02 April 2014

Why I Practice Law

Obviously, I practice law because it is the easiest way for someone with a law degree to make a living.  But, sometimes I doubt whether I should really be in this business.

At heart, I am really more of a professor who practices law because he must (and I was even a full time professor of estate planning in a master's degree program for a while, until the for profit university I worked for laid of teaching staff since profit targets had not been met for our unit, and I was a professional journalist for a while at another point in time in a temporary position).  While I do a very competent job of it with pain, sweat and tears, it doesn't always come naturally to me.

There are people who don't dislike nearly as much as I do painstakingly keeping records of how they use every tenth of an hour of every day and accounting for every photocopy and postage expense, keeping their offices and case files in tidy good order, finding contact information of people they need to call, trying to get emotionally unsettled clients to focus on the tasks at hand, having nine little details that must all be attended to in one day in addition to one or two major projects, having a backlog of voice mails to return, and in general, being a super-bureaucrat who is superbly organized and perfectly prepared for every phone call and hearing according to a well honed system.

Lots of the time, to be perfectly frank, practicing law is boring, tedious, exhausting, and scatter brained.  And, honestly, the vast majority of lawyers have much more boring practices than I do.  There are people who do nothing all day but simple divorces, or real estate closings, or federal corporate tax law, or drafting wills, with no variety whatsoever, for years on end.  In contrast, I have done almost every aspect of law that my license authorizes me to practice, except criminal work. If I didn't have one of the most diverse practices in Denver, I would be bored to death.

Even then, I work about three-quarters time, rather than full time, so that I can leave time for blogging and pursuit of my other academic hobbies and side projects (like "the book"), to keep myself from turning into a law zombie.  There are absolutely lawyers who love their jobs more, and who are more naturally suited to their jobs, than I am.

But, every time I get down in the dumps over not being a real "natural" to the practice of law, I encounter a grossly incompetent fellow lawyer in my practice.  Perhaps, a divorce lawyer with thirty years experience who doesn't know how to properly introduce an exhibit in a permanent orders hearing, a civil litigation lawyer who doesn't understand how to amend a pleading, an opposing counsel who files a motion or brings a lawsuit with no hope of being granted or prevailing because the lawyer has no clue that it has no real probability of success, a lawyer who writes motion that don't contain any citations to controlling law or to any backup to the facts asserted, a lawyer who responds to discovery requests that contain false answers that he and his client are sure to be caught red handed manufacturing, and so on.

After seeing how many lawyers who have been practicing law for many years and made a living at it are so profoundly incompetent, I remind myself, that even though I don't always enjoy the work that is left for lawyers to do, or feel like I have to struggle to get it done, or realize after the fact that I have missed tricks in a case that the top 0.1% of lawyers would have utilized, that the quality of the work that I do is profoundly more competent than the quality of work I see from some of my peers in the bar every day.  So, yes, I realize, I do belong here practicing law, at least until something more entertaining that pays well comes along.

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