I was recently offered the opportunity to help with day, which involves attorneys visiting local schools to talk with students about the framework of our country’s democracy. As part of the iCivics day briefing, we were told that students may ask a variety of personal questions, including how much money lawyers make, why we decided to be a lawyer, et cetera. The “why did you decide to be a lawyer” question jumped out at me and prompted a period of self-reflection.
I finally decided that the answer to that question is not simple, and that there are a variety of reasons. One thing is certain: I am not a lawyer because of money. Do I appreciate the fact that lawyers may earn more than members of some other professions? Yes. However, I have found that money is not a good motivator, standing alone. When money is the only motivation for something, it will inevitably lead to demotivation and burnout.
So why am I a lawyer?
I am a lawyer because I genuinely enjoy helping people and solving their problems. Our firm, at least in my practice areas, typically represents companies. Even before the recent and much discussed judicial decision making it official, I have always enjoyed the fact that corporations are (and are founded, made up of, and act through) people. People by nature occasionally need help. Whether it’s the employee in a panic because something he has done has put the company at risk or the owner motivated to protect his company’s proud reputation, I welcome the opportunity to take ownership of their problems in order to find a solution.
I am also a lawyer because I love the courtroom. I love everything about the courtroom. I love the formalities of the courtroom, the magic words, the judge’s robe, the gavel, and everything else that makes the courtroom a courtroom. I recently argued a motion in a makeshift temporary courtroom that looked more like a multi purpose room at a school than a courtroom. I liked that, too. Some courtrooms are nicer than others, but I like them all, mainly because of what happens in them, which brings me to my next point.
I love the adversarial process. I love investigating facts, taking depositions, arguing motions, and otherwise working hard to protect my client from whatever the party on the other side of the “v” is seeking to recover. Of course, trial is where all of this hard work ends up under the spotlight, and that’s my favorite part of the adversarial process. I love the various ways that lawyers try to connect with members of the jury. I love the feeling of being prepared. Most of all, I love cross-examination. To be honest, it is truly my favorite thing about practicing law. I love catching people in fibs. I love asking a difficult opposing witness a question with my back to the witness stand while making eye contact with the jury. It is a great feeling to be the one asking the questions, but I even love watching someone else cross examine a tough witness. A great cross examination is a beautiful thing.
Despite the lawyer jokes and occasional smear campaigns in the media, good lawyers do a great service to the community. Whether a lawyer is representing someone charged with a crime, or whether a lawyer is closing on a house, the lawyer is tasked with ensuring that the law of the land is followed and respected. That alone makes it a noble and important profession.