Lawyer Or Liar?

I was in Ecuador on a family vacation when I was blindsided by casual animosity towards the legal profession. A tour guide had asked me what I was doing, and I responded, with a tinge of pride curated by the cozy insulation of these storied halls, that I was studying to be a lawyer.

“Lawyer or liar?” The tour guide joked. My brother retorted, “Both!”

I was flabbergasted. How had the legal profession fallen so low? My brother’s chosen profession was “business”—whatever that meant—and he would be attending a certain business school whose motto, I am certain, is “profitas.” And yet even he felt entitled to mock the legal profession.

This is the profession of Lincoln, damn it. Honest Fucking Abe was called into this profession. And now its name is the butt of jokes and the scourge of even the proudly profit-driven.

How did we get here? Why did we let this happen? And what can we do about it?

For one, we can say something. We can choose to stand up for our profession and defend it against unreasoned attacks. We can be advocates for our profession. At the very least, we can do more than what I did that day in Ecuador, which was to smile dumbly and chuckle along, as if the career of my dreams meant nothing more to me than a way to pay the bills.

I should have said something, on behalf of myself and everyone else who has loved the law and has been proud to call it home.

I should have listed everything I love about this profession: how it prizes loyalty, which the modern world has practically banished to anachronism; how its sacred texts challenge us to build a better future by summoning courage from the past; and how its aspirations are both grand and particular, to make practical a utopia for all of us and to make justice a reality for each of us.

Most of all, I love the people of this profession: the ones who obsess over principles and the ones who brim with empathy, the ones who worship texts and the ones who would rather see it all burn. I love them because they are passionate about something, even in an age worn thin by cynicism and even in a generation whose motto is the shrug.

This is an unabashed love letter to the legal profession. It is puppy love, uncomplicated and untried. Easily dismissed. A decade from now, when I read this, I will probably grimace, embarrassed by my own naiveté.

But I like to think that a part of me will melt too, and remember all the things I have loved about the legal profession and all the hope I had for my legal career. And maybe then, an older, wiser me, will fall in love with it all over again.

Antigone is a column written by an anonymous Harvard Law 3L.

The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Harvard Law Record.

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