Why shouldn’t lawyers have sunny dispositions?

Last week I hosted an extern from Bryn Mawr College who was interested in a career in family law.  Facebook messaging her mother [a physician at Harvard married to a lawyer who also works for Harvard] this evening to thank her for a lovely gift sent in appreciation, she [the mother] mentioned: “She [the daughter] learned a lot; most notably, she learned that it’s possible to be a lawyer and have a sunny disposition!”

Why shouldn’t we lawyers have sunny dispositions?  What lawyers forget is that we rule the world.  I actually feel sorry for doctors.  Compare the two professions:


Lawyers: Can loaf their way through a social science/humanities curriculum.

Doctors: Grind their way through math and physical sciences.

Grad school applications–

Lawyers: Most every lawyer-wannabe gets in somewhere.

Doctors: Many doctor-wannabes will not even get accepted to medical school.  Some end up becoming dentists or vets. Anyone know something about the medical school in Somalia?

Professional school–

Lawyer: Three years. Commercial banker hours. Like commercial bankers from the 1950’s.  Get to drink like commercial bankers from the 50’s too.

Doctor: Four years. Sleep is for wussies. Trade liquor for no-doze.

Upon graduation–

Lawyer: Employment. Self-employment beckons if desired. $100,000+ starting salaries. Making good money by late 20’s.

Doctor: Residency. Post residency. Post-post residency. 100 hour work weeks for $30k wages. Bossed around by everyone: nurses; doctors; older residents; possibly janitors.  Making good money by mid 30’s.  Is it too late to have children?  I think my ovaries dried up.

Work hours

Lawyer: Work however much you want. Some work 20 hours a week; some 100. Only the insane work late evenings and weekends. Emergencies? Not when the courts are closed thank you.

Doctors: On call. Christmas, Thanksgiving, even sex subject to emergency interruptions.

Professional regulation–

Doctors: Regulated by lawyers.

Lawyers: Regulated by lawyers. Heck, every profession is regulated by lawyers.


Doctors: Play god. Save people’s lives.  Vast control over people’s health.

Lawyers: Sue god (i.e. doctors). Subpoena doctors to court and depositions. Write the laws that are used to control everyone. Give our own profession loopholes.  Vast control over people’s wealth, liberty, personal relationships.

View of profession amongst general public–

Doctors: Sometimes complained about; mostly beloved.

Lawyers: Often complained about; sometimes beloved; frequently feared.

Note that dictators throughout history have preferred being feared to being loved.

Despite these differences, average annual incomes ten years out are within 10% of each other and lawyers are closing the gap over time (the gap was much larger 50 years ago).

As though to confirm my thesis of the overworked physician, this appears in today’s New York Times website: At Midnight, All the Doctors… And as the extern’s mother noted after reading a draft of this blog:  “Highly applicable to our ‘mixed’ marriage, as a friend put it at our doctor/lawyer wedding.”

Don’t take this blog as me being cynical about my profession.  Like many lawyers I love being a lawyer, believing I really do help folks who are in trouble by providing them a pathway to a less troubled situation.  Further, without minimizing the power that the law has over people, resolving disputes through the pursuit of “justice” is vastly superior to resolving disputes through the use of brute power and violence.  But lawyers who bemoan their lot are morons.


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