Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Be Kind to Lawyers Day

NATIONAL BE KIND TO LAWYERS DAY apparently was established by Steve Hughes as an annual holiday celebrated on the second Tuesday in April (this year, that's today!).  He chose the date because it is strategically sandwiched between April Fool's Day and Tax Day April 15th.  Take a look at his website for more details.

I don't know any lawyers who actually noticed that it is National Be Kind to Lawyers Day today, and aside from the usual appreciation I get from my clients, nobody in my world seemed to notice.  Not that I was looking for any acknowledgement, merely having the privilege of helping others is generally all I expect in the way of recognition.  That and regular payments.

Seriously, though, I did have an interesting conversation with a friend and client last week as we flew home together from meetings.  Two closely-related questions came up, as they often do in conversations with friends:  why did you choose to be a lawyer, and how can you stand it?

My answer is that I chose law because it is a helping profession, and I like to help people.  I enjoy tackling complicated problems, studying and deciphering complex rules, and giving clients the comfort or strategy they need to solve a new and tough problem or achieve a goal that seems impossible. 

But that's also exactly what's so awful about being a lawyer.  The problems are often very difficult, the rules sometimes don't make sense, or they do make sense but make the client very unhappy, and yet the client wants you to fix his or her problem.  And some of the predicaments that people find themselves in can't be fixed by anyone, lawyer or otherwise.  Yet we lawyers zealously take on their problems, sometimes under impossible time constraints.  We spend our days figuring out ways to deal with accidents, failed businesses, dysfunctional families, feuding business partners, callous banks, frightened neighbors, emotionally imbalanced employees, neurotic employers, incompetent contractors, cheating spouses, embezzling employees, lazy management, greedy landlords, tyrannical government employees, and so on. 

A lawyer who hopes to maintain any sanity has to keep an emotional distance from the client's problems.  At the end of the day,we sign off and go home to family, friends, and hobbies, leaving the client's problems behind.  And perhaps that's why clients end up being unhappy so often:  although we lawyers take on the enormous burden of problem solving for others, in the end it's the client's problem, not the lawyer's.  Perhaps we are so disliked, because the clients want so much more than we can possibly give.

In any event, if you think of it between now and the second Tuesday of April in 2011, let your lawyer know that at least once in a while, you do appreciate her work. 


1 comment:

  1. I wish more lawyers understood this, perhaps they would be less critical of their own profession.

    I have developed a habit in my practice of defending doctors in medical malpractice cases of telling them early on that just as it does no good for them to become emotionally embroiled in their patient when trying to treat them, it does no good for me to become emotionally embroiled in their case while working on defending them.