To all these unfortunate souls: to the perpetual child, to the risk manager, to the ambitious social climber, to the mindless would-be robo-lawyer, I have but one [piece of] advice: GET OUT! Get out now while you can still leave with your soul intact. Do not allow life to catch you from behind, one day when you least expected and are least capable of resisting.
Get out now and rediscover yourself. Ask the hard questions that you avoided asking when your parents told everyone that their child was going to be a lawyer. Ask, who am I? Not what am I going to do? [At] no other time in your life are you ever going to be as free as you are right now to make these hard choices and then act upon them.
If you’re already a lawyer and entered the profession for any of the above reasons, you should read Judge Fuentes’ words, too – because you’re probably already feeling the soul-death he describes, and heading toward zombieEsq status.
Fuentes sees a growing trend toward legal education as a default choice. But that condition was surely already prominent in the early 70s. Law school was certainly my choice by default: “Need another degree; don’t like math or science; want to leave my options open, guess I’ll go to law school.” And, Elena Kagan, who got her law degree a decade after me, confessed –when she became the Dean of Harvard Law last year — that the profession had been a default choice for her, too.
- Being a lawyer is a great deal more than simply mastering certain analytical skills. It is not what you do. It is who you are. A lawyer does not simply perform a task for the client; she represents the client. …
- This relationship is not created with the exchange of money or by the signing of a contract. It is a relationship based on trust, created by trust and ultimately dependent on trust.
- A lawyer’s passion must find an outlet in scholarship as well as advocacy. The law is an attempt to achieve justice and fairness in human interactions. In order to accomplish this, the law must be guided by the noblest aspects of the human spirit — the search for truth, the appreciation of beauty, the ability to love, the capacity for compassion, the need for freedom.
[M]ake the commitment not just in their heads, but in their hearts, that although they are willing to work hard and they would like to make a comfortable living, they are not going to let money dominate their lives to the exclusion of all else. And they must not simply structure their lives around this negative; they should embrace a positive. They must believe in something, care about something, so that when the culture of greed presses in on them from all sides, there will be something inside of them pushing back. They must make the decision now that they will be the ones who define success for themselves — not their classmates, not law firms, not clients of law firms, not the National Law Journal. They will be happier, healthier and more ethical attorneys as a result.
- If you’re a law student wondering what can be done with a law degree that best fits your personality or values, or a lawyer wondering about a change in career (within or without the legal profession), you can find some very useful information and exercises at the Decision Books website, and also on the Resources Page of Hindi Greenberg’s Lawyers in Transition website.