Vail Daily column: Job security and the law
July 14, 2015
I've been at this law thing for 31 years. After 31 years of working in the coal mines of the law, I've made some observations. And I have come to some conclusions. One of which I have shared with friends over coffee or when tackling a 10 percent grade on our bikes is that the law has great job security.
Now this doesn't mean that if a lawyer is working for a law firm — big or small — or else is "in house" working for a corporation, he can't be handed walking papers. No. What it means, instead, is that the "nature" of the job is sort of permanent.
First, you have to ask yourself, "What does a lawyer do?"
Most people have at least some working knowledge of their bodies. If I say to someone there’s this or that wrong with their arm or their belly or their lower spine, they at least have some idea what a belly or an arm or their spine means. With law it’s different. You guys speak in a special language, have a secret handshake and have the keys to something most regular folks don’t have an inkling about.
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Go on, ponder this a second.
What likely comes to mind is the Hollywood version of a lawyer battling in a courtroom — and there is some truth to that — but the fact is that most lawyers never see the inside of a courtroom. Read that as "never," or at least hardly ever.
NECESSITY OF LAWYERS
I read somewhere — apocryphal or not — that the average lawyer (whatever "average" may mean) sees the inside of a courtroom fewer than five times in a career. That is to say — simply — that most lawyers are not litigators. Instead, they are preparing and reviewing documents, researching issues, advising clients or else working in some area of law that does not include jousting in a courtroom.
But what does this have to do with job security?
The answer is three-fold and two of the answers have little, if anything, to do with human nature.
First, lawyers are central to business. Simply, the wheels of business in all their iterations — whether government or private — involve attorneys. There are documents to review, instruments to be written, advice to be given, research to be done and laws to understand or else enact. And, hey, someone's got to do it.
Second, law is as broad as you want it to be. The critical thinking and analytical skills that are taught in law school and honed through a lifetime of practice are invaluable to business.
And third, there is human nature to consider. What do lawyers do? In essence, they are either brought in to resolve a problem — most times the progeny of one dispute or another — or else they are retained to anticipate a problem. Besides being a memorialization of whatever terms are agreed to, what a contract really represents is a litany of "if this, then what about that?" — the anticipation that if things go wrong, this is how they will be dealt with.
So long as the wheels of business turn, so long as people enter into agreements of one stripe or another, so long as government chugs along doing whatever it is that government is supposed to do, so long as people have disputes … lawyers will have employment. And ask yourself this; "Will people ever truly get along?" If you answered no — or if you answered, "well some people will some of the time" — then lawyers' jobs will be secure.
THE LAW IS EVERYWHERE
One last thought about lawyers and their job security. If you really put your mind to it, then you will see that laws and, thus, the need for lawyers, are virtually everywhere in every aspect of our daily lives: from traffic laws to real estate agreements to Tough Mudder liability waivers to the marriage "contract," for better or worse, laws weave into nearly every fabric of our lives.
One other random thought …
Several years ago, I was talking to a pal of mine who happened to be a doctor and I shared with him my opinion that while lawyers are ubiquitous, I had no illusion that they were more essential than doctors. My friend — let's call him "Ed" — because … um … his name was Ed, replied, "I disagree."
When I challenged him he said — besides the forgoing lawyers-are-everywhere thing-and-that-the-engine-of-society-would-shut-down stuff — what he offered was this: "Law is frightening and mysterious."
THE LAW IS DIFFERENT
I said, "And medicine is not? You don't think folks are frightened and confused when they are diagnosed with one illness or another?"
"Sure," he said. "But here's the thing: Most people have at least some working knowledge of their bodies. If I say to someone there's this or that wrong with their arm or their belly or their lower spine, they at least have some idea what a belly or an arm or their spine means. With law it's different. You guys speak in a special language, have a secret handshake and have the keys to something most regular folks don't have an inkling about."
I nodded, said, "Yeah. I suppose there's some truth to that," but I told Ed I still disagreed. I had to admit, though, that — unless you're on the inside — law can be a baffling black hole and if you're being sucked down into it, then it can be pretty frightening.
Two things I love about the practice of law are its nearly infinite variety and its "essentialness." Mothers and fathers, maybe you don't want your babies to grow up to be cowboys — although there is an unmistakable attraction to the open range — but if job security is what you want for your fledglings, then you could do worse than to steer them to the law.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his email addresses, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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