What it’s like to be an introverted lawyer

So… lawyer…

It’s a scary word isn’t it? You hear some current presidential candidates casually talking about “floors of lawyers” saying that they’ll “sue you.” The word “lawyer” and “attorney” have become a threat. When I was growing up, I never really thought about “being a lawyer.” I wanted to be a writer, which is how I ended up getting into the law. I wasn’t one of those people who watched Law and Order or anything like that. I just really liked doing research and writing. I wanted to find a profession that let me do all the research and writing that I wanted.

I’ll let you in on a little secret – I was so disappointed! Law school was amazing. We read and discussed matters, wrote reports and exams, had mock trials. Then I graduated, passed the bar exam, took my oath to uphold the Constitution, and suddenly I was working with real people on their real problems.

Throughout law school and shortly thereafter, I managed to work almost exclusively in litigation. I interned with the Atlantic County Municipal Prosecutor’s Office, where I was in court every single day I was there. Then I clerked for a small business litigation firm in New Jersey where I did most of the research and writing for court documents. Then I was picked up for a Federal Criminal Defense Team in New Jersey, where I sifted through terabytes of evidence (yes, terabytes) that had been collected during the police investigation, AND then sat through a nearly six week long trial assisting the defense attorneys. After that I was “Of Counsel” for a mid-sized business litigation firm where I spent my days doing more research, working on depositions, going to court, and sifting through boxes of documents.

Like I said, I didn’t watch Law and Order, but I can tell you that the television shows are not so accurate. Lawyers don’t go jumping from case to case, winning one right after the other. (Think about it, there are lawyers on both sides. Not every case can be a tie!) They are not subject matter experts on every topic that appears in the court room. And sometimes *gasp* we can be wrong. Lawyers are not infallible creatures, despite what you might see on the television. I’ll admit, I have been wrong before. Fortunately, I have worked for and been mentored by some really great attorneys who help me get things right.

So, all that being said, I never really wanted to be the person standing in the courtroom and winning a murder trial. (Elle Woods I am not.) I get nervous and my knees knock together when the Judge even looks at me! Then I slowly flush from the neck up until I’m a red as a tomato!

I didn’t (and still don’t) like being the center of attention. I spoke to other lawyers and most just told me I’d eventually get used to it. What they didn’t understand is that I really didn’t like to be in the middle of the room speaking. I’ve practiced it for the past 20+ years of my life. I can remember an instance in middle school where I hid myself in the coast closet because my teacher started speaking to me! She had to pry me out of the coat closet! Most litigators (those attorneys who really enjoy being in court) have never experienced this. Introversion is not shyness! I’m not shy with my family, friends, and loved ones. In fact, I’m often the goofy loud one! I have a hard time standing in front of near-perfect strangers, making an argument, speaking loudly enough, and waiting for the other side to tear apart my argument. So… I’m an introverted lawyer. What can I do about that?

Fortunately,  there are many options in the practice of law that don’t require you to spend time in the courtroom. I actively stay away from courtrooms and refer all litigation work to litigators, who in turn send me all of their boring desk work. I don’t mind sitting down and digging into a book, researching a topic and finding the answer. In fact, it can be fun when you get to that “Eureka!” moment.

In another post, I compared the “attorney-at-law” to the “counselor-at-law” title. I have focused on the “counselor-at-law” part of my title rather than the attorney part. I have been there and done there, and I really don’t want to be going back.


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