Recently, in a moment of self-reflection, I found myself thinking about
what I find gratifying about practicing law. I was distracted in my quest for an answer by sunshine and daydreams of what
it would be like to be Gordon Hayward, to kick the winning goal in a World Cup game, to play a match at Wimbledon, or, humbly,
just to play catch in the yard with my son. So, rather than let the fleeting moment pass, I decided to put pen to paper in
the event that during these beautiful summer days others might need the same reminder.
They don’t call it fun; they call it work. So, finding gratification in what we do is sometimes difficult. After all, as litigators, we are charged with the responsibility to solve problems that our clients are unable to solve on their own. If it were an option, especially in difficult economic times, most clients would gladly avoid paying their attorneys to solve their problems.
Yet for me, nothing is more professionally satisfying than working extremely hard on a case and achieving a result that is meaningful to the client and justifies the expense. I find that one of the most difficult aspects of being an attorney is explaining to a client at the outset why litigation will be expensive. But when the hard work is done and a favorable result is achieved, the client more often than not recognizes that you served as a trusted soldier in the trenches during difficult times – sometimes after they have been abandoned by nearly everyone else. That is when I truly realize the rewards of practicing law.
I am convinced that law remains a profession that most people respect. My thought in this regard is perhaps best illustrated in the following way. When in conversation someone might say to me, “You’re an attorney so you know more about this than I do.” I return a blank stare as the person questions me about a topic about which I know nothing. The assumption is that because we are attorneys, we know everything about the law, which, at least in my case, could not be further from the truth. I know about the areas of law in which I practice and relatively little about most others, but I don’t mind that people assume that I know much more than I do.
Moreover, although research and writing are not the most glamorous aspects of law, I find it satisfying to fight through hours of wheel-spinning research, argument crafting, and revision of countless drafts to complete a document that I can be proud to present to a judge in court. Not akin to what Landon Donovan must have felt as he kicked the winning goal against Algeria, but gratifying nonetheless.
I enjoy the teaching aspects of law: the idea that we learn and analyze through precedent and we pass on to those who come after us the skills that were passed to us by the lawyers who taught us. I am lucky to have learned from hard-working, ethical lawyers who taught me to strive to practice law the same way that they do. It is also the case that often I learn just as much from opposing counsel as from the lawyers working on my side.
This brings me to question the distinction often made between lawyers who represent plaintiffs and those who represent defendants. Don’t all of us share the same objective: to advocate our client’s position as compellingly as possible within the confines of law and ethics? If that is so, then there really is no distinction. That is something else that I find gratifying about practicing law.•
Misha Rabinowitch is a partner in the Indianapolis firm of Wooden & McLaughlin and serves on the board of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.