Law in Contemporary Society

Should I return to Law School in the Fall?

The Allure of a Predictable Path

I decided to go to law school in my junior year of college, recognizing that it would enable me to continue adhering to a structured and predictable path, where I could continue checking boxes: Get a high 170s LSAT score, keep my GPA above a 3.9, and I would be virtually guaranteed admission into at least one top law school given their heavily statistics based admissions approach. From there, so long as I didn’t bomb my OCI interviews, I would be almost certain to secure a coveted “biglaw” job, earning a starting salary of $240,000, where I could pay off my law school and undergraduate loans easily, ensure my parents a comfortable retirement, and, after about 2 decades of grinding away as a billing monkey, meticulously tracking every five minute increment of my miserable existence, retire with enough savings to sustain a middle class standard of living for the rest of my life, watching as much football as I wanted and spending quality time with friends and family. Given that I'm naturally stronger in the areas of reading and verbal reasoning than spatial or quantitative reasoning, law was probably my best bet at achieving this early retirement and standard of living.

The choice fit my risk averse nature well: Opting for this path, even though it meant lowering the ceiling for what I could achieve, provided a high floor of security. I could reasonably assure myself that even in the worst-case scenario—working at a less prestigious biglaw firm with slightly less job security in recessions—I would still be in a favorable position. I wouldn't have to worry much about networking or finding clients. I could mindlessly grind out whatever work was put in front of me for 20 years and then retire. I would never be out in the cold, relying solely on myself.

Abandoning The Path of Least Resistance

Although I always harbored doubts in the back of my mind, it became increasingly clear throughout my first year of law school that my initial reasons for attending were insufficient to justify returning next fall. In one of my favorite songs, Rush’s “A Farewell to Kings”, a particular line always resonated with me: “We turned our gaze from the castles in the distance, eyes cast down on the path of least resistance.” I was doing exactly this with my career path. A life of avoidance of resistance may be one of comfort, but it is also one of stagnation. I already regret most of my decisions to turn down a challenge and take the easy way out. I do not want one of the biggest decisions I will make–what sort of a career I pursue–to be another one. Spending 20 years giving up extraordinary amounts of time to serve the interests of an entity I don’t care about, just to free myself from any further career responsibilities as early as possible, does not seem like something I’ll be proud of as I grow old.

Another reason I am questioning whether to stay in law school is the realization that I may lack the inherent aptitude necessary to thrive in law. Observing some of my classmates’ incredible abilities to think on their feet in tricky cold calls and receiving grades right around the class median despite exhaustive study efforts made me question whether I had the innate talent to excel in this field.

Why I Will Return

I believe it is still the correct choice to return to law school in the fall. Unlike some fields, where only the 0.1% of individuals with exceptional natural talents can realistically aspire to a professional career (e.g. professional basketball), the legal profession offers a wider range of opportunities for success. It might be that I don’t reach the heights of the many classmates whom I perceive to be more gifted than myself, but I don’t need such natural talent to make a positive impact on the lives of many clients. Whatever my intellectual gifts may or may not be, what matters is whether I use them most optimally for myself and society. And I still believe the skills involved in a legal career align best with my strengths and weaknesses. My high neuroticism means I am always contemplating the ways in which everything can go wrong, acutely aware of all the weaknesses in my position–and therefore, how to best fix them. My overcompetitiveness ensures that when I genuinely care about something, I work obsessively to prevail over an opponent, and there is hardly a better channel for this than a job as a litigator where a high proportion of one’s projects can be framed in the context of victory or defeat.

While I ultimately still have to iron out many details in my intended career path as an employee benefits litigator, I know that, with the help of some of the best professors and brightest peers in the country, the path I will craft over the next two years will be far better than the one I had before.

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r10 - 02 Jun 2024 - 10:44:22 - AlexHeycke
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