I was once a personal injury lawyer. Like most things, it had its moments. Unfortunately, it had relatively few of them. There was certainly the quiet satisfaction of handing a cheque for a substantial amount to a person who’d suffered a debilitating, often permanent, injury that changed their life significantly for the worse. But most of the work caused my eyes to glaze over frequently.
Personal injury law falls under the heading ‘civil litigation’, creating, right off the bat, a fiction that infects the proceedings. There’s not a whole lot ‘civil’ about it – unless you think a cobra and a mongoose can have a ‘civil’ interaction. Mostly, it’s about posturing, papering and threatening each other with costs. Actually, that’s not what ‘civil’ really refers to – it’s the basis of some persistent lawyer jokes, so handy as a lever for a poke at the process.
As far as the ‘litigation’ part, well, I saw more action in court in a week as a criminal lawyer than I did in the whole three years I did personal injury. You might better describe the work as preparing for that which never comes. Someone always caves into settlement pressure.
The last straw came one afternoon while I was reading a (so-called) medical ‘brief’. How can anything that, in closed position, is more than six inches thick be called a ‘brief’ is totally beyond me. Anyway, I’d been wading through this particular tome for a couple of hours, grappling with the mostly undecipherable handwriting of doctors and the densely-worded, opaque but never conclusive findings of (typed) reports, when I just….stopped. I asked myself, “What do I know about this client now that I didn’t know when I started reading (this mess)?” The answer was…nothing.
I started composing my resignation email. Guess you could say I (finally) saw the light.