Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

As all-request Monday rolls into Tuesday... "i think it would be interesting for you to write about how you came to the decision to go to law school.. why you picked harvard (i mean, was it a total "duh" decision for you, or did you think about it, weigh other options?).. and, like what you were doing in texas doing a computer job, what did you get out of that and did it have anything to do with your decision to do law school?"

Okay, I think I've tackled parts of this question before, but I'm not sure ever all at once, and probably the answer looks different from the perspective of a 3L than whenever previously I've touched on any of this.

I'll take the second part first, and catch up on some quick background that some readers may or may not recall from past posts. [EDIT: this ain't so quick. Sorry. I don't know if I've shared this all before, although I feel like I probably have, in bits and pieces; if you know all this, I'm sorry for the repeat. But it's hard to jump right into the question without the background, for anyone who doesn't know and wants to. It all feels a bit too self-indulgent to write though, but I'm just trying to answer the question.] Junior year at Princeton I hadn't really thought about what I wanted to do with myself after college, and a friend of mine was taking the LSAT, so I figured I may as well too, and so I took the LSAT without really thinking too much about it, and did well enough that I knew if I wanted to go to law school, I'd probably have some nice options.

Senior year, I did what everyone else at Princeton does and applied for a bunch of consulting jobs, still having no idea what I wanted to do. But, on a whim, and mostly just to get some free garbage -- Koosh yo-yos, t-shirts, stress balls, that kind of stuff -- I went to the science and technology career fair, and there was a software company in Texas that was giving away t-shirts, but you had to give them a resume. So I gave them a resume, I got a t-shirt, and then they called me wanting to know if I wanted to interview. I was a political science major (the Woodrow Wilson School -- it's an undergrad major at Princeton basically equivalent to poli sci / public policy elsewhere), had taken zero computer classes, had no idea what this particular software company -- or any software company -- did. But I figured it would be good practice interviewing.

So it turned out they were looking for people for their business development / marketing department, and wanted creative people who could help them come up with new marketing ideas, write brochures, do web page stuff, organize conferences, and, frankly, it all sounded pretty neat, and they were a young, fast-growing company, with a reputation for hiring lots of bright young people and being a fun place to work. I got flown down to Texas for a round of interviews, liked the people I met, and got sold on the job being a cool, creative opportunity, got sold on their 3-month training program where I'd get to know the other hundred people who would be starting when I was, recent college graduates from a whole bunch of top schools, many of them computer programmers, but a couple dozen of us in marketing and business development. And it felt, in some ways, like a very college-like experience.

Throughout the process of interviewing with them, I interviewed with a bunch of management consulting firms, and didn't really get a feeling like that was something I wanted to do, and, in any event, none of them gave me a callback, perhaps because they could tell it wasn't what I wanted to do. Or I just wasn't what they were looking for. I applied to law school, just in case. I applied to Harvard, Yale, and UVA. I didn't want to go to school in New York, because I felt (and still feel, in a lot of ways) like being a student in New York would be less fun than somewhere with a real campus, and since my family's New York, I can always be in New York, and so it wasn't really a draw like for some people. Yale said no, Harvard and UVA said yes. But I didn't know why I would be going to law school, and the software job sounded cool, so I turned down law school (I turned them down instead of deferring -- which was probably a little dumb. But I didn't know if I'd want to go in one year, in two years, in five years, or never, and I figured that if I deferred and then said no, they'd be mad and wouldn't ever accept me again. I have no idea if that's a dumb assumption or not. But I'm not sure, in retrospect, it was smart not to defer, although it worked out fine).

