Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Monday, December 26, 2005

On Being A Lawyer, and Not Being A Lawyer

A friend introduced me to a friend of hers last night. "This is my friend Jeremy. He's a lawyer." And I kind of shrugged my shoulders and did a sort of embarrassed kind of thing and said something like "Well, not really a lawyer, just went to law school," and it didn't matter and it doesn't matter as it relates to something stupid like getting introduced to someone, but it got me thinking -- not so much about the fact of it, because the fact, I think, is that I'm not a lawyer, because I'm not practicing law -- but about my automatic reaction to the idea of being a lawyer.

When she said it, I kind of felt like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Like, "no, it's not my fault, don't hate me for this, I'm not one of THEM, it was just an innocent mistake." Nothing serious, not like being called a rapist, an axe murderer, or a Bush supporter, but, still, I kind of had the realization for the first time that if I'm being totally honest, "lawyer" isn't a label I want to have attached to me.

That isn't fair and kind of sucks. I mean, I know that among the general population, lawyers get a pretty bad rap. We hear about surveys showing that people see "lawyer" as a pretty negative thing. This Gallup poll I just found with the magic of Google places lawyers, in terms of ethics, down there right below building contractors and real estate agents and just above labor union leaders. Halfway between journalists and car salesmen. Well below funeral directors. Yikes. Lawyers also get into lots of car accidents and rank eighth of nine professions in terms of public confidence.

But law school should have taught me better. I know lots of terrific, ethical, good people who are now lawyers. Doing all kinds of things -- at firms, not at firms, clerking, not clerking. I think most of my classmates from law school want to do good in the world. I don't think, on an individual level, lawyers are any worse than anyone else, certainly.

Yet, taken as a group, law school didn't kill off all the stereotypes for me. Before law school, I think I would have been fine being called a lawyer. Lawyers have prestige, lots of people doing cool and important things went to law school, it sounded nice... and I didn't know any lawyers personally, no one in my family was a lawyer, my only exposure to lawyers was from a distance... but somehow, having gone to law school, and had more exposure...

I don't have a next paragraph for this post. I'm kind of curious what other people think, if this makes any of you think about anything. I'm not sure it will. :)