Lawyers who hate lawyers
This year, in the name of “networking”, I resolved that I would set up more dinners with more lawyers and talk shop. I was home too often last year (it was splendid), and even though business was good, I thought it would make sense to branch out a bit and see where the road would lead me.
Yesterday evening, I had dinner with a few lawyers. One, a lawyer who does Trusts and Estates work, is a cheerful guy who enjoys his job and talks glowingly about his clients and the work he does. The other, a Real Estate attorney, is a very, very bright guy. He’s been in the game for a long period of time and knows everyone and everyone that knows everyone,etc., etc. But he’s angry. He’s gloomy. He’s gone through “war” as he puts it, and what he saw ain’t pretty. Clients being taken advantage of. Other “shady” things which need not be mentioned here. He took over whenever the other attorney said anything positive about his work, telling him he was naive and that he’d learn soon how wrong he was.
Two nights ago, I had dinner with a litigator and a copyright attorney. Same story. They both were resigned to being lawyers, rather than enjoying being lawyers. The complaints about clients and other counsel didn’t stop for the entirety of dinner.
Both nights, I mentally took a step back from the table, while the other attorneys spoke. I kept thinking “Why in the world are they practicing law if they hate it so much?” Yes, one can certainly point to the obvious and overused “I have a mortgage, a kid, a mistress to pay for, etc.” but people outside the law have these things as well and they change jobs all the time. Lawyers identify with their profession more than anyone I’ve seen (save, Doctors). They ARE their profession, so even if they hate what they do and who they work with and for, they keep doing it. It’s idiotic, but that’s not the biggest problem
The bigger issue is that the behavior is selfish. It perpetuates the lack of civility you see in courtrooms and in meeting rooms. You take that hatred and you project it on another attorney and that attorney then becomes that same person they never wanted to become. Those attorneys become the attorneys that won’t give you an extension of time to file a Motion when your relative dies They are the same attorneys that cannot negotiate without yelling or giving a performance (that does nothing to advance the client’s cause). No one wins here. Let me be clear-this is not to say that being “nice” makes you a better lawyer. I don’t think it does, but I also don’t think being a horrible human to be around brings you many tactical advantages either. It certainly doesn’t bring in the clients you’d want for your practice.
It’s interesting to note that when I meet with other lawyers in any pseudo social setting, the discussion quickly turns to war stories, as opposed to successes. It turns to clients who don’t pay as opposed to great clients who do. The discussion centers around how horrible their bosses are and how they know nothing, rather than admitting that they’re likely learning valuable lessons. We are almost programmed to do this and it’s completely stupid and counterproductive.
I have no answer to how to fix this, but I keep thinking about whether it would serve us more as a profession to put the complaints about the clients and the Judges and the other attorneys aside for a moment. Talk about something else. Anything else. We sound like angry people who are somehow trapped in a profession that we can’t get out of, rather than people who chose a profession that we have ever ability to mold and change. This profession was meant for those who love it (when I say love, I don’t mean there are days you don’t hate it, but rather that you don’t need to convince yourself to get up in the morning to go to work). We should consider ourselves lucky that we get to practice it. If we don’t, we should leave.