top of page
  • Writer's pictureAttorney Adrian Baron

I see the attraction for some people. You get to put on a suit every day and sue people.  

How many times have you heard someone say “Everyone says I should  be a lawyer.”  Or even better, “I hate my job and I love to argue, maybe I should go to law school”

As much as I love practicing law, I’m here to tell you that it’s not all wingtips and BMWs. You should consider a life in the legal profession as a calling much like the priesthood.  After all, do we not counsel the down-trodden, swear ourselves to secrecy and even take care of the occasional sin.  

Being a lawyer is not easy.  Depending on your area of practice, it can mean lots of stress. You are basically choosing a profession where your clients are coming to you during the most difficult periods of their lives. You are the one they will lean on when facing the loss of their freedom, the breakup of their marriage,  or a host of other life changing legal issues. There is a reason why they refer to us as counselors. They are counting on our advice and expertise to solve their greatest problems.  

Don’t go into law because you imagine a life you see in television and movies.  

My own law practice includes criminal defense.  A decade into the legal profession, I have yet to dramatically bang a courtroom table demanding the truth.  I have never seen a witness break down on the stand exclaiming Perry Mason style, “it was me! ”  I have never burst into a police interrogation room to berate some hard-nosed detective interviewing my Mafia Don client under hot lights. Wilfred Brimley has never tried to kill me for knowing too much.  

I went to lawschool with dreams of arguing before the Supreme Court. Although our firm has its fair share of serious matters (even murder trials), the majority of my clients are drunk driving wedding guests, shoplifting grandmothers and quarreling married couples.  I actually represented a guy who stole a fish.  He shoved an entire salmon down his pants.  Not a cellophane wrapped filleted  salmon.  Not salmon in a can.  An entire fresh salmon that was laying on some ice for display.  I had an 87 year old grandmother as a client.  She was arrested for stealing pornographic videos. She told me her 92 year old husband was boring and she needed to spice up her life. 

I have battled in the trenches of divorce court over cats and microwaves.  I have tried to convince clients not to send money to Nigerian princes or listen to the advice of fortune tellers.  I have counseled the dying with their last testaments and kept others from certain jail.  I have fought for families to stay in the country and fought insurance companies to get compensation for injured clients. Each new client is a soap opera during sweeps week.  You never know what will walk in through your door.  

Don’t Go Into Law Just to Make Your Mother Happy

As rewarding as law practice can be, it can be equally as frustrating.  It is gut wrenching to see a client squander the second chance you were able to get him in criminal court.  It can be difficult to comprehend how a couple seeking a “conscious uncoupling” cannot seem to agree on who gets to keep some ugly couch or the outdated blender Aunt Edna gave them on their ill fated wedding day.  

If you do decide to pursue a law career, prepare yourself for a lifetime of questions from family and friends.  No matter what legal area you pursue, they will assume you will have the answer to any question remotely related to the law.  They know you're the leading expert in securities law and that's the only type of law you practice.  It doesn't matter.  They will assume you know how to sue their neighbor because his fence is 3 centimeters over their property line.  There is a good chance they will ask for pro bono help with speeding tickets, work disputes and frivolous lawsuits.  Watching legal dramas will never be the same.  You will notice mistakes all the time.   

While I jest to some extent, it can be a very rewarding profession both intellectually and financially.  Nevertheless, if you do decide to pursue a career in law, do it for the right reasons.  Don’t do it because you think it will put a Mercedes in your driveway.  Not every law student will get that dream job out of law school.  If you go into solo practice, there may be little left for that fancy ride and top hat when you are done paying for your staff, the utilities, marketing, professional dues and supplies. 

If you do decide to follow the path of a legal career, might I share a few tips:

1. Don’t start living above your means.

Many recent grads feel the need to portray an image of what a successful lawyer should be.  You just finished law school and are up to your res ipsa with debt.  Maybe hold off on buying the Rolex because you want to show your friends and family that you are a success. 

