The Legal Profession: Behind Closed Doors

It is no coincidence that the legal profession is considered one of the noble professions in society. With its own characteristics, the legal profession, particularly being a lawyer, requires having insightful and broad knowledge, skills, quick improvisation, and extensive experience. Especially, the profession demands a high standard of morale and dedication. This is also the result of the constant efforts on the part of the lawyers themselves in perfecting their skills and professionalism, establishing prestige and professional ethics.

Vietnam’s global economic integration creates opportunities for the lawyer career to develop constantly. The young generation is currently leaning towards being a lawyer because of the shining aura and noble causes of this profession. But behind the stage, this profession brings about odd circumstances, sadness, and dark twists and turns that few outsiders can understand. The hidden side of the legal profession – allow me to walk you through this journey today.

The uniqueness of the legal profession

Every profession has its own characteristics. Being a lawyer stands out from other occupations with its own unique aspects. The three particularities of the lawyer profession are:

  • It is specialized 
  • It is independent 
  • It provides services

A specialized profession 

A lawyer is a highly specialized profession. One can switch to a career in media, sales, human resource, without a formal degree, but a lawyer must have a bachelor’s degree in law and go through lawyer training to obtain a practicing license before they can practice law. This profession is specialized in both its nature and expertise as it requires a strong foundation of legal knowledge, skills, and ethics.

However, lawyers can work outside their specialties or in related jobs. This is a fundamental feature of the legal profession. Those who do not study to be a lawyer cannot become a lawyer; those who have a legal practicing certificate can work in non-legal jobs. A lawyer may choose to pursue a different career path, with the practicing certificate a useful professional tool. Many lawyers work in enterprises and large companies as in-house staff, legal experts, or in the legal departments of banks, etc. 

The legal profession is relatively independent

Lawyers are independent in their practice and are responsible for their own professional activities. Due to its autonomous nature, the state’s regulation of lawyers also has distinct properties compared to other fields in commerce or service. In reality, the number of lawyers who are licensed to practice outnumbered those who are practicing and earning their living as a lawyer. 

As a result, the human resource supply for this profession does not meet the demand of society, even though there are plenty of fresh law graduates every year, and the number of people who have completed postgraduate lawyer training is also sizeable.

Lawyers provide services

A lawyer provides clients with legal services. You will often see slogans or mission statements such as: “Our law firm is a pioneer in providing legal services, including legal counseling and dispute settlement. Please contact us if you have legal issues…” 

The services provided by lawyers vary, such as Civil, Corporate Law, Marriage and Family, Labor Law, etc. They are offered in a variety of forms: legal advice, document drafting, contract review consulting, authorized representatives, etc.

The hidden side of the legal profession

Surely each profession has its ups and downs, but it is not something that is exclusive to this profession. Nonetheless, the struggles of a lawyer are very distinctive.

The legal profession often draws attention from the press and social media

Respected by Vietnamese society, a lawyer is considered a noble profession. At the same time, Vietnamese society also holds very strict ethical standards for lawyers. Therefore, any news regarding lawyers failing to maintain their professional ethical standards, or when lawyers are involved in certain controversial cases, would likely put them under society-wide scrutiny. 

Society often has a stricter view on lawyers

Because of the nature of legal work, society often holds a stricter view on lawyers than the practitioners of other occupations. In communication and on social media, lawyers must present proper attitude and language; they must form personal opinions with reasons, and should not be too casual in their appearance to avoid putting their image at risk. They must present themselves as a professional, always composed and serious at work. 

In addition, as a person with extensive legal knowledge, a lawyer also needs to strictly comply with the law. If, for whatever reason, should he/she violate the law, in addition to bearing proper legal consequences, society would level harsher judgments on them than normal people in similar situations.

Being a lawyer is an extremely difficult and dangerous job

Lawyers are representatives of justice, so it is inevitable that they will encounter life-threatening dangers from criminals. On their journey to get justice, lawyers must put in an enormous amount of time and effort. Encountering obstruction from the authorities is common, further complicating the lawyer’s effort in resolving an issue. There have been extreme cases where the lawyers were killed by people who want to dispose of the evidence.

