[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a guest post by a current criminal defense attorney as he looks back on his time in law school and his practice . . . and as he looks ahead to leaving the law altogether.]
I went to law school with a goal, albeit unclearly defined. I wanted to do something good. I assumed I would discover that something somewhere along the path. Shortly before graduating from UC Hastings, however, I found myself disappointed. I was entertaining fewer opportunities than I envisioned when spending beautiful college afternoons cooped up in the local Kaplan study center, preparing for the LSAT.
The underwhelming opportunities weren’t due to a lack of effort or achievement, but rather a want of vision. I worked hard and did well in law school, graduating cum laude. I focused on my grades, all the while struggling to keep school’s competitive, compulsive hubbub at a distance. I figured I would work hard, pay some attention to my career prospects, and the rest would fall into place. I wouldn’t get caught up in on-campus interviews or landing the lucrative post-grad position. I would work hard, then figure the rest out. I mean, that’s what law school is all about, right? Surviving the first semester. Maintaining competitive grades. Passing the bar.
It has been six years since I became a licensed attorney. I have practiced criminal defense almost exclusively in that time. While criminal law in many ways satisfies the aforementioned desire to “do something good,” it wears on me. I cringe at the hostility. I lament the tragedy. I fear losing.
I don’t know when it happened, but I eventually realized what I missed: meaningful career development. I’m talking about introspection into what would actually suit my interests and talents (emphasis on the former). I’m now trying to make up for lost time, determined to see what’s really out there. I hope to find something I enjoy, at least more than litigation. Of course, financial realities constrain my exploration. Still, who says you can’t make enough money and like work?
I don’t regret going to law school. I don’t even regret the way I handled my time there. Maybe I needed a few years in practice to realize that “this” isn’t what I wanted. But, I know none of that is important at this point. All that matters is that I’m leaving the law.