What Do Lawyers Do? They Represent Clients

Last week I wrote some actual questions prospective law students should ask themselves before deciding to go to law school. One question is “Do you really want to be a lawyer?” This is probably the most important question any prospective law student should ask themselves.

Of course, this led to a discussion on JDUnderground, where some of the same lawyers who complain that their law schools tricked them into borrowing huge sums of money to enter into a career that doesn’t pay them as much as they feel they are entitled to be paid, also complained about how bad the profession is.

Their gripe? Having to find clients, and then represent them.

Terrible.

Apparently law is a “sales job”, and sales is beneath lawyers.

…wait, what?

To anyone complaining about the “sales” aspect of law… do you understand what lawyers actually do?

Lawyers represent clients. The very backbone of our craft is persuading people for a living, like you know… judges, juries, and opposing counsel.

Even when we’re not in court, good lawyering involves persuasion. It means convincing a client to take that plea because it’s in their best interest, persuading someone threatening to sue your client that such a course of action is a bad idea, or getting people to resolve their disputes amicably. Sometimes it means negotiating a business deal that everyone thinks is fair.

Call that “sales” or whatever else you want to call it, but lawyers persuade for a living.

I know, it’s so unfair and that sounds hard. You went to law school for the intellectual challenge, and you believed there were plenty of legal jobs that don’t involve actually representing clients with their legal needs.

But here is the reality – there are very few legal jobs that are completely transactional based. In addition, most in-house counsel are former litigators who a corporate client respected enough to bring on board. The chances of you getting a cushy in-house job, or a strictly transactional job for a law firm with no clients, are slim to none – and they are even slimmer for someone fresh out of law school.

That means the overwhelming vast majority of people who go to law school and pass the bar will have to become lawyers who actually represent clients. Doing that can mean defending a traffic ticket, drafting a will, or taking an insurance carrier to trial because they won’t pay your client’s medical bills. And yeah, sometimes that will even mean persuading clients to hire you as opposed to the guy across the street.

Your practice is going to be structured around the needs of your clients – not your own individual desires.

For anyone complaining about being forced into a “sales job”, this begs the question – why did you go into a profession that revolves around persuading people?

Did you really want to be a lawyer?

6 Responses to What Do Lawyers Do? They Represent Clients

  1. shg says:

    Not to take issue with your point, but with the semantics of calling what we do “sales.” Certainly, persuasion is a significant aspect of lawyering, but our persuasion in the practice of our duties is based on facts and logic, the ability to put together a rational argument (not necessarily in the argumentative sense, but in the assertion of a position sense).

    By expressing the concept as “sales,” you conjure visions of deception, puffery, sleaziness. No, sales doesn’t necessarily include these things, but it also doesn’t neceesarily preclude them either.

    Another aspect of lawyering is mastery in the use of language in the course of persuading others. Perhaps use of the word “sales” to make your point wasn’t the best word choice because of the baggage it carries with it.

  2. T Patrick Henry says:

    I thought you guys just made commercials about not being paid until we get money for you,

  3. I feel like a lot of law students become law students because they believe they are going to make a lot of money without realizing that there is going to be a lot of work involved.

  4. Dan says:

    Jordan – Enjoyed this post and the other one directed at law students. If you’re interested, I threw some thoughts up on my blog as a reflection/response.

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