Fear is perhaps the biggest obstacle I face in practicing the discipline of kindness. Fear blinds me to reality. Fear drives good thoughts underground and makes good intentions irrelevant. Fear leads to anger, hate, and suffering. (Thanks, Yoda.)
I cannot, or more accurately will not, catalogue all my various fears in this post. But I would like to talk about one particular fear that has been, since yesterday, disturbing my calm. I can best encapsulate that fear with a question: What if I never like being a lawyer?
This plan of returning to practice involves a great deal of time, money, and effort. Thousands of dollars and thousands of man-hours are on the line. I am not wealthy by any stretch, so the relative cost is considerable. What if all of that ends up being for naught? If the point is to find legal work that makes me happy, what if I never find it? I have no answer to this question.
My first inclination on practice areas for my return is trusts and estates; I did this as a 3L clerk, and I enjoyed it. It would be nice to help people who need it, and to not have to deal with the kind of human misery that work at Legal Aid and DHS entailed. Ideally, I’d like to not even enter a courtroom again (deferring any resultant litigation to other attorneys), but I don’t know if that’s achievable.
My second inclination is appellate practice. For those of you outside the legal realm, handling appeals may not seem like a fundamentally different animal than trial court; but you can trust me that it really is. Appeals are always grounded in a legal question, something along the form of, “Does this legal rule apply under these particular facts?” Many appeals are decided without entering a courtroom, but it’s not at all uncommon; however, the only people in the room (usually) are the lawyers on each side and the panel of judges. There are no witnesses, no exhibits, no jury - just a summation of your argument for why you are right and the other side is wrong. Your summation is often interrupted by one or more of the judges, who will ask you detailed questions about your argument, and your job is to answer those questions in a way that makes it seem even more certain that you are right. It’s a refreshing change of pace from asking frightened women questions like, “When he grabbed the gun from the table, were you afraid he was going to kill you?”
As with my first inclination, this was also something I did as a student; my first job as a clerk, in fact, was convincing the Arkansas Court of Appeals that I was right (and I did it so well that their opinion was barely more than a copy of my pleading). I relished that victory, and recall it now with pleasure many years later.
There are doubtless other areas of legal practice I may consider. I like to think I would do well on an ethical review board. Suggestions are welcome, of course; I am wandering into the forest here, and would benefit greatly from guidance. I am no great legal talent (nor any other kind), but I believe in working hard and doing my best, and that’s what I intend to do.
For those interested in details, I’m scheduled to take the MPRE in August, and I plan on taking the Iowa Bar Exam in February. I’m already studying for the MPRE, but I don’t intend to substantively study for the bar until after the MPRE is over.