A once and future lawyer

Not too far in the future, California's second-term governor may find himself unemployed.
It doesn't seem to bother him.

"I've been paying (State Bar) dues for a number of years," says the former U.S. senator, San Diego mayor and state assembly member, noting that going back into practice as a lawyer is a distinct possibility.

And how did Gov. Wilson, who was admitted to the bar in 1964, get to be a lawyer in the first place?

Good advice from dad

Well, as he tells it, it had less to do with love of law than with his father's sound advice to a free-spirited son.

"There's a real pecking order" in the business world, said his dad, who was in the dog-eat-dog advertising business. "If you didn't like that in the Marine Corps, I think maybe you ought to go to law school and be your own boss."

The point was not lost on the future governor of the most populous state.

"It was simply the appeal of the relative independence," Wilson remembers. "You can always say to a client some day, 'I'd much rather have you as a friend than as a client,' and hand him his file."

The right decision

To this day, he's glad he listened to his father. And he's seen many of his friends and Boalt Hall classmates practice law for a while and then move on to other successful business ventures.

But in this day and age, Wilson offers some of his own sage advice to young people pondering their futures.

"There are people who go to law school never intending to practice. I was not one of those, nor do I recommend it. It's a substantial investment in time and money if you know you're not going to practice."