How Being a Lawyer Affects Your Personal Relationships

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Law school truly separated my life. There's who I was before, and who I am now. When people say it changes the way you think, they aren't lying. It changes you right to your core. However, what isn't often said is how said new way of thinking is going to impact your personal life. We know that the professional training we get at law school prepares us to advocate for our clients. But what does it mean for our family, friends, and significant others? Since becoming an attorney, I've definitely noticed a difference in the way I interact with and am treated by people outside work. If you're in law school, or planning to go to law school, here are some ways you can expect it to affect your personal relationships.

1. People will hate arguing with you about anything

From the first year of law school, we are taught to build compelling evidence to support our side, and to shut down any evidence that contradicts our argument as quickly and, unfortunately, as brutally as possible. While this is appropriate when trying to prove whether the law enforcement officer had probable cause to search someone's car, it doesn't go over so well at the Thanksgiving dinner table. It's because we've become so conditioned to someone always trying to f*ck us over, whether that be a law professor, a bar examiner, or opposing counsel. Unfortunately, that level of defensiveness doesn't have an automatic dial-down. Whenever we engage in any sort of debate, the default is to treat every conversation like a cross-examination. We twist words, look for inconsistencies in statements, and try to outwit our opponents with questions designed to elicit the responses we want. For someone who isn't trained to argue that way, it can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you know you're right but you can't seem to make your point because the lawyer seems to be one step ahead of you at every turn. However, there is a silver lining. Whenever you need someone to argue on your behalf, your lawyer friend will come through for you and demolish the other side. And you must admit, it's pretty fun watching that go down.

2. Your inherent distrustful nature can become off-putting

Lawyers quickly learn not to trust anyone. After all, even our clients lie to us on a daily basis. A few years ago, I missed a legal strategy that was used by the other attorney in a litigation case I was working on. When I realized it too late, I was gutted. The same thing happens on law school exams. You think you've analyzed all of the facts in any scenario, addressed all of the legal issues, and written an air-tight correct response, only to realize 15 minutes after the exam that you completely missed something major. Going through this process for several years trains lawyers to automatically doubt every single thing they read or hear. They are almost always suspicious of the motivations and intentions of other people. They are always reading between the lines, always looking for the angle. This isn't personal. This is because we have been publicly berated over and over again in the past for not questioning everything. It's a defense mechanism rooted in avoiding the repetition of past humiliation. The good side of this is that if you've got someone you think is trying to screw you over, your lawyer friend can probably make that determination for you in a matter of minutes. 

3. You can't stop seeing the legal issues in every life situation

Having a house party? Better make sure the broken stair is fixed lest someone falls and makes a claim on your homeowner's insurance. Buying something on Craigslist for more than $500? Better get it in writing. Did you have a car accident? So help me God, don't you dare give them a recorded statement! This is what lawyers think about all the time. Every single situation in life has legal implications. Although it's good to be informed and careful with your daily affairs, it can quickly become obnoxious when you're always the bringer of doom. I've found that people get the most annoyed when they actually ask for the advice in the first place but then don't like the answer. I can't tell you how many times someone will tell me about a situation, ask me, "Can I sue/be sued?" then proceed to argue with me about why they think they're right and I'm wrong. Why even ask? The problem is that lawyers cannot function as "yes men." Even when we recognize that someone just wants us to tell them what they want to hear, we physically. cannot. do it. People get infuriated by it. C'este la vie. 

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4. People become uncomfortable when they find out what you do.

The other day I was buying something that required a contract. Somehow, my job came up in conversation, and the salesman said, "Oh! I'd better be careful what I say and do then!" I wasn't really sure how to take this. Was he saying that had I not been an attorney, he would have tried to get one over on me? Because if that's the case, I fear for the innocent public and, by God, we need even more lawyers than we've already got. Or, on the contrary, was he suggesting that lawyers just go around trying to sue people for no reason? I don't really like that either. Lawyers are busy people and even when you know what you're doing, legal battles are time-consuming and stressful. I don't know any lawyers who engage in that for sh*ts and giggles. Regardless, it was an awkward exchange but something you apparently have to get used to.

5. Free legal advice solicitations will abound.

I know for a fact this happens to pretty much all of my colleagues. I definitely don't mind giving unlimited free legal advice to my friends and family. After all, I owe a lot of my success in getting through law school and becoming an attorney to their unwavering support. I will be forever grateful for that. What I'm referring to is people who barely know me or not at all who shamelessly ask for free legal help. For some unknown reason, it ALWAYS seems to be family law stuff. Once, when we were moving offices, one of the movers thought it would be a good idea to ask for advice on his child support contempt case. Once in an Uber at 2:30 a.m., my driver wanted to tell me her long, sordid custody battle story and ask my opinion. Someone I presumably went to high school with but can't place randomly messaged me on Facebook a few months ago and asked me to review a prenuptial agreement for free! I don't know if this happens across other professions, though I imagine it does occur a lot for those working in the medical field. Either way, people seem to forget how much time, money, and work it takes to become a lawyer. I'm a new lawyer, therefore I'm always looking for new work and challenges. I am more than happy to help anyone I can, anyway I can, the best that I can...for a reasonable fee. [mic drop]

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