It seems like not too long ago that I checked the pass list myself, fingers trembling as I scanned through the numbers, then exhaling hard when I saw the good news. But as I thought about the bar exam yesterday, and the people I know who took it, a different thought crossed my mind. The bar was difficult, no doubt, but not nearly as difficult as the months that followed after I was sworn in as a new lawyer.
It's been a whirlwind year, filled with humility, frustration, lots of long hours, and some small victories too. I took and defended my first depositions, argued my first motions in Jefferson Circuit Court, and reached settlement agreements in a bunch of civil cases at the firm where I work. I also had the privilege of participating in a jury trial, launching several class action lawsuits, and giving advice to dozens of clients about their cases. For this week's bar exam takers, the end of studying has arrived, but the real work has not even started. If your experience is anything like mine, the road ahead will be tough but rewarding. Everything will be new. You will make mistakes. But you'll pick things up and move forward, and maybe somewhere around the six-month mark you'll start to feel like you have more answers than questions.
Specializing is a dirty word in our profession — ethics rules prohibit us from saying we "specialize" in a particular area — but it does help to have a niche. Mine is mass torts. I represent people who are injured by defective products, from metal hip implants to dangerous prescription medications. Most of these products are made by large corporations with boundless financial resources. Most of the clients are everyday people who have never filed a lawsuit, but who have suffered horrible and in some cases permanent injuries. It's a cause that is easy for me to be passionate about, and I'm grateful that I am in a tiny corner of the legal profession where I find meaning and purpose in most of the things I do. By the way, terrific book recommendation: All the Justice Money Can Buy, the story of legendary trial lawyer Mark Lanier and the fight about Vioxx and its maker, Merck. Incredibly, I am now actively working on mass tort cases with both Lanier and many of the other plaintiffs' lawyers who appear in the book, although admittedly my spot on the totem pole is quite a bit lower