Impoverished lawyers … practising law on a shoestring
While in law school … Erin Gilmer developed a passion for health law and policy, but pursuing that passion has made it exceedingly hard to pay her bills.
Since her 2008 graduation, Gilmer has completed a variety of health policy-related fellowships and other advocacy work, but all have been time-and-funding limited.
Since this fall, she has been on her own, attempting to build a practice, Gilmer Health Law, in the areas of patient advocacy and health care technology.
Good on her!
It’s just stressful, really stressful," she says. "But it gives me a new angle to when I’m helping people. I can understand exactly what they’ve been through. I know how hard it is to apply for food stamps. I know how hard it is to apply for medical assistance."
[A]t times she has her doubts. She can't afford a car, so she has to rely on the bus to get around Austin, Texas, where she lives. And currently unable to pay back her growing pile of law school debt, Gilmer says she wonders if she will ever be able to pay it back.
"That has been really hard for me," she says. "I have absolutely no credit anymore. I haven't been able to pay loans. It's scary, and it's a hard thing to think you’re a lawyer but you’re impoverished. People don’t understand that most lawyers actually aren’t making the big money."
Or any money by the sounds of it. A number of US bloggers I follow have been laid off since I first stumbled across their blogs and they have been forced to turn their (legal) hands to other things. There’s something stomach-wrenchingly sickening about that (David Brent would no doubt have summed it up as “wasted talent”).
Many think (quite rightly) that we’ve had it bad in the UK. Still, it sometimes looks like a patch on what the US have endured since their mighty legal gravy train derailed so spectacularly during the economic slump.
Presumably the legal recruitment situation will come full circle (eventually) but the good times are probably a good way off yet. I’m sensing it’s still not a great time to be contemplating a career in law on the other side of the pond.
I’d like to think that I was brave, passionate and determined enough to pursue a legal career in the face of these massive obstacles that Erin et al have battled with. I’m not totally convinced of it, though.