Wednesday, May 27, 2009

9 Reasons For Leaning Toward Law

For Reason #1, see the previous post. For most of what I'm talking about in this post, go check out Cee's post over at Starting To Melt about career direction, professional motivation and the passion that drives us.

Then check out the comments, because half of this post is contained in her comment section. ease your clicking burden, I guess I can reprint it here:

"Your post, and the comments contained here, [are] a big, big part of what makes the idea of being a lawyer appealing to me (OH...I just posted Reason #2! Rock on!) It's people like you that make people [like] me LIKE people like you. And want to be one of you. And work shoulder-to-shoulder with you. You're smart, dedicated, articulate, ambitious, educated, focused, determined, [disciplined,] you understand the whole working mommy thing, along with all the other commenters here...why wouldn't I want to be a part of that? Why do people ask me why I want that? Better to ask: Why would I NOT want that? Why would I NOT want to be a member of that team?"

So! There you have it. Reason #2: Because I Want To Be One Of Those Cool Chicks!

I want to be among smart, focused, educated, intelligent, disciplined, ambitious, articulate wordsmiths. I want to be respected by them, to work with them, to go to gatherings with them and I want to argue against them and I want to be influenced by them and inspired by them and I want it to matter to my bottom line. I don't want to be just a groupie.

Reason #3: I want wordsmithing and analysis to be a part of my paycheck.

And then here comes Reason #4 (yes, I totally hogged up her comment section, essentially writing this post...sorry Cee!):

"...You know where you say "Last year...I loved the crazy complication of litigating construction defect claims" and the other stuff you got to do/learn/try? Now, after [gaining] some experience and the confidence that comes with it, you find yourself thinking, "So what?"...well...

Yeah. Exactly."

Reason #4: I don't want building a test server to be a part of my paycheck anymore. (That totally gets the big "So what??!!!") Although that is really more of a reason to leave my current job, and not so much a reason to go into the legal profession in particular.

And while I'm on a roll, here's Reason #5 (but my current job does this already, sorta...this is more along the lines of "Why did I leave my Ph.D. program?"...well, because...see below):

I want to have the problem presented to me, I don't want to have to be totally creative and frame the question out of thin air, as academicians must do. I want the question to come to me already fleshed out, with an accompanying set of applicable rules and precedent just waiting to be matched to it. And I will be the match-maker. Or that is part of what I suppose I might be able to do as an attorney.

Reason #6: Intimately Knowing (and personally possessing some agency within) The System

I want to know more about The System, things like Civil Procedure, Estates and Trusts. I want to be INFORMED, to feel like a true grown-up who understands how things work. This knowing-the-system thing was actually one of the reasons Obama briefly mentions for his motivation for going to law school in Dreams From My Father.

Reason #7: Working With People

I want to have to talk to people as part of my paycheck. Yeah, go ahead and laughingly answer "Oh, poor naive say that NOW..." But really...I want more face time with people, either with clients (meh...not a LOT...clients are clients are clients...I already provide a service...I know what clients are like...) or with other lawyers. Ideally, I'd like to work on a team. But I realize that is not very likely to happen.

Reason #8: Flexibility, Professional Options

Do y'all see what Cee is proposing? She can go in so many different directions professionally! I guess I could sorta do that in IT, too, if I loved, loved, loved the work. I could voluntarily help people with their computer problems, I guess. Well, HA! That's a laugh. Just ask my mother. Her printer stopped working, and the only way she got any help was, Leo took pity on her. Sorry, Mom. Unless you want to pay me, oh...$200/hour...then MAYBE I'll drag myself over to your house to look at a stupid printer problem. Of course, there's an hour's charge, minimum, even if it only takes me ten minutes to fix it. Why? Because I so don't want to do this anymore! And don't get me started on your complete inability to grasp the concept of a file system.

Where was I?

Reason #9: The Benefit Of The Doubt/Recognition/Respect

If you're an attorney, people assume a lot about you. They assume that you are literate, for instance. (They often assume you are an asshole, but I'm one of the many converts who has learned that that's not always so and I'll be happy to continue showing people the fallacy of that belief if I were to join the profession.) They assume you are smart. They attribute to you all kinds of abilities and aptitudes that might just as well apply to any member of the citizenry. Yet other non-lawyer citizens must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt their own astuteness. I guess this bugs me. I feel like, because I tell people I'm in IT, they don't see me as a possible wordsmith. For once (okay, maybe two or three times?), I would LOVE to see how people react to you when you say the magic words, "I'm an attorney" or "I'm a lawyer" instead of "I'm a computer network engineer".

Seriously...what is that like, saying those words? And which one is your preferred phrase? And why?

Okay, that's all for now. Feel free to poke and prod me into providing a more coherent defense of my desire to switch from IT to law. I'm highly doubting this really answers why. Did it?

Should I duck and cover now? Am I going to get blasted?


