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A blue-collar lawyer: explaining what we really do

By Ken Gibson on June 6, 2017

Question: “What do you call 1,000 lawyers at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay?”

Answer: “A good start.”

Lawyers have the most jokes told about them…and often the worst reputations. On TV, we watch money-hungry Hollywood divorce attorneys and two-faced weasels trying to protect the rich and powerful companies. Some lawyers even seem to enjoy making everyone else feel small.

These are one kind of lawyers—but there are also compassionate lawyers. There are honest lawyers, and there are crooks. Lawyers are just people! Like a farmer, a mechanic, a member of the military, or a waterman, a lawyer’s job is what he does for a living (we hope because he likes it…and gets satisfaction from helping people!) What we’ve found is that when someone is in trouble, they want a lawyer they can count on to stand up for them, but they also want someone who’s a stand-up person.

What makes someone a lawyer?

A lawyer is someone who has passed the Virginia State Bar Exam. He or she is licensed to practice law in Virginia. Almost all lawyers have law degrees from a law school, plus a bachelor’s degree from a college or university.

What goes into becoming a lawyer?

Nobody becomes a mechanic, a hair stylist, a welder, or a waterman overnight. Learning a trade takes time, hard work, and common sense, if you want to do it well. Lawyering, like doctoring, involves more school because both are then turned loose on live people! Here’s what you do to become a lawyer:

  1. Go to college and get a bachelor’s degree. It doesn’t matter what you study, although subjects like history, government, or psychology can help.
  2. Take the Law School Admission Test. They’ll give you a score, and you use that score to apply to law school.
  3. Go to law school. Graduate with a law degree.
  4. Take the Virginia State Bar Exam. Once you pass, you’re a lawyer!

Virginia is unusual in that it allows someone with no law degree to perform “law office study,” called “reading the law” under the supervision of a licensed attorney, and then take the bar exam. The “apprentice” must spend 25 hours per week, 40 weeks per year, for three years in a supervising attorney’s office. The apprentice can’t make any money at the law office while studying. But this way of becoming a lawyer is unusual.

How is being a lawyer different from being a farmer or waterman?

“Law” is an industry handling a different product (people who need to be helped or punished) and offering a different service (getting hurt people money, getting bad people off the streets, making companies pay when they’ve done wrong). But some things are the same:

  1. You need to know the rules. Learning never stops. Governments are always changing the laws. A lawyer has to keep up with United States laws, Virginia laws, and local laws.
  2. You get better the longer you work. There’s a “school of hard knocks” in the legal profession. It’s called the courtroom. Though the work isn’t physical, it’s a fight all the same. Ever had an intense argument, or spent all night looking for the answer to a problem? We do that for a living.
  3. Caring about people is what makes the difference. We get the best results by talking with real people. We’re not here to yell and scream at anyone. We believe there’s a “right thing” that needs to be done, and we’re here to do it. If helping people means standing up for their rights in court, that’s what we do.

When your pipes burst, you call a plumber. If your car breaks down, you take your car to a trusted mechanic. If you were in a bad car or boating accident, severely bitten by a dog, or hit by a big rig truck, you call a lawyer. At GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys, we’re local, we’re caring, and we’re here to serve you. John Singleton and Ken Gibson, former U.S. Marines, are personal injury lawyers. Call us at (804) 413-6777 if you have any questions!

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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
    GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
  • Annual Coat Drive
    During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
  • Hands-on Service
    John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
  • Supporting Local Schools
    The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.