During one of my first online dating experiences, a guy who had contacted me found out that I was a lawyer, emailed, “I don’t date lawyers,” and disappeared. I tried questioning why this was and even pleaded with him to reconsider. I never got a response. Maybe I was proving him right – that all lawyers are angry and argumentative. Or maybe he was just a judgmental jerk that I shouldn’t have given a second thought about. Bottom line: this guy cut off all communication with me, as if being a lawyer was equivalent to having a contagious disease.
On that note, here are 15 misconceptions about dating a lawyer, from a lawyer:
1. We’re all angry, argumentative and bitter.
Some of us, yes. All of us? No. Except when people judge us as being so, I suppose. Lawyers tend to have analytical minds. It’s the way they train us in law school – asking questions to get us to consider a set of facts from multiple angles. The Socratic method. We tend to see situations in more than black and white and we can sometimes become passionate about it. Some more so than others, depending on how tired or hungry we are.
2. Everyone in our family is a lawyer and equally angry.
I am the first lawyer in my family and certainly did not have any close lawyers or lawyer-like friends who got me into law school. My family is generally a peaceful crowd, though opinionated, but who doesn’t have an opinionated family? You don’t have to be scared of hanging out with us.
3. We’re all rich, live in mansions, drive fancy cars and take luxurious vacations.
This is absolutely false. Many lawyers these days are paying off their law school and college loans for many years and finding it next to impossible to secure a moderately paying legal job after law school. The mansion / fancy car lawyers have usually worked liked crazy to get where they are or have money from their family’s hard work and good fortune. The average lawyer doesn’t have time to drive around in that fancy car or to take a luxurious vacation because he or she is working like crazy. If you just want to date us to be flown in our private jet to our 350-acre ranch in Wyoming, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
4. We’re greedy and love to take advantage of people.
The majority of lawyers that I know are caring, hard working people who just want to earn a decent living to support their families. They’re not looking to hustle or take advantage of anyone. This stereotype is brought on by a small group of the ambulance chasing variety that perpetuates in film, TV shows and the media in general. There are many different types of lawyers. Some work for non-profits. Some work for start-ups and small businesses. Some use their legal degree to do other things like consulting, compliance, real estate and other careers. Once you get to know us, you’ll see that if we’re greedy and selfish, it has nothing to do with being a lawyer – it’s just us being greedy and selfish.
5. We thrive off of people’s problems.
Another myth – on the whole. Lawyers, if anything, are great listeners. That’s how we do our job. We listen to spot issues. We take what you tell us and put it together like a puzzle, trying to determine what are the key facts and then try to offer advice based on those facts. Some lawyers are my closest friends because they want to hear the full story of any problem that I’m having and can cut to the chase with their advice.
6. We never have to worry about money.
I constantly worry about money. Despite thinking that choosing to go to law school would lead to a steady career, the financial crisis a few years ago proved that there’s no such thing as a secure lawyer job. So don’t believe that dating a lawyer will entitle you to spending sprees and splurges to your heart’s content.
7. We are generally unpleasant to be around.
Ok, so some lawyers are more pleasant than others. And some non-lawyers are more pleasant than other non-lawyers. We may not be the most laid back of personalities, but we’re go-getters and like to get things done. We’re typically doers and helpers. We find it difficult to sit back when we can jump in and accomplish something. Being in a relationship with someone like that will never be dull.
8. We always have to be “right.”
We’re trained to make winning arguments, to come up with plausible explanations of things. It may be frustrating to have a debate with us on something we’re passionate about because it’s in our nature to find the “smoking gun” or indisputable fact that wins our case. That said, we should know when to turn it on and off, when to let something go and how to pick our battles. It is possible to compartmentalize the winning argument train.
9. All we needed to become a lawyer was enough money, family connections and a heartbeat.
If you have ever had to study for and pass a bar exam, you’ll have a new found appreciation for lawyers (particularly the New York and California bar exams). It’s a tremendous task requiring intensive concentration, calmness under pressure and critical thinking. There probably are lawyers who have gotten where they are from the help of connections, but the majority of lawyers have had to work their way through the system with loans, hard work and mental marathon skills.
10. We’re constantly fighting with everyone around us.
Yes, I know there are some loud mouth lawyer types out there who like to make themselves known. These are the ones that make all lawyers seem unbearably obnoxious. I promise we’re not all like that. If being argumentative is part of our day job, you can be assured, it’s the last thing we want to do in our free time. In fact, we’ve likely gotten all the fight out of us that we’ve cared to stomach. Once we get to our loved ones, we want peace, harmony and some good old-fashioned love.
11. We are workaholics.
Ah, ok – so maybe this is somewhat true, but that’s the nature of the legal industry, not really the lawyer herself. Law firms require billable hours for the most part, so if you’re not working, you’re not earning money for your firm and might not even be getting paid. We’re committed to earning a living, which can make us steadier partners for a relationship. We have a lot of the work hard / play hard mentality and will be sure to make the most of our free time with the people that we enjoy being with.
12. We love the law.
While there are some lawyers who get a high off of reciting statutes and who act like meeting senior officials at legal conferences is the equivalent of getting backstage passes to their favorite band’s concert, not every lawyer loves the law (or their job). Many lawyers are lawyers to provide for themselves, their family and to have health benefits (the same reasons all people go for a certain career). Many people picture dating a lawyer as sitting across the table from someone going into a rant about their argument in their legal brief about the qui tam provisions of the False Claim Act while they’ve rolled their eyes and fallen asleep. In truth, many lawyers would love to talk about anything but the law.
13. We are incapable of minding our own business.
Only when something is really off-putting or needs reprimanding. Like riding the subway and witnessing a very pregnant person be ignored when requesting to sit down. Or when our friend is on hold with Time Warner Cable because they charged her incorrectly for something and we are itching to get on and argue for her when she’d rather just pay it and be done with it. You’ll find this a helpful skill if you date us.
14. We cheat, steal and lie to get ahead.
This is absolutely false for most lawyers (and human beings). We like coming up with great, creative solutions for things. We like projects that have a start, middle and end, and we like going through each phase. It makes us feel accomplished. We know that cutting corners only comes back to burn us. We’re willing to put in the hard work to solve problems – both at work and in our relationships.
15. We’re not actually human.
False. So very false. I watch dog and baby videos on YouTube and cry just like the rest of the world. We feel terribly horrible by terribly horrible things happening around us. We feel joy and happiness at wonderful things taking place every day. If you find yourself dating a lawyer who doesn’t exhibit any evidence of acting like a human, it’s best to cut ties and find a human being (lawyer or otherwise) who does.