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What are the Worst Parts of Being a Lawyer?

Judge gavel with justice lawyer.

Other than professional athletes, lawyers are the only people equally skilled, trained, and qualified to specifically defeat you. That alone can tell you how challenging and competitive being a lawyer can be. Movies have somewhat distorted the reality of being a lawyer.

The truth about the law is that it can be extremely overwhelming and one of the most demanding professionals globally.  According to an article by US News, being a lawyer is one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. The primary responsibility involves dealing with stressful situations like bankruptcy, divorce, abuse, or murder.

Unlike most careers, it’s almost impossible to anticipate the challenges you’ll encounter throughout your legal career. So what are some of the challenges lawyers encounter? Most importantly, what should non-lawyers and students aspiring to become lawyers know about being a lawyer?

In this post, we will highlight some of the challenges lawyers face in their day-to-day litigation tasks. Let’s start with the common one!

Difficult clients

Lawyer with a client.

Practicing law means interacting with all types of people. Of course, you will meet extremely kind, understanding, and engaged clients, and you will also meet difficult clients. Knowing how to talk to such people and get the information you need to prepare for the case can make your work two times more difficult.

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All lawyers admit to dealing with difficult clients at some point in their careers. We went through some of the personal experiences lawyers have shared in different social platforms, and below are the seven main complaints they shared about difficult clients:

1. Clients who are reluctant to pay money for legal services

One of the main challenges lawyers face is not getting paid on time. While some clients will pay in full upfront and pay legal services on time, others can take months after winning or losing a case to pay you, which can be frustrating and time-consuming.

2. Clients who can’t process complex answers

When it comes to the law, there are no simple answers. Most clients want quick solutions that only favor them. Such clients get pretty upset when they get an “it depends” type of answer. For instance, if a client asks, “Are we going to win this case?” They want to hear a quick “yes.” Nothing else. They prefer that you skip the detailed explanation of why the case can go either way.

3. Clients feel like lawyers are working against them

Some clients don’t understand the role of lawyers in their case, which involves telling the client the truth and what they should do and not do. Clients with unrealistic expectations want lawyers to be their friends and hate the opposing party as much as they hate them, making a lawyer’s job difficult.

4. Micromanagers

Many lawyers have raised concerns about their clients micromanaging them. They want to send 5-page emails every week and call ten times a day without considering working hours. It’s one thing to send all the documents and information required in a case, and another to decide when and how things should be done.

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It’s also essential for clients to follow up on their cases, but quite inconsiderate to call every two hours asking the same question. The worst thing about micromanagers is complaining when billed for extra hours lawyers spend on their cases.

5. Clients who don’t follow instructions and feel they’re right

Some clients will simply ignore what lawyers tell them and complain later when they experience negative consequences. Stubborn clients often feel they’re right and entitled to say whatever they think will get them what they want, which can harm the results of a case.

6. Clients who cannot handle losing a case

While there are no guaranteed results in the law, some clients still believe that you have no option but to win if they hire you as their lawyer. Each case is different, and you can win a case that you should’ve lost or lose a case you expected to win.

7. Impatient clients

Getting justice is often a slow process, and we’re so accustomed to instant results that we expect instant justice. Impatient clients end up pressuring lawyers to push for quicker dates, which is stressful and harmful to the case preparations. Preparing any case in a hurry is preparing to lose early.

Lawyers end up showing up in  a courtroom with missing information or lack of critical details and evidence.

Winning a case can take a negative toll on you

A man with a personal injury finally gets some legal representation.

Sometimes lawyers want to win a case as much as the client does. Putting all the effort and work required to help clients win a case and finally get justice for themselves or their loved ones is a great achievement for any lawyer. However, when you flip the coin, it becomes a bitter pill to swallow.

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Just as you would win a case for a victim, it is the same way you can win a case for an attacker. It’s your job, after all. Helping a guilty client win a case means you are competent in your job, but the mere thought can harm your mental state as it is not a win you’ll be proud of.

Similarly, losing a case you might have won to put a criminal in prison is not something you want to live with. Such cases can take a negative toll on your mental and physical health.

Every case is different and requires a different approach

A man lawyer addressing the jury in court room.

You won’t pick or select which clients to represent (not if you want to make a living). Even with a track record of winning cases, you can lose a simple case and win a sophisticated one. Neither you nor your clients can understand this, and your client may assume that you didn’t give your best representation.

Clients often go through your past cases to see whether you have won a case similar to theirs.  When they finally hire you, they demand the same results a previous client got. Some might compare it with another case handled by a different lawyer they heard or read about.

Some cases are straightforward, while others can be difficult and time-consuming. These differences play a significant role in the overall results of the case.

A good lawyer must be a good writer

Injured employee visiting lawyer for advice on insurance.

A lawyer’s job has a lot to do with writing. Apart from being eloquent, lawyers need to be great writers. They often have to read documents, compile notes and create detailed documents that take time to do.  Some of the most common types of writing include letters, contracts, emails, memos, and briefs.

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Lawyers also need to be great listeners and take short notes when meeting with their clients for the first time. That means improving your writing skills as a lawyer should be one of your skills to help you communicate clearly and effectively.

Your mental health might not always be intact

Stress lawyer in his studio.

It’s hard enough to be a lawyer and live a normal life free of the lawyer’s mind and uncomfortable situations. Sometimes you come across cases where you make them personal and invest your time and energy in solving them that you almost lose your mind.

Losing a case that you badly wanted to win can easily trigger post-traumatic stress disorder, which is common in lawyers who practice criminal law or child protection. Lawyers are slowly sinking into depression, and that’s why some lawyers like Dan Lukasik, who founded Lawyers with Depression, are working to help other lawyers overcome depression and mental health illness.

Your character will be questioned

A group of laywers.

If you choose to be a lawyer, part good public image goodbye. Many people feel like the law industry is littered with corruption, unreasonable billing rates, and other unwanted traits, especially when a lawyer wins a case for a criminal. People will look at you and judge your character depending on your area of specialization.

Criminal defense lawyers face the most judgment as they are seen to defend criminals. No matter how hard you’ve worked to get where you’re as a lawyer, this reputation assumption will always feel odd to you.

Some cases can put your life in danger

Lawyer and prisoners sitting in prison visiting room.

While it’s not very common, it happens. There are cases where the opposing clients can kill you or your client or even both of you. Lawyers often report a disproportionate amount of threats and violence, especially when handling high-profile cases.

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Surveys from Salt Lake attorney Steve Kelson suggested that most of these threats come from opposing parties. The rate of threats was much higher in family lawyers at 54%, while 38% reported having been attacked or threatened by an opposing party.