Oftentimes as a young lawyer I ask myself, “When is being a lawyer going to start becoming easier?” This question reminds me of the two pieces of advice I hear the most from senior attorneys: first, pay your dues now and it will be worth it later; second, keep your head up because…it doesn’t get any easier. Standing at the crossroads of this apparent juxtaposition, I can’t help but wander what the road ahead really looks like. Is the practice of law destined to be akin to swimming in a sea of contradiction (or is it drowning?)
No. That would just be taking the easy way out.
So what is the point of paying my dues if it doesn’t get any easier? Is to be a better lawyer? A better lawyer would, by definition, have an easier time being a lawyer. Wouldn’t they? Maybe not. It’s sort of like the smart kids I went to school with. They got things faster than most of us. They earned better grades. But they were always working. Always reading. Always talking in class and meeting with teachers.
I think paying your dues as a young lawyer is not about the promise of an easier practice, but more about the right of passage. I remember being told in law school that taking and passing the bar exam was the right of passage to becoming a lawyer. That could not be truer. I learned more about the law studying for the bar then during my 3 ½ years in law school.
Now I am beginning to think that paying your dues as a young lawyer is the right of passage to being a successful lawyer. An effective lawyer. The kind of lawyer my generation of young lawyers should strive to be.
But this still leaves the first question unanswered. Does it get any easier? My inclination is to say no. In my opinion, the most difficult part about being the practice of law has always been the lack of finality. Meaning you are never, ever truly…done. You can always read more cases, write a better brief, make another argument, strengthen your existing argument – the list goes on. You can always be a better lawyer. It’s just a matter of time. How much time are you willing to spend to be better. And if your willing to spend the time to be better, then it shouldn’t get any easier. I’m okay with that.
I don’t want to this job to get any easier because when being a lawyer gets easier, it necessarily implies I am no longer striving to be better. When I stop striving to be better, I become…average. And being average has never been an option.