Although I love the "don't be a lawyer" video and all the associated jokes, I was genuinely saddened recently to hear a lawyer advise an aspiring law student not to enter our profession. So, to offer a contrary view, here are some great things about what we do:
* We learn about how the world really works. The law is the way human beings have crystallized millennia of interactions into rules we can build our societies around. If you want to understand the deepest aspects of human existence, look to the law and the way we resolve competing interests and facilitate collaboration.
* We can constantly remake ourselves. I have been a pharmaceutical patent litigator, a criminal defense attorney, a federal and military prosecutor, a transactional business lawyer, an immigration lawyer, and more. Every matter we take on gives us the chance to see the world through a different lens, and we can shift our practice based on our interests. While we may have our particular expertise (mine being brand growth and protection), our career permits exploring other areas of the law and pairing with experienced attorneys there to expand our understanding of the world.
* We can help people during the darkest period of their lives, and change their lives for good -- forever. Although day-by-day my practice helps businesses grow, I wear a few other hats. I am on the CJA panel and take on indigent criminal defense cases, so I get to work hard to minimize the sentence for drug possession and facilitate placement in a treatment program. I provide pro bono services for juvenile immigration matters, so I can help young people fleeing difficult situations get settled in our country with legal status, allowing them to attend school and determine their own futures. Other lawyers can do the same -- protect the environment, assist abused children, defend civil rights, and on and on. With four hours of work, we can alter 40 years of life for the better.
* We can get paid very well for sharing our knowledge and advice with awesome clients. I still cannot believe I get paid hundreds of dollars an hour to help a fashion designer protect her creations, or to bring a new video game to market, or to support a program which helps at-risk youth play hockey, or to develop training for long-term caretakers of the elderly, or to facilitate the sale of a business from someone retiring to someone just hitting their stride, or to reduce conflict between family members as they struggle through restaurant ownership, or to support a new professional athlete in navigating the world of the NFL, or to . . . The point is, we can make a ton of money and have a lot of fun doing it, and we can work with clients who are awesome.
* We can work where and how we want. We can go to the office or we can stay home. We can meet our clients at a coffee shop, or maybe we head to their preferred spot. I went hiking with a client recently -- great times! What other profession allows you to be so mobile? One colleague brings his family to Europe for a month each year, with no disruption in his practice. We have limitless freedom to shape our days.
* We can start our own business for (virtually) free. If you are tired of working for someone else, go start your own firm! Amazingly, you can do so with a laptop and a cell phone. I know, because I did it. Now I have all the things you'd expect, but that is because I chose to get an office and fill it with tools to fit my practice. But my firm was profitable from day one because this career is wholly based on our knowledge -- knowledge which is with us whether we have a fancy (and too expensive) office or not.
* We can show love to others as a profession. I have genuinely cried with clients I care deeply about. I have woken up in the middle of the night worried about what will happen to someone who has placed their life in my hands. I have had parents call me and thank me for the concern I showed for their children, and have received thank you notes years later from clients who were grateful for our relationship. In short, I have the chance to express the deepest human emotion of love for another through the work that I do, and to fulfill the grandest mission of any human being: to serve others and make the world better than it was when we got here.
So, being a lawyer is great. It can be noble and fulfilling -- and is one of the most powerful ways to influence the world and help others. It can also be incredibly profitable, paying us hundreds of thousands of dollars for less than forty hours a week. Amazingly, if we do it right, it can be all of this at the same time.
Should an aspiring law student enter our profession? Absolutely. Every honorable intent they hold can be made real, and every one of us on this list has the duty to inspire them and help them make their contribution to humanity.