Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Yes, I'm smart. No law school for me!

Growing up, I was known as "the lawyer." A snarky nickname from childhood, this was given to me by my parents for my tendency to try and negotiate punishments-for both me AND my siblings. Of course, as I grew older, proved my academic prowess, and came to identify with the marginalized, my father and others encouraged me to consider law as a possible career. "Only bad lawyers don't get jobs," I was told. However, after meeting several lawyers and thumbing through my roommate's copy of Law School Confidential, I am pretty sure that law is not in my future. At least, not my near future.

You see, in this bad economy, people are hurrying back to school in the hopes that an advanced degree will help them make bank or at least buy time. A lot of them will go to law school because, they figure, they did well in undergrad, they can ride out the economy and they can do good things. A lot of these law school grads ended up working at my restaurant. Not because they're not good at what they do. Many had stellar grades and summer internships while in law school. It's because the demand for lawyers is relatively low right now and they're too advanced for other jobs (entry level jobs won't take you if you have an advanced degree and others may not want to pay you that much). One in particular did very well, had an MPA on top of it, and still took nearly three years to find full time employment as a lawyer. This was after several volunteer law gigs, and considerable time doing part time legal work on top of working as a waitress and sales associate to put some cash in the bank. I already have student loan debt, why would I really want to add to it?

Also, while my brain loves a good challenge, let's be honest. I get bored. I had a hard enough time doing my IR readings (though I'd read the same things for fun). I love writing but I hate long papers. I liked being able to still participate in class, think critically, do good work, and not have to devote every waking hour to school or work. I enjoyed my internship in Kenya, where I was on my feet nearly every day, getting to know people and mobilizing, much more than my academics there. I like working with young people, but I'm sure that most of my duties will take place outside the courtroom unless I'm advocating for them in some fashion. I hate sitting down. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I couldn't imagine spending my life at a desk, reading dry, complicated material.

In addition, it's highly unlikely I'd be fighting for human rights at the Supreme Court or the International Criminal Court. Those are for the absolute cream of the crop and would take years and years of making my bones in the lower courts, likely doing civil cases or something like that. While I'll probably have to do years of work for little pay in what I'd want to do and take years to get recognized, I'd rather do something I find more rewarding. My coming year with Americorps is one. A possible stint out of the country doing great work is another (stay tuned!). Working for non-profits with a good vibe and an effective mission, even for little pay and behind the desk is another. Things that have me doing good work now is what I want, not a job that has the potential but in the present, has me doing work I find less than meaningful to me.

If I want to go to grad school, I'm going to go when I know for sure what direction my path is taking me. I don't want to do it because I'm scared of the alternative or because the world tells me I'm too smart not to. I don't want to end up in even more debt only to become a slave to that debt. If I do end up in law school (simply because God has a way of reversing all of my statements), it'll be because I've determined for myself this is the right thing for me and the right thing for the people I work with. Doing anything simply because other people told me to has a way of backfiring. I'm not going to do that at the expense of my mind, heart and my bank account.

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