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21 November 2006

The best-laid plans?

Law school, for me, happened kind of by accident. There were several reasons I didn’t want to keep teaching where I was teaching, and I was looking for other options- maybe different teaching jobs, maybe something in nonprofits, maybe grad school. I’d like to tell you that I did a lot of research and some soul searching and decided law was really the right career for me, but it was nothing so well-thought-out. The fact was, three of my four roommates were taking the LSAT and with all the study books lying around I thought “huh- I wonder what that’s all about. I’m a pretty good test taker and I bet I could use some of these books and not have to buy my own. Yeah! Free books!”

Once I started thinking about it seriously, law school seemed like a pretty good idea, so I registered for the LSAT about 23 minutes before the deadline (which is how I came to take the LSAT in Sacramento, because the Bay Area slots were all filled. Sacramento. Where I knew no one. Except my ex-boyfriend’s mother, in whose house I spent the night because I was too poor/cheap to spring for a hotel room. Because staying in your ex-boyfriend’s mother’s house and having her cook for you and making idle chit chat about what you’ve been up to since that nuclear break up you had with her son? That’s not awkward.)

Now, after two and a half years in law school, I feel really really lucky that such an imprecise process of career selection has worked out so well- I like law school (blasphemy!) I’m excited to practice law, and I’ve found just the right combination of public interest work and intellectual snottiness- in short, it’s a perfect fit. What luck!

I had the odd experience of being on a conference call yesterday with a bunch of teachers who are considering law school and wanted to get some more information. I was expecting people like me, with questions like those I had at this time three years ago. Like this:

“hm, I’m thinking about leaving the classroom and considering some stuff can you tell me more about this whole “law school” gig because I really don’t know thing one about it.”

Instead, there were a lot of questions like this:

“I took the LSAT as a junior in college and planned to go straight into law school but then the opportunity to do TFA came up and it was too good to miss and now I’m concerned that with the upward trend in application rates my once-good score is no longer going to look so impressive so do I need to retake the LSAT?”


“I was looking recently on one of the law school application message boards and people were comparing GPAs and saying what GPAs had gotten into what schools and my GPA is .1 below what is the average at your school, do you think I should file an addendum to my application to explain why my grades are slightly lower?”

Honest to god, it’s a good thing I didn’t encounter any of these people when I was considering whether to apply to law school or I’m pretty sure I never would have applied. And if I’d found these crazy law school application message boards? I might have just retired to my bed and started sucking my thumb.

My gut instinct was to laugh and mock these people whose lives are planned out to the very minute, who have had the “TFA then law school then federal clerkship then partner track at a law firm” plan since they were fifteen. Because when I was fifteen I wanted to be a translator for the UN. Or an architect. Or a candy bar taster. Definitely not a lawyer. And for me, the process of trial and error, doing whatever seemed right at the time and then making the next step when the time felt right, has been great. But I don’t want to sit in judgment of people who have more self-awareness than I do and have just known, the way you know some things, that they want to be lawyers. Is it possible to just know this from the time you’re a kid? Or are these people all going to be the total numbskulls that make law school, even for a law-school-lover like me, a total pain in the ass sometimes? My money’s on the latter.


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