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.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

This is potentially a piece for the Harvard Law School paper. They've asked me to contribute a piece to their Career Guide next week. I don't know exactly what I'm trying to do with this piece -- there was a previous draft which was very different -- but as I was writing it, in a way it felt more like a weblog post than anything else. I've gotten a fair number of e-mails the past couple of weeks from people who aren't sure if law school is right for them. This may be the sum result of the answers I've given in those e-mails. I'm sharing this draft, not to scoop the paper, but because I think it's relevant here, regardless of whether or not it runs. Any feedback on the piece itself would be cool, actually, before 4:00 tomorrow. Besides that, honestly, I think I'm trying to say something with this piece that's important and some fraction of 1Ls ought to have someone reminding them. There are people who, on purpose or by accident, end up making you feel guilty for even being at law school if it happens to be that you're not totally committed to the idea of being a lawyer, and that maybe law school makes sense in your head for a different reason than it makes sense for others. Anyway, the draft, edited somewhat to make sense on the weblog:

Before you go to law school, everyone says that a law degree opens doors, and you can do anything with a law degree. Then you go to law school and no one says that anymore.


Of all the recent graduates who could be writing a column for a career issue, I’m a terrible choice. I’m not working for a firm, I’m not clerking for a judge, and I’m also not working for a firm. If there are other things related to the law that people do after they graduate, no one told me about them. I did take the bar exam.


As a 1L, I would have loved to read a column from a recent graduate that said that even if you know right now that you probably don’t want to be a lawyer, you can still enjoy law school. This is that column.

If you want to work for a law firm, you’re probably not my target audience. This column will sound stupid to you anyway. You’re thinking, “Why in the world would anyone decide to spend three years of their lives and a hundred and fifty thousand dollars on an education to become something they don’t even know if they want to be?” It’s a fair question. I know that question well. Here’s the answer:

We’re scared out of our minds.

Law school is an easy choice. You’re good at school. You like school. But you have no idea what you really want to spend your life doing. Or, even worse, you know exactly what you want to spend your life doing, but you have no idea how you end up in that position. You have no idea how you become a sports agent or a movie producer or an inventor or a novelist. Or you think you might have an idea of how people do those things, but you know you’re just one of a hundred thousand people chasing that same dream and only three will make it and how do you make sure it’s you, and so maybe you should give it up, realize not everyone gets to be what they dream of, and find a safe career to fall back on. Or at least give yourself the option of falling back, because maybe if you have that law degree in your back pocket, it’ll give you the courage you need to take that risk and go follow your real passion.

Everyone who says “I don’t know why I decided to go to law school” knows exactly why they decided to go to law school. “I didn’t want to end up regretting that I didn’t.”

Okay, you’re there. Now what?

First of all, recognize that most people around you want to be lawyers, and good for them. Lots of cool things lawyers can do. Very exciting. Make friends with them. It’s not their fault they want to be lawyers. They can be nice people anyway.

Second of all, recognize that everything in law school is designed for these people. It’s like being left-handed in a right-handed world. No, that’s too easy. It’s like writing with your ear in a right-handed world. And everyone’s going to try and make you switch, because it’s so much easier to be right-handed. It’s really easy to sign up for on-campus interviews with law firms, go work for one, not hate it, make a lot of money, and decide that’s the smart thing to do.

Maybe it is. But maybe it’s not. Maybe the smart thing to do is the plan you came in with. Get that backup plan and then go try and make the real dream come true. Maybe you’ll succeed, maybe you’ll fail, but at least you’ll know.

You deserve to be here whether or not you’ve planned out the rest of your life.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Take this for whatever it’s worth, but I offer it in good faith.

How to enjoy law school, according to me:

1. Take classes from the best professors you can find, no matter what they’re teaching. (And get to know them. My one regret is that I didn’t try harder to do that.)

2. Join every extracurricular activity that sounds interesting to you, and even some that don’t. Lots of smart people do lots of cool things that don’t involve casebooks.

3. Don’t worry about it. You’re smart, you’ll do fine, you’ll graduate. Don’t stress.

And good luck. Especially if you don’t know why you’re there.