Post: Young Student Interviews Seasoned Lawyer
Posted by Hardy Parkerson, Atty. - Lake Charles, LA on 12/21/06
Tabatha's Interview Questions
And Hardy Parkerson's Answers
Hey, I am a 15 year old girl. I have wanted to be a
Domestic Lawyer since I was 10. I have practically my
whole future planned out; well at least the parts that
have to do with my career. I have wanted to interview a
Lawyer for years, but just didn't know how. Well now I
HAVE to interview one for school, my Career Information
class.....so if you wouldn't mind answering the following
questions: (I would appreciate it sooooooo much; it would
mean the world to me to interview you.)
What type of Lawyer are you?
I am a sole practitioner and a generalist. I handle all
kinds of cases. There is not much that I don't handle that
an average person would want a lawyer for. I do land
matters, probate matters, criminal matters, civil damage
suits; you name it, I probably do it. Mostly, however, I
handle criminal cases and automobile accident cases and
other types of personal injury cases.
How much schooling did you need to hold the position that
you hold today?
Graduating from law school so that one can gain admission
to the Bar takes seven years, as a general rule. It takes
four years to get a bachelor's degree, and then three
years of law school. It's not easy, but it is very
possible. Before I started to law school, a lawyer here in
town described it to me as an "endurance contest." That's
pretty much true. Just put in your time and do your work,
and you will make it. College can be fun. Law school is
not necessarily so, but even that has its good times.
Everybody studies in law school. Not necessarily so in
undergraduate school. Law school is competitive.
Undergraduate school is not necessarily so. There is more
to it all than this, but this is something to think about.
Where did you go to school, high school, college and Law?
I graduated from Lake Charles High School, a public school
in Lake Charles, Louisiana; then graduated from McNeese
State University, a public college in Lake Charles; and
then I graduated from Tulane School of Law, a division of
Tulane University of Louisiana in New Orleans.
What did you major in?
In undergraduate college I majored in Social Studies. That
includes a lot of everything and not much of anything. It
included some math (2 semesters), a lot of history, a lot
of English, some French (5 semesters), some philosophy,
some government, some art (one semester), some art-history
(one semester), a lot of sociology, some speech courses
(three or four), some economics and some science (two
semesters - Botany and Biology) courses. As I say, a lot
of everything, but not much of anything, except English,
history and sociology. In those days a B.A. degree
consisted of 120 semester hours, four years or eight
semesters of at least 15 hours each semester.
What did you study?
Well, looks like I have pretty much answered this one in
my answer to the previous question.
How were you trained?
Law requires no internship nor prior training prior to
taking the Bar Exam and becoming admitted to practice law.
You learn law by On Job Training (OJT). You learn by
doing. It's the blind leading he blind. Not ideal, as I
see it; but that is the way it is. One summer between my
second and third years of law school I did work in a law
firm as a law clerk, and I learned much law and how to
practice it there. However, law school hardly teaches you
the way to the courthouse as a practical matter. The
matter of learning how to practice law comes after one is
admitted to the Bar and begins to practice law. That's why
they call it "practice"; I suppose, for one never really
learns it fully. He is always getting ready to play the
game, always practicing for the game to be played.
How did you get interested in becoming a lawyer?
As a young person I saw lots of injustices, and I knew
that being a lawyer would help me right some of the wrongs
I saw. I did not want to be powerless against the bullies
that I saw who ran things, like school administrators and
businessmen and cops. I wanted to be able to bring justice
into situations where justice had been denied, where
people had been treated unfairly and unjustly.
What do you like and dislike about your job?
I dislike always being threatened with disciplinary action
if I do anything that displeases somebody. The so-called
ethical rules are so stringent that a lawyer is afraid to
pass his card to a potential client, lest he be haled
before the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("Bar Police")
to answer charges of unethical conduct, and be threatened
with disbarment, suspension or public or private censure.
