“The practice of law is always practice without end”, is how we lawyers like to joke about our life in the legal profession.
Most people have this idea that a lawyer’s life is full of glitter and glamour and that we somehow make “mucho dinero” from nothing more than signing our names on a few pages or stating a few words in court.
This is probably because lawyers have to dress up for court in suits or barongs or some other formal wear. Also, lawyers have to exude confidence and project success so as to attract clients. This is what we call “packaging” or “power-dressing” which sometimes translates to “kayabangan”.
However, the truth is that a lawyer’s life is NO EASY STREET, it is a very hard way of life. We like to call ourselves “fellow students of the law” because, truly, we are still students as we have a life of never-ending studying.
Every hour spent in court involves many more hours of preparation in terms of reviewing the records of the case, preparing trial briefs and judicial affidavits, arranging the evidence to be presented, researching and studying possible legal issues that may crop up during the hearing and mastering the facts of the case.
Similarly, before the few pages of a pleading are signed by a lawyer and filed in court, it also involves hours upon hours of studying, confirming and re-confirming the facts of the case, determining the basic legal issues involved, finding and reviewing applicable laws, looking for pertinent decided cases or jurisprudence and then writing whatever pleading or paper is necessary in a manner that best expresses and promotes the position of the client in a way that would make it easy for the judge to comprehend what are, sometimes, complex issues and facts.
Contract writing is equally tedious because, in addition to the basic terms and conditions of the parties, the lawyer has to try and predict what possible legal issues may arise between them and try to address it with the proper stipulations in the contract.
There are many times when lawyers will feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that they have to do or the number of active cases that they are handling. Chasing deadlines is part and parcel of our daily lives and a constant stressor that we have to contend with.
Stress, and copious amounts of it, is something lawyers must learn to live with or deal with, otherwise it will eat you up. It should be emphasized that our livelihood involves trying to solve other people’s problems. In a sense, we are paid to take on the stress in other people’s lives.
Everyone has a different way of dealing with it. Some lawyers take vacations abroad, some play sports like golf or practical shooting, I collect and make toy figures while others collect girlfriends…..(I invoke attorney’s privilege as to who).
While de-stressing with a good single malt whisky is okay from time to time, we do try to avoid making a habit of climbing into a bottle regularly lest we become alcoholics. To each his own, or whatever works, so to speak.
Sometimes, being overwhelmed, or having too many cases, results to some very funny situations. I remember a very respected senior practitioner appearing in court and, when his case was called, he stood up smartly and, in a solid modulated voice said “Your Honor, Atty. __________ respectfully appearing for…..” and then he looked at the court interpreter and whispered “San Nga Ako Rito?”
Lawyers, particularly those in private practice, have no fixed hours. We cannot celebrate the end of the day when the clock strikes 5:00 p.m.. Many times, we have to burn the midnight oil to finish what has to be filed on the following day. For similar reasons, we sometimes lose weekends or holidays although I personally try my very best to reserve Sundays for my family.
Similarly, we are also on-call 24/7. I mean if you are an employee, you can rarely expect being called to work at past 10:00 p.m. but this is not so for lawyers because legal issues don’t have an 8-hour workday. Pre-dawn calls are the worst because it is NEVER good news. You can expect that the client calling you has been arrested, was involved in an accident, or was caught by his wife in a motel with his girlfriend. Oh yes, if you are the lawyer of the motel, you can also expect a call if the last example happens.
These are the reasons why it really pisses lawyers off when other people belittle the work we do. “Bakit mahal man attorney na kinopya mo lang man sa mga libro yung sinulat mo?” GRRRRR!!!! Matagal kaming nag-aral para malaman kung anung mga libro ang bubuklatin!!!
In ending, I hope the non-lawyers who get to read this article, especially those who like haggling with their lawyers, will realize that what may be perceived as a glamorous and easy life is not easy at all. There is so much more than meets the eye.