Lawyers are an unhappy bunch. Maybe it’s the long hours, the extraordinary pressure, or the ungrateful clients. Maybe it’s opposing counsel, who sometimes are liars or cut-throats. Or it might be our bosses, who can be rude and uncaring. It could even be our peers, who are occasionally backstabbers. Maybe it’s the anxiety caused by the deadlines, the unpredictability, and the incessant threat of malpractice. Whatever the cause, most of us are stressed, or bored, or frustrated, or just miserable practicing law. Simply put, we hate it.
I am the anomaly. I love practicing law. I love litigation. I love winning. Criminal prosecution. Commercial litigation. Bankruptcy. Appellate law. I love it all.
Until I didn’t. Until I became a family lawyer. Until I woke up one day and thought, Families don’t belong in the courtroom. Until I realized, No one wins in family court.
Yet someone told me the other day that I was too happy to be lawyer.
Too Happy To Be a Lawyer
We were on vacation. It was a hot mid-afternoon in December, and my husband and I were taking a long, lazy walk on the Caribbean sugar sand beach. We rationalized, “We don’t want to overtax our calves,” so we sampled every bar along the way.
The young man, who had waited on us several times before, aspired to become “an entrepreneur.” The restaurant was deserted, so we chatted about what avenues might be open to him, in today’s environment, in that venue. To provide context, my husband and I talked about where we had lived over the years, and the entrepreneurs we had worked with or for, or had met in our travels.
Our server was fascinated by my husband’s business, and that, if you create and utilize a digital application, your enterprise becomes more valuable than if, for example, it consists of personal services, as mine does.
When I mentioned that I was a lawyer, he regarded me, in my bikini top, flamingo pink cutoffs, and bare feet, skeptically.
“What?” I asked, amused by his incredulity, caused, I assumed, by my tan and my attire.
“You’re a lawyer?”
“I never would have guessed that.” He explained, “You’re far too happy to be an attorney.”
Must be all the collaborative work I do these days.
The next day, a woman I had met months earlier texted. “Ready to pull the plug,” she wanted to schedule a divorce consult. (Must be one of those New Year’s Resolution things.)
I replied, “I can meet with both you and your husband to explain your divorce process options, so that you can make an informed decision about how you want to move forward. Just let me know if he wants to do that. But I’m only handling collaborative matters these days, helping folks reach resolution without going to war. Otherwise, I’m pleased to refer you to lawyers who are still taking their clients to court for their divorces.”
No wonder I’m so happy!
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About this week’s author, Joryn Jenkins.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, two of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed in the United States Supreme Court upon those who have provided exceptional leadership in the American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.