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DTCI: Practicing law can be gratifying, even in summertime

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DTCI-Misha-Rabinowitch-sigRecently, 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.•

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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.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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