I have started wondering recently whether being a lawyer makes you grow suspicious and sceptical, always expecting the worst in people, and assuming them to be motivated only by personal greed or to have a hidden agenda. I have noticed recently that some of the lawyers I speak to seem to take this mistrustful attitude, and it made me suspect that they are trained not only to anticipate all that can go wrong, but to think the worst of the people they deal with. Or maybe it’s a natural consequence of regularly dealing with unscrupulous, bitter, ruthless and often downright criminal people. Perhaps seeing such people day in, day out, makes you naturally jaded.
I came across something similar about a year ago. I got chatting to the grandmother of one of my daughter’s classmates and learned that she and her husband, both in their seventies, were struggling to bring up their young grandchildren because their good-for-nothing son and his drug addict girlfriend had abandoned them on their doorstep when the youngest was just six weeks old. They got no help from the government apart from children benefit, and the children had never had a holiday. The grandparents have never had so much as a weekend off, and were shattered. I offered the only help I could – I said I would have all three children come to my house every Sunday afternoon to play with my children. I’d cook them a meal, and the grandparents could be guaranteed one afternoon off every week.
At first they accepted, but before that first Sunday I had a terse phone call saying they’d changed their minds because they weren’t sure they could trust me. Well, they didn’t say it in so many words, but that was what it boiled down to.
I was naturally upset. I’d tried to do something helpful, and I’d been accused of – well, I’m still not quite sure what. It took my best friend to explain that these people had obviously been through some tough times and were very protective of the children because of that. They probably hadn’t met very many good or kind people in their lives. So when I’d offered to do something good for them they had assumed I had some ulterior motive or there was something in it for me.
I am sure it is very helpful to a lawyer to be wary and sceptical. I remember when I moved house that my solicitor went to great length to warn me about possible floods, subsidence, and a myriad of other potential disasters, and I thought how cynical she seemed to be about my lovely new home (which so far, has neither flooded nor subsided) but there is a danger that this attitude could lead to a depressed and pessimistic outlook which could lead to problems outside the office.
There are good people out there who do kind and decent things just because they can. The millions of people who have contributed to the Haiti Disaster appeal are one example. LawCare volunteers are another. Our volunteers don’t offer to support people through tough times because they think they can get business out of it, or because it looks good on their CV; they genuinely care about their fellow lawyers, and they want to help those in need.
You may encounter some selfish and cruel people who care only about themselves, but there are many good people out there. If life as a lawyer is making you feel jaded and sceptical, give us a call and speak to someone nice who only wants to help.
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