Legally Stressed – The Trials and Tribulations of a Lawyer
It can easily be assumed that the entirety of a lawyer’s misery stems from being on the receiving end of every bar joke ever told, and not the bar that lawyers know so well; Although they could argue that the Bar is the biggest joke there is. Probably not, but it made for good wordplay. Nevertheless, the life of a legal practitioner is far from a breeze. Television shows like Suits and Boston Legal paint a romanticized image. Lawyers walking into court on the daily and demonstrating a Shakespeare-level performance to a jury more intrigued than a cat chasing a red laser dot, a mighty judge overseeing the court like a stern yet caring parent-figure, it is all an overdose of Hollywood. Reality paints a more humanized picture.
Hours are endless. Depending on what field of law you are practicing, you could be working up to 70 hours in one week. This is especially true for new lawyers, who need to put in the extended research of getting up to speed with the firm they have joined. The initial few years are often the most exhausting–This is when you want to establish a good impression and adapt to the steep learning curve. Only a percentage of what goes on in these long hours involves poetically battling it out in court. Research is in fact a larger percentage. Failure to prioritize the thorough analysis of a case and its respective files is a recipe for losing the case itself. Relishing the assistance of a paralegal could ease up quite a bit of the load, but you will still have a boat load of reading to do.
But not to worry. The load of writing that a case requires as well will surely cancel it out, if you like to keep a mathematical perspective on things. Dishing out documents, letters, responses to letters, scripts, briefs, and emails is synonymous with breathing for a legal practitioner. All of this requires a strong platform of communication. Phone and Skype calls with fellow lawyers within your firm, opposition lawyers, court clerks, and of course your clients keep that platform afloat. On top of this, keeping an open schedule to hold meetings with clients will need to find its way into the mix, although this also depends on the size of your firm and area of interest.
The court appearances may have been what you had anticipated the most as a young and naive 6th grader dreaming of becoming a lawyer after watching an episode of Law & Order with your older sibling, but the Hollywood appeal runs dry. There is usually no window for making a dramatically late appearance in court. More often, you arrive at the scene hours earlier than the judge them self. More often, once all parties have arrived the opposing side will ask for a continuance, or a request to postpone. But luck is on your side, and the judge has announced that court is in session. Fingers crossed that the next 8 hours feel like an extended episode of Law & Order.
Let us step back and talk a bit more about lawyer jokes. The premise of the majority of these jokes is that lawyers are a cunning and scandalous bunch. This stereotype, to your misfortune as an attorney more than anyone else, can be true. As a lawyer, you have probably already encountered other lawyers whose ethics are all too questionable. You noticed it from their obnoxious personality, past cases, or from their suspiciously oversize suit. They aim to undermine you in a case. They aim to outshine you in your own law office. They aim to show up to court with two briefcases whereas you only brought one, clearly claiming their position as the alpha. Overtime you will learn to spot these subjects of scum from miles away, but throughout your career you will always need to be a bit on your toes.
The legal industry is a hustle, that is no doubt. Regardless, you continue to fight the good fight. Becoming a lawyer takes persistence that requires a genuine passion in the field and you stayed persistent for a good reason. Through all the obstacles and hurdles, an attorney plays one of the most important roles in society. You are a warrior of justice, a determining factor in bringing forth peace and balance. The goals you accomplish as an attorney in the long run justifies the hardships and you come out stronger and more impact for sticking through it.