By: Stacy Thompson
I have been asked many times what drew me to the practice of law. Back in high school and college, I didn’t have any friends or family members who were lawyers, other than a distant cousin and my great-grandfather, who I was never fortunate enough to meet. I had never needed a lawyer (fortunately) for any civil or criminal matters and I wasn’t really a fan of LA Law or Ally McBeal – Judge Wapner seemed like a decent guy, but I had no real excitement for the show. I was an international studies major, Latin American studies minor, in college and as graduation approached, I was really uncertain about what I wanted to do or be in life. I knew what I liked, which was analyzing problems, writing, history and anything with people – but how to make a career and a life out of that?!? I was somewhat lost.
My last year of college I found a part-time job as a runner at a local law firm. Not good at being idle, I would make the rounds within the office asking the paralegals for any menial task that would keep me busy and teach me a little more about what a law office was about. In talking with one of the paralegals, I mentioned that I was thinking about law school, but wasn’t sure whether I wanted to take that leap. She suggested that I look into paralegal school and possibly work for some time before investing financially and emotionally in the rigors of law school. So off I went to Atlanta, and four months later I got my first paralegal job in Anderson, SC.
Other than the challenge of living that close to that school in the Upstate (for those that don’t know or haven’t followed this blog up until now, I am a huuuuge Gamecock fan), I learned a lot the year and a half I was there – first and foremost, I learned that I really needed to go on to law school, where I could eventually control the types of cases I took in, the clients I represented and the case development itself.
Next came law school itself – where, let’s be clear, you are NOT taught the practice of law, but how to best read voluminous case law, breaking down the issues and then articulating an argument on either side of the fence. It was both torture (especially the first year), a total blast (delving into the background of every Article within our Constitution is truly awesome, trust me), while giving me the base I needed to pursue a career and what I realized was a ‘vocation.’
So, seventeen years into the practice of law, I can truly say that I am doing what I was meant to do – I can make a living not only helping others, but making sure the rules are followed and applied to everyone equally. No two cases are identical and every day brings different challenges – some making the blood pressure rise and others bringing a tear to the eye. As attorneys, we are often called “counselors” of law, which I believe more accurately describes my profession – we counsel and guide people through somewhat difficult times and provide an ear, shoulder and helping hand. I can’t imagine any other true calling in life.