A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Err, as for point #9, there's no instant respect, that I can assure you. It's more like instant disdain and doctors dislike you instantly.

The law is not as concrete as you might think . . . if you want to have some fun, rent Body Heat and ponder the rule against perpetuities.

CM said...

Great post, and very valid reasons.
(Although I agree somewhat about #9... people used to think I must be smart and interesting as an engineer, but say you're a lawyer and watch their nose wrinkle. Still, I think this is all about presenting what you do in a positive way, and the best way to do that convincingly is if you're happy about what you do.)

Cee said...

Sounds like you are totally in it for the right reasons and it sounds like you totally know what you are getting yourself into. I COMPLETELY understand about wanting to know the system- that was one of my reasons for going to law school too. I hated the fact that the whole legal system seemed like such a mystery to me- I had to unlock it and law school was the logical step.

I feel like becoming a lawyer is so empowering in that you have the power to drastically affect the people around you. It's such a huge responsibility and I feel like we take that responsibility so lightly at law firms. I want to do that responsibility justice by actually helping people who need it. I mean think about how lucky we are to have the opportunity to study law and learn about our rights. We have the ability to do so much good- but a lot of people (me) fall into the trap of working for the big paycheck instead.

great post!

Trannyhead said...

I personally think being a lawyer sucks and I wouldn't recommend it to anybody.

Reason #1: Crippling student debt. My husband and I are now renting a place (after we sold our last place) because we want to figure out a way to pay down our debt before we buy anything again. You won't get a job where you make enough to pay the loans off unless you sell your soul to work at a really big firm for 20 hours a day and are burnt out within 2 years.

Reason #2: Law school sucks. The people there are the kind who had their asses kicked in high school. Repeatedly. Except that they all think they're WAY cool now that they're lawyers. Now they really deserve an ass kicking.

Reason #3: If you graduate and take on the crippling debt, you have to find a job that, chances are, will suck because you'll have a billable requirement and if you fail to meet it, you'll be canned even though the partner is the one responsible for bringing in your work. That is, if the partner has nothing for you, you'll be canned and it won't be your fault. I'm telling you, I've seen it.

Reason #4: I think a lot of those idealistic lawyers out there who think they're making a difference are NEW lawyers who haven't yet experienced what it really means to do the daily grind. I worked in law firms (various positions) for 6 years before going to law school. I've seen plenty and I will never do it again. I plan on public sector work in the future.

In conclusion - don't do it. Really.

gudnuff said...

Due to an editing glitch, I'm re-posting my response to Tranny's commnet:

All good and valid points, Tranny. Most of which are why I'm still just yapping about this but still keep my ass firmly planted in my office chair. You argue against working for a firm, basically (to pay off the crippling debt). What firm is going to hire some middle-aged lady with no experience? Puhlease. I have no intention nor desire nor expectation of working for a firm, and no firm would take me on even if I did. I posted this to finally answer the "Why Law?" question that people have asked me, repeatedly. I've been dodging it ever since I started this blog! The planets aligned, hell froze over, pigs started flying and suddenly I found myself doing two things that I've put off for months: cleaning out the trashpit that is my car, and answering the "Why Law" question on my blog. It's been a big week for me!

gudnuff said...

"commnet"...*snort*...who edits the editor?

Hyphen Mama said...

OH, I totally LOVE Tranny's comment.

I just deleted the rest of my comment, because it didn't matter.

You do what you feel is right for you.

Trannyhead said...

Ok, just one more thought - if you're NOT going to work for a firm, how do you plan on paying off the crippling debt? Not to rain on the parade, just ... well ... trying to prevent another poor schmuck from heading to a miserable 3 years and then an agonizing study for the bar. And then a life of poverty.

Law Ingenue said...

I think Tranny and Cee both make good points. Going into the law can be very empowering but it can also leave you with crippling debt.

As for the debt though, there are options.

I have a 60% scholarship, which helps with the debt problem. I still have to take out loans, but they aren't as much.

There are also such options as working for a non-profit for loan forgiveness. Working for the government also qualifies. As does working for a prosecutor or defender's office as there are special loan repayment plans for those types of jobs.

There's also the income-base repayment plans which go into effect in July of this year where you don't have to pay back more than 15% of your disposible income (income - poverty level = disposable income).

I spoke to our accountant who said if I file my taxes separate but married, with a low paying job to begin with after law school, I would not have to pay back as much each month with the income based repayment.

I haven't decided on which route to go on any of those and I have time since I won't graduate for at least another year. But it's nice to know there are options out there.

Make sure to research those options before you sign the dotted line for law school.

And yes, law school can suck. But not all the time. I am tired a lot and will be thrilled when I graduate. I don't have blinders on so I know that being middle-aged and trying to get a job will be hard. But so far, I don't regret going.

I've seen others who are older, have higher debt, and have more middle of the road grades than me make it. If you decide it's for you, as long as you've done your homework ahead of time, go and enjoy yourself.