Sunday, April 06, 2008


The end of my first year of law school has provided many changes with my friends. Some are figuring out the kind of law they want to practice, and another is moving away and going to commute every day to school, and another of my closest law friends is contemplating quitting law school.

This has of course affected me somewhat, and has made me take a step back and attempt to figure out if I am in school for the right reasons as well. Do I enjoy the reading? Yes. Do I like class? Yes, as long as I am not being called on that day, because then I have a major freak out session where I ask all of my friends to help me---but I always end up fine in the end. Do I think that I will like the profession? Yep. Do I think I have a realistic outlook about what is going to happen to me after law school? I think so.

In my opinion, the reason that so many attorneys do not like their job is because so many people go to law school for the wrong reasons. I once had a Business Law professor in college ask the class if there was anybody who wanted to go to law school. I raised my hand, and then he told us that we should promptly make an appointment with him to discuss the issue. I thought, "why not?" so I emailed him and went to his office.

The first thing he asked me was why I was going to law school. I told him that I wanted to go because I had worked for a small firm in my college town for years and I thought that I would enjoy the work. I loved the fact that every single day I would learn something new, and the thought of effectively being a continuous student really appealed to me. I thought that I would enjoy the research, the court visits, the communication with clients, and the writing.

He looked at me and said, "Good then. You will be fine." He went on to explain that so many people go to law school because it is just something to do. For instance, someone may be a Psychology major and decide that he or she does not want to attend Psych grad school. What is their other option with that degree? Law school. Some other people have parents who push them into law. Their children graduate with a degree in English and the parents panic, thinking that their kid will have some menial job forever if they don't go to law school. So they convince their kid that they should go into law, and it is a disaster.

After almost completing a year of law school, I certainly agree with my professor. Some of my classmates came to law school because their parents pushed them to do so, and even more came because they felt like there were no other options for them after graduation. If you are going to law school for these reasons, or your child is going to law school for these reasons, then please reconsider the plan. Law school is not that enjoyable for people who do not actually love law.

Anyway, I feel that once we started school, those who did not enjoy the experience were afraid of quitting. They are afraid that people would think that they could not handle it, or that they quit for some other goofy reason. These same people talk about how happy they will be when they quit, or, if they have quit already, how happy they were after they quit. These predictions of happiness may be true, but I think that they are really just an indication that maybe it wasn't right for these people in the first place. It took me a while to realize this, because I keep hearing the stories about how happy people are when they quit, which puts an entirely negative spin on my choices.

But, after reading articles about people who have quit and personally knowing a lot of these people, I still feel extremely confident with my choice, but perhaps for different reasons than when I sat in my professor's office years ago. Now I realize that getting a job right out of college just wasn't for me. I love being a student and learning new things, and I really do not think that I was really ready to start a career last May. Sure, that is kind of a silly reason, but an important one: I just do not see myself being happy working right now. Secondly, I still love the learning aspect: in a course of a day, I may read cases about health issues, theft issues, or perhaps even about employer issues. I am pretty confident that this will continue when I actually practice as well.

Finally, I love the opportunities I will have when I graduate. I am pretty sure that I will either want to work in a public service capacity or work in a small to medium sized firm. Both of these will allow me to help people, whether it is on a one-on-one basis where I help people who really need the law (like someone in a Contract dispute) or it is on a broader basis (like working at a non-profit or in a government capacity).

It is sometimes hard for me to understand why someone wants to quit law school because I think that it is really fun. Sure, I have days where everything seems so tedious and hard, but overall, I am so happy that I chose the path I chose. This makes it hard for me to listen to my friends who do not like it as much, who seem to try to put as many negative arguments about law school and the law profession on the table in order to fully justify their leaving school (including the massive loans, the attitudes of some attorneys, how boring the job is, etc.). So while they feel like there is a stigma with quitting school, I feel like they are creating a stigma for those staying in school.

So when my thoughts and their arguments often conflict, I remind myself to take a step back and remember that everybody deserves to be happy with their life. The people who want to quit law school need to quit if it makes them happy, and if staying in school makes me happy, then no amount of persuasion from the other parties should affect my decision.

As my friend contemplates leaving (and I think she is leaning toward not coming back next year), I have to remind myself that her decision to stop does not make my decision to stay wrong. And, as I see her getting closer and closer to saying goodbye, I wish that nobody went to law school unless they really thought that they would enjoy it. I also wish that those who chose to quit did not feel like they had to justify their decision to anybody else but themselves.

So, as I begin my final four weeks of my first year, I am still excited and honored to be a part of such a wonderful profession---and I am going to stay in school, no matter how many people remind me of how long it will take to pay back my loans!


kisa said...

I am very glad that you are still getting such enjoyment out of your law school. Plus, you have to stick with it so you can get a law job to pay off those loans!

Kathy said...

I thought that people went to law school so that someday they could take their parents and parents-in-law on cruises!
It was so nice to see you two today.

Josh said...

And you need to get a law job so you can support me when I live out of yours and David's basement.

With Paco.

And I guess the hellion, Thorina.

Pop said...

What do you have when a lawyer is up to his neck in sand?

Not enough sand!