Denver Bar Association
October 2003
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Ditch-digging, bar bouncer, fix-it-man all good alternatives to lawyering

by Marc Guerette

As I watched "Caddyshack" for the fiftieth time on cable the other night at 2 a.m., I was struck by the wisdom of Judge Smails’ advice to aspiring law man and inspiring caddy Danny Noonan: "The world needs ditch diggers, too." (Note that one of the worst aspects of being unemployed is that you have plenty of time to dwell upon the fact that you are unemployed. So, historically, the unemployed resort to such diversionary tactics as early morning television rather than suffering through the frustration of futilely trying to sleep while obsessing about various gaffes committed during the past day’s interview.)

Some more conservative types out there may allege that Judge Smails does not belong in the pantheon of great legal thinkers—that he is utterly outclassed by the likes of Holmes, Hand and Posner. I disagree. At two in the morning, while covered in orange Cheeto’s residue and drenched in despair, nothing Holmes, Hand or Posner ever said flushed away my anxiety and tension. Nothing they ever said induced a trance-like calm that allowed me to sleep better than I have since I made the dubious decision to attend law school. The fact that I can’t find a job to save my life is really quite irrelevant. Because I can dig ditches. In fact, I have dug ditches, and I did it well.

So you see, I no longer suffer from the delusion that I need you folks and your firms and your leather upholstered armchairs. I don’t need you because I am needed elsewhere. I no longer need to fly down I-70 to Denver from my home in Summit County on my way to interviews. I no longer need to stop at scenic overlooks on my way so I can get out and go through the furious delinting ritual required to rid myself of the fist-sized clumps of Saint Bernard fur that cling to my suit, face, and hair. (Do you people have any idea how difficult it is to maintain a presentable wardrobe when you live with a massive, slobbering, shed-happy Saint Bernard during the summertime?)

Judge Smails of
Caddyshack fame

I no longer need to do these things because I have a strong back, calloused hands and hungry shovel. And digging isn’t my only fallback talent, mind you. Despite my rather unimposing physique, I have mileage bouncing at country bars. So, I’ve got that going for me. I don’t need to sit there in your office, answering your questions while forcing a smile. I don’t need to sit there with good posture—a proper and rehearsed medium lying somewhere between the stiff upright position of terror adopted by many anxious interviewees and the somewhat fatigued, partial slouch adopted by many spiritually and mentally exhausted interviewees. I don’t need to sit there because I can put on my uncomfortably tight (but culturally required) pair of black Wranglers and survey the throngs of cowboys waiting to enter the bar, skillfully keeping an eye open for potentially troublesome hombres. I can approach the two middle-aged gentlemen wearing impeccably pressed and ironed flannel and jean ensembles and resolve their quickly declining dispute (probably about the virtues of Hank Williams, Sr. versus those of Hank Williams, Jr.) with unprecedented tact and guile. Yes, I was that good.

I don’t need to write you thank you letters for painful interviews. I don’t need to deliberate about whether the tone of the letter is too collegial or too stilted. I don’t need to wrack my addled mind for an unusual detail or comment I can assert that will trigger your memory of me yet not sound too cavalier. I don’t need to do this because I can sharpen lawnmower blades. Indeed I can. And while that particular vocational foray lasted for only a day and a half, it was painfully evident to all who had the good fortune of watching me work, that I had an uncanny ability to put a katana-like edge on a blade. So, you can rest assured that that particular career is always awaiting me with arms open much wider than yours.

I no longer need to spend hours on the Internet researching your office before an interview only to learn that your firm is basically identical to every other mid-sized private practice in Denver, and furthermore, to every other mid-sized private practice in every other mid-sized American city. I no longer need to rehearse the interview catechism before each audition: I no longer need to respond to your query about why I want to work for your firm with statements about firm size, reputation, level of responsibility, and opportunity to do pro bono work, all the while thinking, "because I need a damn job!" I no longer need to do these things because I am tired and frustrated and annoyed and I can forge this angry fatigue into angry words, words that some desperate publication might print. And I can dig a hell of a ditch.

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