Is it still 'cool' to be a lawyer?
Is it still 'cool' to be a lawyer?
An outsider's view of lawyers and the legal profession...
Richard Susskind, Emeritus professor at Gresham college and prolific author, claimed in a recent newspaper article, ‘that lawyers have one in common: they want to deny that they are lawyers’. He goes on to say ‘that lawyers would prefer to be other things, just because to be a lawyer is not the coolest of jobs’.
You can almost picture it now, the erudite bespecled lawyer scuttling down Chancery Lane; knees buckling under the weight of a mound of files and documents. An investment banker drives past in his latest convertible; a bevvie of beauties cooing over his latest cashmere-merino wool mix suit. The smooth operator has just enough time to wave a languid apology as he drenches poor lawyer with puddle spray before zooming off towards the hippest joint in town.
Whereas exciting, trendy professions such as fashion design, espionage, acting and crime scene investigation may be sizzling on the career barometer, professions that are associated with long hours spent hunched over dusty documents and contracts, are, in most cases, not.
But If Susskind is suggesting that lawyers are destined to play the role of the eternal, eremitic geek in this ‘high school-esque’ world of catwalk and anorak careers, then, as a legal-ignoramus female, I have to plead the lawyers’ case. The legal profession may be hard graft and a little stuffy and corporate, but a little hard work never killed anyone and whether it be of the physical or cerebral type, there’s nothing more attractive than a man that is obviously intelligent, laborious and has fire in his belly.
The stats speak for themselves. Surely of the 15,000 students that apply to do law each year there must be at least 100 that think that there’s at least a modicum of enigma and titillation associated with the legal profession. They may be disillusioned by glossy corporate brochures, racy crime novels, weighty pay packets and the prospect of being embroiled in the smut and seduction of dark and mysterious underworld. But, ultimately, this is how most persons of non-legal backgrounds view the legal profession, well, at least in my media-fed generation.
Walking through the law department at my university was like being on set at a Martini photo -shoot and of those not choosing to go on to practice law, it was because they were either too thick, too traumatised from studying Tort, or too busy fighting poverty in the Third World, or something equally as bravado.
So, aesthetically, young, dashing lawyers get a dix points from me. Perhaps I have, along with generations of young women, been conditioned to associate lawyers, with handsome, successful modern day Mr Darcys ( or was that Bridget Jones) that work on high-profile cases, travel to exotic locations and own penthouse apartments in the best parts of town. Mothers across the globe never frown when you say you’re going on a date with a lawyer, and they probably don’t think the lawyer (aka a perfect son-in-law) is ‘uncool’. Quite the opposite, they’re on the phone to friends and family emphatically reiterating that their daughter are going on a date with A –LA-W-Y-E-R.
In reference to the latter, I did go out on a date with lawyer once and he was, admittedly, unfathomably boring and had a dreadful stutter but that’s by the by. I was always going to be on the losing end by having a pre dinner-date envisagement of him playing Matthew Mcconaughey’s role in ‘A Time To Kill’ and me, his wife, teary and proud as he brings the courthouse to rapturous applause by winning justice for the penniless underdog. The dream shattered as he admitted that beneath the glittering façade of his status as ‘lawyer’ was a stressed, overworked coffee- and- tea- making dogsbody that had not had so much as a whiff of a merger ,nor acquisition for that matter.
Perhaps what Susskind means by law not being very ‘cool’ is its association with long, tedious hours in the office, its need for meticulous pedantry, small scope for creativity and endless paper work. Whereas the on screen lawyer (usually played a handsome so and so) is all hero, bluster, prominent jaw, pearly whites and Normandy chateaux owner, the reality, I’ve been told, is a little less Hollywood and more 12am train home to Clapham Junction after another ready meal in the office.
Long hours, backbreaking work load, constant pressure and being-married to the job leave little time for relaxation and, more importantly, the wife and children. Which ultimately morphs young, legal beagles, or any other young career hopeful intent on changing the world, into an archaic breed of bitter workaholics that no longer care, nor have the time to worry whether their jobs are hip or not.
With hardened reality of a lifetime in law polluting my image of the young, dashing lawyer, I’ll go back to my first point of argument, as the daily grind has never been very attractive. The legal profession, with its fancy Magic Circle offices, is still, at least for me, a seemingly cloistered, impermeable club where nobody of non legal vocation is sure what really goes on. And there’s nothing more alluring than a bit of mystery.
Whether lawyers are proud of their profession or not, one certain UK law firm is not taking any chances when it comes to the cool stakes. It has gone as far as to employ style consultants as to ensure a certain ‘look’ amongst its staff in a bid to create an army of stylish, relaxed and approachable ambassadors for the firm and, ultimately, the profession.
And as Topshop begins to take bulk orders for skinny jeans, trilbies and day-glo hoodies, someone should tell the firm that perhaps it’s the trying too hard, and not the working too hard, that is seriously not cool. Leave it to the boys in bands.
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