Sometimes, when the stress of your latest case is threatening to overwhelm you, or when the down economy is making your practice look more like a nonprofit operation, it’s hard to remember exactly why you thought that being a lawyer was a good idea in the first place. The sacrifices of personal time and the rigorous and expensive education involved are undeniable. But so are the rewards. So just in case you need reminding how very real these rewards can be, presented below are the thoughts of five attorneys who have found fulfillment—not regrets—in the practice of law.
Cameron C. Gamble
Law Firm of Cameron C. Gamble
New Orleans, Louisiana
In high school I spent my summers and holidays either digging pools and patios or stacking soft drink cases in the 7-Up warehouse or going through two-a-day August football practice.
In college I spent my summers either as a roustabout on oil rigs in the Gulf or loading crates of tomatoes in a Turlock, California, packing plant or going through two-a-day August football practice.
As my senior year in college was ending and I was faced with choosing my life’s work, it seemed that all of my work experience was some form of lifting, carrying, or digging involving picks, shovels, chains, and other tools of both unknown names and unfamiliar uses. (I lost my last roustabout job when I clumsily dropped the tool pusher’s personal and favorite wrench over the side into the sea.) It was apparent to me that if experience was a teacher, then I should have learned by then that I was not very good at what my dad called “honest labor.”
So, having an interest in reading and talking, I entered law school, obtained my juris doctorate, and have been a practicing lawyer for the past 48 years.
Why am I glad that I became a lawyer? The clients! As a lawyer, particularly a solo or small firm general practitioner, I have come into contact with (to quote Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man) the “real human beings,” the clients: the good, the bad, and the ugly, all interesting and unique in their own way. They have challenged me with problems that are always different, interesting, and intellectually stimulating—sometimes entertaining, but never boring. The result has been personal satisfaction that I am not sure could have been achieved repetitively and on the same level doing anything else.
Another reason, not to be ignored, is that there is no heavy lifting or the use of tools larger or more complicated than a pad and pencil.
Marvin S. C. Dang
Law Offices of Marvin S. C. Dang, LLLC
Being an attorney wasn’t my first occupational choice when I was a high school senior in 1971 in Honolulu. Engineering was my choice. However, I changed my mind during my freshman year in college because the prospect for getting a job in Hawaii as an attorney seemed sunnier than finding employment as an engineer. Back then, there was a surplus of engineers and a shortage of attorneys.
Now that I’ve been practicing law since 1978, I do not regret my decision, which was motivated more by economic reality than by passion. I am glad I became a lawyer.
I grew what was a solo practice 30 years ago in 1981 into what is now the largest creditors’ rights law firm in Hawaii. My team of 50 attorneys, legal assistants, account representatives, and other employees works with me to zealously assist local and national financial institutions and businesses with their legal needs. My employees are like my second family. I am proud of them. I am glad that as a lawyer I was able to hire them.
As an attorney, I have also helped individual clients on thousands of real estate, estate planning, probate, and business matters. These individuals have been relatives and friends, and have been referred by relatives and friends. At times I have counseled three generations of the same family on their legal needs. Helping my clients brings a smile to my face.
I am glad that my background as an attorney enables me to assist in shaping legislation for a better Hawaii. As an elected member of the Hawaii State House of Representatives in the 1980s, I used my legal skills to draft, analyze, support (and sometimes oppose) bills. Today, I use those same skills as a lobbyist for local and national clients.
Not only am I glad that I became a lawyer, I am passionate in caring about the legal profession. This has spurred my volunteer leadership activities for more than 30 years with the Hawaii State Bar Association and the American Bar Association to improve the profession.
Christine G. Albano
Law Office of Christine G. Albano
In our everyday practice of law, it often seems difficult to remember why we are glad to be lawyers. But I know we are. Sometimes we get the brunt of an emotional client or opposing counsel. We are the buffer between pain and justice. This is a common occurrence for me as a family law attorney. But when we sit back and think about it, we realize that being a lawyer brings us great opportunities and that our lives are good because we are lawyers.
