If you have finished at least one semester of law school you may have begun to realize just how lonely being an attorney can be. I am sure many readers are surprised at this statement. Most people have pictures of Perry Mason in their minds, with his trusty Della by his side 24/7. No, being an attorney, or even a law student is lonely. Yes, you may be in a study group or as an attorney, share an office or go to work in a firm, but surprise! It’s lonely.
Doing research is lonely. No one does research with someone. Writing a brief is lonely – writing, unless you’re in television and are kicking ideas around, is a solitary endeavor. Even if you mull over your strategy with a classmate or an office mate, ultimately, when you put pen to paper (or more likely fingers to the keyboard) you will be doing it alone.
The nature of law is to keep your clients secrets. There is that pesky issue of confidentiality. That removes you from being able to discuss your cases with your spouse over a glass of wine. You can’t go home and rail against an uncooperative client like you can in publishing or in real estate. You have to keep the confidence. And even if you could share, how could you explain? Unless you are married to an attorney, you would have to explain the points of law. Imagine going home and wanting to complain about how the Erie Doctrine is going to hurt your case. You would have to give a nutshell of Civ Pro in a split second or by then your spouse is bored. It’s not realistic. You can’t do it. So that’s lonely.
But the loneliest part is where you are ultimately responsible for the strategy of your case. You have run everything by your client, tomorrow is the trial, and tonight you are going over your opening remarks as you lay in bed trying to go to sleep. It’s up-to-YOU to plan and plot and prepare, in the darkest recesses of your mind. No one else is responsible but you. Even if you’re in a big firm, ultimately you are the captain of your trial (the JUDGE is the general). If you don’t have everything prepped as well as you should, you are the one the JUDGE rakes over the coals. The JUDGE asks YOU the tough questions. When you go back to the office, your partner isn’t going to take half the heat from the JUDGE. YOU took it all in the courtroom. Your partner may commiserate. Your buddy from law school will listen. But when you lie in bed and play it over in your mind, you’re alone.
You are the one who is going to carry the memory of the client you let down. I think this will be the hardest one. Which is why when we are researching or writing or strategizing, we will strive to prepare for it all. Because we don’t want those lonely nights of regret. So we will put in even longer hours of research ALONE before the case. So we can sleep at night. But through it all, it’s lonely. But if we survive the loneliness, we will have the joy of knowing we have contributed a little bit of justice to our client. And that will make all the loneliness and research and sleepless nights worthwhile.