Monday, October 29, 2007

No. I (most likely) will NOT sue you.

As have my blogging compatriots in the past year or so, I will soon (hopefully!) embark on the magical journey known as law school. This information has been, for the most part, well received by friends and family. As one family member so delicately put it, “That would be a damn sight better than whatever the hell it is you’re doing with your life now.”

So, yeah. Languishing in my lower level support role for an undergraduate institution has done almost as much to jade me as my own undergraduate experience; the chorus of “told-you-so’s” regarding my pure mathematics major replacing the chorus of “why’s” and the steady, if diminutive, paycheck are the main differences.

It hasn’t all been wine and roses from the peanut gallery, however. Several coworkers and family members still question this decision of mine. Most hauntingly, they ask me if I plan to sue them in a few years, presumably with a J.D. in my back pocket and a fist full of promissory notes. Despite my assurances that this is not the case (“What do you have I could take from you?” still never seems to settle said rabble-rousers), this persistent image of a nitroglycerin vial of a lawyer, ready to explode lawsuits all over your face at the slightest provocation, has been, well, persistent.*

So, thus begins today’s learning. Listen up. Lawyers are not all power-grabbing, fee-charging, ethics-lacking, wallet-raping scumbag ratfinks. Sure, a few are (just look at John Edwards [the doofus who pretends to care about anything and is pretending to run for POTUS {ahoy! Google hits galore on this}] for an example of a crook who never saw a pseudo-tort he didn’t like), but this sort of practice, though often highly visible, is relatively rare.

Basically, a lawyer is simply someone who is qualified (certified via the state bar association) to advise people on legal matters. So, when you ask your buddy, who is a 2L, about some jerk at a catering company who is suddenly charging you more for the soup than your contract said he would, he is not allowed to give you advice on potential legal remedies. Such advice would be, ummm…, “under the table” I suppose, and not “advice” in the legal sense of the word (every word has a “legal” definition which can “be” accentuated by “putting” quotes ““”” around “it”).

Some lawyers do practice in part in the courtroom representing clients, but there is so much more to the legal field than this. If you want to buy a new house, for example, lawyers are involved on behalf of both parties to ensure that the transfer of the real property is done correctly and in accordance with any relevant statutes. Wouldn’t you hate to give someone a couple hundred thousand for a house, only to discover later that you have no claim of ownership of the property? Yeah, that would suck.

If you are a clever fellow, and create a widget that replaces several older gadgets, you would like to protect your invention and make people pay to use or produce it. Enter patent lawyers. It is not often you see one of these gentlemen (or ladies, why not?) in the courtroom, for rarely is there a reason. In fact, Calvin’s father from Calvin & Hobbes was a patent attorney. You never saw him in a courtroom, and you know you read every single one of Watterson’s masterpieces (right?). (Yes yes yes, I know, this is a very simple exposition. For the purposes of the topic at hand, however, it is illustrative of the falsehood of the perception of the prevalence of the ambulance-chasing tort-happy type of lawyer. Or something.)

Anyway, lawyers assist businesses by helping ensure compliance with relevant statutes, assist in the creating of contracts, help people get married or divorced, and make sure that the obscene amount of money you fork over to the government on April 15 is correct (even if wrong in a different sense of the word).

Really, I guess that’s it. No neat little ribbon to tie this mess up at the end (do I seem out of practice to you too?). A J.D. is a very beneficial degree to have today, even if the practice of law is not your ultimate goal. It is required for a judge and a de facto qualification for most public offices. So, as I take off on the strange journey of law school, I do expect that real doors will be opened for me (not the doors of a math degree in Pennsylvania, which lie on the y-axis in the complex plane, if you get my drift [if not, comment, and I will put that degree of mine to work after all]). So, no, I won’t sue you for no reason, and no, the world doesn’t have enough lawyers (just enough John Edwardses).

*Don’t worry, lawyer jokes are still funny. And I used an asterisk just like all the other authors here. I am cool too!


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