DONNA

Lady Justice: The Practice of Life

Lawyers engage in the practice of law. By choice or circumstance, we usually narrow ourselves to certain practice areas (types of law), such as civil litigation, wills and estates, real estate, corporate, etc. We may further limit ourselves within those areas, one of my favourite examples is displayed on Las Vegas billboards for INJUREDinaHOTEL.com. In representing our clients, we may limit ourselves to a certain side (e.g. criminal defence or prosecution) or sector (e.g. financial institutions, oil and gas).

“Practice makes perfect”. Lawyers never stop practicing until we retire so I guess we can never make perfect unless being able to afford to retire is the goal.

A child’s play is their work. If they play really well, then they might proceed seamlessly to making that play into their paid work, perhaps as a professional athlete or musician. Otherwise they can transfer that work ethic and other skills such as teamwork, leadership and discipline into their further career training and chosen career. Transferable skills start early.

In such a specialist and competitive society, a child’s play can become actual work very early in their lives. I recall in my childhood hearing stories about Russians birthing their babies in water-filled tubs (to see how they would float?) in order to start their swimming careers so they could be trained for the Olympics. In North America, star athletes like Tiger Woods and Serena Williams commenced practicing with their fathers at ages 18 months and four years, respectively. Brooke Shields started as a child model earning income very early (her mother apparently made the decision at 5 days of age on her career, clearly not as keen as the Russians). Currently, TikTok and other social media stars can be any age, the earlier you start the algorithms, the sooner network effects can be achieved.

At the other end of the spectrum, many people in their 20s and beyond still haven’t decided what they want to do. Too many choices can make for a lot of indecision and ultimate unhappiness over second guessing. My recent review of University program selections had me empathetically overwhelmed for our youth, there were far too many choices. I appreciated when a medical show of an operation made me queasy and quickly decide lawyer versus doctor. The choices should carry current stats on things such as employment rates, career satisfaction, and salaries (and probably predictive analytics factoring in how soon AI and robotics will replace those careers). Maybe just a wheel of fortune to spin would do.

In the case of aspiring lawyers, they, and their parents, usually tell me they are good at arguing. For the most part, in Canada, lawyers don’t start to train in law until after an undergraduate degree, around the age of 22, so the skill sets and education that can lead to a legal career and contribute to the profession are very rich and diverse.

I have seen many mature students successfully start a legal career and get up to speed quickly based on carryover skills from their lives and prior careers. One of my favourite friends in law school I think was in her 40s or 50s (back then 30s seemed old to me). We may have been over 30 years apart but related by being at the opposite ends of the bell curve based on age of admission into law school.

It would be nice if the bell curve polarity as it relates to right and left political views worked that way. Maybe it does. If you took members of the very far left and very far right and tossed them in a room and disallowed political discussion, would they be more alike than the rest of the citizenry on the curve, in terms of personality, reasoning, empathy, and so on?

For the most part, the practice of law is about being reasonable. Contracts often refer to making reasonable efforts or seeking approvals which are not to be unreasonably withheld. The standard of care in negligence law is that of the reasonable person not the perfect one. There may be reasonable excuses for certain actions. The practice of law can be seen to be based on the practice of life, some rules (but not too many…) to ensure we all have a chance to access justice and our individual potential in a free and democratic (and balanced) society.

Donna Purcell, K.C., (aka Lady Justice) is a Central Alberta lawyer and Chief Innovation Officer with Donna Purcell QC Law. If you have legal questions, contact dpurcell@dpqclaw.com.

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