You know that often used cliché that says that all lawyers are arrogant, all accountants are boring, and artists can get away with wearing blue hair because, well, they’re artists? I am now going to tell you that you’ve been fed a lie. Yup; it’s not true.
This “truth” came to mind recently when I visited a friend who has gone from incredible criminal defense attorney to incredible, award-winning chocolatier. From the way she tells her story, it seems that she so enjoyed making chocolate that she decided to do it more often. Now she has a beautiful new store.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a lawyer. So imagine my surprise when, after having to undergo a series of vocational aptitude tests to get into college, I was informed by the counselor in the admissions office that the results indicated that I had a very strong creative side, so I could pursue a career in law or in interior design. Interior design? Seriously?
I have been a lawyer for 28 years. I moved to Wisconsin in 2003 and as a lawyer with a law degree from a foreign law school, I fought to get permission to sit for the bar exam. I was determined to do it. And in 2011 I did it. Honestly, I think about this struggle often; lately, more often than before. Is it all I thought it would be?
Let me illustrate the point. Last month I ran into a lawyer at the courthouse. In conversation, we both commented that the relationships with other lawyers had gotten more challenging. She added that she sees a lot of anger and just plain rudeness from lawyers on the other side. She told me a story of a colleague, who, feeling irate because of my friend’s recommendation as a guardian ad litem, proceeded to call her names and scream at her in the hallways of the courthouse.
Sadly, my friend is not alone in this experience. I have been personally insulted, talked down to, and disregarded in conversation by colleagues, and all for nothing more than representing a different point of view or an opposing party. Anyone been there, done that? I think some of us have lost the compass of our profession, and we deflect our frustration on other people.
There is nothing wrong with changing course, and reinventing ourselves to further our purpose in life.
How many of us do what we were destined to do and how many of us do what we do because either we don’t “know” how to do anything else or we are too afraid to try? I propose that the answer is a little of both. The problem, however, is that very few of us are willing to even acknowledge that we need a change; that, perhaps, what we thought would be our life-long career is no longer relevant. We tell this story about ourselves so often and to so many people that it is hard to change.
So I want to make a personal appeal to all of us to pause, once in a while, and reexamine ourselves; to look deep into what we do and why we do it. Stop pointing fingers and realize that, when we point at someone, there is one finger pointing forward and three more pointing back at us.
It seems that more and more of us are so frustrated or stressed out with the practice of law that we have forgotten why we got into this in the first place; so let’s take a minute to think about this. There is nothing wrong with changing course, and reinventing ourselves to further our purpose in life.
Meet Our Contributors
What is your favorite place in Wisconsin?
Choosing a "favorite" place in Wisconsin is hard. Because I was born and raised in the largest city in the world, moving to Wisconsin always felt like a challenging endeavor. I was afraid that it might feel too small, too far removed from the bustling metropolis I am used to. You know the likes of Chicago and New York.
However, I've been fortunate to have a wonderful travel partner for the last two years who has taken me to the most unexpected wonderful places in Wisconsin. As a Gemini, I can't pick just one. I guess I can safely say that on one hand, the waterfalls in Marinette County are on the top of my list. And on the other hand, I love Milwaukee. I have learned to find the most interesting places, buildings, and people in this city. Surely, a hidden gem completely off the beaten path.
Cynthia Herber, CRH Legal LLC, Milwaukee.
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