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How do people react when you mention you're a lawyer/in law school?

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5 minutes ago, providence said:

Well, sometimes they bring their dirtiness with other countries here ie. SNC-Lavalin. And now with Mark Norman too, I am not sure Canada does respect the rule of law here either. 

No system is perfect. But rule of law is pretty consistently observed in Canada, especially when we look at other jurisdictions. And re: Mark Norman, the charges were stayed. That is, at least in one sense, a victory for rule of law. 

Edited by Pythia
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7 minutes ago, providence said:

Well, sometimes they bring their dirtiness with other countries here ie. SNC-Lavalin. And now with Mark Norman too, I am not sure Canada does respect the rule of law here either. 

Yeah this is just a bit, or even a lot, crazy. 

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Let's get this discussion back on track, please and thank you.

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Like others, I've had the whole range. When I lived in Toronto one of my neighbours introduced herself and when we were on the rooftop terrace one day and we started chatting. She asked what I did, told her I was a lawyer. She was actually really interested and then asked me what area of law I worked in. At the time I was doing crim defence and she got all awkward and the conversation ended. I got the definite vibe she thought I was scum all of a sudden lol. On the other hand, other people have been anything from impressed to blasé. But my favourite was when I was getting my haircut once, she asked the standard what-kind-of-work-do-you-do question. When I told her I was a lawyer, she said ya, she was going to be a lawyer too, cause she had the marks and everything... You know like she got mostly Bs and a couple of As in high school. But she decided to go to hairdressing school instead to challenge herself. To this day I'm not sure if she was trolling me or what lol. 

Now when people ask, I tell them I'm a family lawyer and the first reaction I get is usually a kind of disapproving remark that I probably make a ton from divorces. I sometimes mention that I do a ton of child protection/CAS stuff and people usually seem genuinely interetsed in that and how it works. Guess it all just depends on the context and who you're talking to. 

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Most people don't care - except for people in my home town. 

I'm originally from a rural area - and you would think that when people find out I'm an Intellectual Property lawyer it would mean basically nothing to them -- WRONG. Every time my "area of practice" comes up I get into super lengthy conversations about Monsanto.

The whole town basically hates me and I've never even actually acted for that company! I guess we're all just painted with the same brush ... let me sob on my big pile of money over here... *sniff* 

Edited by TheScientist101
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4 minutes ago, TheScientist101 said:

Most people don't care - except for people in my home town. 

I'm originally from a rural area - and you would think that when people find out I'm an Intellectual Property lawyer it would mean basically nothing to them -- WRONG. Every time my "area of practice" comes up I get into super lengthy conversations about Monsanto.

The whole town basically hates me and I've never even actually acted for that company! I guess we're all just painted with the same brush ... let me sob on my big pile of money over here... *sniff* 

Yeah, half the time I tell someone I'm interested in IP they ask whether I'm going to be protecting companies that steal from poor farmers. I'm surprised at how widespread that stigma is.

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Even as a law student, I've had a lot of people in my immediate friend/family circle ask me for legal advice. And when I tell them the basic; "Go talk to a ______ lawyer", they seem to get very disappointed that I don't off the top of my head know everything possible about every area of law, and/or that I refuse to answer their questions directly.

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I've wanted to answer this question sooner, but I have two predominant reactions.

First, I realize that it's been a long time since I met many new people outside of a context that's at least semi-professional. I don't find myself standing around house parties anymore, drinking a beer in a circle of people I've just met, going "so, what is it you do?" Maybe ten years ago I could have cited a string of experiences relating to how people respond to my profession. But not anymore. I actually find myself digging for examples of how anyone new has responded to my job in a long time.

My second reaction is, I actually met two new people on the weekend (friends of my wife's family) and most of the time I spent talking with this guy who runs an arts organization. Interesting guy. In some very tangential way what he does and what I do could intersect at some point, and we exchanged cards. It really wasn't a thing at all that I practice law, or that I'm in criminal defence. Although he sat on an interesting jury lately, and without going into specifics (which he can't do) we had an interesting chat about that experience.

I guess what I'm saying it, for good or for ill, at some point your social environment narrows a bit and you self-select into relationships with people for whom your job just isn't a big deal. It's useful to simply be a lawyer at times - in politics, in certain professional settings, etc. Half of that is also just having any professional job and being a middle-aged dude in a suit.

I don't know if there's a good lesson out of this. It's a very important exercise to remain conscious of how other people respond to you, how you respond to others, etc. Perception and privilege are huge factors at play, here. It's not like saying "I'm a lawyer" is a thing that occurs without context. When I say that, the most common reaction (based on dress, deportment, environment, etc.) is "oh, yeah." But try saying that as a young woman of colour. You'll get a different reaction. And since we aren't going to somehow eliminate bias, privilege, etc. any time soon, the next best option is at least remaining aware of how it all plays out.

But yeah, it's a thing for a while. It's weird to think "this is who I am now, and it's how people see me." Then one day, you wake up and it's just normal because that's who you are. Like any life change - getting older, having kids, finding yourself in some unexpected position of authority - it's odd until it isn't. Though I'll admit, I still have moments when I think "I can't believe they let me do this stuff - if only they really knew me." But I've come around to the view that everyone has those moments too, or should. The Pope, the Secretary-General of the UN, our Prime Minister - I truly hope and believe they all have moments when they think "I can't believe they're letting me do this!" I'm sure Trump doesn't have that level of self-reflection. He probably thinks it makes sense that he's President. But that's a whole other issue.

