Just a little Rant…

Posted on | October 26, 2010 | 12 Comments

As a lawyer, people expect me to know things that I don’t know. They expect me to be something or someone that I’m not. They expect that I have the inside track on politics, legal issues, and pretty much anything even remotely related to the law. And worst of all? They expect me to be hard-edged, argumentative, sneaky, and pretty much soulless. But despite all of that, I still think that becoming a lawyer was one of the best decisions I ever made; which is why it bothers me so much that everyone else seems to think I sold my soul to the devil.

Whatever happened to the lawyer as an American hero? Who replaced Atticus Finch with Avery Tolar? When was it decreed that lawyers were the scum of the earth, worthy of ridicule, scorn and infinite jokes about killing, maiming or otherwise destroying anyone who deigned to pursue such a horrible profession? Didn’t this used to be called a “Noble Profession?” Didn’t there used to be respect and honor associated with attorneys? Didn’t people once believe that in their hour of need, they could always count on a lawyer?

I don’t understand how we have denigrated such a worthy pursuit of justice into a quick way to make a buck. It seems like such a waste to me. If anything, the legal profession was supposed to be honorable. It was supposed to be a profession that attracted the best and brightest. One that encouraged intelligent discussion. One that supported the pursuit of knowledge and the betterment of society as a whole. Now? It is the punchline of a joke.

And don’t get me started on Hollywood (and various and assorted authors… no names, of course, I would do that to you, John Grisham) and their portrayal of this “Noble Profession.” As a woman, I am appalled by the legal “role models” that our country has put out there for young girls. Wanna be a lawyer? Great… take your pick of role models. How about the lovely Ellen Roark from A Time to Kill. Sure, she wants to help get a guy out of jail, but does she have to try and sleep with the lawyer and wreck his marriage to accomplish that? Or maybe you’ll choose the charming Reggie Love, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who lives alone post-divorce. Or you can opt for the ever-popular Elle Woods who goes to law school for the sole purpose of trying to win back a guy. Because why else would an attractive woman want to go to law school? As her father tells her, law school is for people who are “boring, ugly and serious.” (okay, I’ll admit, she turns it around in the end, but the premise? Come on.)

It’s a wonder there ARE women who choose to go to law school with these types of stigma attached.

I know I’m just one person, but this has to start somewhere. Sure, there are lawyers who suck. But you know what? There are also people who suck in EVERY profession. There are crappy nurses. Crappy teachers. Crappy janitors. Crappy doctors. So why do lawyers get the worst of it? Why is it that it’s okay to tell jokes about killing lawyers but not okay to do the same about a million and three other professions? It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. And above-all, it’s belittling to the the three years I spent working my tail off to become a part of what I believe is STILL a noble profession. And all your thoughts about how I’m raking in the dough? Can it. If I were able to contribute my entire yearly salary to paying off my student loan, it would still take YEARS for me to pay it all off. (Yes, that was yearS … plural. Most lawyers do NOT make over 100K a year.)

So the next time you think about asking me how many lawyers it takes to change a light bulb, or ask me what a good lawyer, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny have in common… stop and think about the fact that I have $120,000+ in debt that I incurred so that I could learn the law. Think about the fact that every time I hear a joke like that it makes me want to bust claws out of my arms and go all Wolverine on your ass. Think about the fact that I wake up every day and take my tired butt to the office where everyone who comes into my office believes that every word out of my mouth is the Gospel truth on whatever topic I’m commenting on. Think about how much pressure that is. Think about how you rely on my opinion and the opinion of others like me EVERY day of your life. Think about the fact that although there are some shady lawyers, I am not one of them nor are the majority of the people I graduated law school with.

We aren’t the enemy. We aren’t money-grubbing, ambulance chasers. For the most part? We are hard-working, honest, funny, thoughtful, intelligent, kind and interesting people. And even if we don’t always belong on the pedestal with Atticus Finch, we don’t all belong at the bottom of a lake.

Comments

12 Responses to “Just a little Rant…”

  1. ~*Jess*~
    October 26th, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

    AMEN SISTA!

    For some reason people think that because I'm [fill in the blank title for my office] my presence at every random meeting means that every deal is safe and good.

    Why is it that people think that we are these crazy loaded wealthy people because we are lawyers? I do not work in a high rise billing out $350 an hour for my time. I work for the state. I have as much debt from law school as would be someone a pleasant little house or condo. It's bullshit.

    But at the end of the day? I take pride in what I do and I'm good at it. I don't go around trying to screw people over. The law is the law and any lawyer out there is getting what they get done done through the law. Don't like it? Change the law.

