Dear Mike

By Mike McBride


Dear Mike,
I always wanted to be a lawyer. After three years of practicing I got a job with a terrific practitioner who treats me like a partner. Although he's fifty, he still lives and breathes the law. You can see the joy and excitement in his face and voice when a new matter confronts him. He is like a bear tackling his food. The only problem is that he is also a workaholic. Law is his life 24/7. I try to keep up with him, but I want a life outside the law as well. How do I tell him I want regular hours and an occasional weekend off, without damaging the great mentor relationship I have with him?

—Working for a Workaholic, But Wants It All

Dear Wants It All:
It sounds like you have an incredible mentor to work with. Nonetheless, you are wise to keep a balance in your life. To preserve your excellent relationship with a workaholic, communication is essential. Have a discussion with him and tell him your needs. Lay the ground rules for your availability. Hopefully, he will respect the time you carve out for life outside of the law. If not, it may be time to explore some other employment options, despite the fantastic mentoring and working environment that you have enjoyed so far. Life is simply too short to practice law all the time. Set boundaries and keep the balance!

Dear Mike,
There was nothing to do with my political science degree when I graduated from college, so I thought, ”What the heck! I'll go to law school.” Now I have just started my third year of law school and hate law. I can't imagine reading about cases or drafting agreements for the rest of my life. Should I drop out now or at least get the degree?

—I Hate Law

Dear I Hate Law:
You are lucky to have discovered that you do not like certain aspects of the law now. What you must assess quickly is whether there are other aspects of the law that you have not yet had the opportunity to experience (such as client counseling, litigation, or related areas where a law degree is beneficial—for example, insurance adjusting) that might make your first two years of study worthwhile. You should do some soul searching, perhaps talk with a trusted friend or advisor, or the job placement counselor, about different kinds of jobs where a law degree would be beneficial. Assess your strengths and weaknesses, and make a determination as to whether it is worthwhile to make the investment of time and money into another year of law school. It is awful to do something that you hate.

Assess what your other potential options are for employment or areas of study that interest you. However, given that you have invested several years to law school, it may be worthwhile sticking it out for another year. A law degree may benefit you in many other opportunities outside of practicing law. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor recently wrote for the majority in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. ____, sl. op. at 20 (June 23, 2003):

Moreover, universities, and in particular law schools, represent the training ground for a large number of our Nation’s leaders. Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 634 (1950) (describing law school as a “proving ground for legal learning and practice”). Individuals with law degrees occupy roughly half the state court governorships, more than half of the seats in the United States Senate, and more than a third of the seats in the United States House of Representatives.

Simply having the law degree may open doors to you that otherwise might remain closed.
Got a question for Mike?
E-mail D. Michael McBride III at

D. Michael McBride III is a Council member of the ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. He also Chairs the Outreach Committee. McBride practices federal Indian law and litigation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he is a Director and Shareholder of Sneed Lang, P.C. He also serves the Kaw Nation as an Associate Justice of their Supreme Court.
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