SCENE. A bar. With drinks. And law students entering the Osgoode Hall class of 2010.
PROSPECTIVE LAW STUDENT: God, I am so sick of being called an “untouchable.”
ME: Those Hindus and their castes. Wacky.
PROSPECTIVE: No, I mean the Friedman thing.
ME (who knows what he’s talking about, but is enjoying his Strongbow, so why not let him exposit): The Friedman thing?
PROSPECTIVE: There was this book or article or something Thomas Friedman wrote about how lawyers were “untouchable.” Because of globalization. Being a lawyer is a skilled profession, it doesn’t cross-migrate. This country may not need call centre people at some point because they’ll all live in India, but it’ll always need lawyers.
ME: Right. So?
PROSPECTIVE: So lawyers aren’t the only untouchables. So are skilled tradesmen. Plumbers are “untouchable” too, because you can’t outsource fixing your sink to Singapore.
ME: I still don’t get why you’re up in a bunch about this.
PROSPECTIVE: Because in all these speeches at the orientation things. You know?
PROSPECTIVE: They all talk about how going to law school is an investment, because now you’ll be “untouchable.” But if that’s what you care about, why not save sixty thousand dollars and just become a plumber instead?
OTHER PROSPECTIVE LAW STUDENT (who has been listening in): I think the money has something to do with it.
ME: I dunno. A good plumber can make high five figures, easy.
PROSPECTIVE: Right. If I said “fuck the law, I’m gonna fix leaky pipes” right now, I could go do my apprenticeship – during which I would be making money rather than paying it out – for three years, and there you go.
OTHER PROSPECTIVE: Ah, but a lawyer can make so much more money.
PROSPECTIVE: Can, but very likely won’t. I mean, look around at the people here in this bar. Most of them aren’t going to be wearing fancy Italian suits and going “Denny Crane!” into the mirror in ten years’ time.
ME: Is that all their name?
PROSPECTIVE: Boston Legal?
ME: Oh, right. I’m older than you, so my TV reference for lawyering is The West Wing.
PROSPECTIVE: But my point is – I mean, you read those “so you’re going to law school” books, right? Only a tiny minority of lawyers practice high-hat corporate law and make an unholy shitload of money.
OTHER PROSPECTIVE: But the possibility exists that you can. Whereas, if you’re a plumber, there’s no such thing as fancy corporate plumbing.
PROSPECTIVE: You buy a lot of lottery tickets? I’m just asking.
OTHER PROSPECTIVE: Okay, say I accept your suggestion that lawyering isn’t that much more lucrative than plumbing is. Surely there’s also the benefit of prestige?
ME: I think he means that plumbers don’t generally get invited to fancy parties for charities and the like.
PROSPECTIVE: Quick quiz: would you rather go to a fancy dress ball or to a sports bar to eat chicken wings and drink beer?
ME: Now there’s a good point.
OTHER PROSPECTIVE: But lawyers get to change the system. Surely the attraction of altering and fixing law as you see fit –
PROSPECTIVE: Oh, come on. Firstly, your odds of becoming a judge are worse than your odds of becoming a rich corporate lawyer. And secondly, say you go into public policy. You’re not going to change anything. Liberals won’t let you because anything you might actually change could hurt the spotted owl or make gay people feel bad about themselves.
ME: In fairness, conservatives won’t let you because before they were elected they sold tires, so clearly nobody knows more about how the government should operate than they do.
PROSPECTIVE (waving his hands to concede the point): Exactly. So, again, I ask: why not be a plumber instead? Less stress, there’s still a lot of money in it, you get to work with your hands…
A pause as this is mulled over.
ME: I think we seriously have to consider how much we’re willing to pay to lessen the chance of coming into contact with poop as a part of our job.
PROSPECTIVE: Right, so are you guys gonna get a locker at Osgoode, or what?