Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Unheralded Heroes of Law School

When I was a 1L, there was a girl in my class--let's call her Ana--who I hung out with often. For the first half of the semester, I found her to be delightful. I learned a ton about her as the year progressed. She came from an upper middle class background. Her father was a doctor and she was an only child whose mother had recently passed. Upon finishing up at the top of her class, her dad gave her two options--go to medical school or law school. She was a very girly girl and she fancied herself a creative type. She wanted to go into fashion or beauty, but she decided to appease her father and go to law school in the meantime.

So, as the weeks progressed, I noticed something odd about the way she looked at accomplishment in school. If she were called on in class, and she got the right answer, she was ecstatic. I, on the other hand, quickly realized that class participation didn't matter and I expended little to no energy in getting the right answer. I certainly didn't yell out, "Rah, rah, rah," if I managed to go through class not getting called on or I hit the nail on the head with the perfect answer. I kept my eye on the ball and focused on studying. Ana, on the other hand, hardly ever studied. I told her she should, but she said that the real studying doesn't start until Halloween. Since that is a rumor that is tossed around law school, I didn't think much of it.

Then Halloween came around and Ana lost it. She locked herself in her room for days at a time with gallons of water and hit the books. DAYS, as in missing days of class to study.

Sure enough, when exams came around, Ana didn't do so well. I can't say how she did for sure, but I can say she cleared out of her apartment in the late night hours in mid-January and left her roommate with a lease and no roommate.

At the time, my friends and I pitied her. Now, I harbor a bit of jealousy. Why? Because, although I enjoyed practicing the law, I can't do it. And I have 3 years of debt to repay, rather than one. Now, I'm in an saturated market where I can't find a job--and I'm too overqualified to get out of this market. Contrarily, Ana has one semester of debt, and is probably working in something she enjoys. Or, even if she too lost her job, she doesn't have an enormous amount of debt to pay back monthly, while she is waiting for the next big thing.

I lost touch with Ana. She probably didn't want to have contact with anyone or anything that would remind her of her horrible experience. I imagine she is out in Los Angeles in the fashion scene. Or maybe she married her long time boyfriend who she had left back home to go to law school.

So, when I read the third comment on my last post. It reminded me of Ana. The comment that came from a guy named fanofskolnick was sad, but really embodied what many law school "dropouts" (for lack of a better word) feel. It's a different world, where naturally intelligent people are scorned for what they have always prided themselves in--whether that creativity or writing skills. It's a place where you can wildly successful outside the classroom and be ridiculed inside the classroom. If you find, at the end of the first semester or year, that you're not doing well and don't know why or that it's not for you--it doesn't mean you're a failure or a quitter. It means that you're wise enough to cut your losses and move onto something better. You may owe $20K after one semester, or even more. But at least you won't find yourself in the same place after 3 years and $120K of debt. It's really not you! It is just one of those irrational places. Law school is certainly not for everyone.


  1. Law professors often scoff at those who have been successful outside of the classroom. "Because the classroom is what matters, after all." At least according to the pinheads masquerading as "law professors" and "legal scholars."

    Law school also does stifle creativity. The curriculum is designed to mass-produce one product: corporate lawyers. The focus is on appellate opinions - which most lawyers will not work on, at any point in their careers. This is stupid, considering that (outside of HYS) MOST students WILL NOT go into corporate law, or even good-sized firms, upon graduation.

    Another problem is that too many of your classmates cannot wait to suck up to the teacher - as if any of that sycophantic behavior will be rewarded on the random exam. You could dog-sit for your Con Law prof, or massage your Contracts professor's feet (I don't know why anyone would), and it will not profit you one iota.

    Angel is right: if you did not do well after first semester (or first year), cut your losses and do something you enjoy. At least you will avoid crushing debt, and you can easily explain a 4-5 month gap of unemployment to potential employers.

  2. For a variety of reasons, I have found this post one of the best essays about life that I've ever come across. Period.

    BTW, I'm not young (50), male, father of two teens and have accomplished much in my life.

    BTW, if it helps, I was lost, dazed, confused, jobless (MBA) several times in my life. NOT fun!

    With hindsight, I know that it made me tougher and wiser - but there certainly was a lot of despair then!

    Thanks, good luck and God bless!



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