Sure I’m a lawyer, but I’ve always had an exit strategy. I think most lawyers do. Maybe you have to, to keep yourself sane in this business. When you’re in law school, you hear from all kinds of people– uncles, cousins, uncles of cousins– that you won’t like being a lawyer. They say it very nicely. “Law school, huh? Well that’s good. You know, my buddy is a lawyer. I think he really hates it. But you might be different.” Or sometimes its more like “well, you’ll find other things to make you happy. Not your family though, you won’t see them. Maybe you’ll really love your commute.”
So even though I was pretty sure I’d enjoy lawyering, some part of me always kept its distance, making plans for an escape if I ever needed one. I guess by the time I graduated from law school I had a bunch of possible escape routes. I was okay entering a profession I would surely detest, because at any given moment I could easily jump off the train and become a businessman, novelist, song-writer, judge, politician, philanthropist, community organizer, or inventor. That’s not a made up list. That is the actual list of exit strategies I had at one point (okay, not really community organizer). I considered each of them to be somewhat plausible, and I planned to just follow my career along its path and watch what doors opened up. Maybe I’d be sitting at my desk and someone would call up their favorite lawyer and tell me they needed a good philanthropist, and I’d be just the person. I had faith that one of these doors would eventually open, so I curated my list with great care.
Pick up the phone, Bill. You know you want to.
Song-writer got knocked off the list pretty fast. I let it go pretty easily, knowing how fanciful that entry had been. I graduated and started working for a judge, then went onto a firm. That first year at a law firm ended up surprising me. I kind of liked it. Hadn’t seen that coming. Around the same time I noticed that making arguments about mundane business transactions could be fun; but thinking about the mundane business transactions in my briefs left me really cold. So businessman fell off pretty quick too, and I didn’t mourn it too much.
Anyway, you can kind of guess the trend. I realized that I loved practicing law whenever I was allowed to collaborate closely with other lawyers, trying out arguments on each other and working through strategy. That realization made me sit up one day and say “wow, I guess I’d probably die if I had the solitary life of a judge.” My list kept getting shorter. Politician was one of the hardest to let go. For some reason I just always assumed I liked politics, just because I thought I was a smart guy, and that’s what smart people like. Turns out I don’t pay it a lot of attention, especially the Fox News/MSNBC kind. How am I ever going to run for something if I can’t form a strong opinion about where to build a mosque in New York, or how to react to the Arizona immigration law? Meanwhile, the strongest opinions I had always revolved around whether my client was reasonable in relying on a fraudulent letter, or whether a company could fire its SEO specialist without paying him commissions in perpetuity. It always surprised me whenever I’d turn around and find myself saying things like a real lawyer.
The list came down to novelist and inventor. That was all there was left. it was obvious that neither of these is a very plausible way of making a living, so finishing life as a lawyer started looking more certain. It made me feel trapped, not because I was unhappy, but because I wasn’t supposed to like it. So I kept clinging to the inventor and novelist backup plans, certain that they could work out if I needed them to. That’s where Fisher Price comes in. Macy and I were at Toys R Us last week shopping for Molly’s birthday. She grabbed a dress-up and a Disney princess music player and headed to checkout. I examined the toy guns. Then I saw something that made my heart sink. The Fisher Price Turbofill Blaster. A water gun that comes with a special station hooked up to your garden hose, that docks tightly so that the station both fills and pressurizes the water gun in just a few seconds. It’s genius. It’s innovative and clever and useful and a little exciting. It has the potential to revolutionize water warfare. And it’s my invention.
Dang. It still makes me angry seeing it. They don’t have my super cool accessories and a few of the cooler modifications. Plus, it’s Fisher Price. Who wants to buy a cool water gun from Fisher Price? But the magic’s gone now. I don’t know how I can go on. Fisher Price stole my idea before I ever told anyone my idea. (Well, I did tell it to Davis and Kook, who both acted totally unimpressed. I guess they were impressed enough to tell all their toy industry friends). My best, most plausible ace in the hole fell apart under fire from a high pressure futuristic hydro-weapon. I was crushed.
Scratch inventor off the list. It’s down to lawyer and novelist. And we all know I’m never getting to novelist, with this blog around to take all my writing time. Where does that leave us? That’s right, I’ll be a lawyer forever. The surprise is that I guess I’ve always known that, and it feels good to admit it. Turns out I like doing what I’m doing, even though I’m not revolutionizing any type of warfare. Plus, it gives me exactly the right skills at the right moment. Watch headlines for Bell v. Fisher Price, coming soon.