WHY DO YOU DO IT?

By Leslie McAdam

I just got back from a week in Hawaii, a place about as far removed from the practice of law as the moon. As Meghan Clark, one of my attorney friends, put it: I came back and got black goo all over my Aloha. Faced with opposing counsel with outsize egos, professional litigants with no desire to be reasonable, and www.bitterlawyer. com, becoming the second mate on the glass bottom boat tour was looking really attractive. (Another lawyer in my firm wants to start a Bonsai tree farm. To each their own.). After all, watching the sea turtles under the boat come up right beside the boat to breathe affirms life. A sister fighting against her sister about whether Mom loved her more does not.

But then I read a chapter in a book geared towards professionals looking to recover their Aloha. It discussed how to re-engage in your professional career. It asked, simply, why did you get into this profession to begin with? There had to be something attractive. Finding that underlying reason and remembering it with attention is the key to keeping your Aloha.

Of course, in the practice of law, there are lots of things that are attractive. They just get buried under the 4:30 p.m. “Urgent” fax from opposing counsel who refuses to use email.

I made a list of why I was interested in the practice of law. I just may tack this up somewhere in my office (which still has streamers up from my birthday weeks ago … and, no, I am not removing them until they fall down. I like them.)
Here’s my list:
• I like helping people solve their problems.
• I like being a know-it-all.
• I like finding out new things so that I can continue to be a know-it-all.
• I think the actual practice of law is quite interesting. Researching, analyzing, applying facts. You know: the stuff you learned in law school.
• I like being part of a profession with a rich and interesting tradition. I like the high ideals that are set forth in our founding documents and the challenge of applying those ideals to modern life.
• I like the fact that we are part of a civilized process to maintain an orderly society. We don’t solve problems with a military coup. We solve them with nine people in black robes.
• I like wearing suits.

Yes, yes, I know the business of law gets in the way of the practice. I know about marketing, collecting, finding clients, maintaining clients, keeping clients happy, and preparing for trial. And I know all about the challenges of life that get in the way of both the business and the practice of law. One example: an attorney I know who had no clean laundry wore a bathing suit to court under her suit. Not me. But I sympathize. My son is so used to being late for Kindergarten that on the one day my husband took him and he got there early, he still ran to the classroom as if he were late. Thus, the challenge is to remember the ideals and ideas that give the profession personal meaning. Slow down and look for those core ideals in the 4:30 p.m. fax, the sisters fighting, and yes, even “Bitter Lawyer.” Because they are there if you just look for them. You don’t have to look for sea turtles to find them.

Leslie McAdam is a civil litigator at Ferguson Case Orr Paterson and a member of the CITATIONS Editorial Board

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