Life as a Loser Law Grad
A Facebook acquaintance recently shared an article about social media. I know: You’re sick of reading about social media. But before you hit the back button, trust me. You might want to follow the writer’s advice. It goes against the grain. Shauna Niequist wants you to stop instagramming your perfect life.
Her article begins with this:
I keep having the same conversation over and over. It starts like this: ‘I gave up Facebook for Lent, and I realized I’m a lot happier without it.’ Or like this, ‘Pinterest makes me hate my house.’ Or like this: ‘I stopped following a friend on Instagram, and now that I don’t see nonstop snapshots of her perfect life, I like her better.’
Here’s the problem: Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram and all the other social media dreck exacerbates the pitch-black divide between what I thought my life would be like after law school, and how it has turned out so far. I’m simply not as big-time as I thought I would be as a law student.
Reality after Law School
When you’re going to go to law school, or actually in law school, life is very cool. People admire the hell out of you. You are an intelligent and admirable person. Even you admire you. Wow, law school. For me, this was when you could still smoke cigarettes in Minnesota restaurants. It was the end of finals, we’d just finished the first semester with Contracts and Civ Pro behind us, and we sat around a long table inside Billy’s on Grand, chain-smoking Camel Lights, drinking pitchers of Summit EPA from 11 a.m. to close, buzzed on nicotine, alcohol, and achievement.
Little did I know, a few years later, that I’d be told (third-hand) that working with me was like “spitting in the wind.” Honestly, this person may have had psychological issues, but hearing something like that does make you wonder. On my very first cold-call as an inside sales rep (glorified telemarketing, as a colleague once put it) I took too long to answer a basic question and was told it wasn’t rocket science before getting hung up on. And then, of course, I’ve had opposing counsel tell me I am “disingenuous” (I looked it up in the dictionary), which means I am insincere, unaware, or uninformed. Probably all three.
And then there’s the life you have outside of work.
I live in a tiny house. My wife and I have made improvements to it in the time we’ve lived here, but it’s still effing tiny. We bought at the height of the housing bubble in 2007, one of those bend-you-over, no-money-down, first (and second) mortgages that only an idiot young law grad like myself would get into (because law school taught me everything there is to know about mortgages and home-buying, if not how not to be stupid). “Don’t worry,” they said, referring to the interest rate on the second mortgage, “you’ll be out of this your starter home in five years.” We’ve been underwater the entire time I’ve domiciled my thirty-something ass here. Oh, and I drive used Hondas, which is fine, but I’m a lawyer, damn it.
Meanwhile, I log on and treat myself to the “sparkly milestones” of everyone else’s perfect life, as Niequist puts it in her article, the filtered Instagram pictures of a good friend who never went to law school, now a partner in a successful marketing firm, on another trip overseas. I see the Facebook status update of a defense lawyer taking names in court (and, later, pictures of the boat purchased with the taking-names fund). I see this stuff over and over and over again and still I come back for more. Still I get clobbered over the head with the lives of my friends and acquaintances. They seem to have done so much better than I have.
[I]t only takes one friend at the Eiffel Tower to make you feel like a loser.
Niequist is right.
But then I remember that all of it is B.S.
Reality after Law School (Revisited)
Would we know what our way is if we could have it? Would getting our way solve anything at all, or would it only make more of a mess of our lives were it possible to realize our wishes on impulse out of our so frequently mindless states of mind?
If I had known how things would turn out, would I not have gone to law school?
Because I work primarily as a copywriter and creative professional, does that mean I couldn’t hack it in the traditional role of a lawyer?
The answer to both of these questions is no.
The truth is, I don’t know what my life would be like if I could realize my wishes on impulse, if I could brush away the “failures” above—the spitting in the wind and the cold call and the exchange with opposing counsel—with the flick of my wrist. I’m not sure it would be worse, but I don’t think it would be any better. Because while I may have only practiced law “on the side,” and while I am “just” a copywriter now, it’s a job for which I am reasonably suited. I’d rather pursue a career in writing and creative work—the stuff I love—than spin my wheels and feel bad about myself because everyone else seems to be doing so much better.
I would urge law students and recent law grads to look deeper into the idea of an “alternative career,” and whether or not you should pursue one—and feel perfectly good about your life no matter where you’ve gone so far—given the lawyer bubble we find ourselves in.
Remember that quote above about the Eiffel Tower?
Here’s the part I left out:
When you’re waiting for your coffee to brew [and checking your newsfeed], the majority of your friends probably aren’t doing anything any more special.
When I go to bed at night, after having read stories to my son, and fed bottles to the twins, and put my feet up with a novel in my tiny living room, and snuggled up with my wife on our tiny couch, I know I’m not really a loser law grad, even though that’s what the rest of the world would have me believe.