Why I (Still) Love Being a Lawyer
Ok, so maybe this seems a trite, if not pompous title and perhaps more than a few colleagues will snicker, (I hear you Ray), but I think it is worth exploring.
The Law is largely a solitary pursuit. Sure, most people associate the profession with the cinematic versions served up by Hollywood: Pacino’s thunderous closing, Peck’s righteous indignation. Closer to every true trial lawyer’s heart is more likely Newman’s brutal self doubt and whiskey soaked reflection in “The Verdict”. For every fiery cross examination, the advocate endures one thousand moments of quiet strategizing and internal conflict. The snowy walk from the parking lot to the prison, staring out the Courthouse window at the city you grew up in and still love, the closing argument that presents itself while you shower. While these may not be billable hours, or the moments the public gets to see, they are arguably the most important.
I’ve been reminiscing fondly of those lonely early law school library days a lot lately. Watching my son prepare for the SAT and visiting colleges with him. Every app, program and digital wonder is at their disposal and yet I worry for them, this generation with instant knowledge only a click away, the cumulative knowledge of giants in their pocket. I can’t help wondering whether we have really gained anything in this bargain, this trade off between the dog eared, sweat stained tomes and the instant, hyper convenient Googleization of knowledge. I fear we have all lost the luxury of relective solitude so necessary to the true honing of a craft. I confess that I too frequently find myself wandering in a non stop maze of digital distraction. The endless news cycle of Twitter and the real time social onslaught from Instagram and Facebook interrupt any long form thought process. I intermittently vow to step away from these distractions and re-embrace my creative loves of literature and writing with mixed success. My advice to young students is to embrace the solitude. A little time alone won’t kill you and those brief pangs of loneliness build character. Did you see a beautiful sunset? Not immediately sharing it on Instagram will not detract one iota from its beauty. It doesn’t require a filter. Breathe it in, let it swirl in your psyche, allow it to intoxicate you. Better yet, go home and write about it.
Driving back from Superior Court in Bridgeton last week, I took a longer more scenic route. I find myself doing that more frequently these days. While taking in the cornfields, horses and farm stands, I allowed myself the brief indulgence of reflecting on the privilege of practicing law. The people I’ve been honored to meet. Some in troubling times of their lives. The quiet dignity many have displayed. The wisdom bestowed upon me from unlikely sources. Clients who have become friends. Some who have even gone on to counsel me. It’s easy to concentrate on those few difficult clients who may have seemed unappreciative, but these days I’ve been focusing on the good we can do, even if it might go unacknowledged, the difficult advice you might have to deliver. Despite what some may want you to believe, It isn’t all million dollar settlements and not guily verdicts.
I was humbled recently to be welcomed into the home of a 92 year old gentleman to assist him in planning his estate. I was immediately struck by his sharp intellect and wit (and envious of his full head of hair). I was quitely reverent of the WWII photos and concentration camp tattoo on his arm. He spoke freely and without prompting of his experiences. I advised him on preparing an estate plan. I left his modest, beautiful home having learned far more in the bargain. And this is one reason why I STILL love being a lawyer.
The Prodigal of Passyunk Avenue