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Attorneys have to constantly deal with people who will cringe, cry and worry as they are seeking recourse from the trouble they are in with the enforcement agencies, from the cops, from tax companies and from people, very often their own relatives, who have cheated and defrauded them. It is hugely discomforting for the attorneys to come to face-to-face with such human conflicts on a day to day basis and can be devastating for his psyche.
For attorneys to always think in terms of losing or winning can be highly demoralizing coupled with mind-numbing paperwork can be intimidating and scary.
Moreover the challenge of meeting high expectations and standards of performance can make attorneys feel bitter and irritated, often with feelings of loneliness and alienation.
Attorneys are infamous for working long disproportionate hours especially during the first few years of their professional careers. Fresh attorneys just out of law school full of youthful exuberance and a longing to prove themselves adopt workweeks of anything between 70 to 90 hours. They actually boast and brag about their tough and demanding schedules without realizing that slowly but surely frustration and fatigue is creeping in.
The legal profession does have reason for becoming stressful as there is intense rivalry, specialized fields of interest and the whole system is very complicated and intricate sometimes making it very hard to unravel.
Slowly but surely, the preliminary fears about how hard law school would be will give way to a new found excitement, passion and you will realize that it is not as hard and painful as people and advisors made it out to be. Following your first semester at school you will undoubtedly become aware that law is something nobler, certainly something more encompassing and challenging, than just another job. You perhaps have already started to experience a little pride when you say or think, "I'm going to be a lawyer.
The first question to ask yourself is why did you apply to law school in the first place? There are as many answers to this question as there are students. And that fact is very significant. Law extensively impacts everyone’s lives and in that sense law offers something for every one of its practitioners.
Ask yourself and give yourself an honest answer. Are you into law for material success? Fine, there’s no harm or shame in seeking money in a career. There are some who enter law because they want to improve society. Some feel it could be the way to hold a public office and improve the way the government is being run. Many lawyers feel that practicing law also provides a social service and helps bring justice to people seeking it and then there are those who say that merely seeing people cringe before them on the witness stand gives them an adrenaline rush?
Law can be the key to all of these goals. If you're bookish and shy, if you're petulant and aggressive, you have a place in the law. In what other profession can you be a scholar, a street fighter, a psychoanalyst? And if, like most of us, you're a composite, law will still gladly accommodate you.
But that's not all. The practice of law and even the study of law affects you in fundamental ways. Self-confidence, for one. You can't stand up in front of a roomful of people and talk about a legal decision and not come away with a sense that there are few confrontations in the real world you can't handle.
How about pride? A lot of people apply to law schools; a very small percentage get in. And the profession itself is a noble one. For every lawyer whose wrongdoing hits the newspaper, there are hundreds who volunteer their time to make certain that indigent and low-income clients are afforded the best legal protection in the country. And let's not forget about the typical attorney who stays in the office until 3:00 a.m. just to put a final polish on his brief so that his client has a better shot at victory the next morning.
So there you have three of the legacies of practicing law: challenge, self-confidence, pride. But these are what law bestows upon you, the benefits that you are getting out of studying and practicing law but what does it require in return?
The practice of law needs more than a part-time commitment. The practice of law and the study of law, too, are like reading a legal case. Skim it once, and you won't grasp it. It will mean nothing to you. You'll feel repelled by the complexity of the facts. But plow into a case hard, pull it apart, and sooner or later it works. You have the meaning of the case, and you feel good about it.
There will be times in the next few years of study and times in your practice when you feel that opening a case reporter is the last thing you want to do. The thought of briefing a 45-page antitrust decision-oh, bring on the hot coals instead! Then the worm gets in. You think, "Maybe I shouldn't be a lawyer. I don't feel the old first-year enthusiasm and drive any more. I'm getting lazy. I've never been as smart as everybody thought I was. I've made a wrong choice."
What do you do about these feelings? Well, what's a lawyer's first step when confronted with any problem? To analyze it. Sort out your emotions; look at the facts. What is the kernel of the difficulty? By allowing yourself to be mislead by all the woes that are there in the profession attorneys are pressing the self-destruct button.
As to the absence of your first-year enthusiasm-good riddance! Who needs it? The first year in law school is powered by a dangerous mixture of fuel; manic enthusiasm and intense fear. You will never need to bring to the study or practice of law the effort you brought to your first year. Doing so isn't necessary. You'll learn 90 percent of the "law" you need for school in your first two semesters. The rest is just fine tuning and learning variations. So if your outlines shrink, your case briefs become skimpy, you don't begin studying until three days before the exam instead of two weeks, don't think less of yourself by the second and third year, you'll have learned how to learn. You don't need to work as hard.
But what about other moments of doubt, ones you can't dismiss so easily? Is there any cure for them? Analyze them. What's the source? A low grade you know you didn't deserve? Is it about no free time and 16-hour days at the office? Also it does dampen your worth and self-esteem when you are given assignments a secretary could handle? Find the cause of your dampened enthusiasm before you seek a cure.
One-up-man-ship with colleagues and the intense competition between lawyers can become nerve wracking. Especially if you are working for a law firm, your colleagues will want to show that they are smarter than you and will not work together and may even sabotage your efforts. But that should be no reason to feel depressed. If it’s war between you and your colleagues, so be it. Try to outshine them, after all you all share a common goal and it is but fair you’ll want to be the first to breast the tape – of course using unethical means is not condoned but fierce and healthy completion will only make you a better lawyer.
However, let me counsel you that these are merely temporary irritations. Time is as good a remedy as damages or an injunction. You'll get different assignments. You'll change firms. You'll graduate cum laude in spite of the C-. You'll find a new area of law to practice in. You'll find new courses to take. And soon the discouragement is gone.
But let's say you've weeded those problems out and you still do not think that you have the same urge and passion as before. Something tells you there's something else. No more cases, no more security agreements, no more stock pledge agreements, no more depositions, no more memoranda. Heaven help you if you get assigned to document discovery. And you think, "This isn't for me. It's too much. I'll go under." What to do then?
You plow into the case. You engage in an act of faith, you might say. You turn to meet the enemy. You push hard and force yourself to read the case, digest the antitrust opinion, synopsize the law review article and draft the contract. And some thing curious happens. You move through your discouragement into the realm of good lawyering-a place that you can never arrive at if you skim. And the next thing you know, that discouragement turns to elation-the same twist you felt in your stomach during your first year when you grasped what you thought was an inconceivable concept.
The only cure for law is more law. Plough into your work with renewed enthusiasm and zeal. That then is your challenge: mechanics, discipline, and sometimes a little faith-all formidable requirements, but ultimately worth the price. You'll soon find that out. They're merely the cost of a ticket to this very remarkable land of the law, which is really what it is: a different world, a place that will welcome you, become familiar territory, make you part of it-and change you, too, just as you will bring your own skills and dedication to the profession and, in a smaller way, will alter the geography of the law.
First thing to do is to get it out of your head that law is dull, boring and that getting into it was a wrong decision. Secondly don’t be obsessed with your law work, once you are out of school, or out of the court or the firm if you are a practicing lawyer, learn how to relax. Take in a movie. Make new friends. Get some exercise, start feeling moiré mobile and energetic. If you have been finding yourself in the ‘rut’ for rather a longish period than take a vacation and come back energized and recharged.
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