Among the populace, there’s a popular image everyone has of what every existing profession is exactly like. But a lot of the time, most people have the wrong ideas about them as what they know of the working of these specialized fields might spring either from their own faulty assumptions which actually bear no relation to reality or from second-hand information they got from outsiders who themselves are ill-informed about the vocation in question. Often, people can act on this inaccurate information and even make career choices without doing any additional research for confirmation. And this is nowhere more evident than in the field of law, where many beginners in law have been misled into the study of law through inaccurate information and the erroneous perception they have of the practice of law only to get a rude awakening when they eventually got a dose a reality. Many law students are rarely aware of these bitter truths or much less take them into account when deciding whether it’s really worth it to pursue a career in law. If you’re curious to know some of the best kept secrets about the study of law most law students aren’t often told about, then read on as Kehinde Ibiyeye, a legal practioner, talent manager and legal blogger takes the lid off them.
#1 Lawyers Are Learned Men and They READ Like Hell—Lawyers know the law and everything else. Lawyers read everything to know about everything.
The life of a lawyer is to know about a lot of things. Calling lawyers learned is not just a fancy word. Lawyers are expected to know the laws. They say the best lawyer is one who knows where to find the law. The fact is you ought to know the law and everything knowable in your case, and people expect you to know too.
The best lawyers know a little bit about everything. This is what makes great lawyers stand out.
The myth is that lawyers do not know everything. They only appear to know so much. That is why they always go the extra mile to know more. If you don’t like reading all the time, consider another profession. This could be your best reason not to study law. Lawyers read till they die.
#2 The Legal Profession is Not a Get Rich Quick Business—Every dream of a young lawyer in law school is to graduate and start living the big life. They expect the money to start rolling in. The nightmare young lawyers face is that the first 2-5 years after studying so hard to pass the Bar exam, they are launched into a new world where they have to survive. It is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, in midair you have to learn how to build a parachute and hope it opens before you hit the ground. Most people hit the ground hard. Others learn how to bounce back up.
The fact is that, the early stages of a young lawyer are for learning and getting mentored. You may see that young lawyer working all day, 5-6 days a week but it most cases they are working to learn.
The good news is that after a while, when the lawyer has a solid ground in the profession, he begins to make it big.
It takes a lot of patience and hard work to succeed as a lawyer. I think lawyers are the hardest working people. While their clients are sleeping, they are working into the night.
So if you think you want to start a career in law and begin to make money quick, have a rethink, its better you go become a doctor (especially a surgeon) or an IT consultant.
#3 Everywhere You Go You’ll Be Called Names—As a lawyer, you will be called names everywhere you go. People will call you names like Barrister, SAN, Chief Justice, Learned Counsel, The law, etc. That is on the good side. On the other hand, people will call you a liar, crafty, not straight forward, stingy etc. People will call these names with a certain tremble and tone in their voice telling how great the respect they have for you or how much they despise you, or they envy you. The calling of theses fantastic names starts even during your undergraduate days.
As a young lawyer or practitioner still trying to find his feet, the names calling may be a motivation to do more to attain greatness in the profession. But for some, it may mount an undue pressure.
Anyway, you don’t have to give a damn what people say. So if you are the kind who takes things too personal or you don’t trust people easily with the names calling and don’t like the public show, consider another profession outside law.
#4 Every Lawyer is Rich—The public have a stereotype that all lawyers are rich people. Friends assume you have money all the time and they expect you to. The fact is that most lawyers get high commission for their work. Yes, but not all lawyers have that privilege. In fact, a lawyer’s life is in seasons. There is always that period when he has money for himself and at other times he could be flat broke. That is why lawyers may be tight fists sometime.
Experienced lawyers have and use good financial planners. They have to. It is a way of preserving the little they have. Smart lawyers over the years acquire assets that pay for the eloquent and lavish lifestyle of a lawyer to keep looking professional. So, if you are considering a career in law, be ready to live big. People will always expect you to have money. If you are not that kind of person, try another profession.
#5 The Legal Profession is for the Rich—In the past only the rich and elites study law. Today people from the middle class and the poor background also have a chance in law. But you must be ready to pay the price. I could say Law is not for you because it cost a lot to study law. You will buy big expensive books and the law school fees are high. Life after law school might be a little hard at the initial stages too. So, you will still need the support of your family till you find your feet.
