The other day, I had a halfhearted conversation with a young lawyer assessing his options outside of the military. At one point, he jokingly (at least apparently) mentioned that he could work for me.
“You know, Eric, I’m really passionate about defending soldiers.”
I smiled and made attempts at keeping the conversation light. Though I left with the feeling that he hoped that a seed was planted for future cultivation.
The fact is, I’d never hire him. Ever.
Oh, he’s a smart kid, good heart, and presents himself well in the courtroom (for his level of experience). He demonstrated, in a short time, the ability to learn quickly and efficiently.
So, why won’t I hire him?
I don’t have time to deal with that crap.
See, it’s fine to be passionate about things. For instance, I’m passionate about my kids and their futures. For that reason, I’d make a crappy lawyer for them if one was needed. They’d need someone who is dispassionate who can calmly evaluate options and make learned decisions and recommendations. I’m not that person because I’m passionate about the subject.
You might assume that I’m not passionate about military law and courts-martial. If you did assume this, you are correct. Gold star for you.
I’m not passionate. I’m happy to be in this sector of the profession. I like doing the work. I appreciate what I do and how I am able to do it. I enjoy the challenges and always look forward to announcing my appearance in military court.
Any time I achieve a positive result for a veteran, I feel good, and even a bit proud.
Happy, appreciative, enjoying, and proud? Yes.
Passionate? Absolutely not.
Occasionally, to get a response from opposing counsel, I’ll act passionate, but it’s all an act. Acting passionate takes a lot of energy. Being passionate takes even more.
But I’m not passionate about what I do.
My experience tells me that passion usually results in one of two things: poor legal reasoning or unintended pregnancies.
I talk to passionate people all the time. Some are clients. Some are potential clients. Many are family members–moms, dads, wives, brothers, sisters, and mistresses. Others are third-party advocates (victim, veteran, and the like). They are passionate. Often very, very passionate.
They know what they know and believe what they believe. They become flustered and angry at the thought that someone could believe otherwise. When I explain that the opposing side has a logical and (generally) accepted reason for a particular stance, I’m met with the same high-powered anger and frustration.
They blurt, “How can they possibly think that?! How can you say those jerks have solid and compelling evidence?!”
Well, as lawyers, our job is to understand why and how the opposing party thinks. We must look at their logic, identify flaws, and identify ways to present our side as more logical and less flawed. Sometimes, it is possible. Often, it is not.
Feeling passion makes a person think they are flawless, and they see the other side as obviously and irreparably flawed. How dare someone think otherwise.
As lawyers, we are hired to analyze everything dispassionately, call it as we see it, and make the most of whatever hand we are dealt. If we are passionate, we fail at all three. The last thing we should do is practice in an area where we feel passion.
So, if you are looking for a job, or a partnership, feel free to be passionate about model railroading, or modern art, or the evolution of body art, or animal husbandry, or crumbling Detroit architecture.
Just don’t be passionate about military law.
If you are, take your passions elsewhere. I have no time for them. And neither do my clients.