Fri 24 Oct, 2003 11:07 pm
First post to the site, nice to meet you all.
My question in the heading is about the life choice I have to make soon, and I've been struggling with it for a long time, hopefully some of you can shed some light and maybe make more sense of it than I have so far.
I'm a first year law student, and I'm at "the crossroads".
Should I try to make the world better through law, or just say screw everyone else, make the world better for me?
I've always wanted to "do good", but every day I read and see so much hypocracy and selfish abuse of power in the world, I'm starting to realize that the planet is so incredibly f*cked up, maybe its time for me to just look out for myself now.
I'm tired of not having money, busting my ass to just get by, and all that. However, I love the small ways I've been able to provide for others (I used to be a Child Protection Services worker and ESL teacher). In three years, I'll be a lawyer, and I have to start thinking of what my focus is going to be. Corporate, or Public Interest?
There's very little money to be made in "helping others". Yeah, it makes you feel good inside, but in the long run, does it really matter? People are always poor, there is always corruption, and I would have sacrificed the ability to see the world and enjoy lifes pleasures the way I would like to.
If I go corporate, I'll be able to live the way I've always wanted to, see the world and experience the pleasures of life, but to what benefit? Other than my immediate self gratification, I will have contributed very little to the world, and I don't want to be "hollow" inside.
I'm pulling my hair out on this one, and every day my opinion flip-flops. Time is running out, and I want this decision I make to be the right one.
How about making money in corporate, and then using it to help people?
Hi Heywood, I'm a former lawyer (well, I'm still admitted, but I haven't practiced since 1990).
One thing I noticed when I was practicing is that I sort of fell into the area I was in (insurance defense). Some of this was due to my own inertia in terms of not trying too hard to change what I was doing, but also due to things like grades. An average set of grades at graduation more or less means that, even if you love, love, love corporate law, you can just about forget about it. Because unless you're Ivy League, they want Law Review.
I did well in Moot Court and so litigation was my path. And I found in Law School that the few things I liked were Torts, Product Liability, Trial Advocacy, Legal Methods, Business Organizations and Constitutional Law. This ended up pushing me into insurance defense, as I mentioned above. My interests were too eclectic for anything else. And I was pretty lukewarm on the whole thing, which should have been a large red flag to me, as I ended up leaving the law after about 3 1/2 years.
If I were in the same position again, I probably still would have gone to Law School - it's a very good education and it has helped me, even now - but I would have tried to focus a bit better, and also listened to what my subconscious was telling me.
Anyway, to get back to your question, a few things:
* you don't need to give me your grades, but are you on Law Review (top 10%)? This will pretty well decide whether corporate can even happen for you. If you aren't in the top 10%, then the decision is fairly well made for you.
* what are your interests? If your interests are litigation, product liability and torts, you can either do what I did or be a plaintiffs' attorney. If your interests are appellate practice, constitutional law and legal writing, your choice is probably going to be constitutional law, although again grades will play a part. If your interests are contracts, business organizations and commercial paper, you're going to be a contracts attorney, if you follow your interests.
* where are your best grades? Note this may not coincide with what most interests you. Even if you aren't in the top 10% of your class, you can sometimes make a case for corporate if you have extremely good grades in that area. Or you might find that you have an interest in property but your best grades are in areas like criminal procedure - that might spur you into a career pursuing criminal law, but perhaps for wealthy clients who would have property interests that might be compromised.
And don't forget, there are plenty of ways to use a legal degree that don't involve going to court or even writing memoranda. There's JAG. There's government work. There's agency work. There's mediation. There's child advocacy (as you know). You don't just have to think Perry Mason or F. Lee Bailey or Johnnie Cochran when you think "lawyer".
Best of luck to you.
Three possibilities then:
1. You work work work work and have no life. You make lot's of money but forget how to enjoy anything. Eventually you have a pile of money and you may discover that spending it doesn't really buy back mthe lost thrill of living. Then you regret some wasted years. You change one way or another, but you can never be young again. I have known many who answer to this description. Few ware happy.
2. You devote yourself to the service of others, which may to some degree offer gratification, but the nasty realities of our society keep putting you up against the wall. You either live in debt (if you're 'lucky') or are not permitted to live in debt because you are not ever solvent enough to please the lenders. You get older, you've helped a lot of people, but you regret all the years on that wheel, and you find that you are facing an uncertain old age, where you will have to work so as not to descend into the unforgiving poverty of our times. I have known my share of these folks. Few are happy.
3. You try to find a balance. You don't worship money so much you lose out on life; you help those you can reasonably, and you try your best to keep room in your life for basically just enjoying the world as it flows by you. You are neither rich nor poor, you may struggle, but with luck you may swim along in a pleasant way. You will not regret losing youth, though in truth, given the harsh economy of our times, you may still face uncertainty in your old age. (It appears none but the very rich are exempt here.) I know some folks like this. Some are happy.
I try to stay with the third path. I'm older now and I've enjoyed my life, though it has had its rough patches. I don't feel that I've robbed myself or others getting here, I feel I've helped a few. I suspect I will never have a 'retirement'... but I have enough vitality at this point to face that; I have not worn myself out. I live by grace, and daily promise myself to accept what comes with as much humor as I can muster.
On the other hand (this makes four hands to consider) fate is often ironic; the best intentioned souls get pilloried, selfish people can thrive and even be (at least in their minds) happy, and no amount of planning can take into account falling bank vaults or found bags of money...
So perhaps I am not too helpful with all this...