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One of the major debates in the legal profession concerns this question: Are lawyers born or made? In other words, is it possible to take a randomly selected otherwise normal child and mold him into an attorney at law? Or is it the case that only those born with the lawyer gene can someday grow up to practice law? This is an important issue because discovering your child wants to be an attorney is every parent’s nightmare — and every parent’s greatest disappointment. Well, it is until they need someone to draft their estate documents or handle a dispute with their neighbor or “just take a few minutes to look over a few documents we’ve been asked to sign.” Then, any embarrassment or shame takes a backseat to convenience and economy. The nature vs. nurture issue is a hard one to sort out. I know there are born lawyers. I had some of them in my law school class. They were the ones who sat in the front row and raised their hands to answer questions. Those of us who were in the back rows chanting, “Please don’t call on me, please don’t call on me,” obviously needed a bit more nurturing. We probably still do, now that we’re out practicing. To investigate this matter in more detail, I asked several lawyers I know questions designed to get at the issue. Of the questions I asked, the most revealing was: “When did you first know you wanted to become a lawyer?” While some of the people I talked to say they always wanted to be lawyers, the most common responses to the above question were, “Well, college was almost over” and “I don’t remember why I went to law school, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.” My favorite response: “I knew I wanted to go to law school and become a lawyer after I couldn’t get into medical school, even one of the foreign ones.” Sometimes questions alone won’t reveal the true reasons why one chooses the law as a career. This means that concerned parents will have to watch their children closely to see whether they are headed down the attorney road. Some of the telltale signs are listed below: 1. Instead of mother’s milk, they demand money up front. 2. You discover that the child is billing mom and dad for the weekly allowance. 3. The child whines, complains and cries when there’s nothing wrong. 4. When you take the child to the aquarium, he likes sharks the best. 5. You find a Gilbert law outline under his mattress. 6. The child’s best friend is the kid in the class who wants to grow up to be an ambulance driver. 7. Instead of playing cowboys and Indians, your child wants to play plaintiffs and defendants. Instead of playing doctor, it’s medical malpractice attorney. Instead of show and tell, it’s bill and collect. Instead of playing house, it’s asbestos-infested home with a faulty design and foundation. 8. Your child runs for president of the grammar school class. He is elected but later impeached. 9. At age 8, your child keeps demanding to become a non-equity parent. 10. Your kid constantly questions your parenting skills and threatens to sue you for malpractice whenever he does anything wrong. If you see these traits, you have no choice but to let your child grow up to be a lawyer. Maybe you’ll get lucky and business school will catch his attention. Remember that offspring of attorneys are more likely to grow up to be part of the same profession. So you will be partly to blame for your kid wanting to practice law for a living. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist, whose columns are distributed by American Lawyer Media, and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is THE [email protected]

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