So Sue Me

I’ve been traveling lately (hence, I’m behind on responding to comments), and this has put me in conversation with people I don’t often get to talk to, specifically young people, those in the 18-35 millennial bracket. Most of them are looking for or holding a job–any legal job–that will pay bills or pay down student loan balances. Many of them are also working a “side hustle” or freelance gig such as Uber, AirBnB, Fiverr…. anything they can find to scrounge up bucks.

I admire their initiative, and also their willingness to focus on issues other than their own ambitions–issues such as a healthy planet, elder care, functional democracy, to name a few. I leave these conversations wishing I’d bequeathed to my daughter’s generation a better deal, and hoping that between the millennials and their parents, my grandkids will have that better deal.

But I also get a big dose of appreciation for the career I’ve had in the courtroom. Last week, I sang the praises of my writin’ buddies, but this week, I want to give a nod to the  bar association.

The legal profession comes in for a lot of disrespect, but I think that’s a backhanded way of acknowledging that lawyers can make a huge difference. Think of Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, to name a few. (While we’re on the subject, 35 of the 55 Constitutional Convention delegates of 1787 were lawyers or had legal training).

I have enjoyed very much the company of other lawyers. They tend to be problem-solvers by nature, pragmatic, and hard working. Most lawyers have seen so many of life’s wrong turns in their case loads, that they’re also tolerant if not outright compassionate. When you see what incarceration for child support arrears does to  the clients affected by a stint in jail (at the taxpayer’s expense)–and also see what those missed payments mean for the children whose basic needs are going unmet, you tend to cling less righteously to the idea that your answers are the only good ones.

Lawyers who’ve been in practice for more than year have great war stories, and most also have a quick, irreverent sense of humor.

I have liked being a lawyer. That juris doctor after my name meant I was taken more seriously than I would have been otherwise, especially by men. How I wish I could give a little bit of that professional credibility to every young woman out there who’s waiting tables, because she’ll never be able to afford the current $82,000/year price tag for my law school alma mater (and neither could I!).

That’s a post for another day. For today: Here’s to the lawyers, among whom I have a been proud to number. If you were a lawyer, what would you do with your legal abilities? Where would you practice and what sort of cases would you focus on? Any interest in being a judge, or maybe a John Grisham?

To one commenter, I’ll send signed copies of my three Sweetest Kisses novels, all of which feature a lawyer protagonist.


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11 comments on “So Sue Me

  1. Good question!

    I think at age 25, I would have worked as a public defender. Then I probably would have changed over to family law. Maybe?
    Or maybe a research role?

    My daughter starts her internship in Superior court in May. She met with her judge ( who teaches at her law school) and was told that she would get courtroom experience as well as researching and writing experience. There are so many avenues for law students- working at a district attorney’s office, child welfare, corporate, teaching…. I guess you have to find the best fit.

    Good luck in your travels and don’t enter me in the contest. I have the three novels and loved them. As I recall the last one was my favorite- Mac and Sid!

  2. My best friend from childhood is an intellectual property lawyer. One of my sister-in-law is a general practice lawyer. One of my son’s (who has multiple degrees in mathematics and physics)will begin a law school (on his dime) program for a masters in health care (it’s a new program). I have observed their situations and never thought I’d like to do what they do. I admire lawyers but never thought I’d like to be one.

    But I like the idea of helping people sort through their problems and coming to an agreement with others….maybe I could have been in mediation.

  3. There are so many aspects of the legal field that I find fascinating, but I’m especially interested in health law. I used to work with a wonderful healthcare attorney who made it her mission to make sure the employees at the patients’ bedside (nurses, CNAs, PAs, etc) knew the law and how it affected their work. She was relentless in her drive to educate us because we worked at a hospital where the administration liked to use vague legal threats to ensure the nurses did as they were told. The attorney made daily rounds to answer questions and scheduled weekly discussions for nurses to educate themselves on healthcare legal issues. I admired her tremendously. She will be my role model as I move forward with my recent decision to go to law school. I would love to do exactly what she did but I’m also interested in working to shape healthcare policy. We shall see what happens…

    • My husband is a notary public in British Columbia. He does most things lawyers do outside of the courtroom. It is still a weird, wacky look at the often bizarre behaviours of human beings. Our community being largely elderly, he does many Powers of Attorney, Representation Agreements, Advanced Health Care Directives. He is well respected here for keeping people out of court. I wouldn’t want his job, though, any more than the litigous side of it. There are stressed out people behaving badly. Someone will always “lose” or get less than they wanted or even deserved. And I don’t react well to death threats.

