Tuesday, April 18, 2006

It's almost That Time of Year

I am ready to give up.

My first final is in nine days and I am ready to pack it in. I’ve studied less this semester than ever before and it’s for lack of motivation. I have nothing to motivate me. Here’s the thing about law school: it’s a lot of work, but I did it all. I did everything right. Every single thing. And now, I’m two years into it and I have nothing to show for what I’ve done.

Coming into law school, I didn’t really want the Big Firm job, although I was definitely intrigued when I came thisclose to getting a job at one for the summer, so I’m okay with the fact that I won’t be earning six figures in my first year of law school, while many of my classmates earn that much but also work 12-14 hour days, plus anywhere from 1-8 hours every weekend day. That’s not the kind of life I wanted. Still, I was unhappy when I didn't get the Big Firm job I interviewed for, not coincidentally because it was in one of the few law areas that really interested me.

They told us over and over again that first year grades were key. They were the most important thing because they determined what job we’d get for the second summer. Well, that was true for some people, but not for me. I still don’t have a summer job. My first year grades weren’t too bad, but weren’t spectacular.

Still, after I got absolutely nothing as a result of those grades, I soldiered on. What I did, was this: I continued to do everything right. I’m not here to brag, but I am on Law Review (I wrote on, just like next year’s editor-in-chief); I am much, much closer to the top of my class than the bottom; and my grades have improved each semester, including a huge GPA and ranking bump last semester. But who cares?

With three days left in the semester, I have been on 10 interviews and failed to get a summer job. I have two almost-possibilities lined up, kinda, sorta, and if they come through, either one will be fine, but not the kind of thing that will lead to permanent post-law school employment. And frankly, that’s why I’m in law school: to get a better job than the one I had before law school. By ‘better’ I mean a job that interests me, that I doesn’t make me miserable every morning when I wake up and think about having to go to, that I like identifying with, that I care about for a reason other than the paycheck.

Meantime, law school for the past two years has been stressful, both for me and for my wife (for her because of the stress on me). This year – although this is more relevant to first semester than this semester – I did even more work than in my first year. Law review was a ton of work and it did not pay off in the slightest. Supposedly, it’s a high honor – maybe even the highest. I got no jobs or interviews because of it. My Big Paper that I spend seven months on didn’t get published. I didn’t win when I ran for two of the mid-level editor positions in the big election a few weeks ago. I think I wasted the time I put into it. Next year I’ll still be on it, but because if what I just wrote about my paper and the election, I will not have a single obligation to fulfill, so it goes on my resume, but that’s all it is --a line on my resume, and if I work in a law firm and have an online bio, it will be on there.

Ultimately, who cares if I did well in law school? People who I’ve talked to say I should be happy and proud of my accomplishments. But why? Does anyone who does even half the required work actually flunk out of (this particular) law school? Is it impressive that a year from now I’ll be graduating from law school? Um, not to me. Sure, going back to the first semester of last year, I was totally overwhelmed and couldn’t imagine actually succeeding and then graduating. But then I had exams and realized that I wasn’t going to flunk out, not by a long shot, so I became less impressed with myself. I mean why is it impressive if you get good grades and finish close to the top of your class? Law school is three years of your life. We’re all here to get good jobs, right?

(It doesn’t help that I have grown to absolutely hate this city. I can’t even begin to express the passionate hatred I have for Miami. Mostly it’s based on the cultural differences. I’ve written about this before on my blog, so I won’t get into the details. I’ll just add this disclaimer: I have not even the slightest inkling of any negative thoughts toward Cuban or Latino people. I just don’t want to live in a part of the country where I am a minority and time and time again find myself unable to communicate with someone because of the language barrier. At first it was an adventure. Now I’m sick of the adventure. I think I would like it a little more in other cities in South Florida, but since they’ve told us that hurricane season is going to continue being as bad as last year’s, that’s another huge reason why I intensely dislike living here).

So what to do? I am in dire need of motivation for the next three weeks of exams, not to mention all of next year. I’m not going to quit law school because I’ve come too far. I could never live with myself if I walked away, although I’ve spent plenty of time looking for jobs online that have nothing to do with law.

I still have a vague hope that maybe I can get a clerkship after graduation so grades are still somewhat important, at least for this semester. But it’s clear that if I want to stay here, which I don’t but will for other reasons, a clerkship is very unlikely. Everyone wants to come to Miami, including people who went to Harvard, Stanford and Yale. And many federal judges only hire clerks who have been practicing for a while. So it’s not inconceivable that I’d get an interview for an clerkship or even an actual clerkship, it’s unlikely to happen.

