So about two years ago, a family member sent me an email entitled, “The Lawyer’s Secret Oath”. I was in law school at the time, and I just took it and read it, basically because I’ve gotten used to the lawyer jokes, snide remarks, and other degrading and derogatory comments about my chosen path of higher education. What I always find interesting, though, is that most people who make the bad lawyer jokes, send me the kooky crap in email, and make derogatory comments have never indeed needed the services of a lawyer. If, like me, you have, your whole perspective might just change. It’s a mantra I’ve heard a lot in the past two years – you don’t want a lawyer until you really need one. Then you really want one. That person stands with you, carrying you through the most difficult and trying times of your life. In my particular case, I’ve used one twice in the past ten years, both times with great success.
Let me just start by saying that there is NO SECRET OATH. Wow. Who the hell came up with this crap? There is a website out there that purports to know everything about a particular case, Erie v. Thompkins, from 1938. I would imagine that the writer of the website has never even read the case in full and most likely doesn’t even know the background to it either. And, amazingly, it has nothing to do with “the bankruptcy” that the website also mentions. The whole website is seemingly a kooky place, to me anyway, and its writers either flunked out of law school, never attempted to get in, or are just jealous that they didn’t make the cut and were wait-listed indefinitely.
The thing about being a law student is that it’s not easy. It’s very tough. I never made a C in my whole life on a report card, until law school that is. I’ve made two Cs. I’m not proud of them, but in one of the two classes, I’m so very glad that I took the class and learned what I did from a very intelligent and real-world professor, that the C doesn’t bother me at all. I feel like I know more about antitrust, even with that C, than 95% of the population. The reading for school is tremendous. Sometimes we will have 150+ pages a week to read, just for one class. Sometimes we have to read a ton, and we have to write a 20-page paper the same week. It’s good preparation for taking on real cases when we get out of school. I’m looking forward to being able to read regular books again, in about 496 days (unless you count bar study time, which is another 8 weeks or so).
I’ve posted before that I didn’t go to law school because I couldn’t get into medical school. I never wanted to be a doctor. Ever. I cannot imagine touching other people’s parts and then doing things with their bodies, especially people who don’t bathe or such. I am totally grossed out at the thought of vomit, feces, or any other bodily fluid or solid being on me – just as I was with my own son. It’s not for me. I went to law school because (a) it was a dream I’d had for many years, (b) I wanted to be a lawyer, duh, (c) I wanted to further my education, and (d) I wanted the experience of learning at a higher level. I knew that I could make it. I have done well, and I’m in the top 25% of my class. I feel pretty good about that, especially since we are (UNFAIRLY) ranked with students who are “full time” and have no jobs or only work 20 hours per week. I say “full time” because you can be a full time student and take 12 hours, but you can also be a part-time student, like me, and take 12 hours. You do the math.
So, to those kooks and conspiracy theorists out there, we are not “out to get you”. We have to do a ton of background research on cases. We work hard – sometimes staying at work straight through the night. We get people out of jams from which they never thought they’d be free. We also help free the innocent. We heal people’s hearts. We are not so different than the doctors that people idolize, in my opinion. We deal with life and death, too. And, most of us do it for a fraction of the cost of medical care.
The only “secret oath” we take when we pass the bar (which, by the way refers only to the wooden “bar” between the courtroom audience and the judge’s podium”) is to protect the secrecy of our client’s case. Just like with HIPAA for doctors, we have that secrecy, to protect the innocent and to manage the guilty. Everyone has committed some atrocity against someone else, even if it was as small as breaking up with a girlfriend in high school. No one is completely innocent. Amazingly, lawyers have been keeping their clients secrets safe for centuries. I’m not sure exactly why it took Congress to make sure that sometimes even more personal information in the form of medical diagnosis and treatment was only recently developed.