We just returned from Europe which included a couple of days in Venice. It was a fine summer evening and we decided to do what comes natural in this charming city, namely take a gondola ride. I asked the gondolier how much. The Venetian air was charged with romance and passion and price of course was of no concern. The good fellow replied, "150 Euros (aka $225 Canadian loonies) per hour sir".
I said "Thank you sir" and we decided instead to settle for chocolate gelati. This also comes natural.
While strolling along St. Mark's Square consuming our gelati, Shoshana and I discussed the gondolier charging 150 Euros per hour. Many lawyers would only wish to make this much, or more than double what Legal Aid pays per hour. I asked myself why should a gondolier charge more than a lawyer? What do they have that we don't have? I decided to make a comparison.
Firstly I considered the popularity factor.
People generally have fantasies about gondoliers being romantic minstrels who wind and sing their way through the canals. A ride along Venice's labyrinth of waterways can often be a fairy tale experience.
A visit to a lawyer evokes a slightly different atmosphere. The greatest similarity to the aforementioned experience one can draw is that many clients will claim that lawyers have taken them for a ride. I don't know about the singing part but I am sure that if you ask an Assessment Officer none will tell you that clients have ever suggested that their lawyer, while conducting an examination for discovery broke out singing "O Sole Mio". We are however known for singing the blues.
As for the romantic part there are however some lawyers whose love life would leave even the most colourful gondolieri drifting far behind on the Grand Canal. But this article is not about Bill Clinton.
And both lawyers and gondoliers are popularized prominently in the arts. Gilbert and Sullivan wrote an operetta about the enchanting life on Venice's canals entitled, The Gondoliers. William Shakespeare wrote, "Let's kill all the lawyers".
Then there is responsibility. If we mess up it is likely the client will sue us. The gondolier's position is relatively claim free, short of him running his gondola into another at all of 5 kilometres per hour.
Gondoliers probably do however have some form or errors and omissions insurance. You never know when some disgruntled client might turn around and sue the gondolier for screwing up "Funiculi, Funicula".
Then there is training. I find that although we invest years as students we constantly have to pursue professional development.
A gondolier can remain at his comfort level indefinitely. After all what is left after the teacher shows you how to stand upright in the back of the gondola and push your oar? I don't imagine there was a newsflash in the Gondolier's Newsletter recently, which proclaimed:
"Gondolieri! Those black and white striped shirts you have been wearing since the year 1542 are no longer valid after October 1st. After that date you
must switch to sleeveless white undershirts."
And perhaps the best part of the job as compared to lawyers is that all gondoliers get paid in cash immediately. Over the barrel.
Or should I say over the paddle. After Lorenzo says "arrivederci" to you, he has already pocketed your 150 Euros. With lawyers, in most cases unless you get all your money up front, you can calmly say arrivederci to your money. You will have a receivable that will be as useful as an umbrella in Pompeii the day Vesuvius erupted. This may however sometimes still be better than a Legal Aid certificate.
So what are we lawyers all waiting for? We have choices. Anybody know where you can get a good deal on those striped shirts?
Although tempted to make a career change, I still practice personal injury/insurance and family law in the Greater Toronto Area. Please visit www.striglaw.com