billable Hours

The terror of billable hour requirements needs no explanation. These terrors have driven more than one lawyer to the bottle, to divorce, or to early retirement. Just make sure they don't actually kill you.

4. The Disbarment

If practice isn't scary enough, the state bar association is always there ready to bring the ax down over your head. Accidentally mingle some client funds? Say goodbye to your practice. Get caught with meth just once? Better find a new metier. Fall in love with your client? You'll have to fall out of law, then.

It's enough to make you pessimistic.

5. The Zombies

Actually, these aren't scary at all. For all the nightmares that practicing might give you, at least you're the one all your friends will turn to when they need some advice on Zombie Law.

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