For true attorneys, it’s about making a difference not the money

by Chris Markham. 0 Comments

I happened to see yet another headline today that reminds me that either wanting to be an attorney, or actually being an attorney, is not the greatest job in the world.

Apparently, these days, earning a law degree is worth less than it has ever been worth in history. It appears that newly minted graduates some of whom have actually passed the bar exam have had great difficulties not only finding jobs in the legal profession, but also obtaining positions that actually pay on a level comparable with, say, a server at the local Applebees.

Why is this?

Well, its not exactly true that supply outstrips demand, but in this instance there may be a kernel of truth to it. Heck, doesnt everyone and their brother say there are too many attorneys in the world today?

For the one or two long-term readers of this column, I want to let you know becoming an attorney is hard work. Most people who talk about it say that they cruised through college and law school, and studied for the bar only when they werent high or drunk (which was probably a few minutes every day) because it isnt cool to actually put effort into anything these days, God forbid.

One commenter to the aforementioned article actually put it well, which Ill paraphrase. They stated: I got into the profession to make a lot of money. But, actually, I found that I enjoyed helping people. And thats what its all about.

At the end of the day, youre helping people either get something done, or defend them from something being done to them.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned individuals who thought that law school was a piece of cake; in my opinion, law school was pretty difficult. I pride myself on a challenge, but in no way, shape or form was I ready for the challenge law school presented. Hours of school after a full day of work. Exams that count for 100 percent of your grade. Professors that tortured you until they were sick of the spectacle or they threw you to the wolves. Classmates providing dubious notes and stealing books from the library so no one else could track them down. Weekends, holidays and summers studying.

And at the end of that three- to four-year vacation? The bar exam.

I dont know whether Ive said it in this column before, but, on the day I pass on from this earth, I will be safe and secure in the knowledge that my death day will be only the third worst day of my life.

That exam was two days of the worst possible physical and psychological torture. But I passed, and that was more than about fifty percent of my fellow test takers could say.

Once youre licensed, you can practice, if somewhere will have you. Great, right? The dollars dont just pour in you really have to work for it. Unless, of course, you have family connections and are set up right away in a practice or an office; the rest of us have to plug away until we find something. Or scratch up enough clients to make a go of it on your own.

Even when you do find something, the work can be thankless and trying. You spend a great deal of time and effort bringing yourself up to speed on issues, cases, personalities and strategies. These days, those efforts can be rewarded with opposing parties going after you, opposing counsel disagreeing with your methods and judges to convince.

If youre in this for the money, there are to be easier ways to get rich. Ways that dont involve long days and hard work. Ways that dont involve ticked off people. Ways that dont require any education whatsoever.

But, at the end of the day, the attorneys that continue arent in it for the money. They may be in it for the challenge. Or the opportunity to expose yourself to new people, issues or ideas. The academic rigor that we have to possess to effectively do our jobs and advocate vigorously for clients. The fireproof underwear we don so as not to be scorched every single day.

One reason all of us are involved, and continue to be involved, is to help the people we agreed to assist. True, there are bad days when nothing seems to go right. But when you know youve made a difference when as a direct result of your help someone prevails and justice is served.

Chris Markham writes a weekly column for

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