Article by J. William Manuel 1 2018–2019 CABA PresidentPosted 01/01/2018
“What do you have when you have a lawyer up to his neck in sand? Not enough sand.” “What is the difference between a lawyer and a liar? Pronunciation”
We are all used to the common perception of lawyers as sneaky rich sharks who are slinking around the corner of every shady deal or car accident. Everybody has a family member who jokes about being embarrassed at having a lawyer as a relative. And yet, most non-lawyers will have to admit that the legal profession is a necessary cog in the machinery of today’s world. Lawyers serve in our government, our corporations, and our educational system, and are seen all over our entertainment options.
The tension between the necessity of individuals schooled in the law and the inherent dislike of the profession can cause many of us lawyers to suffer an identity crisis. We claim to dread our jobs. We groan about the long hours and the constant stress. We complain about needy clients and the slow process of resolving matters. For many, “I’m so busy” has become the new status symbol — but it is rarely said with a smile.
Not all of our colleagues suffer from this, however. Judge Ball’s presentation at the last CABA meeting showed us a person who loves his job and is enthusiastic about going to work each day. Judge Ball reminded us that one of the most rewarding parts of being a lawyer is being a counselor. He smiled while talking about the long settlement conferences in which he participates. Is something wrong with him? (Of course not).
We all had our own reasons for entering the legal profession. Some liked the challenge of solving difficult problems. Others felt a pull to seek justice. Others still wanted a profession where they would be around people. When we were newer lawyers, idealism and the challenge of solving a hard matter could make us spring out of bed in the morning. Those challenges still exist — how do we get the happiness back?
I encourage each of you to take some time in the next months and remind yourself about some of the things about the law that used to make you smile. For me, it has always been the fact that I have the privilege of working with some of the smartest folks in town — both within my own office and in other firms and offices across the state. I never lack for interesting conversation, either from people on my own hallway or opposing counsel during a break in the courtroom. One of the great benefits of working in a smaller state is the depth of relationships we are able to build in the bar.
We need to return joy to the practice of law. Sure, there are many times that demand that we are absolutely resolute and serious. But our co-workers and opposing counsel are all still human (so far). The interactions can be meaningful and happy.
One of the great places to try to practice joy is at our CABA events (yes, a shameless plug). At a social, you can have face to face contact with that mysterious email recipient. At a committee meeting, you can joke around with the person on the other side of that corporate negotiation. You get the chance to remind yourself that we can be enthusiastic and happy about being lawyers. I hope that you all will take advantage of it.