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President's Page: What's it like to be a lawyer?

Vol. 78, No. 1 / Jan. - Feb. 2022

John GrimmJohn Grimm 
John Grimm, 2021-22 Missouri Bar president, practices with The Limbaugh Firm in Cape Girardeau.



Like many of you, I have occasionally been asked to speak with various groups about our legal system. Although it’s always an honor to be asked to speak to any group, I really enjoy talking with students, especially those in grade school and middle school.

Sometimes, though, kids ask seemingly simple questions that can be fairly difficult to answer. One such question: “What’s it like to be a lawyer?” 

Those reading this column probably have a lot of different ways to answer that question, and I am interested in your thoughts. Here are some of mine:

First, being a good lawyer is about helping people. Prosecuting attorneys seek to help victims of crime achieve justice and hold those who commit crimes accountable for their actions. Real estate lawyers work to help their clients buy or sell property. Lawyers who are involved in public finance help advance economic development opportunities around the state or help schools finance building projects. Personal injury lawyers help those hurt through the fault of others seek compensation for their losses. Whatever their area of practice, lawyers have the common goal of helping their clients. 

Second, I believe the best lawyers are good listeners. Sometimes I hear parents say their child will make a great lawyer because the child “loves to argue.” Although I understand why a parent might have that idea, I have to restrain myself from disputing that a child who “loves to argue” will make a great lawyer. Some say that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. I think that’s true. Really good lawyers, in my view, listen first and speak second. (Apologies to my wife and children who think I need to follow this advice more often at home.)

Third, I believe good lawyers are empathetic. In many cases, we are seeing people when they are going through difficult, stressful situations. We should always try to keep in mind that, although the situation may be commonplace for the lawyers in the room, the clients may be having their first encounter with the legal system. Lawyers and judges should strive to ensure that the clients (whether our own or those represented by opposing counsel) walk away believing that the legal system works for all parties, even if the outcome of a particular matter is not perfect.

Finally, being a good lawyer takes hard work. There are many jobs that require long hours and dealing with challenging situations, and this is true for most lawyers I know. We prepare for that somewhat in law school. But while many of us believed the hard work would lessen somewhat after obtaining a Juris Doctorate, I believe most lawyers would agree that is not generally true.

Lawyers provide extremely valuable services to the public, and it is important to help people know and understand what lawyers do. If you are asked to speak to your child’s class, your Rotary Club, or some other organization, please consider doing so. The Missouri Bar has sample presentations to help guide you if desired. And if you’re willing to take it a step further, you can sign up for The Missouri Bar’s Speakers’ Bureau

If you’re interested in sharing with me your thoughts on this or any other issue, please feel free to contact me at MoBarPresident@MoBar.org. Thanks for all you do to improve our profession.