The Hurt Locker
Image: The Hurt Locker

I once read a rather funny rant by a blogger married to a lawyer that said something along the lines of “arguing with a lawyer is like trying to perform your own eye surgery, at the beach, in a windstorm with an unwashed grapefruit spoon.”

The Hurt Locker
Movie Still from: The Hurt Locker

With my one surviving eye (just!), I can now see why this type of eye surgery is not for the faint-hearted, especially if you are not a lawyer yourself.

Let me explain how a typical conversation might go and why you might need a bullet poof vest, a parachute, night-vision goggles and a rather high EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) before you dare cross over into this no-go zone.

1. You will need a handy Thesaurus app on your iPhone for a quick reference when you should be having a simple discussion on your feelings.

You might for example get a response like “I can only comment on things in my purview” (for which the Thesaurus definition is “the range of operation, authority, control“). This type of response leaves your limbic brain reeling a little.

2. Because lawyers might assume they need to have the authority and control in this conversation they might default to a position with you with a cerebral response of what you should do (note: not feel) next.

Try to remember at this point, that this is not that you are necessarily stupid nor can you not find your own solutions, it is only because at work they have to think for people who have gotten themselves into a right mess and the only way out is to:
a) argue
b) advise
c) both of the above

If you’re still hanging in there so far, let us press on.

3. Hopefully you manage to avoid the a quick eyeball of the Thesaurus (by possessing a good vocabulary due to being well read – see point 9 below) and you have resisted the urge to completely lose your sh*t (give up if you do, you’ve lost).

Next up, your consequence for remaining cool as a cucumber will be what I refer to as being in the “witness box”. Here you might have to answer questions that start with “not withstanding that you (insert your crime here) would you then assume that (insert your consequence here)?.”

Know you are now on a slippery slope.

4. Remember that in an argument, they will never ask you questions that will give you the leg up OR that they don’t already know the answer to. Don’t be tempted to answer these questions. Run, or go make tea.

5. Sometimes, you might be tempted to forge ahead with your argument when you THINK you spot a concession on the horizon. This would sound like this: “okay then, assuming you are right…

Please good people, this is a trick. You are never right, because that would mean they might be wrong (which will never happen). Run, or go make tea.

6. If you are still at it, you have by now, in all probability, unleashed a deadly weapon, like a highly trained Marine Seal (oh the irony). Notice the backpack of useful arsenal of machine gun responses based on logic and reason (feelings are like grenades, tossed).

If you want shades of grey, rather read the badly written one with the tie on the cover to get your kick.

7. Sometimes when you’ve really p*ssed them off by challenging them (and as a result become “temporarily the ex” or “permanently the ex”), you might get the CTRL +ALT+DELETE response where they reboot, which can feel ruthless the first time.

control alt delete

This is when things ratchet up 10 notches and kick into the “swift-overnight-detach-mode” that they learn in their first year of law school.

This handy trick allows them to fight to win and in all probability is a tool to frustrate you into yet another tantrum, which will only serve to prove you really are quite unstable. Either that or it’s to test if you really love them, given their natural cynicism.

Tech-savvy ones may even block you on their mail servers, Whatsapp, Facebook and on their phone. You will be relegated to calling their office landline via the secretary who will flip you off anyway. (Lawyer: 1 / You: 0).

While at first this infuriating, know this is also good thing, because you are in any case farting against thunder. It is better for you. Really it is. You should be grateful.

8. If by some chance your partner is a lawyer and none of the above applies, you are probably fibbing. Someone should fight their corner too, so this makes you a nice person. Well done, this is promising for you both.

9. In that very spirit of Ubuntu (an Africanism for “humanity towards others”) – it would be unfair to dismiss the qualities that are quite frankly, most admirable:

  • When they decide to stand by you, you are marooned on a balmy island where no one can hurt you. They will fight for you and make the horrible bullies slink away like the cowards that they are.
  • They know just how to move the “untouchable corporates” with one sheet of expensive, letter-headed paper of legalese. Miracles will happen that are otherwise just not possible…like writing directly to the board directors of an African monolith to their home address about the sh*tty bandwidth in your area.
  • They’ll give you tools (and secret nudges) that keep you level-headed when otherwise you might just want to kick someone hard where it hurts, so that you appear unflappably calm and in control when you need to. To catch the squirrel you must become the squirrel and all that. These are good life skills to learn from a master.
  • You will never be bored or starved of intelligent conversation (unless you challenged them on any of the above, in which case you might have the Silent Teatment for a while, which is better than the Unleashed Marine Treatment, so don’t complain and think of the silence as a little reprieve)
  • You will be challenged to be the best you can be and you will continue to grow. You might even be given a Kindle pre-loaded and bookmarked with suggested (non-fiction) material to keep you learning and growing. Besides, if you are reading quietly, they can read. Lawyers have a lot of reading – and what’s nicer than such a mutually productive silence?
  • Lawyers are by and large smart, diligent, successful and hardworking. Your little lawyers (children) will have nice little trust funds (probably not you though), pretty matric dance dresses and their first cars will have airbags on the steering wheel and the side doors.
  • Speaking of children, teenagers testing the boundaries don’t stand a chance when they lie. Sit back and be amused as they walk right into the web of no return.
  • That having been said, be prepared to be seriously impressed when a lawyer’s child negotiates a third boogie board or how a really little one can diffuse a domestic time bomb. As if by osmosis, these kids are seriously cool and uber-equipped for life.
  • As tough as a lawyer-parent can be, they are also ferociously protective. This really is the parent/uncle/aunt to send in when you get “the call” from the headmaster-slash-police station, or need your precious bundle bumped up to the top of the operating list. Mr Watson’s hernia will just have to wait another day and our tonsils make it to the jar.

As if by osmosis, these kids are seriously cool and uber-equipped for life.

10. So, sometimes you do have yourself a gem. The ones that have not lost their heart along the way, who have the magnitude to understand how hard it is for us mere mortals to play hardball with someone that detaches effortlessly and outsmarts others for a living.

They might even rely on you to kick their cynical ass into touch and keep them grounded.

Deep down inside they would rather fight for you than with you – besides they will never be able to settle for anyone they can flummox as that would be totally boring. They will thus have to put up with a bit of well-deserved defiance and an occasional holy meltdown when you finally do lose your sh*t, don your own bullet proof vest and hit the Ctrl+Alt+Del button yourself.

That is if you don’t stab yourself in the remaining good eye first!

All in all, it’s not all bad for those that make it. Just don’t think you can win an argument, or have your feelings validated. If ever you lapse in any such momentary delusion, please refer back to point 1.

Copyright © Amanda