Saturday 21 July 2018

Law is a business, not a default means to wealth!

They will rescue us by Christmas, his fellow prisoners in the concentration camp said. Christmas came, and the prisoners who believed in the rescue became disheartened, depressed, and many faded into death. He had a different hope: he would be rescued eventually. It held him together and he survived the camps and the war. He wrote about hope, and when I read what he wrote, it changed how I viewed such a potent emotion.

False hopes can be deadly and soul destroying. People often leave university with false hopes: they will immediately get articles, for a massive salary, be admitted as an attorney and own three houses and a yacht. Everyone will be so proud of them, and adore them, at just the mention of what they are: a lawyer. Every client will pay their bills, and they will be loved by everyone.

It is common for lawyers, myself included, to discourage prospective lawyers from the profession. We aren't being mean, and we do want new lawyers to make their careers, their mark, and their living from law.

There is money to be made as a lawyer, and a meaningful life full to the brim with meaning and excitement. However, just as not every adventurer finds a dragon guarding treasures and gold in a great mountain, not every prospective lawyer succeeds.

Just as you were the first sperm to the egg, you made it, you can make it as a lawyer. Maybe one in five LLB graduates get articles. Of them, maybe half get admitted. Of them, maybe a third stay in the profession for a year or more. Of them ... of them ... of them ...

Law is the toughest career to make it in. You do articles for very little income. You then are unlikely to make much upon admission, new attorneys need to build up experience first. Once you have a sound knowledge of the law, a good reputation, and a capable ability, either your salary increases, which is great, or if you have entrepreneurial spirit, you go on your own. Many even go on their own straight after admission and gain great joy and a living from that. Many others go on their own, whether immediately or after years in a firm, and fail.

The vast majority of those who embark on this journey into law, don't finish in it. Some gain an LLB and go into business, or corporate, and gain much from their flexibility. Others find themselves working in retail or other jobs they would have done better getting instead of building up student debt and being set back four or five years in their careers.

Many do articles, become an attorney, and immediately enter a different field and career.

If you, like me, have a passion for being what I am now, a practising attorney and sole proprietor, and are willing to fight tooth and nail to get there and stay there, then have a hope for success in that, but make sure it is a realistic hope, count the cost first. Be flexible if it doesn't work out. Be guided by the financial viability of what you have set out to do. Law is a business not a default means to wealth.

Have a hope that is not tied down, a longer term hope, a real hope. Have a hope that is welcoming good things from a distance, based on signs already present. Don't have a fool's hope. Ground yourself in reality, count the cost, and make the great leap if it is worth it to you.

It breaks our hearts seeing so many lives damaged by false hopes about a legal career. That is why we discourage aspirant lawyers. I was told the cost before I embarked on this journey. I was told to be wary of law as a career. I chose it anyway. If this is the career for you, you need to choose it anyway, and not choose it by default.

If your heart is set, then, we who have crossed over to the other side, we admitted attorneys, hold out our hands and beckon you on and welcome you into our number, or unto the path, which like Everest, or the tunnel into a dragon's cave, is strewn with many failed hopes, and ends for some. We beckon you nonetheless, a clarion call and homeric siren's song, to join us on the other side of it.

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