Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Irony: Lawyers as Loners

One of the principal oddities of my profession is the common idea of the lawyer as a loner. In a law and literature class I took this semester, we read all kinds of books, and I was struck by how many of the lawyer characters were loners: Clarrence Darrow in "Inherent the Wind," the Judge Penitent Jean Baptiste in Camus's "The Fall," Harry in Gaddis's "A Frolic of His Own."

I'm a loner and almost a lawyer.

This fact is ironic. The law exists because other people exist: most of our laws are aimed at solving social problems.* When neighbors can't get along, enter the law of nuisance. When business partners can't get along, enter the law of agency, partnership, and corporations. Almost no law is addressed to what somebody does by themselves (many traffic and drug crimes are salient examples, but these are aimed at protecting society). Tort law addresses problems between strangers, contract law solves problems between friends.

So why are lawyers the way they are? Is it caused by the work, the long hours in the library, and the time spent writing and editing documents? Or are us loner types attracted to the profession? The law has not made me the way I am...

I think it is dangerous for people like me to think that we will be good at administering a law that is aimed at interactions we largely avoid.

If I want to be a better attorney, perhaps being a better neigbhor, partner, stranger, and friend will get me started.

*I am going to set aside the philosophical question of laws that bind individuals outside of society--most of those laws are physical if not supernatural, and lawyers thankfully have not taken over gravity or thermodynamics.


bill mcneal said...

Hey there you are! How come you don't tell me you have blogs and blogs. It's your cousin in DC, by the way, the one who you once shared your fascination with all things "jet" and "soccer".

I'll be back later. Just sending you a shout out.

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