NANCY SCOTT DEGAN
the author is a shareholder with Baker donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, new orleans, and
chair of the Section of litigation.
Over the years, many people have asked me
why I enjoy being a lawyer in general, and a
litigator, in particular. In this age where it
seems more fashionable to criticize than to
celebrate what we do, I take this opportunity to share some of the things I like about
being a lawyer (in no particular order).
More importantly, I want to know what
you like about the practice. Please email me
at email@example.com. I hope to
share your responses in future Section of
Litigation publications. Then, perhaps, we
can officially declare it acceptable—even
cool—to like what we do, and eliminate
the apologetic explanations in which we
often engage when introducing ourselves
1. no day is like the day before. Variety
is the spice of life, and this is nowhere more
obvious than in the practice of law. One
breach of contract case is not the same as
the next —even if the contract is the same.
Similarly, no two tort claims are alike, even
if only the plaintiffs are different. Being
unable to predict what each day will bring
makes it easier to get out of bed in the
2. What we do is relevant. Read the
newspaper. Watch (or listen to) the news.
It is all about people making, breaking, or
enforcing laws; communities invoking or
violating the rule of law; and society’s challenges in determining what the law should
be in a rapidly changing world. And we get
to be part of that. Lucky us.
3. We are professional problem solvers.
Each case is a puzzle, and we put the pieces
together. That is a heady responsibility and
a stimulating process. Whether we are donating our time, getting paid hourly, or being
compensated based on the result, it is exciting—and largely gratifying—to make a living
by helping to solve other people’s problems.
4. We possess the power of change.
Like the proverbial “man of steel,” we can
make things happen. If you don’t believe me,
volunteer to do pro bono work at your lo-
cal homeless shelter. The knowledge
and know-how we possess as lawyers can
5. We work within a system that creates
order out of chaos. In 1774, John Adams aptly
observed that we are a nation of laws and not
men. On many occasions we have witnessed
the invaluable advantages that result from a
society where laws—not people—rule. Imagine
the chaos that could have ensued had there
been no system for deciding the 2000 election.
And we get to work within that organizational
network every day.
6. Real and fictional, we have great role
models. What do Clarence Darrow, Oliver
Wendell Holmes, and Atticus Finch have
in common? They were all lawyers. Add to
them Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Ghandi
and Saint Thomas More, and you get my point.
We are professionals who stand on the shoulders of giants, and their successes help us improve our craft.
7. We have options. We can pursue many
different careers as lawyers: private practice,
public service, business, banking, corporate
counsel—the possibilities are many. Few professions offer such variety.
8. We are surrounded by interesting people. As in everything else, people make all the
difference. And lawyers get to deal with captivating people every day. Our clients each have
a story, and we get to play a significant role in
telling it. Our colleagues and judges are often
equally—if not even more—interesting.
9. We get to see the results of our work.
Whether we win or lose a case, consequences inevitably ensue. Said another way, what
we do matters to our clients and others.
10. Rituals and traditions abound. After
31 years, I still feel butterflies when, sitting
in court, I hear the knock on the door as the
judge enters the courtroom and the minute
clerk announces that “court is now in session.”
I still enjoy extending and receiving “
professional courtesies.” “May it please the Court”
and “Wherefore” are terms fondly ensconced
in my personal lexicon, and I prefer to “take
a deposition” than “depose.” The rituals and
traditions seduce me.
What do you like about being a lawyer? q
TEN THINGS I LIKE
ABOUT BEING A LAWYER