Once upon a time, I found myself visiting the studios of a major media broadcaster. As it was the first time I was there, I was meeting new people for the first time. This is how the conversation with one woman went:
Me: "Hi, I'm Andreas Kalogiannides. Nice to meet you!"
Woman: "A pleasure to meet you, Andreas. My name is Stephanie". (not her real name)
[Enter our mutual friend who introduced us]
Friend: "Andreas is a lawyer!"
Woman: "Oh wow - I had better watch out around you, then! Ha. Ha. Ha"
As she said it, her tone and demeanour changed from being comfortable, friendly and warm to somewhat stand-off-ish, cautiously guarded and even slightly reverential. In literally 2.8 seconds, the information that I work as a lawyer changed how she perceived me. Why - WHY? - would you have to "watch out" around me? Am I going to use anything you say against you in the inevitable future claim which I will rush off to file in court as soon as I leave the building?
Or how about the time before that: I am having a very normal and enjoyable conversation with several of my peers in my age group, all of whom I had just met, but then one guy finds out that I am a lawyer...and then, suddenly, he starts calling me "sir" (?) , starts to awkwardly, but unsuccessfully, try to avoid ending his sentences with prepositions, instantly agrees with, and seems interested in, every comment I make, and then has trouble looking me in the eye, like he is afraid that the "lawyer" in me will unearth his deepest, darkest secrets; that somehow, I could know, merely by looking at him, that he ran a red light once and stole from the church basket when he was 13. (...because, of course, us lawyers are also the police, judge, jury and executioner - oh, you didn't know that?)
To my dismay, this happens all the time. And it's really like that. Trust me, I have more stories. Hand to God. We all do.
I used to be confused when this happened. I would think to myself "Uh...Hi, it's just me, Andreas. We've been speaking for 15 minutes now. Nothing has changed. So please stop calling me "sir" - this isn't the customer service desk at Air Transat. Thanks." But, the more frequently it happens, the more exasperated I have become. Now, sad to admit, I am resigned to expecting some version of this reaction with most non-lawyers (we call you "normies", by the way) that I meet. A reaction equal parts respect and revilement. Would it surprise you to know that I don't lead with "Hey, I'm a lawyer" when asked the cursory "What do you do?" question at parties?
Yup, that's me: the lawyer, sighing to myself. "The lawyer". It sounds like a "thing", doesn't it? To be boxed-in by such a loaded, misunderstood description is soul-deflating. What's the correct word for the sighing emoji face?
And I am not comfortable with this happening. Not because I am in any way ashamed about working as a lawyer or because I'm not proud of the work I do, but rather because it appears that some segment of society which seems to feel that to be a lawyer is to be a member of a "special" profession which deserves to be revered and held in "high regard" for no other reason than simply being. That lawyers should be "minded".
"Psssstt - mind the lawyer. He's over there. Oh - don't look now, he's looking in our direction!"
Perhaps it is that us lawyers are mythical creatures to be observed and revered, as if softly whispering the word "law-y-eeerrrr" into the wind will make appear a put-together woman in a pencil skirt carrying a briefcase, holding a hefty document in her pristinely manicured hands, and - gasp! - she needs you to sign on the dotted line. Right now.
Or maybe that we are mystical unicorns who live in the land of large, dusty wordbooks, where our braying is the sound of pure light & truth, prancing to and fro in the lush, green fields of justice.
I mean, either way, right? Could be. Who wouldn't want to be a mystical unicorn? I do.
Look - I am not deserving of this reverence. I am not worthy of being held in any type of esteem besides that which the authenticity of my work, personality and being elicit on their own merit (although that unicorn gig sounds pretty cool.) Sure, I have paid a bunch of money in tuition, worked pretty hard, read many leather-bound books containing long, Latin words, and now I run my own business. I am grateful and blessed for the mere opportunity to have been able to incur a f**cload of debt and to spend years studying to become a lawyer and be where I am today. Don't get me wrong.
But maybe this is all that separates me from anybody else. And nothing about that is inherently special or unique. My "lawyer-ness" should not, in and of itself, prompt any type of respect or reverence from anybody simply because.
I'm just here. It's me.
I am me first. Lawyer second. Maybe seventh.
So, allow me to re-introduce myself (...my name is HOV...):
Me: "Hi. I'm Andreas Kalogiannides. I like cars, Formula 1, basketball and music. I fear death and heights, but increasingly want to go skydiving. I don't like hospitals, but *kinda* don't mind the dentist. I love chewy penny candy with the fervour of a sugar-starved seven year old, and I don't eat gluten or milk. I can be impatient with myself and others, but I'm working on it, and sometimes I am too direct when I communicate. I prefer not to "style" my hair if I don't have to. I love to hike, run and camp outdoors, and I don't really get the appeal of all-inclusive resorts and pre-packaged holiday tours. I used to play and write lots of music, but I don't really any more (why? Because lawyer).
And it's so nice to meet you."
"....oh yeah - and, right now I work as a lawyer."
I forgot to add that last bit.