That caught your eye? It catches my eye constantly when I see factions in the legal community measure every other lawyer’s passion for the law or time spent per week practicing law as a barometer for whether or not they are a ‘real’ lawyer.
Some of the popular challenges to ‘real’ status:
- You have additional streams of income, whether law related or not
- You write a book on 1) ways to help your colleagues with a particular issue or 2) unrelated to law entirely
- You don’t practice 100 hours per week, or even 60 or 40
- You blog about other interests
- You take a break from the practice of law for any number of reasons including, family illness, child birth, a trip around the world, another graduate degree
- You’ve practiced for twenty years and then decide to create a service for lawyers to help with systems processing, or pricing strategies, or worse – do both simultaneously!
- Your clients are exclusively other lawyers so you don’t have any ‘real’ clients
- etc., etc., etc.
The only exception: you can do any of this if your colleagues like you. Then you remain a ‘real’ lawyer in their eyes.
The unvarnished truth is all of these people are ‘real’ lawyers who are practicing (or have practiced) in various degrees. They are choosing to branch out or evolve in ways which work for them.
Those who proclaim ‘real’ lawyers as only those who live and breathe the law – well this tragic stereotyped lawyer is often the one pictured as working 100 hours per week forgoing their families, their health, and other personal or business interests. This scary ‘real’ lawyer is the one most prone to falling into disabling depression, life-altering addiction, deliberately committing egregious acts to get disbarred because they can’t voluntarily slow down or admit they don’t want law to consume their souls anymore or the pressure to sustain the ‘image’ is no longer bearable.
‘Real’ lawyers come in all shapes and sizes and flavors.
There is no guru on any hill anywhere I know of who has been universally recognized and authorized to determine who has the requisite amount of passion and purpose, the right blend of hours worked and the perfect balance of all of life’s activities to call one lawyer over another a ‘real lawyer’… except the bar commissioners who give (or take away) a legal license based upon your ability to do your job and your other activities within ethical boundaries.
As long as a barred lawyer in good standing has the ability to take on a client, he or she is a ‘real’ lawyer. Whether they choose to practice is another matter altogether.
What do you think?