Do they come from T14 law schools or Ivy League-brand debt mongers? Do they drown themselves in loans, and major only in engineering, computer science, and nursing? Do they ruthlessly compete against their peers, and live to hone their craft of “playing the game” for self-advancement?
Many do, I’m sure. But certainly not all.
It’s a bit strange, but the recent passing of Nelson Mandela made me begin to wonder, “What is it about someone that makes them memorable throughout the ages?” Mandela was someone with the intestinal fortitude to withstand extreme and bigoted racism in his youth, twenty-seven years of imprisonment in his adulthood, bearing the burden of a country so desperately in need of change during his presidency, and natural ailments that come with age towards the end of his life.
So what made him — or any of history’s other dignified world changers — so different from others?
It’s not always about having the “right” education. It’s not always about having a background of coveted prestige. It’s not always about mastering the game of choosing the right major, or having one’s fate sealed the garnering Latin honors or the curse of a less-than-desirable score on a standardized test.
Yet, strangely, this is what we preoccupy ourselves with the most.
As a 0L applying to law school for the 2013-2014 cycle, I find my actions baffling at times. In my personal statement, I wrote about protecting the public and acting as an ally of justice, but what about me is actually doing anything to be that person? Why is it that I spend most of my free time brushing up on logic game tactics or calculating my chances of getting accepted to X, Y, Z school?
Why does it feel like I’m in an age when active social justice is dead?
I used to think that being a lawyer involved accurately and morally interpreting the law for greater society. That being a lawyer — at least in some respects — was relevant to helping people not get screwed over, and also to facilitate interpretations of law that evolved to match the times. But the more I learned about law, the more disillusioned I started to become.
"If you can’t attend a top-ten school: don’t go."
Regardless of whether one was outright rejected or chose not to attend for financial and/or personal reasons — he or she is destined for nothing but astronomical levels of debt and disappointment. Of course, life is still possible for those who go to “lesser schools,” but you’ll have to work your ass off. And even then, at a low-ranked school, you are inextricably bound to a world of forgettable mediocrity, with a mundane job that you don’t want, where you won’t help anyone and will spend the rest of your days staring at paper in regret.
Or better yet:
"Law school’s expensive, don’t do it."
"You won’t get a job on Wall Street."
"There are too many lawyers and not enough jobs."
"Your salary will never reach six figures."
Wait — but what about helping people?
Does any of this actually have to do with helping people?
Am I just in the wrong profession?
From personal experience, I grew to believe that policy is essential to social progression — whether it be changing existing policy, enacting new policy, or helping others understand policy. So I always thought law would be a good vehicle to drive me to dedicating my life to servicing others. Psychologists can help people help themselves, physicians can help people with physical ailments, engineers can build infrastructure to withstand future typhoons of Haiyan-proportions.
"And lawyers counsel — they help people from a legal perspective."
Or so I thought. Unfortunately — maybe naively so.
(end of nervous ramblings as I continue to apply to schools)