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September 13, 2011

Lawyering: Just a Life on the Sidelines?

Vanity Fair, 1869

I am dying for action, and rust like a Damascus sabre in the sheath of a poltroon.

Is just being a good lawyer always "enough"? Consider what the young, precocious, mega-talented, persistent and world class pain-in-the-ass Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) thought--years before becoming Prime Minster of England--as he abandoned his legal career before it really started, in favor of writing and politics. According to one biographer, he exclaimed:

The Bar: pooh! law and bad tricks till we are forty, and then, with the most brilliant success, the prospect of gout and a coronet. Besides, to succeed as an advocate, I must be a great lawyer, and to be a great lawyer, I must give up my chance of being a great man.

A. Maurois, Disraeli (Random House 1928) (including opening quote in post). Sidelined? Hobbled? Self-discarded in the great race of life? Maybe it's true. Hard-driving lawyer friends (both in-house and in law firms) do articulate a feeling of being "sidelined"--yet they are very proud of what they do as lawyers.

They may think: Why merely advise--when you could lead, create boldly, and command? And do that every day? Lots of lawyers are Type-As. Yes, some of us who advise great companies really end up as officers, CEOs, and COOs? Sure, many more of us run for office.

But should more and more of us throw our golfing hat in the ring of "other life", the fields of commerce, and bigger (or at least different) ponds? Does law school and "the profession" make many of us so risk-averse, passive and routinely academic in our approach to life that it knocks the will and energy to lead out of us?

Or were we just that way from the beginning?

Posted by JD Hull at September 13, 2011 12:57 AM


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