Just the other day I heard a complaint from a colleague describing yet another incident of an attorney in our industry being inept. After I learned the name of the person in question, it became obvious to me why the comment was made. The person involved is an accomplished sculptor but the choice of law as a career was practically foisted on him by his parents.
During my time as Managing Partner of my law firm, I came across many people who were earning paychecks as lawyers but whose passions lay elsewhere. I found lawyers who were better suited to being journalists, marketers, musicians, artists and actors. When I asked why they had chosen the law as their profession, the answer was usually that it was the "safe" choice and that there had been significant parental pressure to get a job with some long-term prospects for security.
While that may make for a steady income for the individual, it does not always make for the best attorney fit for your community. After all, we all know that we perform better when our hearts are really engaged in something.
I had a different experience growing up. I knew in middle school that the law was the career I wanted to pursue. I had plenty of practice already at that point debating family and friends on everything from where we took vacations to curfews. When I told my parents that I wanted to be a lawyer they seemed amused but otherwise remained uninvolved with my career choice.
The circle has now closed as my son has just taken the LSAT and is looking at law schools. My first question was "who told you to be a lawyer?" I wanted to be sure that a legal career is something he yearns for and not something that he thinks is expected since both his parents are attorneys.
Next time you interview association attorneys (or any kind of attorney for that matter), you might want to ask when they first knew they wanted to be a lawyer. The answer might be illuminating.