Governance & Membership
President's Message - February 2023
The Joy of Practicing Law
By Brian Hermanson
I remember, as a 9-year-old, making my mind up to be a lawyer when I grew up. I can’t tell you why I made that decision at that time, but I felt strongly it was what I wanted to become. As the years went by, I found myself doing things to prepare for that undertaking.
Even while finishing college, I held steadfastly to that desire. I thought it would be fun and a way to help people. I never thought I would get rich or famous, but I felt that I could accomplish good things as a lawyer.
Law school could not lessen my desire. I was even more sure of myself, and I felt the legal profession was the goal of all that education. I worked in the Oklahoma City Attorney’s Office as a legal clerk for a year and spent another year interning at the Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office. I loved every minute of it.
Did I find the practice of law fun? You bet I did. I found that attorneys were some of the best people I would meet. Many had a great sense of humor and joy for life. Even in the most difficult times, I enjoyed their company and their outlook on the future.
How can people who work at such a serious job, under such stress, enjoy their job? The answer is that most of the attorneys I know realize they are helping people every day. They are helping the person charged with a crime defend their liberty, helping a victim of a crime regain their dignity and their hope for a better day. They help families in turmoil, people buying homes and starting families, help put the pieces together when a loved one passes and hundreds of other acts to restore order in this crazy world.
I can tell you, during some of the most stressful times in my life, you will find me telling a joke. I remember when my wife was in early labor with our first child. I was holding her hand, telling her jokes to distract from the terror going through my mind. She did not find out until later that while I was telling her those jokes, the baby’s heart monitor before me was flatlining. I learned afterward that meant the baby had just rolled over. My jokes might have been funnier if I had that bit of information.
Many lawyers I meet with have the same way of dealing with stress. They will crack jokes and make light of a serious situation. It is one way we can find joy in the most unusual places in our lives.
It is important for each of us to approach each challenge with the joy of knowing we are doing what we are trained to do. We should remember why we decided to become lawyers. Sure, life is stressful and sometimes unfair. Sometimes good doesn’t win over evil. But we should realize that good had a much better chance at success because we, as lawyers, took the time to prepare for the battle.
The battle does not have to be in the courtroom. It could be in the boardroom, the library, at your desk or any other place you practice law. The fact that you make the effort, even though you knew the facts or the law were against you, shows you care enough to try to make things right for your client.
Should you feel joy in practicing law even when things are tough? Should you love the practice of law when you feel overworked or underloved? Should you feel a warmth in your heart for suffering with your profession? Of course, you should. People who say they have never lost a trial, or always win, obviously did not take on the hopeless matter no one else was willing to spend their time on. But if you find true joy in the practice of law, such a battle is not one to run from.
So don’t be down on yourself because the day was hard. Take joy in the fact that you were willing to help. And don’t look at the practice of law like it was a burden. Instead, consider it an opportunity to help, guide and teach others.
Take joy in your life as a lawyer. Smile at your successes and at the struggles you could not overcome. Laugh at the circumstances you find yourself in. Others have been there before, and others will follow. Love the law. Love your life. Know you are making a difference in this world. That is something to feel good about.
Brian Hermanson serves as district attorney for the 8th District of Oklahoma.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 94 Vol 2 (February 2023).