Thursday, December 23, 2010

Some perspective while you're waiting for grades

The following was first posted on the now-deceased blog, i.don’t.wear.skinny.jeans.  By some freak of the blogosphere, I found this post and secured the author's permission to re-post it.  Enjoy. 

I rode the crazy train during my first year of law school as much as anybody.  Answer a question in class; think you’re amazing.  Get a question wrong in class, think you’re an idiot.  Get a good grade; think you’re amazing.  Get a bad grade; think your life is over.  Get on a secondary journal; think you’re amazing.  Don’t get on law review; think you’ve failed.

And it won’t stop there.

Get an offer for a firm for your 2L summer job; think you’re amazing.  Don’t get an offer from Most Prestigious Law Firm for your 2L summer job; think your social status will crumble.  Graduate in the Top X percent of your class; think you’re amazing.  Don’t earn Order of the Coif upon graduation; think you’re a loser.  Get a clerkship after law school; think you’re amazing.  Don’t get a clerkship with the Supreme Court of the United States; think you’re a nobody.  Start working and bill 2300 hours in your first year; think you’re amazing.  Realize that everybody else is billing 2600 hours; think you’re a slacker. Get a fancy new SUV; think you’re amazing. Realize that you’re basically driving a mini-van; shed a tear.

But how many of us grow up dreaming of getting an A+ in Contracts or working for Law Firm X?  How many of us see that as our goal in life, even now?  I’m not trying to be deep, like, “whoa, dude, our existence is fleeting,” or “there is no reality, we are all dreaming.”  But while it’s good to take pride in what you do and strive to achieve good grades, law review, competitive clerkships, and prestigious jobs, there’s no sense in tying your happiness in life to metrics that may impact your delicate ego, but likely have no bearing on your definition of happiness, whatever that is.

I write about this a lot, but it doesn’t always sink in.

Law is a career where you can’t complain.  Everybody has a war story that trumps yours.  It seems like law school and the ever after is all about finding war stories that will one-up other people’s, just to impress them.  You had to work 72 hours straight and had a partner throw a pen at you?  That guy over there worked 100 hours straight, had a partner hit him in the head with a stapler, and that was in his first week at the firm!  There’s no sympathy for the toil because everyone goes through it.   But that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to lose sight of what you’re trying to get out of life.

Maybe your dream involves finding that special someone and starting a family; maybe it involves finding that special pay check and buying a boat.  Heck, maybe your dream really is about sucking up as much prestige as possible so you can forever feel superior to your friends and enemies.  Whatever it is, don’t forget it as we go through the ups and downs of Early Interview Week and beyond.

When I was growing up, the standard line was this: find a career doing something interesting, try to be successful in what you do (which could mean earning baller dollars, just enough to be financially secure, or doing something that satisfies that elusive it), and do that family thing that people do.

For better or worse, a majority of law students end up on the private sector path, which presumably falls into the category of doing something interesting and becoming financially secure (but if your only pleasure in life is doing employment compensation, power to you).  But it is unlikely that working at Some Law Firm is how you define yourself and your goals in life.  If you remove the “oh em gee, I need to work at Vault Firm X” factor, I’m pretty sure that most of us are going to end up doing work that we find interesting, at a job that pays reasonable compensation, and putting in hours that make us want to cry. 

Tears of happiness, of course.
Up, up, an away,