One of my first tasks as a chemical engineer at the Procter & Gamble Company was to design a tank to hold a chemical called Toluene. I had to calculate the parameters, like pressure, volume, and flammable temperature. I was lucky to stumble upon an unused tank on the property that would work and save the company some money.
If someone asked me at a cocktail party what I did for a living, and I said I was a chemical engineer, they would inevitably ask, “What’s a chemical engineer?”
I explained it like this. When a chemist makes an aspirin tablet in his laboratory, he mixes some chemicals in a beaker, heats it over a Bunsen burner, and dries it in a centrifuge. If a company wants to manufacture 10.000 aspirin, they hire a chemical engineer to scale up the beaker to a tank, the Bunsen burner to an industrial heater, the centrifuge to a bigger centrifuge. He will also spec some conveyor belts to move the chemicals through the equipment.
This all changed when I became a divorce lawyer. Now if I’m at a party and mention that I’m a divorce lawyer, I soon have 20 people around me saying, “Let me tell you about my divorce.”
I never been able to reconcile my engineering degree with my law practice, although I feel there is a connection. But yesterday, on the news, some pundant referred to lawyers as legal engineers. Yes, that’s it. When someone comes to me with a divorce, I calculate the parameters, and design a solution that works. I am a legal engineer.