  2. R's Mom
    October 26th, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

    From one lawyer to another, thank you.

    To add insult to injury (for me), I come from a family chock full of doctors. So you better believe I am the butt of many a joke at family get togethers.

  3. Estephania
    October 26th, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

    Ahh, thank you, thank you! Every time I hear these sorts of comments, I think of the late nights spent holed up in my carrel in the library, and I really do want to go craaaazy… I feel like I could have written this post. AMEN!

  4. KSBA
    October 26th, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

    Proof that there are good lawyers out there! http://www.uticaod.com/news/x1903564052/Raising-the-bar-Lawyer-96-still-represents-his-profession This is my grandfather, 97 now, still practicing law, because, as he puts it, he still hasn't gotten it right! 🙂 Sorry someone rained on your parade. It isn't fair that people treat lawyers this way, I'm sure its from seeing all the crazy lawyer commercials!

  5. Law Momma
    October 26th, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

    KSBA: THANK YOU!!! What a wonderful story and a wonderful man. He is a true inspiration. Thank you for sharing that story.

  6. Carol
    October 26th, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

    Excellent post, Law Momma.

    "Didn't there used to be respect and honor associated with attorneys? Didn't people once believe that in their hour of need, they could always count on a lawyer?"

    I can tell you exactly what happened. The Court allowed lawyers to start advertising and we ended up with ridiculous commercials like this one (link below) which made us become the laughing stock of the country. By the way, Mike just opened up a Macon office and has flooded Macon's TV networks with these types of commercials.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiIDpuibnIg&feature=related

  7. Kim
    October 26th, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

    As the wife of an attorney, THANK YOU. Do you know how many grimaces I get when I say my husband is an attorney? See, I've taken to saying 'attorney' rather than lawyer, b/c I decided it 'sounded' better! Then they ask what kind of law he practices w/ a gleam in their eyes, just HOPING I'll say he defends murderers. Gah. So thank you for this!

  8. Momalegal
    October 26th, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

    As a med mal defense paralegal, I was going to blame billboards and yellow page ads, which I thought sounded a little biased. But I see Carol has already beaten me to the punch.

    I didn't go to law school, but still find those type of comments aggravating since my career is spent supporting those that did. It's not just a job. We all expend a lot of time and energy working for the client's best interests and become invested in cases, and the people as well. Um, I think I'm off topic.

    Anyway, love your blog. I can totally relate as a mom & paralegal.

  9. Carrie
    October 26th, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

    Glad you posted this. This was one of the reasons I gave up my pursuit of a legal profession. It's horrible the negative stigma so many place on this profession. Kudos to you for sticking with it!

  10. Amy
    October 27th, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

    Well said! There are other professions that get it too. Trust me. Imagine being a journalist/member of the media. I can attest to the ridicule that comes with that at times.

  11. Heather
    October 27th, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

    As a non-lawyer, I'll suggest 2 things that I think contribute to the stigma (right or wrong):

    1) Politicians. Almost all politicians are lawyers. Almost all politicians are scumbags. Therefore, a lot of people think lawyers are scumbags…

    2) There is a sense that it doesn't matter if you are right or wrong, as long as you have a good lawyer that can find some loophole in the law.

    (I have lawyers in my family, so I am not trying to knock the profession — just trying to give an outside perspective)

    I guess my question to you guys who *are* lawyers is — have you ever had to take on a position in a case that you disagreed with on a personal level? How did you deal with it?

  12. The Insanity of Yca
    October 30th, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

    LM – you're from Orlando originally, so I know these words will make sense to you: "For the People". 😉

    As a paralegal, I get those same looks. People just hoping and praying that I work for somebody who is dealing in something truly juicy and I've just been waiting for someone to come along for me to tell them what disgusting creature I'm assisting in defending/persecuting.

    Look … the law is the foundation of our country. Just because the sleazy get the spotlight most of the time, doesn't mean that's all there is. I work for an attorney that helps inventors! Do you know how cool that is? My attorney also does a lot of pro bono for abused women. It is awesome to be able to look a woman in the eyes and know that I'm going to be playing an integral part in helping her get back her life, self-esteem, and confidence.

    Forget them LM, you are kick-ass. (And, from what I can tell, eventually those school loans do go away and someday, some beautiful sweet day with pink cotton candy clouds, you will be able to use your salary for stuff like a mortgage and clothes for J without worrying about the loan police coming after you!!)

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    Spilled Milk (and Other Atrocities) by Law Momma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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