Part Two: Should your daughter be a lawyer?

For the Monitor
Published: 9/25/2021 7:54:48 PM

What if your daughter wants to be a lawyer? In last week’s column, I wrote about the very substantial tuition and other costs of law school and of the crushing law school debts that many lawyers owe upon graduation from law school. But assuming that you and she can cover law school costs:

1) What are the main types of legal fields in which she may want to practice?

Among many others, they include, in alphabetical order, art law, business law (which has many subsets, of which the most commonly practiced are contract and corporate law); Constitutional law; criminal law; disability law; employment law; education law; environmental law; family law; estate planning law; health law; intellectual property law (including the law governing patents, trade secrets, and copyrights); litigation (criminal or civil); and tax law.

2) What talents will she need in order to be a good lawyer?

a) She will need to be good at working with people—e.g., with her clients (including very difficult ones); with other lawyers (including those opposing her clients); and with government officials, including office-holders and judges.

b) She will need to be good at handling and winning arguments and disputes.

c) She will need to be a quick study.

d) She will need to be a good writer.

e) She will need to be good at working with abstract legal concepts – learning them, analyzing them, handling them creatively for her clients.

f) She will need to be a hard worker.

3) How can she decide whether she’ll enjoy the practice of law?

a) She should do some reading to get a feel for what the law itself and the practice of law are really like. She might start by visiting University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce Law School (UNH Law) and, if the UNH law school library agrees, reading a few paragraphs in law school textbooks available in the library, books containing decided cases (such as decisions of the New Hampshire Supreme Court), and documents filed by lawyers in legal cases. In fact, the UNH Law librarians, whom I’ve always found be remarkably generous with their time and expertise, might be willing to help her access on line one or two recently filed New Hampshire Superior Court cases to see what court filings look like in real life. But she should be aware that there’s a big difference between law school and law practice.

b) If any law school within range of her home lets her, she should sit in on law school classes in one or two fields of law and talk with some law students.

c) She should talk with lawyers in various legal fields who she thinks might be willing to tell her what they do in their practice and what they like and don’t like about it.

d) She should spend a few hours in local New Hampshire Superior Court watching civil and criminal trials.

e) She should talk with lawyers who work in various types of legal organizations – for example, lawyers in solo practice, in small and large law firms, in federal and state government offices, and as “in-house” lawyers for large companies. This experience may persuade her, for example, that while she might not be comfortable in a large firm, she would enjoy the independence available in a solo practice and the creativity permitted and encouraged in that practice.

4) What are the downsides of being a lawyer?

a) Bar exams. They are expensive to study for, and they can be hard to pass.

b) Long hours of work. Because of these long hours, many lawyers find it difficult to balance work and family life.

c) Boredom. For many lawyers, much of their work is routine and boring.

d) Stress. The law practice of many lawyers is highly stressful. Every year, this stress causes many lawyers to discontinue their legal practice.

e) Low pay. Starting pay for lawyers is usually good. But for many lawyers, long-term pay may be modest or poor.

f) Getting clients. Clients can be hard to find, and competition for clients can be intense.

5) Why might she be happy as a lawyer? Some examples:

a) She’s a business lawyer, and she creates legal and tax structures for business start-up clients that strongly support their success.

b) She’s an estate planner, and she develops estate plans for her clients that address difficult problems for clients who have health issues or have been through divorces or have disabled children or own property in multiple jurisdictions.

c) She’s a trial lawyer, and she wins cases for her clients despite the odds.

d) She’s a public interest lawyer, and she protects the rights of tenants, people of color and LGBTQ people.

e) She’s an environmental lawyer, and she helps her clients expand their town’s renewable energy regulations.

I’ll end with a joke. The message of the joke – which I’m sure won’t surprise your daughter – is that not everyone loves lawyers.

Question: “What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?”

Answer: “A good start.”

 

(John Cunningham is a Concord, N.H., lawyer of counsel to McLane Middleton, P.A. His practice is focused on LLC formations, general business and tax law, advising clients under IRC section 199A, and estate planning. His telephone number is (603) 856-7172, his email address is lawjmc@comcast.net, and the link to his website is www.llc199A.com.)




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