Why they hate you

Ok, I confess. Sometimes poking fun at lawyers is just too easy. And sometimes, as in the June 2012 Last Word (Lexpert), Why they hate you, it’s just… kind of brilliant.

The full text follows, if you’re in a hurry, here are the three best parts:

“The feeling of virtuous lawyers toward shysters is the same as that of virtuous women toward prostitutes.” Rex Stout

…as much as I love tormenting you in print and pointing out your foibles, idiosyncrasies and eccentricities to yourselves, I will tell you this, without reservation: for the most part, you are a virtuous lot.

Now, to be clear, I am using the term “virtuous” purely in reference to your professional practices and making no statement, positive or otherwise, on your personal lives. (Don’t worry, not even I dare go there.) Virtuous in terms of—fulfilling your obligations. Doing the best for the client, even if it burns you. Opinionated as hell, arrogant, annoying, as easy to get to act collectively as a bunch of bull moose in October, not always the most fun at parties, just a wee-bit vindictive (oh, yes)—but, oh yes, most of the time, virtuous.

So why the hate? Here’s an absolution: it’s not because you make too much money and the rest of us are green with envy. …It’s because, simply, people do nasty, nasty things to each other—and you are the weapon. Be it a knuckle-biting business deal, mud-slinging litigation, a derailed negotiation, a partnership agreement pushed into acrimony, or a messy divorce, you are the weapon. We hide behind you; we make you enact our worst impulses, we make you be our naked fists… and we hate you for it. With a passion.

You’ll find the “Dear Me, Don’t Go to Law School” video that inspired the piece here, and the one with the alternate version here.

Last Word

Last Word (Photo credit: Kenn Wilson)

Last Word: Why they hate you
by Marzena Czarnecka

“The feeling of virtuous lawyers toward shysters is the same as that of virtuous women toward prostitutes.” Rex Stout, via mouth of Nero Wolfe in The Golden Spiders

Unless you’ve isolated yourself from the memes of the 21st century to an extent indubitably condemned by, not just your marketing department, but also your managing partner and career coach (I know, I never thought I’d see the day you’d seek the services of a career coach… but the world has changed, darling, hasn’t it?), you’ve seen University of Calgary law students’ viral video, “Dear Me, Don’t Go to Law School.” (If you haven’t, get on your kids’ iPad, click on the Youtube icon—actually, get your kid to take you there; I bet she’s seen it and sent it to all her friends.) Now, unless you’re one of the hard-core “today’s young people, and especially lawyers and god don’t get me started on law students are all freakin’, entitled, lazy whiners,” you’ve probably enjoyed the vid, laughed in all the right places—and twinged uncomfortably in all the even more right ones. (If you’re in the “Freakin’ Millennialists, they’re going to bring about the end of the world and our law firm, what did they expect the profession to be like?” camp, well, you just snorted with disgust. I’d recommend you’d ask your kid to help you make your own video, but of course, that would take away from your billable hours, and what sort of example would that set for the young people, eh?)

After watching, if you were really, really lucky, you clicked on a link that took you elsewhere before you read the comments. Hey—I see your fingers tickling towards Google, stay with me until I’m done. This is a public service announcement: don’t go there. Because if you went, you’re still smarting from what you read. The handful of comments from the insiders—lawyers and law students, laughing, remembering, shuddering, but kind of in a pleasant way—and then, the vitriol of the general public.

Seriously, don’t click, don’t go there, don’t read it. And if you’ve already done so… I’m sorry. They hate you. They really, really hate you.

How much vitriol? I felt like I’d been slapped in the face—and I don’t have an LLB after my name. But I probably know more lawyers than just about anyone else (ok, there are half-a-dozen people in Canada who could make the same claim) in the country, and much as I love tormenting you in print and pointing out your foibles, idiosyncrasies and eccentricities to yourselves, I will tell you this, without reservation: for the most part, you are a virtuous lot.

Now, to be clear, I am using the term “virtuous” purely in reference to your professional practices and making no statement, positive or otherwise, on your personal lives. (Don’t worry, not even I dare go there.) Virtuous in terms of—fulfilling your obligations. Doing the best for the client, even if it burns you. Opinionated as hell, arrogant, annoying, as easy to get to act collectively as a bunch of bull moose in October, not always the most fun at parties, just a wee-bit vindictive (oh, yes)—but, oh yes, most of the time, virtuous.

So why the hate? Here’s an absolution: it’s not because you make too much money and the rest of us are green with envy. Really (we save that vitriol for politicians, who make significantly less than the best of you, and investment bankers, who make you feel like paupers when you compare cars and vacation properties). It’s because, simply, people do nasty, nasty things to each other—and you are the weapon. Be it a knuckle-biting business deal, mud-slinging litigation, a derailed negotiation, a partnership agreement pushed into acrimony, or a messy divorce, you are the weapon. We hide behind you; we make you enact our worst impulses, we make you be our naked fists… and we hate you for it. With a passion.

Most lawyers know of this perception—fight against it (“Look at all the good we do in the community! Look at our pro bono cases! Look at the heroines among our alumni!”)—but don’t understand that it’s pretty much unavoidable. And the better you are at representing us—at doing what we need you to do—the more we resent you. You become an embodiment, an effigy. The toll that takes on your psyche—enormous.

So don’t read the comments at the end of “Dear Me.” Or, for that matter, any other video, article, or book about the profession. It’s the price you pay for being the ultimate weapon, darling. I still love you. Understand you. Isn’t it enough?

Marzena Czarnecka loves lawyers (really), got the letter from the 16-year-old self, and wants to be Rex Stout (but with less beard) when she grows up.

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