If you are the lucky type and you have the brains to be top of your class, you might have top law firms calling for you to work for them at the early stage of your career. Some intelligent poor students get scholarships too. But if you are like the average Joe, you will have to work hard to earn an extra income to survive studying for the legal profession.
#6 The Police is Not Your Friend—There is one word police men don’t want to hear, ‘Lawyers’. Anybody who finds himself in the hands of the police, once they mention the need for their lawyer, the police will know it is about to take a different turn. They will begin to treat that person with caution.
As a legal practitioner, you must be ready to face the police. During my voluntary youth service year, what I hated handling most are police cases. Those guys can frustrate you sometimes. You have to know their tricks to be able to face them head-on. As far as the lawyer is concerned, police is not your friend.
People will break laws and they need their lawyers to help them out. As for the police, they want that law breaker booked. But I found out if you want to make your way easy in a criminal case it actually better to have a police friend who will help you.
If you want a career in law, be ready to face the security agents. Except maybe you are the police prosecutor. If you don’t like seeing those black and blue uniforms and the killer metals hanging by their sides, consider another career.
#7 Lawyers Dress Well and Look Professional All the Time—If you are that kind of person that prefers dressing casually, then you should consider another profession. The fact is that a career in law is a profession where the suit and tie is your super suit. If you don’t like the suit, then you can’t play the hero. You must be ready to be well dressed all the time and drop the jeans and T-shirt.
A lawyer friend of mine once said she wanted to go for a date only to discover that her wardrobe was full of suits and corporate looking clothes. She had little or no casual clothes to put on for the date. This is the life of a professional lawyer.
I know my learned friend B P Ndam falls under the category of one who didn’t like the suit and tie. He is one of the most logical and analytical minds I have met in the legal profession. But my friend didn’t like the suit and tie. He was forced to wear them. He is doing well now in the suit and tie thing.
If you can’t force yourself to do the corporate dressing, change your career to geology, be a musician or a movie actor. Folarin Falana (Falz The Bahd Guy) did it and Funke Akindele (Jenifa) did it too. Lol.
#8 Law is a Profession With Ethics and High Morals—As a lawyer you are a man of integrity and sound ethics. Lawyers are respectable people and should live the part. As a minister in the temple of justice your attitude must show you’re a man of high standards and of good behavior. The fact is that Lawyers belong to a class of elites and must keep a track record of right doing.
Though we have a few bad eggs in the legal profession, majority of lawyers are respectable people and they do what is right.
If you know you cannot keep a clean sheet, try another professional calling.
#9 Lawyers Love and Live By Argument—No doubt lawyers argue about every arguable viewpoint. It is expected that as a good lawyer you must be an arguer. If you are not the arguing type then it is arguably presumed if you are a lawyer. So, it is expected that you argufy every situation to look argumentative to display your argumentativeness. I hope you are convinced by my chain of argumentation. If you are not convinced then you are argumentatively an Argus.
Argument sometimes is fun. The fun part is to play the devil’s advocate and even argue for the side you disagree with in a conversation. It’s a good way to get information.
The truth is that not all lawyers are argumentative. Some lawyers don’t even have anything to do with litigation. Some are calm and are very good listeners. So, you don’t like arguing as a career path, consider another profession.
#10 Lawyers are Liars—This is the number one turn off for me. Every lawyer is pegged a liar. This is one misconception that this is what lawyers do and that the best lawyers lie. When you introduce yourself as a lawyer, people assume you are automatically a liar. There is a joke that the only difference between a lawyer and a liar is in the spelling.
The fact is that lawyers may hide some information, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the view of the lawyer. A lawyer has an obligation of confidence to his client, and he must also advocate for his clients’ interest. Lawyers work with facts and they use it for the benefit of their clients. A lawyer also has an obligation to the court and he must conduct himself in a manner respectable to the court. A lawyer is not to lie to the court, manufacture evidence or manufacture cases cited.
While there are a few bad eggs in the profession who carry out bad practices, most other lawyers demonstrate integrity. It is a profession of trust and honesty.
So, if you are the religious type and don’t like the tags of liar that goes with being a lawyer, consider doing another profession.
To read more of Kehinde’s enlightening posts, click here to visit his blog
A youngish lawyer with penetrating insight, Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Lawstudenthub, a site dedicated to helping new wigs find their footing in a trickily slippery legal profession and stay current with emerging developments in the legal industry. He holds an LLB from the University of Benin and a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja. In his spare time, Patrick doubles as a professional writer and copyeditor.
If you have any urgent enquiries, you can email him @[email protected]