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Lawyer, General

The Real Poop

What this society needs is lots and lots more lawyers. We need more lawyers to chase ambulances and convince "accident victims" that they really are hurt. We need more lawyers to sue companies for silly things hoping just to get a half million dollar settlement "to go away." We need more lawyers to find more ways that rich people can avoid paying taxes. You get the idea. We already have a ton of mediocre lawyers. We don't need more. So if you aren't interested in entering the law field for "the right reasons"—i.e., you believe in fairness and you are fighting for your honest clients to get a fair shot—then go do something else. Really. There are roughly two lawyers for every 500 people in this country. Feels like an enormous number when you consider that there is only one emergency room bed for every 20,000. (Varies by city, etc. obviously, but you get the general idea.)

You'd think the purple gloves would make it more fun.

In a way, there is no such thing as a "lawyer" any more. It's like saying you speak European. Maybe in 1859 there was a need for a lawyer who could simply read. They were Jacks of all trades and they didn't need to master even one in order to make a nice living lawyering. But today everything is a deep specialty. 

Corporate lawyers file papers to register companies, trademarks, patents, and deal with all kinds of administrivia like stock option plans, board covenants, insurance, employee contracts, union deals, and the occasional sexual harassment claim. And even in these instances, the corporate lawyer usually hires a specialist in each of these arenas. 

Criminal lawyers defend (mostly guilty) people who have been brought to the court for charges, fines, and eventually prison sentences. There are, of course, the rare individuals who really are innocent, and it's likely that they are the whole reason you will have gone to law school with your good heart, but many people burn out on an overloaded court system filled with backroom deals and corruption. Just like on Wall Street, there is a "buy side" and a "sell side" of criminal law—the buyers are the prosecutors who work for the State to protect it from evil-doers, and it is their job to put the bad guys behind bars and not the kind that serve martinis; "selling" to these prosecuting buyers are defense attorneys who either work for the State (in the Constitution we require that those accused must be provided "fair"ish defense service)—or they work privately. Who can afford a $400 an hour private criminal attorney? Well, drug dealers for one (successful ones, those who are great at their craft), fraudsters can afford them, and so can generally rich people. Lots of great movies on all of this stuff—see list at the end.

Dozens of other flavors of lawyers exist, from international packaging lawyers to those who don't really lawyer at all, but rather sit in the middle of all of the paperwork on dozens and dozens of real estate deals, taking 1% ownership in giant complexes in return for the "barter" of their services. 

While reviled on many levels and in many venues, lawyers are, at the same time, some of the most respected individuals in our society. The good ones are highly educated, analytical and hard-working professionals who set innocent people free, send the bad guys to jail, dedicate their lives to learning and interpreting our laws, help many of us figure out how to perform such mystifying tasks as drawing up our wills, establishing a trust, or finding a loophole in a contract we wish we hadn't signed. On the other hand, they are widely despised and distrusted by a large number of people who feel that they are slimy, sleazy scuzzbags who will do anything for a buck no matter what's right, including defending and attempting to free a man they know did something heinous and unforgivable.

We're going to go out on a limb and say that these guys are not just performance artists.

If you're okay with the eye-rolls when you tell someone you're a lawyer, and especially if you desire to be a principled and honorable member of the profession, then we encourage you to consider this gig as your chosen career path. The money is often great, you are providing a valuable service, and you'll comprehend oh so much more of John Grisham's writing.