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.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A handful of e-mails about the entry below, about going to law school if you're not sure you want to be a lawyer. I've ended up deciding not to have the piece run in the Harvard paper; I think it works as a weblog entry though. Just because it's content, I figure I'll share the other version I wrote, that I've also decided to scrap. It's very different, and has a different point completely I guess. And is mostly just trying to be funny and missing more than it hits. But here it is:

There could be a great newspaper column from a recent grad about whether the first week of work at a law firm after graduation looks anything like the summer associate experience, or whether as soon as they know you’re there and not going anywhere, everyone peels off their happy faces and big green monsters come out and devour you whole. This is not that column.

Of all the recent graduates who could be writing a column for the career issue, I’m not a very good choice. I did take the bar exam. But that was due to an administrative error on the part of the left side of my brain.

I think people worry that if they invest three years of their lives in law school, and then don’t practice law (at least not right away), they’re somehow wasting their education.

This column seeks to eliminate that concern and assure you that even if you don’t become a lawyer, you will find once you graduate that law school – despite your career choice – will not have spared you. You, like the rest of your classmates, will still have become a profoundly irritating person.

See, even if we don’t learn any law in law school, I’m finding that my legal education has definitely served to change the way I think. Some examples:

1. As I write this column, I’m sitting in my apartment. Yesterday, my landlord began to renovate the apartment directly above this one. At seven in the morning, my roommate and I started hearing the sounds of construction. The were stripping wood from the walls, dropping heavy things on the floor, etc. Dust and debris started coming through the vents. My roommate, who did not go to law school, and will serve well as the straw man throughout the rest of this column, had the following reaction: “Oh, it’s noisy and dirty. That sucks. Oh well. Nothing we can do.” My reaction, on the other hand, was: “Oh, it’s noisy and dirty. I wonder what the New York warranty of habitability says, and whether we can get a rent abatement.” See, profoundly irritating.

2. I went to the farmer’s market last week to buy some fruit. There was a sign next to the peaches that said, “Guaranteed sweet.” I bought one. It was not sweet. My roommate, for purposes of this column even if not in reality, tried it too. His reaction: “Oh, it’s not sweet. That sucks. Oh well. Nothing we can do.” My reaction: “I wonder if that was really a guarantee, or mere puff.” See, once again, profoundly irritating.

3. As my roommate and I returned from the farmer’s market, we passed an old man dying in the street. My roommate’s reaction: “Gosh. There’s a man dying in the street. I should go help him.” My reaction: “Man dying in the street. That sucks. Oh well. Nothing I’m legally obligated to do.” If this had really happened, again, it would be profoundly irritating.

But not, as I try to fudge an artful transition to the next part of my column, as profoundly irritating as the people who insist that spending three years at law school and then not practicing law somehow makes me insane. Or, to use an example I rejected in the first draft of the column but am now adding back in to pad the word count, it would be like [BAD ANALOGY WARNING #1] getting a sex change operation and then deciding to be celibate. Why go through all that trouble and not use it? But [BAD ANALOGY WARNING #2] most of us took driver’s ed in high school, and most of us have no plans to become a chauffeur. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it.

Before you go to law school, everyone says that a law degree opens doors, and you can do anything with a law degree. I remember. They said that. Then you go to law school and no one says that anymore. I’m saying it. You can do all sorts of things with a law degree. You can frame it, you can make a paper airplane, you can fold it, you can roll it up....

I mean, yes, there are lots of great jobs that involve practicing law, and the law degree is pretty helpful for most of those. But if you’re worried about wasting your education if you don’t go practice law, and that’s the only thing that’s making you take a legal job, don’t fret. Landlords are seeing their breaches of the warranty of habitability frustrated every day thanks to legally-educated non-lawyers like you and me. The world needs us. Stay strong.