Saturday, January 15, 2005

"Raising the Bar" as an Internet Consultant

Shortly after I bought my first house, I decided that I wanted to quit working for the engineering company where I was then working and start selling real estate for a living. After all, I was the one who did most of the work when I bought my first house, and there was nothing particularly difficult about it. And the idea of helping people become homeowners seemed like it would be rewarding work. Moreover, I was sort of a workaholic at the time, and the prospect of being self-employed was one that I found quite agreeable.

While studying for my real estate license exam, I quickly realized that what I really wanted to do was be a lawyer. After all, lawyers could do everything that a real estate broker could do and more, so being a real estate agent would probably be nothing more than a stepping stone to someday becoming a lawyer. Even so, becoming a lawyer meant going to law school full time for three years, and it took me quite some time to actually get around to it. In the meantime, many other business opportunities presented themselves until I eventually came to terms with the fact that it was time for me to go to law school.

I've written extensively about law school in a very popular FAQ that I compiled shortly after my graduation from King Hall Law School at UC Davis, so I won't go into too much detail about it here, other than to say that at the very end of my law school education I realized that I didn't want to become a lawyer anymore. Rather, I wanted to become an Internet consultant for attorneys. Even so, I was glad to have a law degree, as it was a credential that people truly respected, even if they didn't understand my predilection for working as an Internet consultant.

I have not entirely given up on the idea of actually opening up my own law office someday. During and after law school, I had a small taste of what this would be like by virtue of my work as a Certified Student Attorney for the King Hall Civil Rights Clinic and during the lean times when I did part-time, contract, and temporary work for various attorneys and law firms. However, if I do open up my own law office someday, it will be because I want to do so and not because of the enormous pressure to conform that once came from my family, friends, and peers, as well as from total strangers.

To a certain degree, I still feel this pressure to conform, but it is not as strong as it once was and nowhere near as constant. In fact, I often have to remind myself that I am not a lawyer by virtue of the fact that I speak the language of lawyers, and the lawyers with whom I work treat me as a colleague. I have also met my share of colleagues who, like me, have chosen not to practice law, finding their niches as corporate executives, politicians, and lobbyists. Even so, the niche that I fill as an Internet consultant is somewhat unique, and I have a very difficult time explaining myself to people who see the practice of law as the logical and inescapable result of a law school education.

In a previous blog post entitled What is the Law? I asserted that while we are supposed to live in a nation of laws in the United States, in reality we live in a nation of police, prosecutors, judges, and politicians who pretty much do what they want, the rule of law be damned. This viewpoint didn't quite crystallize for me until well after I graduated from law school and made the decision to become an Internet consultant. In the meantime, I saw for myself how some of the most cowardly and incompetent attorneys I met were also some of the most outwardly successful members of the legal profession. In time I realized that even the most noble and competent attorneys are also part of the problem because they validate a system that routinely denies justice to the vast majority of people who place their faith in that system.

Outside of television dramas, traffic stops are the most common encounters that John and Jane Q. Public have with "The Law." And John and Jane are usually the essence of cooperation when they are pulled over. Indeed, they are often strangely comforted by a traffic stop because it means that the police are hard at work keeping everyone in line. More recently, John and Jane have also been "comforted" by the cameras that purport to capture red light violators in flagrante delicto. The only problem is that quite a few innocent people are being convicted along with the guilty.

If it were just a matter of a few people paying an undeserved fine, an argument could be made that "the system," such as it is, is working within acceptable parameters. After all, how many times have you run a red light and *NOT* been caught. However, I have watched the so-called justice system at work, and I know that it routinely denies justice to the vast majority of people who put their faith in it. And as I stated previously, even the most noble and competent of attorneys are part of the problem. After all, how many cases can one attorney handle? And how many people will die waiting for help from one of these noble and competent attorneys? Meanwhile, there is no shortage of cowardly and incompetent attorneys whose only real skill is making false promises.

Facing the truth without panic, I realized that there was no chance that I could ever have an appreciable positive impact on the system if I were to work for reform as an attorney, no matter how successful I might become, and I am not at all comfortable with that truth. Rather, I hold out a spark of hope that as an Internet consultant I might be able to "raise the bar," both literally and figuratively, by selling my services to noble and competent attorneys. I think I definitely have my work cut out for me.

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