March 29, 2006
Rule 12: Have Fun.
Rule 12 (of 12): Have Fun.
If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong. Period.
While you are thinking, a confession: I loved college, and the liberal arts I studied there, because I am in love with ideas. Law school, however, was a different story. It came at me so fast I couldn't see any grand design, purpose or poetry. Except for the companionship of some truly unique and innovative classmates and profs, a girl from Shaker Heights named Amy, the drinking beer part, my administrative law and trade regs courses, some good part-time jobs, and somehow making Law Review, I hated law school with Olympian passions. It was stale and uncreative.
I even quit--twice, for a week each time. I told anyone who would tolerate me for the entire 2 years and eight months and 3 days that I was an "artist" of some sort, imprisoned and daily being abused by talented but sadistic academics who were paid, and paid well, to abuse me. I envied my college friends at J-school at Columbia, in the Peace Corps, traveling in Europe or in Alaska or Florence writing unpublished novels. I felt stagnant. And of course by the time I graduated at the age of 25, I was unhappy, out of shape, addicted to coffee, cigarettes, Hunter Thompson, Henry Miller and all the usual excesses of my generation--in short, a world-class ass.
So I moved to my birthplace Washington, D.C., where I would fit in. Sort of. I was so sure I would hate practicing law as much as law school that I deferred practicing law for nearly 3 years--in the form of being a hard-working, entertaining but equally difficult and troubled Legislative Assistant on Capitol Hill. There I was once served with a small claims complaint for "back-rent" by an angry DC live-in ex-girlfriend in front of my amused U.S. Representative boss, another amused congressman and the not-so-amused but intrigued senior staff of the House Ways and Means Committee at the 96th Congress. But everything changes with time and a different lens for viewing.
Had it not been for a friend from college who was happily clerking at the Supreme Court--who inadvertently shamed me one day in a conversation at the Tune Inn he has likely forgotten--I might never gone into private practice. So I left Capitol Hill and took a job in 1981 practicing law as one of DC's hundreds of "associates" in the branch office of a Midwestern law firm on 15th Street, N.W.
Everything--and I mean everything--changed for me. It was the same way new life sprung up inside me when the Duke undergraduate admissions people changed my life in 1971. Each day was different. I treated all the difficulties--and it was hard on me and mine--of being an associate as a challenge, and a even a privilege, and ever since then I have felt like it's an honor to do what lawyers do. In 1992, I started my own firm. I like the people I work with, the excitement of talented adversaries, a new project or case and the satisfaction of solving high-level problems for high-end clients, who I really like. And they even pay me for it. If you don't feel that way right away, give yourself time. If that fails, try another firm or another part of the profession. For many people, a different mentor, a new firm or a move to government or in-house counsel--even for a short while--can help you get your "sea legs" and make all the difference.
It's supposed to be fun. American law is extremely varied, elastic and constantly presenting new practice areas--especially in the larger cities. It has something for everyone. I am convinced of this. Please keep the faith and keep looking until you find it. Put another way, don't quit before the miracle occurs. It's there, and it's all inside you, in front of you. Simple--but still hard. It's a privilege and joy to do what lawyers do when they do it right.
And it really is fun.
Posted by JD Hull at March 29, 2006 07:30 PM