--> divine angst: Why Law? Why Now?

Monday, July 26, 2004

Why Law? Why Now?

Yes, I know—the question is not original. But it's a question my husband asked me Saturday night after dinner.

His question wasn't fully uninformed—after all, he's been privy to nearly the entire saga, ever since the idea took root and started to sprout.

But it was that part of the saga he hadn't seen that made him curious. See, it goes like this:

I've thought of law school before, but always dismissed it out of hand for various reasons. One of these reasons had to do with the way my family (mostly small-business owners and entrepreneurs) think of lawyers—as slime. Another reason was related to my own experience with the few lawyers I know not as lawyers, but as people, and the poor life choices I sometimes see them making. The last major reason was my own misperception of law as sort of nonacademic. I'd never really looked at law school as "graduate school"—I'd always thought of it as vocational school, sort of like medical school. I admire doctors quite a bit, but I know many doctors who can't string together ten words into a coherent written sentence. Medical school prepares one for the practice of medicine, not for a life of learning. Law school seemed to be the same.

So that's the background my husband did not have. And the day I blurted out to him, "Maybe I'll go to law school," we'd just come from a weekend trip where we spent at least one evening with friends of friends who were lawyers. We had cocktails at these lawyers' house, their very nice house. And my husband had this niggly thought in the back of his brain that I decided I wanted to go to law school because I saw how much money I could make.

I almost had to laugh. Actually, I did laugh. I immediately saw why he wondered that—the timing was really coincidental—and money worries have not been strangers to us in the last few years.

But no. I reassured him that crass materialism wasn't my primary motive for law school. And he reassured me that, if it were, he wouldn't be upset. After all, an advanced education that all but promises a lucrative career can't be all bad.

See, what happened to me that day, when the words "law school" slipped out of my mouth, wasn't the result of the temptations of Mammon.

Rather, the pieces all fell into place. I've been having something of an identity crisis for a while, wondering if I'd betrayed all the promise I felt I had right after college, all the while feeling underused in my old job, and peeved with my new job's failure to live up to its initial promise. I was starting to fear I'd look up in five or ten years only to realize I been adrift with no vision for myself and my life.

[NB: Don't misunderstand me here, either. Any vision would have made me happy—if I knew I wanted to be a housewife and mother, as long as I pursued that, I would have felt fulfilled. It was the lack of coherent direction that was killing me.]

So in the midst of the identity crisis, I'd tried some freelance work on the side (hated it), started writing (loved it), and took a writing and editing class (my own personal Renaissance). So I knew I wanted to move away from design into writing/editing. And knew I wanted to go back to school. For something.

But I've been out of school long enough that my interests in my undergraduate majors have waned. That's not to say I don't still find those subjects interesting, it's just that I don't want to get any more degrees in them. I did a liberal arts degree because I wanted to know something about a lot of stuff, and that's still one of my driving forces. A Ph.D. doesn't seem to facilitate that as easily.

So, grad school that involves writing and editing—and critical thinking, of course, that almost goes without saying—what kind of grad school could that be? I don't know when my mind settled on law and realized that, duh, a JD would involve all of that. And I could make it as scholarly a pursuit as I wanted!

Law school it is, then. Why law? Because it fits. Why now? Because it's time.