Being a Lawyer Is Tougher Than Nails - Articles

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Posted by: William Haltom on Mar 1, 2014

Journal Issue Date: Mar 2014

Journal Name: March 2014 - Vol. 50, No. 3

U.S. News and World Report has recently published its annual list of the top 100 jobs in America. So where do you think “lawyer” ranks on the list? Number 1? Well, no. Nick Saban is not the Chief Justice, and being a lawyer is not the professional equivalent of playing for the Alabama Crimson Tide or the Florida State Seminoles.

According to U.S. News, the best job in America is “software developer.”

I am so far behind the times, I don’t even know what “software” is or how it is developed. I do know what hardware is. Do software developers work in a software store like Home Depot?

So being a lawyer is the second-best job in America, right? Well, no. According to those software developer groupies at U.S. News, the second best job in America is “computer system analyst.”

Now I do know what a computer is. I actually have one sitting on the credenza behind my desk. I use it every day to check important web sites such as I also use my computer to send and receive jokes via email. But I haven’t the foggiest idea what a “computer system analyst” is. Is he a psychiatrist my computer visits at night after work?

Number 3 on the U.S. News top 100 job list is, alas again, not “lawyer.” It is “dentist.”

I certainly know what a dentist is. In fact, some of my best friends are dentists even though I would not want my daughter to marry one.

From my experience, I have found that dentists are sadistic men and women who enjoy inflicting pain on people, especially lawyers. (I have no idea how a dentist treats a software program developer or a computer system analyst.)

I cannot imagine someone finding meaning in life in a job consisting of cutting and drilling, unless of course you are an oil man.

And my fellow lawyers, you are probably asking, “Where on the top 10 list of best jobs in America do you find us lawyers?” Well, the answer is … we ain’t in the top 10! We ain’t even in the top 20! Believe it or not, we’re not even in the top 50!

According to U.S. News and World Report, we lawyers have the 51st best job in America. And get this: we rank behind massage therapists (#27), accountants (#39), high school teachers (#40), bookkeepers (#43), and … believe it or not … nail technicians (#49)!

I am sorry, but to tell me as a lawyer that my job is ranked behind a massage therapist rubs me the wrong way. And being a “nail technician” is a better job than being an attorney? Is U.S. News and World Report saying it’s better to file toenails than to file a lawsuit?

Nonsense. Yes, being a lawyer is tougher than nails, but I’d rather cross-examine a witness in a jury trial rather than polish somebody’s pinkie.

I may not be as smart as a journalist for U.S. News and World Report or a soft-nails systems analyst for “Toenails R Us,” but I know a good job when I see it, and next to being a super model, I think there’s not a better job than being a lawyer.

When the great Senator Bob Dole was running for vice president in 1976, he said he was interested in the job because “it is indoor work with no heavy lifting.”

That is certainly true of being a lawyer, especially in this day and age when our files have all been downloaded by one of those really smart computer system analysts.

Moreover, as a trial lawyer, I really only have to do three things: read, write and talk, and I learned how to do all three in first grade.

The great comedian Jerry Seinfeld once observed, “According to a recent public opinion survey, Americans’ biggest fear is speaking in public. Their second greatest fear is dying. What this means is that at a funeral, most people would rather be the corpse than the person delivering the eulogy.”

But while I am scared of dying, I am not scared of speaking in public. And that’s what I get to do as a lawyer. I just stand up and talk. And I get paid good money to do it! Is this a great country or what?

But now U.S. News and World Report is telling me I would be better off and happier if I were giving pedicures. Well, I don’t buy it. I do not want to clutch anybody’s feet. In 36 years of being a trial lawyer, I have never once had to touch any of my clients’ toes, and I’m grateful for that.

And so to all you smarty-pants journalists at U.S. News and World Report, and for that matter, to all you software program developers, computer system analysts and nail technicians out there … Well, to borrow a line from Johnny Paycheck, “You can take your job and shove it.”

I am going to stick with the 51st best job in America — a job where I get paid to read, write and talk, and I never have to touch anybody’s toes.

Bill HaltomBILL HALTOM is a shareholder with the firm of Lewis Thomason. He is a past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and a past president of the Memphis Bar Association. Read his blog