Last month Mikels Skele asked me if lawyers have the same “Some Reasons You Might Not Be a REAL X” as writers do. I intended to respond with the most amusing or insightful one I could find However, even using a search engine other than Google, I could not find any. So I decided to write my own. After a week of staring at a blank page I realised there might be a good reason there were not already such lists for lawyers: lawyers did not ask themselves if they were real.
Three possible reasons why sprang to mind. There are probably more:
- Lawyers are regulated: Most jurisdictions have a body which regulates lawyers, so lawyers already have external validation. If a task requires you to be a lawyer and you are doing it, then you are a lawyer.
- Lawyers are confident by nature: (or more cynically, arrogant) The traits needed to reach the point where the question is relevant are the same ones that mean most lawyers do not need validation anyway.
- Lawyers treat labels as transitory: Each piece of law usually defines one or more words for the sake of that piece of law, so a word may mean different things at different times. Even lawyer is a fuzzy term: it could be the class of people who are allowed to practice law for themselves, even if they do not at the moment; it could be the class of people who are practicing law, even if they are only allowed to do it while supervised by a certain other class of practitioner; it could be anyone with a law degree.
Of course, as with many things in the law, it is not as simple as there being no test for whether you are a real lawyer. There is one heuristic:
The lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.
Acting as a lawyer requires a certain separation from the person who directly benefits. The lawyer provides not only knowledge of the intricacies of law, but of other options the client has not considered. The lawyer might tell a client the chances of achieving a goal with different approaches, but does not choose for them. So potentially to lose the separation between advisor and beneficiary, is to no longer be a real lawyer.
This, more than personality traits or regulation, might be why writers worry if they are real when lawyers do not: a writer is attempting to realise a unique inner world so has no inherent proof they have produced anything, whereas a lawyer applies common rules to an external world so begins with the knowledge something exists.
Or perhaps being a lawyer is like being cool: if you have to ask….