Some common misconceptions when choosing to be a lawyer

From the book “HOW TO SUCCEED TO IN STARTING LAW PRACTICE” – Lawyer Nguyen Huu Phuoc

Choosing a profession is as important as choosing a spouse. As the old saying goes, there are only three things important in one’s life including career, marriage and the home. Choosing a profession is the first important thing. Wrong decisions lead to serious consequences for yourself and sometimes, you reach a point of no return and have to accept those bad choices. There is no enormous difference between the lawyer careers than the other ones. Here are a few misconceptions about lawyer career that many of our young people have as a result of the public opinion or movies:

  • A lawyer is the person who saves others’ lives

As the lawyers, we are supposed to help the others who face legal problems in their daily life or business if they are required to appear at court but not all the lawyers are required to do so. For example, in-house lawyers primarily look after legal needs of their enterprises they work for to comply with relevant law or professional lawyers only provides legal consultancy such as providing advice to clients in merger & acquisition deals in lieu of appearing at courts/arbitration centres as litigators). Meanwhile, a variety of lawyers just focus on writing books, teaching law, or being an arbitrator in arbitration centres. Do not be upset if you have an unexpected job in one day despite the fact that you have struggled for your desire for a long time.

  • A lawyer is the person who is good at arguing on the spot

Once upon a time, it was a myth that a lawyer had to appear in court to defend his clients so lawyers were known as litigators; and thus, anyone who became a lawyer was deemed to have excellent speaking skills. Be fully aware that not all lawyers are obliged to defend their clients in courts as a number of lawyers are solicitors or inhouse lawyers working for enterprises where arguing on the spot is not a must all the time. There is always a tendency for a litigator who speaks faster and louder than his opposing lawyer to win a case but a good litigator always convinces others of his view with his law-based reasoning, evidence, clear legal analysis, and persuasive presentation.

  • Lawyer is a highly respected profession

Lawyers are in fact a well-respected profession after doctors, which have been viewed as two noble professions because anyone who is a lawyer must have had a high education. Additionally, our modern scepticism about the lawyer with the expertise in law who strictly complies with the law to prove to be a good model or to meet one of the main goals of the lawyer career that is to save others from legal problems now has changed. To practice as a lawyer is naturally to provide special services, so please do not think you are doing a favour or every client you work with will treat you with respect for any reason whatsoever. Like any other service providers, you are paid to care for your clients. In the future, be mindful in your professional service approach, your working attitude, and your associates working with your clients. They only respect you if and only if they feel satisfied with your professional boundaries as said. That your clients stay loyal with you is not a big deal.

  • If you become a lawyer, you will be rich

Anyone who reads numerous newspapers will tell you that a lawyer has rarely been included in the list of billionaires. It remains the same here in Vietnam. Rich lawyers do not really exist in our real life. You may have heard the names of well-known lawyers through notable cases, or their own law firms, or their big mansions, or when they represent the interests of huge public companies, or when they are invited to various law forums and workshops, but above all, they are the persons who have professional work and service providers. As usual, their earnings are based on the client trust and service fees are charged on the actual working hours spent on the cases. Your clients can request you to directly take charge of their cases instead of your colleague while you only have 24 hours every single day to take care of all tasks and even, other personal activities account for a number of your limited time such as personal care, lunch, dinner, working, sleeping, entertainment, family, and social activities. In short, you hardly ever have time to increase daily billable hours, your income cannot accelerate exponentially, and you cannot become wealthy like the billionaires in other fields.

There are many more lawyers qualifying every year in Vietnam and a large proportion of that huge group are paid with low wage and many unemployed persons have to work for positions deemed irrelevant to their expertise. That is why we can see many lawyers have to struggle with the financial crisis in their own life. Do not jump to conclusion by making references to a small group of successful lawyers that you have known that the lawyer profession will inevitably bring prosperity to all lawyers. If you choose to pursue this profession, you need to make incredible efforts to make it and overcome yourself and the other colleagues because it is a highly competitive career.

  • A lawyer can change the law

I agree that as a professional lawyer, you will have more opportunities to regularly read and do legal research so you are able to make significant contributions to give opinions on amendments and supplementations of the bills or the impacts of the bills in order to improve the Vietnam legal system and for a better society, especially in the context of intensive economic integration for now. To be honest, not all of them will be listened and welcomed by the government officials no matter how rational your recommendations are. You should be aware that several laws, in some extent, are promulgated and passed to serve various benefits or for political purposes leading to quite illogical.

  • Becoming a lawyer to become a leader in the future

I agree with you that a lot of leaders or politicians of politic groups were lawyers or have studied law before, and many presidents and prime ministers have studied law before in various countries, e.g. the former President Bill Clinton of the United States, the former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair of the United Kingdom. In Vietnam, many leaders also have law degrees. But being a lawyer in Vietnam does not mean that you gain more chances to hold a high position in our government body. Every year, there are thousands of fresh law graduates and a large number of qualified lawyers who are granted with lawyer training certificates will diminish your little chances of becoming a government official, except for rare cases. Your legal knowledge, legal analysis, and presentation skills are vital tools for your practice in government bodies and you are open to be promoted to a government officer (or specialist) through its annual recruitment test only. It does not play a leading role in making you become a leader in that government agency due to other reasons including politics. Your wish only comes true if you prove to meet some other requirements.

  • A lawyer who knows the law will know how to evade the law

It is a myth that a lawyer, who masters legal instruments, tend to not only advise his clients on how to strictly comply with the law but also take advantage of the gaps of the regulations (grey area) where the law remains silent or inexplicit to advise them of evading the law for their own benefits while it may violate the law and harm to of the interests of the government and society. As for this issue, it is worthy to remember that one of the professional capacities of the lawyer is to analyse the law, find the objectives of law makers in every single legal instrument when any legal provision shows unclear to primarily provide adequate consultation for clients and to avoid misunderstandings in applying the law and violations of the law in the case of inspection from state agencies. Legal analysis also helps us in finding solutions to legislators and government agencies to modify those provisions to be clearer, more suitable, and comprehensive. Maybe a few lawyers consulting their clients to evade the law but I have no doubt that their clients may be put at risk due to unverified advice and they may hold jointly and severally liable for what they indirectly got involved in.

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