And so I went to Texas. And spent 18 months writing product brochures and web page copy and coming up with some marketing ideas, and helping them do stuff in association with a big e-business conference, and learned a good deal about business software, marketing, what marketing people do, what I like to do, what I don't like to do, and was generally pretty frustrated with my life, but it wasn't the job's fault. Looking back, I will say that it was the best job I could have had at a software company, and the work itself was actually pretty engaging and pretty cool. I worked for some great people, I got to do some interesting things. But I hadn't realized how hard it would be to start a new life somewhere, knowing no one, and figure out a way to feel fulfilled and happy all the way in Texas. I made a couple of good friends, a handful of people I still keep in touch with. And I was able to take 8 weeks of vacation in 18 months, so I got to come home a fair bit. But I was frustrated because it was a little bit lonely and boring at times, and I don't know that I was prepared for that. And, probably the bigger issue, I figured out that even though the job was relatively cool, marketing probably wasn't what I wanted to be doing long-term, and definitely not software marketing. I wanted to be doing more creative things than that. So on the side I found myself writing some television spec scripts, and investigating how to get a job in advertising or in publishing. I answered an ad in a newspaper and joined a sketch comedy group, which ended up using some of my material in a show we never performed. But it was an activity. I took improv comedy classes and got invited to join their "rookie" troupe, and met a few cool people, although actually performing improv comedy I didn't find was my great calling in life. :) It was hard to think about being in Texas when the kinds of things I wanted to do were either in NY or LA. Mostly, I just didn't know what the job was leading me toward, and I felt like I was wasting my time, and watching the days click by.

My boss knew what I was feeling, and tried to give me work that was most in line with what I wanted to do, and he was great about it. The company was having trouble business-wise, and did a lot of layoffs, so a bunch of the people I'd become friends with left, and it became slow a lot of days. I was getting in at 10, leaving work at 4, and there wasn't much to do. So that didn't help things. After about a year there, in the fall of 2001, I started thinking about law school again, and since the admissions office isn't going to take back my admission now, I can be honest and say that it was really going to be more an escape than anything else. Not entirely, but the idea of having three more years of school, and three more years of time to figure out what I wanted to do, and maybe figure out how better to get there, plus coming out with a degree that was going to have a lot of value, whether or not I practiced law, was all very appealing to me. And as I started thinking about that, I also thought about how I wanted to spend the year before going back to school, and realized it wasn't in Texas. So I set up some informational interviews with people in NY that my boss knew, or that I got in touch with through the Princeton alumni site, stuff in advertising or magazines, just to see what possibilities there were. I was scheduled to take a week off from work, fly home on the afternoon of September 11 for some interviews, and then fly back to work a week later. Obviously that didn't happen.

After 9/11, any feelings that I had about wanting to be closer to home were only made stronger, although really in some ways I could just use that as an excuse for the feelings I was feeling beforehand anyway. I sent in the law school applications and came back home in January to spend the 8 months before law school just seeing what was out there writing-wise and seeing if I could get any traction before law school. I contemplated doing the 2-year NYU Musical Theater Writing graduate program instead of law school, but didn't think it would make me any more prepared to write than I already was, and that the money and time would be better spent in law school. I answered some ads in Backstage and ended up writing a couple of scripts for things that never got anywhere, did some freelance work for a few people, did some SAT tutoring. Nothing of any real consequence.

I chose Harvard because I figured that if I was going to potentially use the degree in non-law ways, the Harvard name would be worth a lot more than the UVA name, and since I got into Harvard, it would be dumb to go to UVA. Not the best reasons. I visited UVA. They had an April Fools edition of their newspaper, and on the back were the Top Ten Lies UVA Students Tell Each Other. Number one was, "I got into Harvard." I won't say that sealed the deal, but it did stick in my head. I didn't know whether I was going to fall in love with the law or not. I wanted to give myself the best opportunity I could give myself, I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to meet other smart people. UVA would have been great, I'm sure. Another thing that influenced the decision -- and this is stupid, I know -- is that I came across the website of a struggling stand-up comic who'd gone to UVA law school, and didn't want to be a struggling stand-up comic, and was afraid that would end up being me.

These are bad reasons to choose a law school. I'm sorry. You read all these paragraphs and all you get is... "He based his decision on a joke top ten list. Wow." Well, that's more about why I went to law school than anyone would ever need to know. I need to counter-balance with something funny soon, I guess. More all-request day requests on their way.