About three months after I started law school, my wife called me out. I was already beginning to act like one of “those” lawyers. Honestly, I was embarrassed and wanted to drop out. But instead, I decided to make a course correction.
That was when I discovered what I truly enjoyed about the law. It was more than just being able to argue myself out of any debate; it was more than just being able to quote statutes or cite caselaw. And it was certainly more than just obtaining a degree. What I enjoyed most about the law was the ability to walk along-side friends and family that were facing some of the most stressful events in their entire life.
Not only are the events emotionally draining (a death in the family, being sued, a divorce, etc.), but adding to that is the frustration of dealing with the legalities caused by that event.
It is my opinion that the law has, in some ways, been hidden from the general populace. Even with self-help books and self-help counters at the courthouse, I have found that most people, at best frustrate themselves trying to figure it out or, at worst, dig themselves into a deeper mess. When you think about just the simple question “Where can I find what the law says about…” there is no single book or location you can read to get your answer. For example, with trusts, you need to read the Arizona Probate Code, the Internal Revenue Code, the Treasury Regulations and many layers of Tax Court and Arizona Court Case Opinions. Those are not found in one book. Then if you consider that tax law is set at both the federal and the state level, your search could double.
Law school does not teach you how to be a lawyer. It teaches you how to research the law. That is a skill learned through hours and hours of practice. I am still learning it today. But that skill, paired with my commitment to listening to a clients’ problems, will get us all to a satisfactory result.
So that is why I am not an “Attorney and Counselor at Law”. There’s more to helping clients than just counseling – we, as lawyers, should solve problems. We are the last resort for a friend or family member who has done everything to solve the problem without us. Once a client walks into my office, they are meeting the only “Attorney & Problem Solver at Law”. And if it is a problem that I can’t solve, I will find someone who can.
Francisco P. Sirvent