Breaking the Lawyer Stereotype
In my first year of university I relished in the opportunity to drop into conversations the little fact that I studied law. At work, whenever a customer discovered I was at university I would delight in the moment that they asked me what I was studying. Don’t ask me when, don’t ask me how, but that changed. I didn’t even realise it until it was very amusingly brought to my attention.
I recently started seeing a lovely young man. After a couple of weeks of politely respecting my evasiveness about my profession, he finally bit the bullet. He (very tongue-in-cheek-ly) asked me if I was a ‘showgirl’… Bless! Once I stopped laughing and dried my eyes I fessed up. I’m a lawyer.
I love the legal profession and have immense pride in my job. My degrees are my single greatest accomplishments; I’ve never worked harder for anything and I’ve never felt the same level of success I feel having completed them.
While I was busy justifying this all to myself and questioning why I had subconsciously felt the need to conceal my work, my cheeky companion made the comment that made me remember EXACTLY why I don’t mention my career choice when I first meet people – ‘You don’t strike me as a lawyer!’
And of course, he was right. Like many, many lawyers I know, I don’t exactly meet expectations of the archetypal solicitor.
I would rather spend my entire afternoon listening to you be factually wrong on a point than face the uneasiness of correcting you. The thought of any type of personal confrontation makes me shake. I am more heart than head. While I acknowledge that some level of intellect is necessary to graduate from law, I struggle to feel ‘intelligent’. I’ve never seen Suits, and I don’t drink coffee. I once got bailed up on the side of the road and ever since, Greenpeace has siphoned money from my account every month – I feel too guilty to ask them to stop and I still read the newsletter when they send it.
None of this makes me any less good at my job, and there are no inconsistencies between the two that I need to overcome. It’s just that when people find out your profession (and this doesn’t just apply to lawyers), they can unintentionally make assumptions about your personality type. It’s a label that very rarely fits accurately, or in my case, doesn’t fit at all. I worry that if the people I meet find out WHAT I am, they might be less inclined to find out WHO I am…
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