Another problem is that I have a hard time doing a half-assed job. I feel like based on all this, I shouldn’t put forth anywhere near as much effort because the effort doesn’t pay off. So why bother? I know plenty of people in my class who just do the minimum to skate by. I subscribe to the ‘to each his own’ theory so I’m not being critical of people who do this when I say that I could never do what they do. I just have a hard time not giving my all, even if that means added aggravation, stress and work.

So, back to desperately seeking motivation…


At 8:02 PM, Anonymous Grohl said...

Hang in there, dude. Hard work will pay off. It just takes a little longer to kick in sometimes.

At 8:39 PM, Blogger Tom Young said...

I hear ya. I graduated from the University of Florida College of Law in 1999. I had pretty good grades (top 1/4), but no law review, moot court, trial team, etc. I figured, why bother? To me, all of that stuff seemed like a big political game. In fact, even though I'm a pretty sociable guy, I chose to become a hermit in law school, preferring to meet as few people as possible. I just put my head down and went through it.

In the end, I ended up practicing for a firm for a grand total of 9 months after graduation. Even though I liked my firm job (land use and zoning), I quit after less than one year to strike out on my own and form a law related Internet blogging company. Proof positive that just because you go to law school doesn't mean you have to spend the rest of your life billing hours (which, by the way, sucks).

While owning and operating an entrepreneurial company is very stressful, it also is quite liberating. I'm my own boss. Have ten or so very talented people working for me. Go to work when I want to (if at all). Don't have to worry about impressing any partners. No associates to compete with. Wear flip flops to work.

Point being, just because you're struggling now with your career options, doesn't mean things won't take an unexpected positive turn. What I'm doing now is the last thing I ever thought I'd be doing after law school. It's also the best thing I can imagine. So, as grohl says, hang in there...

At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is gonna sound stupid, because it's hard to show sincerity with words - but I'm near the top of my class, in a top tier law school, with a paying job this summer ...

and I think I'd give it all up to have a caring wife to go home to. Laugh if you want.

At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a fellow 2L at UM...your words ring true on many levels (you don't even know!).

One of your best blog entries yet. Keep them coming.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger some guy said...

grohl, what's up? where did you settle on for next year?

At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Grohl said...

Barring a late surprise, it looks like I'll be a Buckeye. I sent the deposit last week.

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to share something that I overheard with in the Career Center (CC) the other day. One of the CC workers was on the phone to an employer that it seems was considering OCI. She told them that they should really consider coming to the first phase, as all the "good" students have jobs after that phase. Wow, so I guess in the eyes of the CC, if you're not one of the chosen ones in Phase One, you're pretty much screwed - probably because the CC has already sold these employers previously on no one "good" being available still after that initial phase. Maybe someone should send these people to a sales training class or something.

And yes, this is true. I'm not trying to make CC look bad because I don't have a job - I actually do have a job (not through CC).

I wonder if the administration has any idea that so many of their students are disenfranchised. This is just a case of the school working against the students as opposed to helping them out.

Maybe we need to add yet another Dean to the administration to figure this out....

At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow... Maybe you should just give up. Your comment that you got "absolutely nothing" as a result of your grades and nothing from being on law review shows how warped your expectations of law school are. Did you expect a magical fairy to offer you tons of money just because of your grades? Maybe you didn't get a job because of your negative attitude... or maybe your standards for employment are too high. Just because you didn't get a high profile job at a big firm doesn't mean you won't get a decent job after you graduate. It's not the end of the world.

You don't want to live in a part of the country where you are the minority? First of all, assuming you are white, you are not a minority in Miami. Second, what did you expect when you decided to come to Miami? Did you think Miami was still full of old white ladies? Third, maybe you should take this opportunity to realize how real minorties in this country feel. Fourth, if you really dislike Miami you shouldn't be interviewing for jobs down here. Pretty much all of jobs from OCI and the Career Center are based in Miami. You'd probably still be miserable if you got one of these jobs. Try looking outside of the law school and quit expecting UM to hand you a job. All the law school is supposed to do is give you the opportunity to get a great legal education (which it has). It is not an employment agency.

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the 8:32 Anon. Why is it that you feel Miami owes you anything? Did they promise you something? I think not. I am sure Miami would love to have every one of the students find employment via OCI, however they aren't Yale. But then, you knew that when you went there. And, further, some people have found jobs. Is it your contention that no one below you in this magical class rank has found a job? Doubtful.

At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with the Career Center comments, you were part of law review so I'm sure you heard them call the law review people the 'haves' and everyone else the 'have nots.'


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