I read the latest post on the Junior Lawyers’ Union website with interest. I like the way Shop Steward thinks. This kind of a blog can seem too negative.
Why am I still a lawyer? Because I enjoy the law. More than that. I am passionate about the law, both about the way it works in practice and about the way it operates conceptually. One of my best friends often says that she decided not to become a lawyer because she doesn’t enjoy the law as I do. She threatened to throw me out of the car once because I talked too much about the marvellous resulting trust and it was putting her off her driving.
Being a lawyer is empowering. As I have said in a previous post, it is very helpful when dealing with nasty ex-landlords and such people. It is good to know what your rights are so that you can stand up to people.
I like to figure things out. I like to think about obscure bits of the law which might solve my client’s problems. I like to be a detective and work out what actually happened. I like to tell a good story. I like a battle of wits. As you can probably tell from these traits, I was a litigator when in practice. I also like to try and help people (this is not always compatible with legal practice).
The people with whom I have worked in firms are good people, and I liked them. I learnt a lot. Despite this, I am no longer working in a law firm. “Take it or leave it” – I left it. It was not the fault of the particular firms with which I worked; it was just the nature of the beast.
I believe that the way in which law firms operate is not conducive to flexible or sensible working practices.
- Culture of “workaholism” – long hours are often encouraged (and indeed necessary for career progression).
- Emphasis often placed on time spent at work rather than quality of work.
- Quality part-time work difficult to find.
- Expectation that staff will be available and willing to drop everything at all times.
It isn’t family friendly. Or friendly to pets and friends, for that matter.
Why did I leave the law firm? Because I suspected I would rarely see my adorable daughter, and when I did, I would be too exhausted to enjoy my time with her. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my old bosses used to say, “On your deathbed, you don’t wish you spent more time at work.” Too true.
I’ll continue to love the law (like the freakdog I am, as my non-lawyer husband would say). And I will always still work in the law. But unless something changes, I don’t think I’ll be going back to a law firm.