Because getting drunk, and then ranting, is getting expensive
“A lawyer is a learned gentleman who rescues your estate from your enemies, and then keeps it for himself”. – Henry Peter Brougham
Telling people you’re in the process of becoming a lawyer is a bit like telling people that you are a serial killer with a few hundred victims under your belt. They are impressed by your ability and dedication, but still think you’re an arsehole at the end of the day. in both cases, you certainly dread the “what do you do?” part of any conversation at parties. Judging by some of the reactions I have had over the years, it would probably have been more socially acceptable to replace “I’m studying law” with “I murder people with a claw hammer and then use their skin to make fetching blazers like the one I’m wearing tonight”. For those of you upset by that last hypothetical statement, don’t worry – I never wear blazers.
Lawyers, it seems, are up there with traffic wardens, investment bankers and concentration camp guards in the list of occupations you can legitimately harbour a complete loathing for. I have never understood this, having always been told it was a good career (the law, that is, not the other three) which I was encourage to enter when I showed interest. It’s a mentally stimulating, challenging and multi-faceted career. Yes, it is financially well rewarded but frankly the necessary investment warrants this.
In the UK, at least, you have to do a degree in which you spend 3 years trying to come to an exact legal understanding of the word “reasonable” (if you know a law student ask them what I mean, there is more to the degree but this is the single most recurring word in it). Then you have to do a further year’s professional training (as either a solicitor or barrister) which will cost you between £9,000 and £12,000 unless you are one of the maybe 10-20% of law students who have a job lined up with a firm who will pay for you. There is no student loan for this final year – bank loans will have to suffice for many. If you haven’t done a law degree beforehand, you can still do that professional course, but only if you’ve obtained a Graduate Diploma in Law….which will take you another year and cost you another £10k. Frankly, given the time and investment – any right minded person would expect some decent financial return.
All the while, law students are in a grudge match with people in other career-orientated degrees medical students and, where I studied at least, engineering students. The contention in this academic battle royale basically resolves around who is most useful to the world:
At least, this is how most people see it. What lawyers do is a lot harder to pin down exactly than the other two. There are many different types of lawyer and many types of work undertaken by each type. A few broad examples:
Nobody, with the possible exception of human rights lawyers, enters this line of work in order to save the world. However, that doesn’t mean we entered it to ruin society. We exist to ensure the problems of this world are dealt with peacefully, with a degree of certainty and justly (though I would concede that “law” and “justice” are two separate concepts). We are not evil, just morally flexible. In fact, one vital point on this issue lies within the standard code of conduct for lawyers. The first step in a solicitor’s dealings with a client is: take instruction from the client. Lawyers do not act independently – lawyers don’t sue people, people sue people. We merely facilitate the way people screw each other over, we don’t instigate it. Then again, this is a better system than resolving everything via physical (i.e violent) means.
This has been a somewhat ham-fisted (especially for someone intending to argue for a living) attempt to vindicate lawyers, or at least drum up some pity and stop people vomiting in my eyes when I tell them what I’m doing with my life. Maybe one day, when I’m not bored at 10pm on a friday after a few beers*, I will redraft this. For now, this will have to do.
*-Note how I slipped in a slight disclaimer/excuse for the questionable quality of this post – textbook lawyering.