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    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 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
    chosen career?

    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
    present job?

    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.

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