We have the option of self-employment in a down economy. Technology provides us the ability to work from anywhere. We have the privilege of autonomy in our daily schedule. We have the opportunity to use our specialized knowledge to serve the community and improve the profession. We have the authority to seek justice for our clients and provide a voice for those who wouldn’t otherwise be heard. We uphold the orderly system of justice in this country so our country remains civil instead of at civil war. Our profession provides us with the unique ability to do something about it when we see a need and to truly make a difference.
I didn’t always plan to be a lawyer, but I realized that as an attorney I would have a more direct and effective way to help people. I would also have more control over the path of my career. I’ve found that where a lawyer is employed has a huge impact on how he or she feels about the practice of law. If you feel that you’re not making a difference, find a better fit for yourself. I made that change a long time ago, and now I’m happy to be a lawyer.
Sharon K. Campbell
Law Office of Sharon K. Campbell
I graduated from law school in 1984. Back then, going to law school was somewhat of a “default setting” for college graduates who couldn’t figure out what they wanted to be, or at least had not yet done so. I wasn’t quite in that category, but I wasn’t far. I had a liberal arts degree, I liked going to school, I actually liked studying, and what limited contact I had with the legal profession I found interesting.
I have always dreaded the expected “Why do you want to be a lawyer?” and never believed I had a good answer. What I can say with absolute certitude is that I am glad I became a lawyer and I believe it is the right profession for me. I don’t know if there is a connection between this feeling and the area of practice I am in (consumer litigation). Maybe. I think my brain just works that way. Or maybe law school just “took”—I learned how to think like a lawyer. The analyzation of a legal problem, looking at all sides, is completely comfortable for me. I enjoy mapping out strategy. Meeting my clients, analyzing their problems, trying to figure out a way to deal with the presented problem challenges my mind, sometimes making it necessary to use unusual or not commonly used remedies. When the evidence can be developed and result in a recovery or other resolution for my client, it solidifies my belief that I made the right choice. Evaluating the arguments and legal authorities presented by my opponent for their soundness, looking for deficiencies in the evidence or legal arguments, and finding a way to prevail seem to me to be the best way possible to make a living. I genuinely can’t imagine doing anything else.
He had lost sleep. On Monday he had discovered that a “stock” photograph used in his recent magazine ad pictured a competitor’s product. Concerns about a possible lawsuit for unfair competition and infringement of intellectual property kept him up at night. By the time he arrived at my office Wednesday morning, the strain was visible on his face.
He did not know what to expect. He feared the worst, and it showed in his body language. His shoulders drooped as he entered my office and collapsed into a guest chair.
I reviewed the ad and asked questions. He found the photograph in a manila folder in a file cabinet, one of several pictures depicting the types of products he sold. There were no visible trademarks on the item shown, nothing to identify the product as his competitor’s. He only realized his mistake when he caught a passing glance of the item in his photograph on his competitor’s website—with his competitor’s trademark clearly visible on the side.
We discussed the specifics of his industry. There was little unique about the products he and his competitor sold. They were essentially interchangeable in look and design. The biggest differences were the trademarks depicted and the names of the companies that marketed them.
By the end of our meeting I set his mind at ease. The photograph contained nothing that his competitor could deem proprietary. A consumer would not likely be confused into believing that he and his competitor were one and the same, or that he sold his competitor’s product—the basic test for trademark infringement and unfair competition.
I did not charge him for the consultation. I told him that he should contact me if anything further developed, adding that I doubted anything would. His relief was visible when he shook my hand and walked toward the elevator.
Later that day, I received a package: a bottle of pinot noir, with a note that said simply: “Thank You.” As I brought the gift into my office, I reflected on the day’s events. I had been able to alleviate someone’s worries, to relieve the stress in his life by explaining the basics of the law. My ability to do that is why, two and a half decades after I graduated law school, I remain glad that I became a lawyer.