Help: law school has ruined me for a career in law!

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Q:

 

Dear NLL,

I have a pretty big issue – at least I think it is. Having just finished my law degree and graduate diploma, it has dawned on me that law has sucked the life out of me and I really really don’t want to do it anymore.
I am/was a mature age student, I have 3 children, all under 10 and I have progressed through my degree over what feels like a century. Though I’m incredibly proud to finally fall over the finish line, I feel so drained.
What would you recommend? Does this feeling mean that I will never want to utilise my law degree as a solicitor, or will it pass after a break? Help: Law school has ruined me for a career in law!

 

KD

A:

 

Dear KD,

Let me begin at the end by saying this question is ultimately impossible for an outsider to answer. Nevertheless, I have some observations that will hopefully make this whole process a little easier.
Firstly, the study of law and the practice of law could not be further apart than if they physically inhabited polar ends of the earth. It is almost twenty years after finishing my law degree and I’m still struggling to make the connection between what I studied and what it is I actually do on a day-to-day basis. When you say ‘law has sucked the life out of you’, I think what you really mean is that the study of law has sucked the life out of you. It is an important distinction because distinguishing the two creates the possibility of a completely different future. Put another way, more likely than not, there is a promised land awaiting you out there and it will not in any way resemble the ordeal that you have already been through. It will be another ordeal altogether. (Stay with me here…)
You see when you start actually practicing as a lawyer you will be undertaking a completely novel role. There will inevitably be a steep learning curve and it is highly likely that you will find that the new experience and unique challenges invigorates you; piquing your interest in law all over again.
That’s not to say that it will be easy. Promised land or no promised land, it is still new territory and it will take time to establish roots and get comfortable. Happily, while you are experiencing this new adventure, you are actually getting paid. Now if that isn’t a silver lining I cannot say what is.
Look, if you completed your law degree and GDLP whilst raising three children I’m tipping you can do pretty much anything you put your mind to. And this is where you probably need to do the hard work: Where is your mind at the moment? What do you really want? What makes you passionate? What drives you? Where is your heart at?
The answer to these questions may well be different to how you might have answered them at the beginning of your law degree; but I doubt it. In my experience, more often than not, the law degree has just provoked in you’re a temporary amnesia. Don’t worry. It does that to the best of us. It will pass.
I recommend you try to reconnect with what made you want to study law in the first place. What was all that about? Chances are, whatever it was, it’s still a big part of you. Sure you feel drained, so by all means, take a break while you try to work it all out, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet. Now if, as sometimes happens, you find after careful thought that you have changed so much over the years that practicing law is no longer where you’re at then that is perfectly fine – there are countless ways to put a law degree to good use – think politician, law lecturer, mediator, policy adviser, government, legal journalism, law librarian, business development, banker, motivational speaker, legal reporter, and entrepreneur, to name just a few.

 

I hope this helps.

 

Arna

I was taking a law school admissions test in a big classroom at Harvard.

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“My friend and I were some of the only women in the room. I was feeling nervous. I was a senior in college. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do. And while we’re waiting for the exam to start, a group of men began to yell things like: ‘You don’t need to be here.’ And ‘There’s plenty else you can do.’ It turned into a real ‘pile on.’ One of them even said: ‘If you take my spot, I’ll get drafted, and I’ll go to Vietnam, and I’ll die.’ And they weren’t kidding around. It was intense. It got very personal. But I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t afford to get distracted because I didn’t want to mess up the test. So I just kept looking down, hoping that the proctor would walk in the room. I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.’ And sometimes I think I come across more in the ‘walled off’ arena. And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.”

[Courtesy of: Humans of New York]

I’m a probate lawyer.

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I represent people who contest their parents’ wills. I want to write a book about all the things I’ve seen. It’s not quite The Soprano’s, but it’s close. My colleague likes to say that contested wills are the final battleground of a dysfunctional family. Everything from childhood gets brought to the surface. You’d be amazed how long people can hold grudges. And probate court is their last chance to get revenge for ‘Mom loving you more.’ The crazy thing is how many clients would rather be right than be happy. It’s almost always smartest to settle. It costs both sides more to fight it out than to make a deal. Yet people still choose to spend all their time and money, just to get a judgment from the court that will prove they’re right one final time.

Courtesy of Humans of New York

A second wind

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I was the stereotypical kid from Harlem. I was a good student until 4th grade, but then I started going down the wrong path. My friends started making fun of me for raising my hand too much, so I stopped participating in class. Instead of playing on the playground, I followed my friends and went to steal bikes. I had no direction by the time I finished high school. So I decided joined the army. To my surprise, I placed in the 96th percentile on the entrance exam. My superior officer recommended that I stay late and study for advancement, so I did. Then he recommended that I go to City College, so I did. I just finished twenty years of service, and now I want to go to law school. Sometimes I look back and think that the army took the young years of my life. But I was going nowhere. If the army hadn’t taken my youth, I wouldn’t have these older years.

Courtesy of: Humans of New York

 

I grew up in a blue collar family

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“I grew up in a blue collar family. My dad was a printer—a union guy. So he didn’t have the financial resources to pay for my college or law school. I had to make my own way. I flipped burgers during the week for frat guys at the Student Union. I covered my tuition by spending my summers in the Marine reserves. I’m trying to make sure my kids don’t have to do all that stuff. I want them to be able to backpack through Europe, or volunteer in Central America. Meaningful stuff. If my son wants to be a poet or an Indian chief, that’s fine with me. I work 60 or 70 hours a week to make sure they can do whatever they want. I miss a lot of stuff, though. I have to hear about the soccer games second hand. That’s why the snowstorm this weekend was so great. No school commitments. No work commitments. We didn’t do much at all. Just sat around and read the newspaper or watched TV. There was just a lot of—talk.”

Courtesy of: Humans of New York

APRIL FOOL! There are some things bosses just shouldn’t joke about.

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This time last year a big New York-based law firm told employees it was instituting a new policy eliminating work emails during night and weekend hours… and then revealed the whole thing was a joke.

Now there are some things bosses really shouldn’t joke about.

To see what happened next – the whole story is here: http://time.com/money/3768766/april-fools-joke-work-emails-law-firm/

Both my parents were in prison while I was growing up.

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“Both my parents were in prison while I was growing up. I’ve been in prison for 90% of my life, mainly for drugs. When I got out in 2014, there was this old lawyer in the Bronx who took an interest in me. His name was Ramon Jimenez. He’s kind of like a community activist. I don’t know why he cared so much, but he sat down with me and tried to map out my life. When I tried to start selling drugs again, Ramon came out and stood on the corner with me for three days straight. Here’s this 72 year old dude, shadowing me wherever I go, screaming at anyone who tried to walk up to me: ‘I’m calling the cops!’ I was so mad. But after three days I gave it up.”

Courtesy of: Humans of New York