Sunday, May 9, 2010

The First Step

I have often heard that the first step to overcoming a problem is to admit you have one. It pains me to say my problem happened to leave me over $80,000 in debt. My problem? I have a law degree.

I know what you're probably thinking - "cry me a river," right? "Lawyers are all money-grubbing, egotistical, selfish, litigious, arrogant, trouble-making know-it-alls. And they all make bank for finding 'loopholes' in the law that allow bad people (i.e. criminals, multi-billion dollar corporate conglomerates, and Michael Lohan) to get away with crimes like murder, tax evasion, and general toolishness." Yes, there are some lawyers out there who make bank, and there are many (most even) who believe they are God's own ray of light shining down on the legal profession. But many lawyers, myself included, actually did go to law school in order to learn how to defend the defenseless and to provide the underprivileged with access to justice.

And there is a subset of those lawyers who realize after only a few short months or semesters that they want nothing to do with the legal profession. I realized this after my first year of law school. I believe it was a Thursday. I remember receiving my registration date for 2L year and thinking, "what if...?" I briefly considered possibly not going back so that I could enter the workforce and think about whether I wanted to complete my law school career.

Then I thought about what my classmates would think, what my family would think, what my fiancee would think. And, out of some misplaced sense of duty, I decided to stick it out and earn my law degree, then give lawyering a shot until I decided what I really wanted to do.

This brings us to my second problem: I care too much about what others think of me. I want to please my family and friends and spouse rather than follow my bliss. Now, slowly but surely, I am trying to follow my bliss, which happens to be writing. More on that later.

Back to the grand exit strategy I had crafted for myself. What I failed to realize when I decided to stay in law school was that no non-legal employers want to hire an applicant with a J.D., much less an applicant who has actually practiced law. There are a lot of myths out there that a law degree "opens a lot of doors." Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is, once you have a law degree, most employers assume you will be bored if they hire you to do anything but practice law.

So after six to eight months of rejection after rejection with no light at the end of the tunnel in sight, I decided to accept a low-paying position and let the chips fall where they may. This is not to say I did not have any plan at all; I just accepted the fact that no one was going to hire me for any permanent non-legal position until I proved that I was serious about my transition out of the law. Hence, my re-entry into the world of temping.

Part of the therapeutic nature of this blog is that reading my thoughts in print really hammers home the fact that my need to please is a huge problem for me. It is difficult to admit that I wasted so much time in college and in law school trying to "make something of myself" when in reality, I am much happier being a peon and trying to hone my writing. I realize I will never publish the great American novel, but even just writing a silly short story that my husband enjoys brings me more joy than I ever experienced as a "prestigious" attorney.

So tell me, all you lawyers out there considering taking the plunge, what problem is holding you back?

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