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Lawyer Stereotypes v Reality

October 23, 2013

In Rebel Wilson’s latest starring role on the sitcom Super Fun Night, the real life law graduate plays an uptight lawyer who adopts a new lease on life and vows to have ‘fun.’ Her character has been surrounded with words such as ‘loserly’ and ‘bland’; traits resultant of the perpetuation of the classic lawyer stereotype.

 

For every Erin Brockovich-esque renegade there is to debunk these classic lawyerly behavioral stereotypes, there is a smug George Clooney ‘spin doctoring’ his way to the top in Michael Clayton and a power obsessed Harvey Dent in the Batman series.

 

However, the most common stereotype is that those in the legal profession are overly competitive, yawn-inducing, snobs with no social lives. A testament to this is Super Fun Night in which Wilson needs to plan a groundbreaking activity each and every Friday in order to stray away from her mundane image and unsatisfying life.

 

Does that mean that to be a lawyer you have to be working endlessly, yearning to see sunshine and drooling at the prospect of dollar signs? Here are some common myths surrounding your legal future that I hope will be busted in a little game that I like to call Expectations v Reality.

 

I will Work 24/7 


You’ve seen it a romantic comedy before: there’s an attractive lawyer who works around the clock, wears nothing but black and leaves no room for relationships because they’re the serious type. Little do these gunners know that a law degree allows you a world of flexibility and a plethora of work opportunities.

 

Some firms adopt staggered hours to allow for maximum productivity, international work can allow you to travel and meet an array of characters without being confined to an office setting, and legal consulting can narrow your hours down while maximising the different opportunities you may be afforded. Then there are the work opportunities for law graduates in-house, in legal publishing, in the not-for profit-sector, and more. The notion that lawyers are chained to their desks is easily rebuttable. 

 

I’m Boring 


In Legally Blonde Elle’s father famously says “law school is for people who are boring and ugly and serious.” As much as you were likely to laugh and nod in agreement, he couldn’t be further from the truth. 

 

Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro all began their politically driven lives as law students. Sure, we can’t all be the driving forces behind mass revolution, but a plethora of comediansauthors, models, athletes and politicians are proof enough that you can manage a heal_thy balance between the study of law and other pursuits. Many law graduates have managed to turn their love for the law into a successful career in media, politics, and elsewhere.

 

And who’s to say that being a lawyer is fundamentally yawn-inducing? Helping innocent people escape potentially awful outcomes, or managing accounts for major corporations are pretty damn cool.

 

I’m a Wildly Rich Snob 


How on earth does Miranda of Sex And The City fame manage to splurge on designer shoes? She’s a high-flying lawyer, of course! Then there’s the powerful and deranged Harvey Dent from the Batman series, throwing lavish campaign events as he attempts to become mayor, only promoting his ego.

 

All too commonly is there an expectation from the average person that a law degree automatically entitles us to six figures. Added to this expectation is the idea that this money also transforms us from humble beginnings into power hungry animals who opt to turn our noses up at our past, forgetting where we came from.

 

Untrue – there are many law graduates who work for community legal centers, enabling the disadvantaged to access much needed legal advice. There are also lawyers who work voluntarily in war torn nations – all for the sheer satisfaction of helping others. Pro bono work may seem like something that only wealthy legal has-beens engage in during retirement, but for many lawyers working in firms, pro bono work is an important part of practicing. 

 

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