In 1994 I got my J.D. degree from the law school in Spain, my mother country. Since 1997, I have been running my own office in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the Balearic Islands. During all these years I’ve gradually moved toward specializing in civil and business law, which is my focus today. Recently, I was appointed as judicial bankruptcy trustee of the commercial courts of the Balearic Islands. My experience has mainly been positive, but being a lawyer can be difficult or frustrating at times. If you are interested in the legal profession, you might find the following suggestions helpful.
Remember that the lawyer is not a stereotype.
Historically, the public has had very negative sentiments concerning lawyers and even classical philosophers like Plato or Aristotle condemned advocates because they considered they had a harmful ability to twist reality. Nowadays, TV series and films offer too often a distorted vision of what it means in reality to be a legal practitioner. In my opinion, one of the best virtues of a lawyer is his/her ability to be a realist.
Act as an adviser.
As a lawyer, you should avoid acting merely as a “hired gun.” I personally prefer to foster my roles as an adviser, arbitrator, and negotiator, and only when it is absolutely necessary to act as a litigator. Again, the public is probably more familiar with the image of the attorney as a litigator who aggressively defends his/her client’s interests. In my experience, those less notorious advising roles can be more effective to fulfill your client’s expectations.
An attorney should tell the client the pros, cons, and practical implications of their position and the possible better alternatives. As any person does, I have my own ideals of justice and sense of morality, which can eventually conflict with those of the people I represent. Instead of acting amorally, I suggest that you strictly adhere to the code of ethics that bar associations have established to shape the legal profession according to some legal standards. If you keep that in mind, you will avoid many undesirable situations, like being disbarred due to misconduct.
Change is inevitable.
Lawyers usually must endure very complicated working conditions. My feeling is that when you gain experience your clients become more friendly and loyal. A legal professional must be ready to adapt to the very evolving and changing nature of the legal system. As the legal philosopher Von Kirchmann noted, “a partial revision of the law turns law libraries into collections of waste paper.” Legislatures are constantly passing laws and a lawyer needs to stay up-to-date if he or she wants to provide an effective counsel.
Expand your reach.
As a business lawyer I’m deeply interested in other legal systems. That interest in comparative law made me study for instance the Argentinian and the Danish legal systems in order to offer a better service to my potential customers.
Out of that interest I decided to pursue an undergraduate degree (a B.A. in Law and Society) through a reputed educational institution like Penn State, to get a grasp of the underlying basic principles of the American legal system.
Hopefully I will be graduating this year, but my experience thus far has been extremely positive. In fact, after getting my B.A. I would like to pursue a LLM program through the Dickinson School of Law. All the knowledge I have gained during these past semesters has not only contributed to enrich my understanding of a very influential legal system, but also has enhanced my CV and the quality of the legal counsel I can provide to my clients. In fact my degree has helped me to be designated by my bar association as a specialist in the American legal system.
The legal profession can be very fulfilling and lucrative, but it needs to be combined with a deep sense of honesty and commitment to society in general and to clients in particular. Constant learning and personal development will ultimately improve your professional skills.