Lawyers don’t have a fixed working schedule

Due to the particularities of the profession, a lawyer’s work will arise at any time depending on the client’s request. Consequently, lawyers rarely have fixed working hours. Lawyers cannot request their clients, especially foreign clients in a different time zone, to contact them only during Vietnam’s business hours like most other services. Therefore, some of the time a lawyer has little to do, but some other times, they will be busy rushing about with non-stop phone calls. A frequently changing work schedule will consequently affect personal and family time. 

So, when choosing this career path, a lawyer must always be ready for unexpected situations. They must resign to the fact that they will likely be unable to commit to spending time with family and friends, having to abruptly decline important events with friends and relatives when work calls.

Having to be involved in legal works that they don’t want to do

A lawyer will face unwanted dilemmas that they have to proceed with fulfilling their responsibilities and professional ethics. 

A typical example is when lawyers are forced to argue against the opposing party’s attorneys, who are their friends, to protect the interest of the clients. In such cases, the lawyers have a professional commitment to using all reasonable methods within the boundaries of the law in order to win the case, or at least to gain certain advantages for their clients in negotiations. Doing this may lead to irreconcilable cracks in their relationships with close colleagues. 

In one other example, they encounter bad clients who see lawyers as their servants. 

Another example is when they encounter certain unpleasant legal cases, such as rapes, debt evasions, murders, divorces, child custody disputes, etc. With a sense of responsibility for their profession, lawyers are obligated to defend such clients even though they are not at all enthusiastic about it or even want to turn down those works.

In some cases, even though the lawyer is aware of their client’s violation of the law, they still do not advise the client to terminate such actions, or they continue to provide legal services to such clients. This poses a very plausible risk of being considered an accomplice to the client once the lawyer is held accountable before the law.

It is not easy to make a living as a lawyer 

There are many law graduates, but not all of them practice law. After studying and training in compliance with industry requirements, due to countless difficulties, many people give up; few remains. 

There are several reasons for this: 

  • Due to economic circumstances, the need for legal services is limited, so people do not appreciate a lawyer’s work. 
  • The legal mechanism for lawyers in Vietnam is not quite clear, which has hindered lawyers from developing the profession. 
  • A lawyer’s practice encounters many difficulties from the authorities and procedure-conducting agencies, in the form of harassment and annoyance. 
  • Inherent obstacles within the law, because the regulations are still unclear and lack feasibility, so the number of professional lawyers only takes up a small percentage. 

Due to these external reasons, not to mention internal ones, lawyers have struggled with making a living. The number of successful lawyers who earn a comfortable living by working as a lawyer is very few. A legal career is not an easy path.

Being a lawyer is always stressful due to pressure, which leads to negative consequences

It may be an exaggeration to say that work pressure pushes a lawyer into stress, depression, alcoholism, smoking, and even divorce. Nonetheless, to become a professional, a lawyer’s main objective is to assist clients in overcoming legal problems. In doing so, they take on a lot of their client’s legal troubles. 

A lawyer has to find ways to help the clients make sense of the legal issue and its consequences. He or she also has to research and come up with solutions to deal with the client’s legal troubles. This work is not easy.  

In fact, there are many complex legal issues that lawyers pursue for years, making countless efforts to effectively protect clients’ interests. In addition, although lawyers always keep a cool head and a warm heart in any difficult situation, the client’s affair isn’t always only about legal issues. It may also involve issues regarding ethics and morality, which lawyers cannot ignore.

In addition, stress for lawyers also comes from: 

  • the commitment to complete urgent tasks for clients
  • the pressure to work enough hours for standard fee schedules for the law firm
  • changing client’s demands
  • the pressure to compete with fellow colleagues within the company, 

Therefore, the legal profession has a higher suicide rate than other occupations.

Above are a few challenges facing the legal profession from the writer’s point of view. Hopefully, the article is helpful for those who want to learn about this profession, as well as for those who intend to follow it. If you want to learn more, contact us for detailed guidance at: