Where do lawyers come from – a narrative fallacy

The perception of the lawyer is stated in today’s SMH as:

Many males went to all-boys private schools and males brief their mates …[1], so the story goes…

Has anyone ever looked at who practices law from a qualitative perspective – particularly looking at the range of practitioner’s backgrounds?  The newspaper story above would have us believe that the CV of most lawyers reflects a narrative that may not be true.

Take my private school life – it did not exist – actually, there were many periods in my primary school life where my schooling did not exist: I had long periods of absence either because of travelling or being too ill due to being bought up in a less conventional lifestyle – however, I still managed to attend over 10 schools (none private and including three universities).

This morning’s Guardian states “prospective lawyers must…do a law degree at 18 – which internationally is seen as an oddly young age to embark on a professional vocation“.[2]  The same applies for many Australian hopefuls wanting to enter the legal profession.

However, there are also outliers:  I started practising law in my thirties after studying and working as a scientist, then a “career” in IT. This “late” start in law did not stop me starting my own firm; however, I did find the hierarchy and consequential politics a bid odd in the firms that I worked before I went out on my own.

This morning’s Guardian further quotes a lawyer who “confided that his biggest regret in life was his decision to study law at 18, went on to argue that “law closes the mind and causes you to think in a particular way”. He continued: “Law is inherently conservative. As a teenager, your mind should be pushing the boundaries and being as creative as it can be, not studying law.”

I find the law no more conservative than scientific research or any other discipline that I have been involved in.  However, I do find narrative about lawyers amazing, since it does not provide the certainty and satisfaction when, say, economic circumstances change.  Further, the legal profession is supposed to reflect the truth – however, pushing this narrative reflects a truth only for a select few – the people who stand to benefit from it.

My belief is that a myth or a narrative fallacy is going to be disappointing if you are guided by it without thinking more deeply about what it is saying; however, pushing outside of “knowing your place in society” will give you great satisfaction.

Edit: This is not to say that inequalities still do not exist and can be very problematic; however, there are also opportunities.  People who do not meet the typical narrative can still enter and be accepted by the profession. Their narrative is but part of the story.

Dr Michael Bates   1 Place Patent Attorneys + Solicitors http://1p.com.au/


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