Tell us a little bit about your career.
I have what one could call a “hybrid career,” like so many of the new friends I’ve made since joining the SLD.
Hybrid careers typically happen in one of two ways. Some lawyers decide that the best way to assist their professional clients is, in effect, to become one of them. For others, becoming a lawyer is the predictable extension of a desire to advocate for one’s primary profession or professional colleagues.
Then there are those of us who, like me, are snatched from the undergraduate cradle and enlisted in “dual degree” programs that school us in two professions at once—in my case, both law and psychology. Who knows what makes such grandiose schemes attractive to rootless 20-somethings? When I figure this out I’ll establish a diagnostic label for the condition and then make a living suing someone else for letting it happen.
Whatever it is I think I’m doing, I’m never bored, because every day is different. I conduct forensic evaluations, serve as a trial consultant, teach law at the medical school, teach psychology at the law school, write about teaching, teach about writing, and haunt professional committees that come up with ideas about what it all means. Is it work? Sometimes it looks more like a collection of things we do when we’ve finally decided to abandon our day jobs. Whatever it is, I love it.
What has been the highlight of your career?
Surely it was being sworn in this June before all nine Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, thanks to the SLD. I kept pinching myself until I saw that the security guards were starting to reach for their holsters. There’s been enough drama surrounding the Court these days without my needing to become a part of it.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to join the SLD’s Supreme Court Trip, stop dithering. It’s a blast from beginning to end. You can even bring a date! I can’t hook you up, but I’ll sign your member endorsement form.
If you could go back to the beginning of your legal career, would you have done anything differently?
Yes, but things wouldn’t have turned out nearly as well. The sheer randomness of my legal career is one of its few distinguishing features. Going back and trying to do things the way I currently think they should have been done sounds like a recipe for disaster. Learning from mistakes was critically important, as was occasionally falling in with the wrong crowd. Too much careful planning would have filled my head with counterproductive ideas, and I never would have gotten anything done at all.
What advice would you give to someone considering law school today?
That one’s easy: “don’t go to law school unless you literally can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Right around the time I started, it seemed that every ethics CLE was required to include a wellness component placing legal practice on a self-destructive par with sniffing glue and running with scissors. Yes, being an attorney is a demanding job, but it’s a career, not a carcinogen.
The point isn’t that lawyering is bad, but rather that lawyering when you realize you never wanted to do is very bad, particularly given the current median law school debt of over $160,000. You have to want it, and not just before you get there.
What were the biggest changes you saw in the legal profession over the course of your career?
There have been two in particular. The first would be the steady decline—and recently the seeming revival—of solo practice. The personal computer revolution of the early 1990s at first seemed like it would liberate counsel forever from the need for a phalanx of secretaries, an expensive paper library, and a labyrinthine filing system. What kicked in at the same time, however, was an expansion in regulations and requisite procedures that just one brain supported by only ten fingers could scarcely hope to manage. Now, however, the pandemic-potentiated virtual workplace seems to be giving solos back their edge.
Another development—one that took off and never looked back—was the inexorable gender diversification of the legal workforce. When I was about to graduate, I was told that the nationwide matriculating class had for the first time become 50.1% female. Indeed, one of my psychiatric residents remarked, with evident relish, that “the Future is Female.” She promised to write me a letter, though.