It's a phony system, the so-called ethics set-up. It's big
business for lawyers who do not want to practice law, but
who would rather make their livings taking away the right
of other lawyers to practice law. I've got an attitude
about it, I'll admit! Probably not as bad as I am making
it sound, but there is a lot of truth in what I am saying.
Nowadays, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel even has a
web-site where any unhappy client can download a form and
file a complaint against a lawyer; and the lawyer is
presumed guilty until he proves his innocence; and the ODC
keeps a permanent file on the lawyer, and no matter how
many times he is cleared of such charges, they keep all
the paper and in future cases decide cases on what I call
the "thickness of file" theory: the thicker a lawyer's
file is, the more guilty he is presumed to me. That is one
of the things I do not l like about law practice. There
are some others, including clients who are always hitting
on their lawyers for money. I thought when I became a
lawyer people would come to me and pay me money. I find
they come to me and want me to pay them. Especially
personal injury clients. And if you don't, hey! they fire
you and go to some other lawyer. So what you end up doing
is placating them and giving them whatever you can get by
with and then trying to settle their cases and get your
money back, and at the same time make some money on their
cases. There is much more to it all than this, but this is
something to think about.
What, if anything, would you do differently?
I think if I had it all to do over, I would not become a
lawyer; but when I was young, I wanted that more than
anything else. I would probably have made a better
football coach or school teacher or college professor, or
even an engineer, or medical doctor. I did the best I
could in college and law school, so there is not much I
could have changed about that.
What did you find difficult in high school?
Nothing really, except I was only interested in sports; at
least until my senior year. Then I got serious about
school; for I had been told by my parents that I had to go
to college, and I knew I must begin to get ready.
What did you enjoy in high school?
I enjoyed sports; and when I got to be a senior, I enjoyed
government. I took two years of Latin in high school, for
I had heard that one wanting to be a doctor should take
Latin; and when I started high school, that was my
ambition; but I quickly gave that thought up, when I found
Latin difficult. I enjoyed taking typing in the old days;
that was before the days of computers. I also enjoyed
mechanical drawing (drafting). I never cracked a book that
I remember until my senior year, and I managed to do all
right in high school.
How did what you learned in high school help you in your
All of it helped me. Looking back, I wish I had been a
more serious student. In those days, all that mattered was
football first, basketball second, baseball third, and
track fourth. Nobody ever encouraged me, that I recall;
even though I had wonderful parents. Looking back, I think
that perhaps I had great potential, but did not know it.
When I was a senior in high school, my English teacher
called me to the front of the room and asked me, "Son, now
that you are graduating from high school, what do you plan
to do?" I said, "I would like to go to college, but I
known I am not smart enough." She said, "Boy! What are you
taking about! You're smart!" No one had ever told me that
before that I remember. That encouraged me to do better in
school like nothing before had ever encouraged me. Pretty
much the same thing happened to me when I enrolled in
college the day after I graduated from high school. My
faculty advisor asked me what I wanted to major in. I
said, "I would like to be a lawyer, but I know I am not
smart enough." He said, "Boy! What are you taking about!
The best lawyer in this town was the dumbest guy who ever
went through this school: Nathan Cormier." Well, after
forty-two years, Nathan Cormier is still the best lawyer
in this town. Nothing ever encouraged me more to make an A
than making an A; but making a D never encouraged me a
bit. I know teachers can't give away grades, but that is a
lesson some of them never learned.
What does a firm look for when hiring?
As a general rule, firms look for the guy or girl who is
the highest up in the class. Law schools usually rate
students from highest to the lowest. The higher you
graduate in your class, the better chance you have of
getting the job you desire. The lower you graduate, the
less your chances are. There used to be an old joke in law
school that said, "A students end up being law professors,
B students end up being Judges, and C students end up
making money." Another joke is, "What do they call the
lowest man in his class in law school?" ANSWER: Lawyer.
Just do the best you can! That's all you can do.
What does a new lawyer usually make (money wise)?
