Criteria for Evaluating Law School

Law school.

Divorce and suicide factory. Gateway to where I want to be in 5 minutes or 5 years. A chance to do good. An open door. A long, painful slog.

A place to close your mind to the world and study. $150,000 in loans I will spend 10 years paying off.

A chance to shine, to be among crazily-geeky policy wonks and fellow intellectuals. An elitist club for preppy frat boys only looking to make 100k after 3L.

A terrifyingly hierarchical, obsessively graded 3 years.

A place to get joyously lost in the law, to delve into my core beliefs about justice, to find my true intellectual home.

Every time I talk to law students, I swing between these beliefs like an overly enthusiastic metronome. So many lawyers I hear about hate their careers, and are fundamentally unhappy with the work they do. Of the lawyers I know, including my awesome uncle Pete, most of them are doing good and tangibly helping people. They are roughly as happy as my friends who are working in Computer Science, and tend to get the chance to act on their core beliefs more often than your average programmer.

When I think of the days I watched lawyers at Human Rights USA call up clients, help them prepare to fight to stay in the United States I can see myself doing that for years at a time. When we casually discussed the relationship between the UN Convention on Human Rights with US law, that was fun then and can only get more fun the more I know about it.

When I watched the lawyers at Human Rights USA struggle to influence and huge, and sometimes intractable legal system, I could see myself burning out on it. When my fellow interns, all of whom were law students, talked about the predatory, aggressive law student and lawyers, constantly looking for a 1-up in the fight to make Law Review or Partner, I could see a community of people I never want to associate.

The daily work of a lawyer involves a pile of paperwork (bleh), research (fun!), stilted writing (ugg) suffused with ethical arguments (yay!).

I keep on hoping my choice for a career will seem simple and clear. I went to a panel yesterday, which I helped put on, where current law school applicants talked about their experiences. So many of them saw this as their obvious career choice.

But as I keep growing and exploring, I know that I can foment justice in a socially conscious start-up, getting grants for a non-profit, writing for a magazine, working in the international giving department of a major tech company, working for the United States State Department, teaching as a Professor–or yes, being a lawyer.

I know I can find work I love and that fits my passions, with or without law school. The question I am face with, which anyone who is introspective and applying to law school is faced with is: is this the best use of my talents?

Given the people I know I like to work with, the kind of work I like to do, and the impact I want to make in this world, is law the only place I can find my true home? No. The best place?

That’s a question I am still working on.

Inspirational Quote:

You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.

–Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear.

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