First, what do I do? I specialize in trusts and estates, which means we do estate planning (drafting wills, trusts, end of life documents, etc), and administration (trust administration, probate, after-death planning). This means I’m really good at my area of laws (trusts, estates, and to some extent, taxes) and know very little about the others.
Also, I shouldn’t have to do this, but I’m a lawyer, and we’re all about covering our asses:
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Prepare for a bunch of stereotypes… I’m going to talk about lawyers.
It takes a certain kind of personality to become a lawyer. Almost every lawyer I’ve met has been a fairly driven individual (you have to be to survive law school), but their driving forces differ. The idealistic ones are driven to make the world a better place. The mercenary ones are driven to make lots of money. Still more a driven by their parents – being a lawyer seems pretty prestigious. But whatever it is, most people make it to and through law school because of that drive. I might be an exception to that rule (at least on how I got to law school, but that’s a long story for another time).
I find fictional writers to be written in a couple different ways. One, you’ve got the wannabe Atticus Finch, a noble soul who protects the little guy (we’ll ignore the recent publication of a story that portrays him differently). The other is the Law and Order type of ball-busting, do whatever it takes to make their case brute force litigator.
And while those two type do exist in the law, there are an awful lot of other lawyers out who range the spectrum on personality types.
But, let’s talk litigators. Caveat, I’m not a litigator. But my boss is one and this is what I’ve observed from watching her and others in the courtroom. As they say in Clueless, litigators are the scariest kind of lawyer. Not really, although it does take a very specific type of personality to become a litigator, I think. To me, there’s a need for an ego level that allows you to walk into a courtroom and tell the judge, jury, and anyone who might be listening that you’re right. And then explain why you’re right, even if the facts aren’t in your favor. That’s a kind of gut deep conviction that what you’re presenting is right.
And you have to do that whether or not you actually feel that way. I’ve known plenty of litigators who really didn’t like their clients or what they were fighting for. But they fight hard anyway.
So when writing a litigator, just don’t make them a bombastic, bullheaded know-it-all. Maybe give him or her some depth by giving them a side that wishes they were out there saving the rain forest (that’s why they went to law school), but could only find this job and now they’re getting paid huge sums of money to represent the people bulldozing the trees.
Give them a client they hate but they know they can win the case. Give them a client they love who they absolutely know they can’t win.
Or just make them Denny Crane, if nothing else works. 🙂
Next time – transactional attorneys, like yours truly