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On 5/18/2019 at 11:02 PM, Pythia said:

My parents come from a country where only people who have no other reasonable prospects study law and become lawyers. As a result, much of my family, as well as family friends who immigrated to Canada, often express puzzlement at why I decided to go to law school. Interestingly, I have close friends who are Korean who say it is the opposite in SK. Only superlative students become lawyers in SK because (i) the job is prestigious and pays well, (ii) anybody can take the bar exam, and (iii) the bar exam is devilishly difficult. When I go to the homes of these Korean friends, their parents tend to treat me well.

Truth. Although it does have its benefits. Less pressure to marry a good South Asian girl when you've made such a poor choice of profession.

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23 minutes ago, thegoodlaw said:

Truth. Although it does have its benefits. Less pressure to marry a good South Asian girl when you've made such a poor choice of profession.

Hahaha, this is a great comment.

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So many different reactions...

Oftentimes, if you're looking to make a conversation awkward, mention that you're a lawyer/law student. Top three reactions:

1. "Oh cool" and then awkward silence.

2. "I have this friend who's a lawyer. Do you know [insert name]? He lives on the other side of the country." After I admit that I unfortunately do not know [insert name], awkward silence.

3. Awkward silence.

Also, worth honourable mentions:

4. "Oh yeah, I was going to go to law school but [insert reason]." Awkward silence.

5. "I'm pre-law right now." After explaining to me that they're not actually pre-law because that doesn't exist, awkward silence.

 

A lot of people awkwardly mention how smart I must be for having completed law school, to which I usually feel the need to correct them (self-deprecation gets me through the day!).

One thing you might find is, when you want to engage in a meaningful discussion with someone who has a viewpoint different than yours, oftentimes that person will just think you're being an annoying lawyer and will use it as a way to shut down the conversation, sometimes mockingly saying "oh ok lawyer I guess we're all just wrong then." It's incredibly frustrating because I don't feel it's innate in my personality to argue; I just want to have a conversation. Of course, pointing out that they are using a blatant fallacy to shut down the conversation often does not help matters.

You also often get legal questions, or stories of experiences with other lawyers or with the law. The legal questions suck because you can't help the person with the question, which of course often leads to awkward silence.

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On 5/20/2019 at 5:41 PM, TheScientist101 said:

Most people don't care - except for people in my home town. 

I'm originally from a rural area - and you would think that when people find out I'm an Intellectual Property lawyer it would mean basically nothing to them -- WRONG. Every time my "area of practice" comes up I get into super lengthy conversations about Monsanto.

The whole town basically hates me and I've never even actually acted for that company! I guess we're all just painted with the same brush ... let me sob on my big pile of money over here... *sniff* 

Are you from Saskatchewan or Manitoba? Not to ask too many personal questions but we heard quite a bit on the whole Monsanto Schmeizer affair, e.g. how it really went down from a professor with local connections. It was an interesting contrast to the ruling. 

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People are like "wow u can read" to which I reply "no I just listen to true crime podcasts and tell my professors I'm too gassy to write exams" 

 

All legume law student diet is famous don't ask ;)

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I've had a few people start justifying their career choices. Like Becky, I respect you becoming a teacher and improving our future. You don't have to tell me that you debated law school or medical school or whatever and decided you wanted to make a better future. Honestly though, most people don't really care and I like it that way. I'm a fairly quiet and reserved person who doesn't like to talk about themselves so it really only comes up when I'm asked what I'm studying/where I'm working for the summer. 

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On 6/3/2019 at 2:42 PM, GingerBreadCookie said:

It’s a pretty cool cheat code to getting extra matches on Tinder if you’re ever feeling a little horny, OP.

They think I'm fraudin' (which I take as a compliment; no one wants to "look" like a lawyer when trying to smash).

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On 5/14/2019 at 1:48 PM, TheAEGIS said:

Everything from surprise to disdain.

But one thing that is universal is suddenly everyone expects you to know everything about every area of law. Except other lawyers who know better. Oh, and god help you if you make the type of silly mistake the "common-folk" make in anything you do. You'll never hear the end of that one.

"Oh, man aren't you supposed to be a lawyer" ... yes ... because lawyers are infallible space-deities with super-computers for brains and perfection as a prerogative. 😫

I mostly just say I'm in the legal field and won't use the word "lawyer" unless pressed.

I'm not in law school (yet) but I'm a paralegal working at a law firm. And yes, people think you should know everything about all areas of law.

My ex boyfriend is in medical school and always asked me law-related questions, and was always upset when I didn't know the answer to something. He also took a law course in some medicine-related area of law and told me he had to memorize "all of the laws related to medicine" (forgot which area of law this was) and so he didn't understand that I didn't know it all. He is in the UofT MD program too...you'd think he'd know better since he obviously doesn't know everything about medicine and all areas of practice. 

I will say this though. People in med school think they're smarter than those in law, but sometimes they're really not. 

 

Edited by Relentless2017
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I normally don't tell people I am a lawyer. I don't give out my business cards unless they are my clients or potential clients during consultations.

When my parents's friends asked me what do I do for a living, I told them I worked in an office.

Only two went further and asked me what type of office. I then told them I work in a law office.. then they asked if I am a receptionist, clerk etc. no one has ever asked if I am a lawyer.. I enjoyed seeing their facial expression when I told them I am a lawyer.. 

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When people learnt that I am law student, they were wondering if Canadian law schools had significantly lowered their bar for admitting students.

Although I've been learning English for 15 years, my oral English is still patently inferior to average Canadians. 

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