2. Don’t take your work personally.

Keep in mind that you weren’t the one who committed the crime or caused the divorce.  It’s good to worry about your clients, but don’t let the stress of their predicament eat you up. In that regard, clients may take out the stress on you.  A divorce client may be angry at her cheating ex.  You might be the closest target to take out the frustration.  Don’t take it personally. 

3. Network  as often as you can.  

Let people know what you do for a living.  The right contacts can lead to job offers and new clients.  One of the most lucrative settlements in our firm came from a contact I made at the barbershop.  Don’t discount bar association and similar events as a waste of time.  They can be very productive.  

4. Talk to lawyers in the field you wish to practice.  

Most attorneys will be happy to speak  with you and give you some insight about their own experiences.  Attend workshops and bar events.  You'll be surprised at what you can learn.  If you come away learning one new thing  or met one new contact to help your practice, the seminar you attended was worth it.

5. Assess Your Life Goals.

So you landed that six figure corporate law job.  Do you enjoy your work?  Are the hours keeping you from your family?  Are the hours literally killing you? Or maybe you want to start a solo practice?  Is there a rut of attorneys in your area?  Do you have any business sense? Is there a need for your law practice? Maybe opening a maritime law shop in the middle of Kansas is not the best thing.   Success means different things to different people.  Just remember, the grass is not always greener on the other side. 

Of course, if you still want to be a lawyer, I wish you God Speed.  Just do me a favor.  Don't be one of "those" lawyers.  Don't be the lawyer who refuses to scooch over when another lawyer wants to sit down next to you in court. Don't be the lawyer who likes to yell at opposing counsel simply to put on a show for his clients.  Don't be that cocky lawyer that is rude to court staff. And for heaven's sake, don't be the lawyer who douses him or herself in cologne.  You are stinking up the court room.  To borrow something I once read on Twitter, if your lawyer smells like Axe Body spray, you're probably going to jail.

1,194 views0 comments
  • Writer's pictureAttorney Adrian Baron

If you practice law, I don't need to tell you that it can be a stressful profession. According to the American Psychological Association, attorneys are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers. As far as professions go, attorneys rank 11th when it comes to suicide rates. It's no surprise. You have chosen a profession that places the despairs of others squarely on your shoulders. Clients come in their darkest hour of need. Depending on your area of expertise, it is up to you to save them from getting locked up in prison, losing their home, guiding them through the break up of their marriage, saving them from deportation, or a host of other life changing problems. It is a daily revolving door of people asking for your help.

I always wondered how my dad did it. Despite all the responsibilities piled onto my father, I don't remember ever seeing him stressed. He came from a different generation. You didn't go to the doctor. You didn't complain. You worked. He spent his life working six days a week in a factory to give his children a better life. He worked his fingers to the bone with the hope that one day he would retire and spend his golden years with my mother. The plan was for my parents to spend their retirement years crossing items off their bucket list. They were going to take an Alaskan cruise or lounge on the beaches of Tahiti. Unfortunately he didn't make it. He would die from a heart attack.

The loss of my father put things in perspective for me. Was I spending all of my time working? I was spending my weekends and late evenings in the office. When was I going to start scratching things off my own bucket list? I decided I wasn't going to wait until I was too old to enjoy them. I would take a lesson from my father. Work hard but take a moment to enjoy the fruits of your labor. To honor my dad, I set off to cross items off my own bucket list. Life was about to become a little less stressful.

LEARN TO COOK On most Saturdays, I would spend the day in the office meeting with clients. I convinced myself that the extra day gave me an advantage over competing law firms. My dad worked weekends for 40 years in a factory. What kind of example would I set if I couldn't spend a Saturday behind a nice cushy desk. After my dad died of a heart attack, I decided it was important to find a good balance between work and life. My wife found us a cooking class that met on a Saturday. As funny as it sounds, it was a great stress reliever. It was a simple reminder that there was more to life than legal briefs and billable hours. Crossed off the bucket list: Learn to make crab cakes.

