Cosseted Kids, Generation Debt, Miserable Lawyers, and So Much More

Hylô! Bore da! Cymru am byth! (I'm showing off my limited Welsh.)

My vacation is supposed to be over today, and I'm supposed to be flying back to Boston as I write this. United has completely bungled its flights out of Heathrow, so while it turns out I'm not flying today after all, I'm officially getting back in the blogging saddle.

Two things I learned from my holiday:

  1. I'm the only person who comes back from remote Wales with a sunburn and
  2. even in remote Wales, it's impossible to escape societal hand-wringing over Gen Y or the abject misery of highly paid lawyers.

Who knew?

From the Daily Mail ("Mothers are Raising a Generation of Wimps"):

Enjoying a glass of early evening wine at a friend's house the other day, we were rudely interrupted by the wailing tones of her 12-year-old son. His plaintive yelp of hunger was swiftly attended to by his mother, who instructed him to "raid the fruit bowl".

He would, he said, but could she "peel an apple" for him. Embarrassed by my hearing this, she attempted to ignore him. He continued, repeating Dalek-fashion: "Mum, I'm hungry, Mum I'm hungry."

Finally, exasperated, she crashed her glass down on the table, stomped through to the kitchen, bashed a couple of doors about and returned with a face as a red as a tomato.

"Why couldn't he do that for himself?" I asked her.

"He doesn't know how to," was her snappy reply.

My friend's son is a wimp. Not in the traditional sense. He is not physically scrawny or the target of bullies (he plays junior rugby for our Gloucestershire town, and is popular with his peers) but he lacks backbone, gumption....

So who is responsible for this unenviable state of affairs? For more than 30 years, and heightened in intensity over the past decade, the women of Britain - as primary carers either with a husband or partner, or as a single parent - have systematically mollycoddled their sons to within an inch of their lives.

And not one but two headlines from today's London Times:

  • "Children to Get Lessons in Money — and Debt," about a new mandatory curriculum "to help youngsters to prepare for financial pressures after leaving school" and
  • "Never Letting Go," subtitled "Are we in danger of producing a generation of tethered teens who are so cosseted and indulged that they will never be able to withstand life's hard knocks?"

While we're on the subject of helicopter parents: I read an interesting article in a German newspaper last week. It quoted a high school geography teacher complaining about parents who threaten to sue if she gives their kids a C, and she talked about how she has to document all of the kids' failings in the classroom, CYA style, in case she gets hauled into court. What strikes me as so interesting about her experience is that teachers are obviously still able to distinguish between good and bad achievement, but parents do so much bullying and buffering that their kids never hear anything but praise. What horrible Hilton-Lohan-style parenting, and what a disaster for their kids.

Also in the news over here? How much big-firm lawyers hate their jobs even as they make gobs of money. From an article in the London Times ("One in Four Lawyers Wants to Change Jobs"):

Almost a quarter of lawyers want to leave the profession because of stress and long hours, according to a survey published this week.

The poll of 2,500 lawyers also indicates that assistant solicitors — those who are not partners — are even more unhappy, with more than a third wanting to give up their jobs.

The YouGov survey for The Lawyer magazine confirms that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the work-life balance in law, despite record levels of pay.

It coincides with an inquiry by the Law Society of England and Wales into the long hours and lack of career prospects for lawyers with families.

The survey also shows that 20 per cent of managing partners — those in charge of the the firm — wish they were in another job. But few lawyers feel able to leave their jobs, chiefly because of the pay cut.

Almost a quarter of lawyers want to leave the profession because of stress and long hours, according to a new survey published this week.

The poll of over 2,500 lawyers also indicates that assistant solicitors - those who are not partners - are even more unhappy, with more than a third wanting to give up their jobs.

Where are the headlines about investment bankers hating their jobs despite the gobs of money they earn? No such headlines. Law firms are deluding themselves if they think their lawyers are miserable just because of "stress and long hours."

Getting at the crux of the problem is a follow-on story in the Times called "Why Are Lawyers Miserable: Want a List?"

The juxtaposition of two stories in The Times last week — one reporting that top-flight City lawyers were charging as much as £1,000 an hour for their expertise, another that a quarter of lawyers wanted to leave their profession — raised a pertinent question: just why are those in the legal business so miserable?

. . .

You see, as with everything else, America has been doing lawyer dissatisfaction bigger and better than us for decades. Polls have at various times established that not just a quarter, but up to 40 per cent of US lawyers want to leave their profession; and whereas British lawyers are only just waking up to the fact they are miserable and want to die, their American counterparts have been alert to it since 1989, which saw the publication of Deborah Arron's Running From the Law: Why Good Lawyers are Getting Out of the Legal Profession.

What follows in the article is a great -- make that a really, really great, dead-on, must-read --  list of reasons why highly-paid lawyers are so unhappy. Item 3 in particular caught my eye:

3. the yawning gap between the ideals of those entering the profession and the reality. Some go into law because they dream of fighting injustice, but discover on entering that most of what lawyers do benefits big business.

Others enter the profession because they are seduced by the apparent glamour of the trade, as portrayed in Ally McBeal and LA Law, only to find that the work is about as glamorous as getting a verruca (cf point 2). Then there are those graduates — as much as 47 per cent of the profession, according to a recent survey — who drift into the job because they don't know what else to do, assuming vaguely that it might be fun, and find on entering that it is about as amusing as breaking a limb in a traffic accident (cf point 1). Repeatedly. For 90 hours a week.

Lots to chew on, and I hope I've made up for lost time. Happy reading!