Thu 14 Jul, 2005 02:52 pm
With all of the negative perceptions about lawyers, why does one want to become a lawyer? This is a question I keep asking myself, but it is also one that I think you could help me answer. I saw a book in the library about how ethics work in the situation, but I haven't picked it up yet.
So, why are you a lawyer?
I'm not the best person to answer this as I am retired from practising. And, I didn't leave practising under the happiest of circumstances -- I just wanted out. I now work in IT and am a lot happier.
But I can say that what I enjoyed when I was practising are (a) the intellectualism of it. I've adjusted insurance claims, taught paralegals and done QA (plus other stuff), in addition to the engineering/research role I have now, and it hasn't been until now that I've had a truly intellectual job again, one that requires a lot of complex decision-making and deep thinking. And I like that, it's more fun (I think) than just doing things by rote.
And (b) the chance to do some sleuthing. See, I worked doing insurance defense. So, I spent a lot of time trying to determine if a claim was legitimate, if an injury was as bad as claimed, etc. And a lot of people are legitimately hurt and I feel badly for them and recommend a settlement if it is warranted, but there are also a lot of people who fake it, or it's the case that our insured really hadn't done anything wrong or whatever. There's a great deal of satisfaction in that, in rooting it out, I've found. It's everything from the extensive investigation into dumpsters to determine that our insured's (a manufacturer) product did not crush the plaintiff's hand (because we had an embossed symbol on our product, and the plaintiff had been injured by a dumpster with a competitor's embossed seal), to a woman claiming she could not walk without a cane swinging it around when she thought I wasn't looking, and seeing her stroll around the ladies' room, again when she thought I wasn't observing her, etc. Those findings felt good.
But there aren't a lot of them, partly because a lot of people are honest and are legitimately hurt, partly because some who commit fraud are very clever and good at concealing their actions, and partly because a lot of lawyering can be dog work. What do I mean by dog work? It's a lot of answering mail, and making sure your schedule isn't overwhelming, and form letters to court, etc. Yes, there's the intellectual part of it -- motions, depositions, preparing for trial, research -- but also a lot of appearing in court to say three words after a six-hour wait.
You seemed to enjoy your job, so what stress drove you out of it? While trying to think of what to write in my personal sketch for application, I can come up with nothing other than, "I am a competitor, and I love the challenge," as the reason I want to go to law school. Something tells me that this isn't enough or a good enough reason to go to law school.
Well, there was a lot of sameness. And -- and this probably wouldn't apply to you -- a very young woman (I was barely 24 when I passed the Bar) practicing litigation law in New York City in the 80s meant pretty poor working conditions, which tended to mean older (mainly male) attorneys screaming at me, mistaking me for the court reporter and generally just giving me a hard time. I saw the aftermath of what was probably a mugging only a few blocks from the Queens Courthouse (blood on the sidewalk, two guys chasing each other) and watched the chain gang walk by one too many times. For me, it was really wearing. It's been over 15 years since I did any of that, but I can feel the same emotions as I did then.
While I am young (25), I am maried with one child and another on the way.