Law in Contemporary Society

On (Not) Dropping Out of Law School

-- By MatheusEleuterioMirandaDias - 22 Apr 2024

I came to law school looking for certainty. A stable job, a good salary, and most of all, a way to resolve the post-undergrad limbo of “what the fuck am I going to do with my life?” When Eben asked, in class, whether we wanted to be “just a lawyer with a job” or to actually have a practice, I thought that just being a lawyer with a job didn’t sound so bad. Never mind that I didn’t know the first thing about having a practice or of being an advocate. Sure, I had been a paralegal at a large firm for a few years, but that just showed me that many lawyers are glorified paper-pushers.

I’ve come to law school for the wrong reasons. This much I have realized. Could there be, then, a more legitimate reason for my being here? Is there something more profound than creature comforts (international travel, expensive scented candles, fine dining) that should keep me here? (I will note that other non-luxury considerations played into my wanting to just be a lawyer with a job, e.g., providing for my mom in the future.)

Eben has said that those who should be in law school either love justice or hate injustice—or something along those lines. If I’m honest with myself, I don’t think that I love justice or hate injustice enough to earn $60,000 a year.

No: if I were to pursue a career without regard for money, I would get an MFA in Creative Writing, as a former professor once suggested. Getting published is a hit-or-miss kind of business, so I would likely need to find a relaxed 9-to-5 job that would give me time to write.

Or maybe journalism? I don’t fucking know. Which is part of the issue, and what landed me in law school in the first place. I’ve become the exemplification of the classic liberal-arts-to-law-school pipeline joke.

Of course, I could not pursue a career for money, and instead pursue what I find value and meaning in. And contrary to what I assumed in a previous version of this essay, perhaps I can pursue something in the law that I find value and meaning in.

There are two exceptions to my unwillingness to earn $60,000 a year: animal welfare or LGBTQ rights. I would be content being a lawyer and earning less than $60,000 for those two causes. But pursuing that would mean dropping out of law school anyway: public-interest positions are notorious for not sponsoring visas, so I would eventually return to Brazil, with a useless law degree.

Or I could risk it. I already have the funding for law school—which will see me graduate without any loans—so the only cost would be time. The rewards could be huge: doing something I care about. The risks are that I wouldn’t find a visa sponsor, and need to return to Brazil (or find another job that provides me with visa sponsorship—outside of big firms, this would likely be NGOs).

This discussion forces me to admit that the other major reason for my coming to law school is the possibility of emigrating to the United States, which has been my goal for almost a decade. But as I’m coming to realize, I am not willing to become a paper-pusher simply to live in this country. While getting deported (again!) would be bad, it would be worse to resign myself to corporate America.

The risks I’m facing stand in stark contrast to the risks I’ve seen students on campus face during the recent encampment and related protests. Seeing their resolve and willingness to put their very futures on the line—whether due to expulsion or being doxxed—to support a cause they believe in has motivated me to take some risks myself, even if not as compromising.

My practice here would not likely not involve my opening up my own shop: I’ve looked into the requirements and the visa situation is complicated. While I could open up a business as a nonresident alien, I’m not able to work for that business without a valid visa.

Would working for an already-established practice—with the goal of eventually opening up my own shop—risk placing me in a position of being “just a lawyer with a job”? I think that, as long as I keep the eye on the ball, i.e., my own practice, having attorneys I “report” to can be an important steppingstone to understanding how my own practice should function.

While the possibility of earning $60,000 worries me, I am comforted by what comes along with it: the ability to make the world a more just place. When I think about advocating for the rights of animals, I see great honor, accompanied by great responsibility: I would be the voice for those who are truly voiceless.

When looking at those two factors side by side, my “worry” about earning what the median U.S. household earns is… pathetic. While money is not to be ignored, I need not worry if I know I will live comfortably.

I see two enormous privileges in my future: (1) graduating debt-free and (2) working to make the lives of those who cannot advocate for themselves more livable.

As for next steps in making my practice a reality: reach out to the Public Interest Public Service ASAP to get more information on immigration factors, and research providers of legal services to animals and/or LGBT folks. I need to get some hands-on experience and to meet the type of lawyer I want to become.

It would be good to answer some question, rather than merely strewing question marks rhetorically about. What should keep you here, if anything? I think a stronger next draft would actually put some effort to work answering.

Because you do have answers. They appear not to matter as a result of arithmetic error. The $60k test appears to be based on the idea that certain practices are pursued through low-paid jobs, by which we mean ones that are at about the US median household income level. But that's not good math. The question is, what would a practice composed as you would compose one based around the work you want to do bring in? Would it be worth educating oneself at expense $x to make a practice that gives you the work you want that produces $y? That's what "Planning Your Practice" as a course is about. Law school should, in my view, teach people how to ask and analyze such questions.

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r3 - 17 May 2024 - 13:30:24 - MatheusEleuterioMirandaDias
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