  4. I realize I’m not answering your question, because I simply cannot see myself doing that amount of extremely dry reading. I majored in mathematics … because while difficult, it required very little dry reading! (and not many papers)

    What disturbs me greatly is the price of higher education, which is beyond the means of far too many children in this country. Children of the influential or wealthy, or those whose intellect earns them full ride scholarships have experiences far different than those who go to school full time and work two jobs.
    Who may have to drop out here and there to earn enough to go back. The average kids.

    While I am all for earning your own way, and recognize that outstanding achievement should be awarded, as one of the average, I worry for these kids and wonder about the future of this country. There needs to be more focus on providing for the majority of the next generation to rise to serve in professional and skilled trades. They are our future tax payers, and as you observed, many are having to hustle just to pay their bills. Earning your own way isn’t what it used to be. Parents and families aren’t what they used to be either. Neither are student loans.

  5. I seriously considered becoming an environmental lawyer. I planned on working for a few years to save money so I wouldn’t have to take out big loans for law school. While I was working, I met my husband. Then we had our kids and I couldn’t justify investing the time and money to pursue a career that I wasn’t so sure I wanted anymore. I honestly don’t regret not becoming a lawyer. I treasure the time I spent as a full time mother and I hope my kids are better off for it.

  6. My uncle was a tax attorney. My cousin does something with helping people resolve conflicts between parties. I don’t see myself practicing law. My brain likes the law, but I don’t do well with conflict.

  7. I certainly thought about it. 90 % of my MA class were heading off to law school. (what else are you going to do with a MA in American history?). I did a bunch of stuff in Constitution law, which I liked a lot… And friends have told me I should become a lawyer as a hobby after I retire and represent special needs kids… Something I do a lot now because I have a special needs kid I spend a lot of time fighting for, and mentoring other parents on how to help their special needs kids. As I do it now without the law degree… I don’t know about the “going to law school after I retire” bit.

  8. I’ve wanted to help children, especially those that have been abused or molested. I’m working towards being a guardian ad litum in my county, but if I was a lawyer I’d work for children’s rights and adoptions.

  9. I’ve been a construction lawyer for over 20 years and I came out of one of the top tier law schools that now has a price tag up over $175,000 for that designer degree. I do try to convince the wannabe lawyers to consider another profession because the practice of law is not what it used to be and I am not convinced that those coming up now will have the same financial security I did to make that expense worthwhile. Given your practice specialty, you can at least state that you do something socially redeeming. I am not certain that my clientele, which is largely populated by people in starter castles with trophy wife #3 in residence, has quite the same cache. That J.D. has certainly permitted me to help with causes I feel strongly about including environmental and animal issues and I tithe a huge percent of my practice these days to those causes because I can. I am absolutely, positively not temperamentally suited to life on the bench. If I was wearing that robe, probably 20% of the local bar would be in jail for contempt on the first day. Thanks for the work you do/did. My mother was an MSW in child abuse work and I well know that yours is a field that takes nerves of steel and brass balls when you walk.

  10. 20 years ago I was accepted at law school and didn’t go. My day job then was (and still is) as a community journalist. The school in question is a prestigious expensive one and even back then I would have been well over six figures in debt to finance the degree. I ended up not enrolling because at the end of the day I didn’t really want to work as a lawyer; I wanted to be a journalist who was also a lawyer so I could get into the faces of bureaucrats who were dodging our reqeusts for public records, etc. We still fight that battle every darn day. (Was discussing it with one of our attorneys just Friday.) I do regret that I didn’t go to law school but on a journalists salary, I’d still be paying off those loans today.