My gut tells me that many of you would answer no.
For one thing, that's not what feeds our images of lawyers in popular culture. In movies and TV shows, lawyers work on sexy and high-stake cases for sexy and high-stake clients. I can't recall any shows where lawyers are reviewing leases for folks who shop at Walmart.
Then there's the money factor. Though just a small fraction of law graduates work in Big Law and make the $160,000 starting salary, people still dream that law will somehow lead to the jackpot—or at least a cushy, upper-middle-class existence.
I think aspiring lawyers still harbor those dreams, even though everyone knows that the legal job market stinks now. (Remember, less than 50 percent of employed law grads even got a job in private practice, according to the latest figures from NALP. And the situation is also bleak for public interest lawyers who want to help the indigent.)
But here's the thing: The middle class needs lawyers, but graduates don't seem that anxious to serve that sector. Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney who is now a partner in Coffey Burlington in Miami, writes about this in The National Law Journal:
Ironically, while thousands of new law graduates fret about the chronic joblessness that awaits them, tens of millions of Americans need attorneys but cannot afford them. And much of the unmet need rests in America's middle class, which is neither rich enough to pay $250 an hour for lawyers nor poor enough to qualify for legal aid organizations.
Coffey calls the "union of jobless lawyers with lawyerless clients" one of the "greatest challenges" in the legal profession. So why is it so difficult in this tough legal market to get lawyers to serve America's middle class?
Coffee puts the blame on both law schools and new graduates. Both, he suggests, regard middle-class representation as a drag on their brand:
Image-conscious law schools fear that doing so might lower their rankings; law students laden with student loans might prefer careers outside of law to the modest income a middle-class practice would bring.
But I think there's also a third reason that he doesn't talk about—which is that many people who go to law school never had a genuine passion to be lawyers in the first place. Many think of law school as an extension of the liberal arts degree or a quick way to make a fat salary—or ideally, both. I totally understand that, because I (and many of my classmates at NYU Law School) fit into that category.
So here's the litmus test: Do you want to be a lawyer badly enough that you'll set up shop in a strip mall in a not-so-glam part of the country (Iowa really needs lawyers! ) to work on wills, mortgage documents, divorce papers, and such?
Maybe this is one way to ferret out who really wants to be in the game.