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Lawyers are always looking for things to do — things that do not involve the practice of law. In fact, many people go to law school with the idea that it can open up many career options other than practicing law. Politics is one of those other options. The law is, by far, the most common profession among state legislators and members of Congress. Twenty-five out of the 42 American presidents have been lawyers. It was almost 26 but Al Gore barely lost the presidential election two years ago. Oh yeah, he also dropped out of law school. If public opinion polls taken to determine how people feel about different professionals are any indicator, being both a lawyer and a politician is not a happy combination. These two occupations consistently rank at the bottom. This begs the question of what lawyer/politicians say when asked at cocktail parties what they do for a living. Mention of either one of these two professions usually sends people running for cover. If I was a politician in addition to being a lawyer, and someone asked me what I did for a living, I think I would play it safe and say I was an IRS agent. The law, as a profession, is very important to the lives and careers of many politicians. It often comes into play during several stages of the typical political career. First, unlike having one’s own business and many other jobs, being a lawyer offers the flexibility one needs to make his or her first run for office. Later in life, the profession can act as a way station between a lost election and the next campaign. Finally, the law is often the place where politicians go to retire after their days in the public sector are over. Even Bill Clinton, who became governor of Arkansas while still a boy, realized that it is a bit early to run for office right out of college. Going to law school and practicing law for a few years gives one something to do while waiting to run for office. A law degree is also a good thing to have should the lawyer/politician lose his or her office. Richard Nixon, for example, did a stint with The Firm in between serving as vice president and running for governor of California. He practiced law once again after losing the gubernatorial election and up until the time he ran for president in 1968 and was elected. Finally, after retiring from public office, The Firm serves as the final resting place for many former politicians. This is the legal profession’s equivalent of being sent out to stud. The former office holder is expected to cash in on his or her connections and sire as many clients as possible for The Firm. He or she is also expected to make a few phone calls when clients get arrested for some personal activity that may prove embarrassing. Interestingly, no matter how much the former politician’s legal skills may have rusted away over the years, members of The Firm don’t seem to mind. They sort of like having a big name among their ranks, even if that name is big mostly because the politician left office under the cloud of a public scandal. Sometimes the transition from public to private sector can be difficult for those who come to The Firm after many years in public office. I once worked with one of these celebrity attorneys soon after he lost his bid for reelection and decided to go back to law firm life. Trying to please this individual was one of the most difficult tasks of my career. Seeing the trouble I was having working with the former politician, a senior associate took me aside one day and gave me some advice. She explained that this partner had held high office for many years and grew accustomed to having a stable of lieutenants available to grant his every wish and jump at his every whim. Now, instead of a huge staff, he only had me and his secretary and both of us had other masters (partners) to serve. “He’s used to be treated like the Pope,” the senior associate told me. “Now he thinks he’s Pope of The Firm and you need to treat him like the Pope.” Looking back on the situation, I wish that partner had been the Pope. That way, I would have only had to kiss his … ring. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected].

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