Did You Hear the One about the Lawyer Who Wrote a Book?
What do politicians, accountants, attorneys, and pole dancers all have in common? Friends, family and random strangers mocking their job choice. One of these careers, however, is different from even the most mocked.
Politicians, accountants, and pole dancers never apologize for their choices. Attorneys, however, feel the need to explain their choice of profession to anyone in listening distance. They practice law for the money, the power, the thrill of litigation, or to help others, but if the stars align in some cosmic miracle, they will leave the law behind faster than a little boy gives up his training wheels in the presence of his best friend.
At a recent writers’ conference, two different speakers began their presentations by apologizing for having been attorneys in their previous careers. Their contrition was extreme, as if they’d personally clubbed baby seals or served underage drinkers who had then driven into a minivan filled with toddlers. The audience in both workshops laughed and the presentations continued with the speakers now confident that no one would be holding their former careers against them.
A career in law, however, can be honorable and when practiced for the right reasons, an attorney should never apologize. Are there dishonest and incompetent attorneys? As sure as there are physicians who should have their licenses revoked. But there are more lawyers who are doing good in the world.
I’ve practiced in many fields of law. Some glamorous, some not so much, but all of them made me the person, the writer, even the mother I am today. I began my career in a solo practice when I graduated from law school. I accepted every case that walked in the door including divorce cases, criminal cases, landlord and tenant, and anything the court would appoint me. On one of my first cases, I represented a convicted child molester in a child custody case. And no. I’m not apologizing. I worked with the other attorneys and the judge on the case to get a fair result. One that sought out the best interest of the child in question.
I moved to international corporate tax planning at a Big Five accounting firm. The money was better, and the work challenged me intellectually. The tax code is a monster, full of pitfalls for the uneducated. While I prefer working for individuals instead of corporations, I would never apologize for working in the corporate world. I now understand the complexity of multinational corporations and the power these entities have both in the Unites States and worldwide.
Law is necessary. People who understand how the law works can force the desegregation of schools across the country, and keep the poor from being placed in jail because they can’t afford court costs. Lawyers help the injured gain compensation from corporate powerhouses and assist families trying to work through the complexities of divorce.
The law is also incredibly complex. The average person going through the system has little chance of understanding the nuances in a case. For example, that person may have a great claim against a company, but they might have filed in the wrong jurisdiction, or the statute of limitations has already passed. While the odds are often slated against the underdog, a good attorney can help equal the playing field.
The legal profession is not always pretty, but neither is law enforcement, medicine, or military service. Yet, our country would not be the same without people dedicating their lives to these pursuits.
My current practice involves children in delinquency and dependency cases. I hope to always keep my foot in the law, helping people who could not otherwise afford an attorney, but desperately need someone on their side. Are there lawyers who should be disbarred and feathered? Absolutely, but attorneys can make a difference. For those who ran from the career screaming, maybe it’s time to take a glance back over your shoulder. There’s an awful lot of people who are lost in our legal system, and you can make a difference.
My legal research and courtroom experience, in addition to my work with both individual and corporate clients, has provided me the tools to become a better writer. I enjoy spending part of my week writing stories and the other part practicing law. I hope to continue both professions into the distant future. You will never hear me apologize for choosing to continue my career as an attorney. It is a privilege and an honor.
A Golden Pen winner in romantic suspense and a triple finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, Veronica Forand is an attorney and a novelist. She’s lived in Boston, London, Paris, Geneva, and Washington, DC and currently resides near Philadelphia. An avid traveler, she loves to roam across continents with her husband and kids in pursuit of skiing, scuba diving, and finding the perfect piece of chocolate.
To learn more about Veronica, please visit her website.
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