The legal profession has gotten a bad rap. Media depicts lawyers as smart, fast talking, and highly attractive or as workaholics who care for nothing other than the ticking clock of our next billable hour. As we all know, the movies ain’t real life, lawyers have a hard job with rigorous demands, and although difficult the profession has it’s rewards. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, this post looks at seven reasons why you should love being a lawyer:
1. People Are Scared of You
True story: I wanted to rent an apartment in Israel. The landlord sent me the contract, which I reviewed and then sent to a lawyer friend to review as well. We both agreed that certain minor changes were needed, and I emailed them to the landlord. He responded saying that no changes could be made – the deal was as is. This amazed me as I could tell this contract came straight from a form book; why did he insist on no changes? I wrote back that my changes were minor, and that I am lawyer who has negotiated contracts like this before. He responded that he didn’t want trouble and preferred not to rent to me (I later found out from a friend who knew the landlord that he was scared of doing a deal with a lawyer who would check everything). Had he taken the chance to look past my lawyerness, the landlord would have seen I am a person like any other with plenty of interests outside of dragging him to court. To see what other lawyers like to do with their time outside the law, check out this archived event.
2. Fun Initials After Your Name
The term “Esquire” (abbreviated Esq.) comes from British origin, adapted from the Latin word scutarius meaning shield bearer and derived from the Old French word of the same meaning “esquier”. As a cognate it comes from the word “squire” which originally meant an apprentice or assistant of a knight. In the U.S. today, the term has been adopted by the legal profession to denote a lawyer, and in some states the use of the title “esquire” is prohibited for non-lawyers and will be considered one factor in a charge of unauthorized practice of law. For those of us who join a state bar it means getting to put Esq. after your name on your business card and email signatures.
3. Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
The potential for CLE classes to be an engaging, stimulating, and eye opening experience is usually lost in the reality of bad presentations by lawyers teaching these courses. While I have been to a few CLE courses of note, many times I have found that fellow lawyers are also using it as a time to check email, catch up on monotonous office work, and get some well deserved shut eye. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you are ever going to present in a CLE or elsewhere, and are thinking about using Power Point, take this post to heart: Stop Boring Us With Your Power Point: Six Tips for Lawyers.
4. Crushing Debt to Stimulate Maximum Earning Potential
Yes there is a high barrier to entry in the legal profession. You’ve got to make it into law school, (a chore sometimes in itself), get through three long years of training to “think like a lawyer” (never mind you will have no idea how to really practice law), and then pass a 2-day exam on everything you learned over those three years; then you’ve got to get a job and the real work begins. Don’t forget that just getting to this point has likely put you in six-figure debt (unless you are really smart and earned a scholarship in which case we all hate you). Look on the bright side: as you slug out 80 to 100 hour work weeks, at the beck and call of your firm, and living an existence similar to indentured servitude to pay off your student loans, you are a motivated little monster trying to get to the point where all of this becomes profitable and you can then torture the crop of unfortunate little souls who come after you.
Imagine living your life in seven minute increments. From all my conversations with lawyers over the years, that is the smallest increment under the billable hour: six minutes. No wonder so many people are calling for it’s demise (the billable hour, not the lawyer). For those of us getting paid under the billable hour, however, it must be gratifying to know that you can be paid a decent wage for less work than an eight minute ab workout. For another opinion on this matter, check out Rory Webber’s post and video The law firm billable hour is dead. Long live ‘commodity-linked’ fees?
6. Everyone Asks Your Advice
You will be the most popular person at family gatherings, holiday parties, and local hangouts as people seek your sagely wisdom. It seems like everyone wants you to analyze their potential million dollar law suit or tell them what to do about shutting up the neighbor’s annoying dog via city ordinance. Once you become a lawyer and the world knows it be ready to answer all requests for legal advice with one of the following disclaimers:
- “This is not legal advice. My answering your question does not make a lawyer/client relationship. I suggest you consult with an attorney you plan to hire before making any decisions. If you would like that to be me, here’s my card, and let’s make an appointment to meet in my office.”
- “I really don’t practice in the area of [insert practice area] law … I’m a [insert practice area] attorney
- “No comment.”
Of course there is a serious ethical component to all of this. I recorded a podcast on The Legal Ethics of Cocktail Party Chatter, which you can listen to for free on martindale.com Connected. Click here to listen to the podcast.
7. Bow Ties
The practice of law is the only profession where the wearing of a bow tie is socially acceptable. You will find some of the most successful people in law proudly rocking the bow tie, a fashion usually reserved for men with tuxes. I’m not sure if it is the rigors of what it took to become a lawyer, some time honored tradition, or just a boldness in the profession, but if you like the propeller look for your neck become a lawyer.