Why Are You a Lawyer?
I decided to go to law school while I was still a teenager. I made the decision after the first time I played the role of a lawyer in a high school mock trial competition. I was sixteen years old and I never looked back. But when I spoke to established attorneys about becoming a lawyer, I was often met with pessimism and self—loathing. It was not an encouraging message. Now I’m about two years into my legal career, and I would still recommend the law to anyone who has a true passion for it. I have this attitude because I went into the profession with a strong desire to practice law and help others. I know why I became a lawyer. So did the LAB members and colleagues I surveyed. Do you?
Learn from Those We Love
John Rothstein, an attorney in Canton, Massachusetts, gave my favorite answer. My grandfather, although he is not a lawyer, is a huge inspiration to me, and it’s nice to see that someone else feels the same way. Rothstein explains that he wanted to love his career as much as his grandfather did:
When I was seven years old, I found myself in jail. No, I had not committed a crime. I was tagging along with my Grandfather who was a criminal defense lawyer (and occasional babysitter) on a late night visit to the Charles Street Jail in Boston. I was lucky enough to have spent a lot of time during summers and school vacations with him, watching him represent clients, interact with law enforcement and court staff, chat with judges, and get up and try cases. I was taken with the profession. Even more important though, he loved what he did and practiced up until the day he died. I decided that I wanted to love what I do as much as he did, so I decided to do what he did. I became a lawyer. Not a criminal defense lawyer, but a civil litigator and business lawyer. And after 18 years practicing law, I can still say that I (usually) love what I do.
A nice part about what Rothstein talks about is that he usually loves what he does. There’s no need to love your job every minute of every day. There are definitely days where I would much rather stay in bed or play Skyrim than go into work.
Help Those in Need
Thomas Howery, a LAB member, became a lawyer because he wanted to help people. Now Howery does consumer side bankruptcy work. That is definitely a great way to help people in need.
Others had the same idea but took a different path. Brian Gorman, a former public defender, wanted to go into public service. Initially he wanted to go into politics to help people on a large scale. When he realized that wasn’t for him, he decided to become a prosecutor. Gorman quickly realized that his views were more in line with the public defender, and he has been a criminal defense lawyer ever since.
Both Howery and Gorman have similar ideals to my own. I got into this business with a passion for the actual practice of law, but my goal has always been to help people. One of my goals for 2012 is to help people more directly by taking on some pro bono work. I’m hoping that the pro bono work will complement my current job with more direct impact on people’s lives.
Shoot for the Stars
One of the most memorable courtroom scenes in any movie is Tom Cruise’s cross examination in A Few Good Men. It had quite the effect on Valerie Antonette, who says she became a lawyer because she “wanted to be like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men.” In the end, she decided that being a litigator was the second best thing to being an actress, so she went to law school instead of film school.
LAB member Lee King saw the attorneys at a firm where he was a paralegal, and asked himself why he couldn’t do what they were doing. Like Antonette, King saw what he wanted to do and went for it. He became a lawyer a few years later. It’s been thirty years since then, and King still enjoys legal research, writing, and arguing in court.
Had to Do Something
Like many of the people I went to law school with, Lawyerist’s own Sam Glover became a lawyer because he didn’t know what else to do after college. In a similar vein, LAB member Thomas Seeley went to law school after he decided he didn’t want to be a journalist anymore. Both now thoroughly enjoy the practice of law.
For the Sake of Argument
A large part of being a lawyer is winning arguments. Those arguments can take place in court, through written briefs, or across a conference table . Regardless of the forum, the ability to argue is a feather in any lawyer’s cap. Both Elizabeth Ressler and Leslie Ridge wanted to argue for a living. Ressler said that she had always been good at arguing and convincing people of her beliefs, so she decided to do it professionally. Ridge wanted to get paid to do what she loves: argue with people.
On a related note, my bubbie told me when I was very young that I should be a lawyer because I love to argue. I don’t remember arguing much when I was six years old though. Today delivering a strong argument is one of my favorite parts of practicing law.