You don’t go to law school to learn the law. You go to law school to learn that the law makes no sense, or that the law leaves lots of room for argument and subjectivity, or that you can’t count on the law to be just or fair or even helpful. At the same time, you go to law school and people assume you know the answers. They assume there are answers. You go to law school and people start asking for advice and all you can say is, “It depends,” or “I don’t know,” or “This could go either way.” You tell them they need to hire a lawyer and then they don’t trust you because they think you just want to get paid. So you go to law school and you can’t give advice to your friends and family because it’s not possible and not ethical to give advice to people who aren’t your clients and you can’t tell people to hire you because that’s sketchy. You go to law school and you can’t even help yourself because everybody knows a lawyer who represents herself has a fool for a client. And then, when your legal training forces you to say, this is a gray area, or, the law is clear, but there’s nothing I can do, everybody who knows you went to law school decides that you are a moron. Examples:
- You get pulled over because you didn’t obey a traffic sign. You point out that the sign is ambiguous. It could mean two things. You thought it meant one thing. You thought wrong. The cop asks where you are going. You say work. He asks where you work. You tell him you’re a lawyer. He laughs and laughs. He calls over the UPS delivery person across the street. He retells the story about the lawyer who can’t read. They laugh and laugh. You refrain from pointing out that your useless legal training made you question the meaning of the sign in the first place. At least he doesn’t give you a ticket.
- You find yourself in a month-to-month lease with your landlord. You go to great lengths to reduce the terms of your contract to writing. You know there still a chance you didn’t include everything. There’s always a chance. Two months later, you are in a dispute over the terms of the contract. You point out that there has been a misunderstanding based on ambiguous language. Your landlord snidely points out that you’re a lawyer. You would have caught that. You’re lying about the misunderstanding or an idiot for not noticing the ambiguity. She says this more than once. You refrain from saying that almost all contract are ambiguous and lawyers and parties never spot a misunderstanding until somebody tries to break the contract. That’s why we have courts. And contract law. You think about taking her to small claims court, and realize that the judge will turn against you the second he learns that you’re a lawyer because lawyers don’t represent themselves. You think about sending your husband in your place. You are relieved that at least the security deposit laws are clear and in your favor, if the dispute comes to that.
- You find yourself the victim of identity theft and consumer fraud. A shady company used your name to promote its shady services to other lawyers who went to your law school. This company tarnished your professional reputation. You rage to friends and family. People tell you to sue the company. You want to, but you know it’s useless because the company is judgment proof, which is a fancy term for broke. People think you’re useless. You blame your legal education for making you this way.
[Note: I really am a good lawyer.]