It's different for every lawyer. My first law firm job
paid me $125.00 a week, and I was glad to get it. That was
in 1967. That was not great money, even then; but, as I
say, I was glad to have a job. I was worth about $25.00 a
week. I have a young daughter-in-law who graduated high in
her class at William and Mary Law School, and she is an in-
house attorney for Norfolk-Southern Corporation in
Norfolk. Just judging from her and my son's brand new home
and the cars they drive, and knowing what he makes as a
young Naval officer, I am sure she makes upwards of
$100,000.00, or more. Not bad for a young person. Every
person and legal job is different, and there is no
uniformity about what lawyers make. It might be that a new
lawyer would start out practicing law out of his or her
car, or out of his or her living room, get a good case and
make a million dollars the first year. Not likely, but
possible. It's been done before many times. I like what
Tom Wolfe says in YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN: "Pick out what
you want in life, pay the price and take it!" What you
make is up to you. Do the best you can in high school,
then in college, then in law school; and you can make
anything you want. The potential is there.
What is the pay based on?
Lawyers like me work generally on a percentage of what we
collect on a personal injury case. I have heard of an
annual high of $60,000,000.00 for a lawyer, and a low of
minus-$250.00. I am the one who made the minus-$250.00;
and my best year was one for which I reported $225,000.00
of taxable income, after having deducted everything that I
could dream up, and then some. The sky is the limit of
what you can make, and then you can end up paying money to
practice law. For me there are times when the money falls
out of the sky and times when it costs me money to
practice law. But I am not necessarily the typical lawyer.
Law firms pay an annual negotiated salary, as a general
rule; and then they may pay bonuses for exceptionally good
years for the firm. There is a lot more to it all than
this, but this is something to think about.
What is/was the most difficult thing for you to
learn/understand/be willing to sacrifice, etc. in you
I have never had a salary, except my first year or so of
law practice. Ever since then, I have been a sole
practitioner, and it has been up to me to make it or break
it. My wife is a school teacher, and she always had a
salary, a check she could count on on a regular basis. No
so for me! As I said, one year I made a cool, clear
taxable $225,000; and I had one case that I did hardly
anything on that paid me a fee of $94,000 for doing noting
more than filing a petition. The potential is there, but
there are no guarantees, especially for the private
practice of law for the sole practitioner. I still say
that Thomas Wolfe was right: "Pick out what you want in
life, pay the price and take it." He got that from
Emerson's essay on "Compensation." Read Thomas Wolfe,
especially "YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAN."
Of course, let me say this: The most important thing in
life is God and your relationship to Him. Miss out on
that, and you've failed; you've missed everything. Get
that right, and you've accomplished all that is important.
Yet we still have a life to live, and even God expects us
to work and earn our way and to contribute to society and
to help our fellow man; so I go back to the Thomas Wolfe
principle: "Pick out what you want in life, pay the price
and take it!" Again, there is more to it all than this,
but this something to think about.
What advice do you have for me, a high school student,
looking to pursue a similar (or same) career?
I've pretty much set it out for you above. Just go for it.
Pick out what you want in life, pay the price and take it!
But remember that the most important thing in life is God
and your relationship to him. Make sure you do not go
wrong there. Then the rest is lagniappe.
I would appreciate if you answered ASAP....(sorry if I
sound pushy....but I have a quick deadline on my paper....)
Well, I answered quicker than I expected at first. I will
also send you the questions and answers to the other
internet interviews that I did with young high school
students. I would like for you to let me know your name
and address, and I would like for you to keep me advised
as to how you do in high school; and I would like to
receive an invitation to your high-school graduation so
that I can send you a graduation gift. I recommend Sophie
Newcomb College of Tulane University in New Orleans for an
undergraduate degree, and then Tulane Law School, if you
do not get into Harvard or Yale Law Schools. Best of luck!
Thanks a Million!
One day Domestic Lawyer,
Posts on this thread, including this one
- Young Student Interviews Seasoned Lawyer, 12/21/06, by Hardy Parkerson, Atty. - Lake Charles, LA.