TAKE DAY-CATIONS Of course with both my wife and I being lawyers, we couldn't take off on week long vacations whenever we felt like. Instead, we would pick one day a weekend where we would take a little stress relieving day trip. These trips were usually just a few hours from our home. They might be to a local beach or a trip to the meccas of New York City and Boston. We did touristy things as if we were on a week long trip. I went to college and lawschool in New York. It wasn't until my little day trip that I actually visited the Empire State Building. We took a drive down to Atlantic City to enjoy the Boardwalk and to play the slots. We drove up to Boston and took a duck tour. We explored different beaches in Rhode Island, Block Island, and Long Island. I found these "breaks" actually gave me more drive at work. They helped me think clearer. Sometimes you just need a little break to function at your best. Crossed off the bucket list: Eat a Caesar Salad in Caesars Palace.

RENT YOUR DREAM CAR My family's roots are in Poland. Every few years, we travel to visit aunts, uncles and cousins in the Polish countryside. Most years we pretty much do the same thing. This year would be different. Before we headed back to the US, we found some inexpensive plane tickets from Warsaw to Nice, France. For less than $100, we took a plane to the French Riviera. For about 16 dollars, we then hopped on a train to spend the day in Monaco. Walking along the marina filled with super yachts, a man asked me if I wanted to rent his Ferrari. As a kid, I had a Ferrari poster on my wall. I never missed an episode of Magnum. Did I want to borrow his Ferrari? Of course I did. I drove his F-1 Formula Ferrari through the streets and tunnels of Monte Carlo where they held their annual Grand Prix. I took winding roads and hairpin turns in the mountains overlooking Monaco. It was the same road that Princess Kelly lost her life. It was the same road James Bond raced down as he was chased by a red Ferrari. It was an experience I haven't shut up about even a year later. I looked for ways to mention my Ferrari experience into every conversation. It drove my wife crazy.

That wouldn't be my only James Bond experience in Monaco. I had to end the day at the Monte Carlo Casino and order a Vodka Martini. Shaken, not stirred...of course. I bought a Ferrari coffee mug in a gift shop and jumped on the bus back to reality. Crossed off the bucket list: Rent a Ferrari and have a Vodka Martini in the Monte Carlo Casino

APPEAR IN A MOVIE There was a time in my life that I wanted to be an actor. In highschool and college, I took part in plays. I took acting classes. Somewhere along the way, the dream was deferred by a practical reality. What were the chances of me really making it onto the big screen? Law was the alternative. I could still act. It would just be in a courtroom. A film company was planning to shoot a Lifetime Christmas movie in New Britain, Connecticut. It would star Mario Lopez and Melissa Joan Hart. I always wanted to be in an movie. Was this my chance? I hesitated. I was an attorney. How would that look to my clients? I shouldn't be wasting time with such frivolity. Then I received a call from the director of the film. He was looking for a polka band for the film's carnival scene. When I asked what type of instruments the director needed, he remarked that it didn't matter because the band would only be pretending to play. I thought of my bucket list. When would I get the opportunity again? You only live once. I called up my old highschool buddy who was now a school teacher. Could you get us some instruments? I grabbed some friends that included a local restaurant owner, a court victim's advocate, a marine biologist, and a real estate developer. I ordered some red vests and called the director. I found your band. Crossed off the bucket list: Appear in a movie

SEE YOUR FAVORITE BAND BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE When asked what band would you love to see before they retire for good, I know I should give an answer like the Rolling Stones. Nevertheless, I am a child of the 80s. I grew up on WWF wrestling, the A-Team and glam rock. As a Junior High kid in 1987, the band I dreamed of seeing was Def Leppard. Their name looked so cool on my school book covers. They didn't know how to spell deaf or leopard. The drummer had one arm. They were my idols. When I heard that Def Leppard was coming to the Mohegan Sun Casino, I surprised my wife with tickets. It was a surprise because she couldn't care less about the band.

