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By Murray Gottheil | July 30, 2023
This morning someone remarked that much of my writing about the legal profession is a tad negative. She said, “You practiced law for a long time; you were good at what you did; you made enough money to retire and travel the world. Surely you must have liked something about being a lawyer, didn’t you?”
That got me thinking. There is a possibility that I have not been clear. There were many positive things in my legal career. I enjoyed working with clients to solve problems for them. Solving intellectual puzzles was satisfying. Being part of a team at the office was fun. I even enjoyed the technical exercises of starting with a blank page and ending with a well-crafted legal document or constructing a great argument to settle a dispute on reasonable terms. Getting a transaction to the finish line was satisfying. Winning was also pretty cool.
I loved the social interaction with clients, referral sources, associates, law clerks and staff, most of my partners and even some opposing counsel. Marketing my practice was a highlight. I lunched with interesting people. I especially liked it when the firm paid to send me to meetings of our international association in places like Slovakia, Austria, and Australia. And the money was fairly good.
So why do I complain about the profession so much? Am I simply a whiner and an ingrate? Perhaps.
Or maybe the cost was simply too high. Too much stress. Too many hours at the office. And too much internal politics at my firm, causing too much aggravation.
And there was never enough time. Time to stay healthy. Time with my loved ones. Time to sleep.
I do not write about the negatives in the legal profession because I hated the actual practice of law, which I would define as meeting with clients, ascertaining their requirements, and working with them and others to help them achieve their goals.
I write about the negatives because after a lifetime of working in the system, I have concluded that many traditional law firms are not happy and healthy places to work. I write to encourage others to understand the lay of the land and to strategize to find a healthy path through the profession instead of being swept into (and often later discarded from) traditional roles.
There is nothing inherently bad about practicing law, but there is quite a bit of nonsense that is endemic to law firms. My mission is not to encourage people to avoid practicing law, but to warn them to remain diligent about who they get involved with to do it.
The practice of law is replete with potential for helping others and experiencing the satisfaction of doing so, all the while enjoying intellectual challenges and social relationships. I loved practicing law. I was not so fond of some of the other stuff that comes with it.
Now that I have cleared that up, in my next post I will get back to where I belong – focusing on the negatives.
Murray is a happily retired lawyer who lives in the country, drives a pick-up truck, writes, teaches and mentors. You can reach him at [email protected] or see what he is up to at lawanddisorderinc.com.