I just got off a call with a young one who called me up to ask me about law as a profession (seeing as how I once used to be a lawyer). I immediately had a flashback to the days when I was mulling over law as a career. Three months away from passing out of school, the last thing on my mind after a full year of drudgery and poring over books was being wedded to more books, but one very, very delusional movie based on a lawyer had me believing that it would be a neat thing to become a lawyer.
Boy, was I in for a surprise!
But there I was, at the cusp of passing out of school, informing my bewildered parents that unlike the millionth cousin/bhaiya/didi next door who picked up commerce or science or engineering, I wanted to be a lawyer. They thought I had lost my marbles! But I was adamant. I filled out forms for various law schools in the country, wrote their entrances, and as luck would have it, got through one. Soon I was packing my bags while my Father looked on disapprovingly, especially because I had rejected a chance to study his favourite subject at a good college – English.
The first few weeks in college were disorienting, to say the least. I don’t think it would be wrong to say that our school systems vastly differ from our college systems. After being spoon-fed in school, in college we were left to fend for ourselves where our Professors would only give us a brief outline of the topic, tell us which books to refer to and leave us to navigate the vast expanse of our college libraries. Yes, we were that clueless.
Here’s an example of just how lost we were –
Professor: You will have to refer to the Bare Act for this course.
Students: Say wha’?
Me: Why ‘bare’ act? (In a low voice) Is it in the nude *followed by stupid, adolescent giggle-fest*.
Professor: No, dimwits! Because it is a ‘bare’ act, only the act, no commentaries or explanations.
Anyhow, as days passed by, we slowly acclimatised ourselves to legal jargon and legal lexicons. But there always did remain a vast difference in the expectations and impressions of the non-legal crowd vis-a-vis the lawyer reality. For example, my parents back home used to think that my education would give me a free-hand to argue with anyone I wanted to (I had a reputation already). My friends thought I was pretty studious. My neighbors thought I was going to make it big someday, looking at the tomes of books I used to lug around, and strangers who came to learn that I was a lawyer thought I was like Harvey Specter (cha-ching!).
But here’s what most young lawyers actually end up doing for quite some time in their formative years – heads bent over a fat book, or pressed to their computer screen, going through page after page of filings, drafts and case laws. The only interesting thing that we can look forward to is the tea-break gossip or the boss making a mistake (a rarity)! The featured image at the start of the post is one I’d taken while I was spending the 5th consecutive day in the college library trying to prepare for a mock trial.
Ours is one of the most misunderstood professions out there, I feel. There have been times when I’ve come across people accusing us lawyers of being leeches or being shameless for defending, say a criminal. Why? When doctors can save one without having a blot on their reputation, why can’t we?
This picture pretty much sums up how vastly varied outlooks on our profession are –
So when that poor kid asked me, “Didi, what do you think, is Law a good profession for me?” I told him – I hope you didn’t come up with that idea while watching Suits. Turns out, I was right.
I still told him he could do well if he swore to marry books and spend endless hours in research while not complaining about barely making minimum wage, at least for the first few years, all of which he assented to. So I sent him off with my blessings.
But here’s my question to you, dear readers –
What do YOU think we lawyers do?
I’d love to know your thoughts on this. Thanks 🙂
©Pradita Kapahi, 2016