To show I'm not completely devoid of culture, we also went to see Placido Domingo perform at the Metropolitan Opera. Like Michael Corleone in Godfather III, I had box seats. Of course, this performance did not end with poisoned cannolis or Sophia Coppola getting whacked on the steps of the opera house. Crossed of the Bucket List: See Placido Domingo perform live Now, I know what you're thinking. Some of these suggestions are ridiculous. Fly off to Monaco? Rent a Ferrari? Sneak onto a movie set? Was this post just an excuse for you to brag about renting a Ferrari? Everyone's bucket list is different. The point is take time to enjoy life. The practice of law is stressful. Don't let it consume you. Schedule a little time for your sanity and your general health. Make time for a little fun. Start crossing things off your bucket list while you can still enjoy them. (And rent "A Very Merry Toy Store" starring Mario Lopez and the Nutmeg Lawyer. Available now on Amazon). Granted, stress is no laughing matter. Learning how to make crabcakes will not be the solution to all of your problems. The great thing about having a law degree is the ability to change your job. If you find working in corporate law too stressful consider working at a solo firm. Criminal law too stressful? Consider a different area. Of course, if you have serious issues with anxiety or depression, I encourage you to seek professional guidance through a mental health professional. Some More Items Crossed Off My Bucket List include:

131 views0 comments
  • Writer's pictureAttorney Adrian Baron

Guest Post by Attorney Lee Rosen (From the NL Archives)

The other day I stumbled across a word on a website that could get a lawyer disciplined by our state bar. One word.

You see, I spend way too much time browsing the web. It’s an addiction. But it’s worse than that. I don’t just look at the pages on the web—I look at the page source data. I spend time digging into the code that creates the page, you see. I look at the HTML and the metadata hidden in the pages. Your browser is fully capable of showing you what I’m seeing. A few keystrokes will take you to the jumble of letters, numbers, and programming language that make a page look like a page.You may have heard discussion about meta tags. Meta tags are words and phrases built into the website but only visible when you switch from the normal page view to a reveal codes type of view that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the page. This is where the page title shows up along with the page description. Some search engines use this information to help determine how to list the site in the directory.

For many of us, our website developers insert the meta information in the pages, and it’s done without our knowledge. We ask the developers to build a nice site for us and to do whatever is required to achieve rankings in the search engines.They do their best. Their best, however, usually doesn’t include a review of our state Rules of Professional Responsibility. After all, they are web people, not lawyers.Back to my story—what was the word I came across?“Specialize.” That’s a word our state bar prohibits. We can’t use it to describe our practices unless we’re board certified. I found it right up at the top of a website, hidden in a meta description. I guess you can’t say it was hidden because as I searched around, I realized that the Google description of the site had been pulled straight from the meta description for all the world (and our state bar) to see. Ouch.

Using the wrong word is just one part of the trouble meta tags can cause. There’s been some trademark litigation about businesses using the names of other businesses in their meta tags to steal their traffic via Google by ranking for those terms in the search engines. Some state bars have considered the propriety of that issue. A fair amount has been written on that topic. Some attorneys have discussed the propriety of including city names in meta descriptions when a lawyer doesn’t have a physical office in that city. Some lawyers have included the names of attorneys in other firms in their meta tags, hoping to steal traffic intended for those lawyers. Meta tags can cause you trouble.What you need to do is periodically check your own site. Read the tags. Make sure there isn’t anything in there that shouldn’t be in there. As I mentioned, each browser has a different item in the menu for looking at the page source code. I use Chrome on a Mac, and I pick View/Developer/View Source from my menu.

Your browser will be different. If you can’t figure it out, then check out eHow, which has good instructions for Internet Explorer and Firefox, among others.Ultimately, everything on your website is your responsibility. You can’t blame the web people. You’ve got to keep an eye on what you’re saying, especially if you’re saying it in code.

Attorney Lee Rosen has practiced family law for more than twenty years. With three offices, Rosen Law Firm serves Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte North Carolina. Rosen is the Law Practice Management Editor of the ABA Family Advocate and recipient of the ABA 2010 James Keane Award for excellence in eLawyering. He is the former Chair of the Law Practice Management Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, a frequent speaker and is often sought out by the media as a source of family law insight and commentary. I encourage you to check out Lee's great blog Divorce Discourse.  It's a great source for practical advice you can apply to your own law practice. Our warmest thanks to Attorney Rosen

40 views0 comments
bottom of page