I never really dreamt of being a lawyer. I’ve told this story a million times, but I landed up being in law because of a poor choice on my degree application form. I got into architecture at 2 universities, and at the last minute decided that I would slowly go nuts if I had to draw buildings everyday of my life (- instead I land up drafting the leases for those buildings every day instead). My second choice on the application was Bachelor of Arts. And you cant do much with a BA, so I did LLB…and you can do much with an LLB without articles. And so on….
So here I sit today, well entrenched in the legal system, enjoying the fruits of my indecision and laziness of 10 years ago. So let me tell you 10 things that (really) suck about being a lawyer (from pretty bad to worst):
Stress: Its not the kind of stress of meeting a deadline. Or the fact that your boss may have lost his brain at birth. It’s the fact that all your work is (1) urgent and (2) of vital importance. If you screw up the world will certainly end. And that’s just the contract for the coffee machine outside.
Not really fun: No matter how much you might believe its like “The Practice” or (even more bizarrely) Ally McBeal, the legal world is nothing like that portrayed in Hollywood. Most litigating lawyers spend their days writing letters to their opponents threatening them with some well thought out sarcasm, or if they are lucky, paginating the judge’s papers. The sad reality is that most lawyers you will meet will tell you how they would rather be irrigating crops in the Sudan, or doing ballet somewhere, than practicing law.
Most politicians are lawyers: enough said.
“Non lawyer” interaction: Lawyers don’t walk around all day talking formally to each other. The ultimate buffoonery is when some non-lawyer decides to talk to me ‘formally’. I speak English you fool! Instead I get e-mails saying things like “See you at your earliest convenience” and “Please peruse the contents of the joke attached hereto”. It’s like writing in COBOL to an engineer and asking him to join you for lunch.
Paper: Closely related to 7 above (you see, I cant even write this without referencing it like a lawyer), is the fact that there is paper everywhere. In this day and age of the paperless environment, lawyers still manage to bury themselves under mountains of paperwork. The reason – just in case you need to litigate one day, you need to ensure that you have copies of EVERYTHING. Whether its relevant or not, a lawyer must keep everything. I’m sure I even have some “Post Its” with invaluable tidbits stuck away somewhere (in a safe).
People believe you want to talk about the law all day: Im sure this applies to all professions, but I really couldn’t care less about the latest trial on the abuse of baboons in Malaysia, or that the lawyer in your divorce case was really nasty and brought up that thing where you got arrested for being naked in a shopping centre.
Aggression: Im not sure if this is a love or hate item, but most of the day as a lawyer you get to either (1) take abuse from an opponent or (2) have to dish out some abuse at a collegue or an opponent. My wife especially loves this quality in me when I start cross questioning her over what she says to me – particularly when I tell her her comments are “overruled” and “sustained”.
Speeding ticket advice: After spending 5 years at university, doing 2 years of articles and then another 2 years of doing your Masters, the best thing is that people still approach you for advice about their speeding tickets. The fact is that they don’t even bother to teach you about that stuff at university, yet every Joe you meet believes you have an innate desire to learn about the legalities of their speeding ticket. All you need to really know is that the traffic prosecutors are fond of girls in short dresses – there is no “law” involved.
Reading lots of documentation: Lets not kid – this takes up 90% of my day. I get to read page after page of boring legal wording. A pet hate of mine is negotiating with clients who haven’t figured out how to use the reviewing tools in Word, and who make changes to the 500 page document without telling you where the changes are. I swear this stuff is worse than ancient Japanese water torture – there’s nothing more torturous than having to negotiate a warranties clause with another lawyer, and having to discuss the Roman law exceptions to the common law.
Whenever you enter a meeting you WILL be greeted with some stupid lawyer joke: This occurs without delay at just about every meeting I have with clients, and its usually that really crappy one about 1000 lawyers at the bottom of the see being a good start. I have started taking a drum into meetings so Im prepared for the drum roll.