I am about to graduate from university with a law degree, massive school debts and a sense of wonder at my future. Most classmates have already found jobs. Not me. I kind of attribute this to the fact that I have completed this degree and am now not sure this is what I want to be when I “grow up”. I’m actually not sure what I would be if not a lawyer, but I have nagging doubt about my intended career and I think the potential employers sensed it. Should I suck it up and be a “happy lawyer” and just get a job to pay debts? Should I work at the coffee shop till I figure it out? I do have bewildered,but supportive parents, but feel I have somehow let them and myself down.
The future is looming large on the horizon
(Isn’t that a beautiful word? Horizon. So is ‘future’…the possibilities….Not ‘looming’ though, no word is ever bad, but looming feels ominous so Horizon you will have to be.)
I need to thank you Horizon, because your letter woke so many memories in me and feelings. From the minute I received it, I was certain how I was going to respond to you, it was just a case of getting it down on paper. Because you see, dearest Horizon, I once was you. In another life I too went to Law School( watch The Paper Chase…pause, watch it again…)
Read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Between you and I and the other 39 followers of TBB, I am a fully qualified lawyer who has never practiced. Full & frank disclosure is necessary because my immediate response upon first reading your email was , who ever saw a happy lawyer?
Read Ian McKewen’s The Children Act.
The most beautiful thing about this wonder we call life is everything changes, even from day to day and though the message I am sending to you hasn’t changed in essence from my initial reaction, the way I am going to say it has, and so I am grateful I didn’t respond to you earlier. MOST and I are on the Mainland, in the mountains. We are at The Lake House, and so routines and thought processes are disrupted, and it becomes possible to see the world differently and respond to it in more measured ways. In Emily Bronte’s immortal words….’to look oppositely.’ Boats everywhere and tourists and staggering physical beauty, but a rawness and aggression that is so foreign to our daily lives on the Island.
So lets not think about you for a moment, though I have been- and feeling for you . Lets think about some one who might walk into your office, or call you in the middle of the night, or be referred to you, lets think about a potential client. Because dearest Horizon, the law is an incredibly serious business, and for some people a lawyer, the right lawyer can mean the difference between life and death, imprisonment or freedom, security or terror. And in that moment, for that time, that lawyer needs to give all their thought and skill and passion and belief to and for their client.
Read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
Read Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice.
It’s possible of course to work in areas of the law where dramatic situations never arise. To cross the i’ s and dot the t’s- the valley of the shadow of life long conveyancing. And many of your classmates will move on to do just that, that is a path they have chosen, predictability, security, low level stress. There is nothing wrong with this path. I am not sure where in the world you live, but on our Mainland, many lawyers are struggling financially. Systems and practices are changing. A law degree is no longer a guarantee of an income or indeed a life long profession.
What have you to lose by deciding to move on and NOT practice? You now have an excellent general degree, and no one can take that away from you. So in a year or twenty, should you change your mind there it is. You have it. Far better to have bewildered family members now than disappointed clients later. Having said that: Educate yourself about the realities of practice. The practice of law is another country from the study of it. Complete all requirements to practice( Bar exam, Professionals courses whatever is required for the part of the world you live in). Be admitted to the Bar and celebrate that. But please, please don’t bury these doubts. Because you don’t HAVE to practice now. Especially because you have NO PASSION FOR IT. Our lives are so often defined by the things we did not do, the choice we didn’t make, the path not taken.
Read Robert Frost, The Path Not Taken.
Alice Walker said;
“Look closely at the present you are constructing:it should look like the future you are dreaming.”
So if, for the moment, the coffee shop feels like the right place for you, then so be it. You will meet as great a cross- section of humanity there as you will in an office or a courtroom. It doesn’t need to be forever, nothing does, nothing is.
I admire you so much Horizon. You have so much integrity. These are hard times and difficult questions. But you already have the answers.