Well Suited (in the non-sartorial sense)

8 Feb

Do you know what it’s like to tell your parents that for realz you are probably not going to law school this year or maybe ever? And that you aren’t entirely sure what you want to do instead?

I do. And for the youngest, “last hope”* child to disappoint her parents in that way is pretty wrenching. Like, I cried.

OK. Low point. Low point.

Let’s talk instead about what I think I’m missing: conviction. Clearly, I don’t have a lot of conviction about law school other than my commitment to it for the last five-ish years. What I’m lacking is a real reason to become a lawyer. A reason to practice law.** I don’t necessarily mean a cause because causes can be served without law degrees. And can’t an intellectual interest in the law be satisfied without three years of school? I mean, if I’m going to law school, I’m going to go because I want to practice law, not because I want to further a social or political agenda or tickle my intellectual fancy.

So does anyone really want to practice law? Why? What appeals to them about it? And I mean the actual practice of law, not the idea of practicing law. To be honest, I like monotony. I like details and paperwork and writing and research. I’m not particularly creative, and I probably wouldn’t feel stifled by legal work. But even though I do not have many of the characteristics that make many people unsuited for practice, I’m not sure that I have any of the characteristics that make one suited for practice. Let’s make a list of those characteristics.

  • Adversarial nature, or at least an enjoyment of competition
    • I am not this person. I am so not this person. I really don’t like confrontation, and I’m afraid I don’t have that desire to win that might do a litigator good. On the other hand, I don’t like to lose. And I guess I don’t need to be a litigator.
  • Ability to manage stress
    • I don’t think I’m much of a stress-manager. I’m pretty high-strung and anxious. I mean, part of the reason I resuscitated this blog was to make sense of my law school decision anxiety. I’ve heard that anxious personalities make good lawyers because they try to cover every potentiality, but does a good, anxious lawyer make for a happy person? I’m afraid that putting myself in a profession that rewards anxiety might be a tempest in a teapot.
  • Analytical nature
    • How, after four years of college, can I not be sure if I’m an analytical person or not? Well, I’m certainly not sure, but I’m not sure. I’m afraid that I simply don’t have an analytical mind and that I’ll be in over my head in the law. That I just won’t “get it.” That when I have to do some applying of law to fact I just won’t be able to turn things over in my mind and come up with a good analysis. How does one figure this out without actually being in law school?

I know there are things I’m missing, so what other characteristics should a practicing attorney have? How am I supposed to know if I’m a good fit for this profession or not?

* I’m the youngest of three. My mom has been calling me her “last hope” for 18 years.

**I’m not going to mention money as a reason to practice. We all know it isn’t. And now that I’ve mentioned and dismissed it, we can move on.

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