Lawyers: The Many Hats We Wear


It’s amazing how I rushed into law school with no real idea what I would be doing every day of my working life. I had an inkling I would be on the litigation side of things (though I’m not even sure I knew what the word “litigation” meant). Like anyone whose imagination was nourished on a steady diet of television, I thought being a lawyer meant my days would be spent emasculating evil, dishonest witnesses in a packed, captivated courtroom. That is, when I wasn’t driving my Porsche . . . or playing golf . . . or having a power lunch at the Club . . . or whatever.

Imagine my surprise when I graduated, passed the bar and reality set in! In truth, I figured out long before graduation that most days I would be the one getting emasculated, chained to a desk, eating my power lunch at the downtown YMCA. (Don’t laugh. . . the YMCA is a Club, isn’t it?)

What’s interesting, though, is not that those golden trial-lawyer-as-cross-exam-Ninja moments are so few and far between, but rather how varied my job description can actually be from day-to-day. While I do spend the majority of my working hours litigating (i.e., complaining, pleading, advising, calendaring, moving, appearing, arguing, deposing, drafting, researching, responding, conferencing, serving, trying, introducing, direct examining, cross-examining, re-direct examining, re-cross examining, filing, noticing, negotiating, appealing, taxing, counseling, averring, answering, BILLING, reviewing, revising, disclosing, amending, second-amending, designating, counter-designating, etc.), it is surprising how much of my working day I actually spend doing none of these things.

What else do I do? It depends on the client. But in some ways I’ve come to think of it as a service as important (if less lucrative) as any of the -ing activities I listed above: I act as a Resource to my clients. More specifically, as a lawyer I gain unparalleled backstage access into my client’s “kitchen” (not just restaurant clients, either). And it turns out that what they often need is not a hired gun to fight legal battles, but rather an objective sounding board or a referral source. This part of the job is particularly rewarding with new or emerging companies because I’m bringing value by my involvement that a “hired gun” litigator just can’t bring. The more intimately I get to know a client’s business, the more interesting all aspects of my job become.

I take great care when I refer clients or contacts to other professionals. Every referral reflects ultimately on me, and I feel I have a stake in the outcome. So, while I might explore and involve myself in a variety of networks for the specific purpose of making contacts and business referral sources, I take pride that any decision I make to connect a client or contact with a professional is informed by the kind of cold, objective judgment I would use in selecting a doctor to treat me or my family.

When we take our role as a resource to our clients as seriously as we take the role of practicing lawyer we create the possibility of going past a mere attorney-client relationship. We partner. We jointly venture. We approach the most coveted role any lawyer can ever hope for: the Trusted Advisor.

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