Published: Nov 23, 2021
It’s no secret that being a lawyer is a tough gig, whether you have several years of practice under your belt or you’re just familiar with pop culture references. The combination of late nights, tough clients and partners, and demands for perfection are not exactly a walk in the park. That said, given the season, I’d like to offer ten reasons you should nonetheless be grateful you’re a lawyer. In no particular order, and with varying degrees of seriousness, here they are:
10. The Money
Let’s start with the most obvious one: Lawyers are pretty well paid, and I’m not just talking about the ones in BigLaw. Even outside of the biggest firms, attorney jobs generally come with a reliable paycheck, which is something to be grateful for. And while BigLaw attorneys may rarely see the inside of them, they can usually afford decent apartments while making payments on their loan debt. (Not to mention, they could pay for some impressive dates if they ever found the time to go on one!)
9. The Prestige
The world’s many lawyer jokes aside, people still tend to be impressed when you tell them you’re a lawyer. It’s the kind of job that parents are proud to tell their friends you have, and that’s something.
8. The TV Shows
As long as you don’t bother correcting them, at least some of your friends and family will assume your job is as glamorous as it looks on Suits. When you’re commuting to and from the office, you can at least fantasize about being Jessica Pearson (or another TV lawyer, if you have way worse taste than I do).
7. Making a Difference
There are many areas of the law where you can make a real impact, even as a junior attorney. Even if you don’t go into a specialty like environmental law, human rights law, or immigration law full time, there are plenty of ways you can make a meaningful difference in the lives of clients who really need it. Most BigLaw firms offer a number of ways to get involved in pro bono or other volunteer work, and many offer substantial billable credit for some of those hours.
6. Substantive Work
If you’re a litigator, crafting arguments that could lead to a meaningful change in the law is incredibly exciting. And that’s true whether you’re in a local court or on the bleeding edge of the profession, submitting briefs to the Federal Courts of Appeal or even the Supreme Court. Remember that when you’re ten hours into cite checking, making sure each single quote or apostrophe is curved the correct direction. The same is true for transactional attorneys—even if you’re the most junior person on a deal, conducting due diligence or compiling signature pages, you’re working on transactions that shape almost every aspect of the world we live in.
5. The Clothes
Some firms are backing away from this lately, but a lot of the fanciest ones in New York still expect you to suit up for work every day. (Or at the very least, you might have the opportunity to dress up for in-person court appearances or client meetings.) Depending on how you feel about comfort vs. style, this may well be a perk. I’ll say this: I’m with Barney Stinson. Everyone looks better in a suit.
4. The Events
Pretty much every single event you get invited to as an attorney is a happy hour of some sort. I never attended anything where I wasn’t provided a drink ticket, and 80% of the time there was decent food as well. Lawyers intuitively know how hard the job is, so they tend to splurge on their events to make them really enjoyable and take the edge off all the stress. Of course, you’re still not at home when you’re attending these things, so sleep and family time may well remain elusive.
3. The Camaraderie
I’m being completely earnest on this one. I worked on two jury trials during my seven years of practice, and other than anything involving real physical danger, I promise there is no “trial by fire” like a jury trial. Two weeks of getting less than two hours of sleep per night, living on stale pizza, and operating in a hotel room (that begins to reek of the kind of sweat that’s only produced by highly stressed people who have been working for twenty hours straight)—as you might imagine, you may start to feel like you’re losing your mind. But on the flip side, there’s no better way to form a strong bond with other people. Your comrades at trial become comrades for life. I feel perpetually bonded to everyone from both of my trial teams. Even if you’re not often at trial, the legal profession provides plenty of other opportunities for late nights and tight deadlines—in other words, plenty of bonding opportunities.
2. Opposing Counsel
Are you single (or in a healthy relationship), and feeling a void in your life that could only be filled by having someone there to not only point out every single mistake you make but to roast you for them in front of a judge? Thankfully, opposing counsel is here for you to happily help you develop thicker skin! Don’t take it personally or think they’re being mean—it’s literally their job. And people wonder why this gig is so hard…
1. The Partners
No, I don’t know when they sleep either. It’s a good thing they totally mean it when they say it’s absolutely fine for you to go on vacation. Don’t doubt their sincerity when you get that phone call half an hour after your plane lands. Don’t question their honesty about respecting your downtime when you get an email at 3:00 a.m. And don’t ever be unhappy when they (metaphorically) shoot the messenger because your research didn’t turn up the answer they wanted. Remember, if you do everything they ask, never take a day off, and always bill over your target, you have a chance of joining their ranks one day. Eye on the prize!
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