Life as “The Steroid Lawyer”

rickcollinsQ: I’m a college student thinking of going to law school. What’s it like to be America’s “Steroid Lawyer”?

A: I don’t think of myself in those terms, really. The fact that lots of people know me by that label has been great for my practice, and has given me the opportunity to help people from coast to coast on matters involving performance-enhancing drugs but on many other civil and criminal legal matters as well. My passion is for bodybuilding, not steroids. Steroids interest me because I’m a person who advocates telling the truth when opportunists and the media are spreading misinformation about a subject. Steroids fall into that subject category; that’s why I wrote Legal Muscle and created www.steroidlaw.com.

As I write this, I’ve just returned from the Arnold Classic in Columbus. Nothing makes me prouder than when past and present clients – from amateur gym rats to pro bodybuilders – stop by to thank me for being there for them in their hours of need. I’m grateful to regularly help out fellow bodybuilders with all sorts of legal problems and claims, and to be counsel to the supplement industry, the ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition), the IFBB, and my bro’s and sisters at MD. Lawyers get a bad rap; sadly, a few may deserve it. I don’t mind when clients tell me that I’m not like the “typical” lawyer! The advice that I would give you is pretty similar to the advice I’d give to any ambitious, career-minded student. The qualities that make a great lawyer are the same ones that generate success in other fields: head, heart, and what we New Yawker’s call “chutzpah.”

Having a head for the law means not only having smarts but also working your butt off for endless hours of schooling and research to learn what seems like more information than your brain can hold. It means thinking outside the box while never compromising the highest standards of ethics. It means looking at problems from fresh new angles, whether you’re drafting a contract or negotiating a civil settlement. The same “problem solving” attitude that helped you figure out a way to develop a lagging body part and the same discipline that might enable you to compete in bodybuilding can help you in a court of law – and in other occupations, such as doctor, accountant, entrepreneur, or California Governor!

Intellect is only one factor, though. I think the most successful professionals are those who really care about their clients. According to many of my clients, it’s the heart factor that’s lacking in other lawyers they’ve dealt with. Clients who want their attorneys to be nasty sharks in court find too often that the attorneys are just plain nasty with everybody, including their own clients. If you become a lawyer, you should never stop asking yourself, “Am I treating my clients like I’d want to be treated?” Never do less than that; strive to do more. Compassion and humanity are underrated by too many professionals.

Lastly, chutzpah (“Hoots-pa”) is the term we use for the type of fearlessness that allows trial lawyers like me to step into battle against opponents as powerful and well-funded as massive corporations or the United States Government. Litigators, including criminal defense lawyers, are like modern day gladiators. If you want to be a litigator, you’d better be willing to mix it up – armed only with your wits and courage – against opponents many times your size. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Lastly, be sure to observe life’s lessons as you go along and apply them to whatever you do as a career. I worked my way through school and held a variety of jobs; I took away something important from all of them. As a fitness instructor, as an actor, as an orderly in a nursing home, even as a nightclub bouncer, life presented lessons that I still benefit from even so many years later. I love my job as a lawyer, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Whatever path you choose, I wish you the same good fortune that has made my life so gratifying.

Rick Collins, J.D., is a veteran lawyer and bodybuilder. He is the founder of www.SteroidLaw.com and the author of the groundbreaking blockbuster LEGAL MUSCLE: Anabolics in America, available at www.teamlegalmuscle.com. [© Rick Collins, 2006. All rights reserved. For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal or medical advice. Adapted from a past column in Muscular Development magazine.]