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Tag: law school

Day 8937 – Why I Went To Law School

Other than the obvious reason, for her

GROSSNESS, but there it is. Day 8937.

Why learn anything? When I was in high school, about five times a year someone would raise a hand in math class and ask, “What are we doing this for? When will we ever use this?” It was a smart-aleck question, but troubling.

There was a very good answer to the question. The teacher could have said, “You’ll need to master this stuff to become an investment banker, which is a career you shouldn’t box yourself out of at the age of 15.” Instead, she would generally mention something about “higher math” and leave it at that.

Ultimately, that type of answer does both math and investment banking a disservice by perpetuating the apparent disconnect between academic study and the practical work that is done in the world. That same disconnect applies to the liberal arts, and can make it difficult for someone like me, a history major, to find out what they’re good at and what skills they can offer the marketplace.

I graduated from college two years ago with a wealth of knowledge, great research skills, and no idea of what I could do to make a living. I got my current job based on a skill I had always considered secondary — an ability to edit web pages — and was quickly able to leverage that skill into an online marketing position that has been eye-opening. After years of working largely on my own in school, I am now an essential part of a team that is bringing new products out into the marketplace. Our business is threefold: audio conferences for human resources, finance, and sales professionals; reports and training tools in these same areas; and newsletters. I am involved in all three of these areas, in addition to coordinating our online marketing campaigns and analyzing the results.

It has been great to gain expertise in this one particular field and become the go-to guy for matters relating to our online marketing. I find my role as an advisor to management on these matters one of the most interesting parts of my job. What I love most is being able to use my knowledge to justify a company action, make sense of a marketing campaign’s results or prevent the company from making an avoidable mistake. I would now like to expand that expertise into other areas, to be an advocate on a larger scale.

I believe that the marketplace is very good at reconciling skills with employment, and eventually, most people find their economic calling. IN my own job, I’ve found mine — informed advocacy. The study and practice of law will allow me to combine my love of learning with useful and needed work, thus answering in my own life the question that was asked in math class.

I was recently discussing my plans with a colleague, and he asked me if I really thought the world needed more lawyers. Of course it does, I said. Those who don’t understand the law thinks it’s about suing people or going to court. For me, law is about putting knowledge and expertise at the service of society. Fundamentally, law is about making things work – resolving conflicts and claims, assigning and apportioning value. At its best, the practice of law does not obstruct but facilitates the workings of society. The world gets more complex every day, and lawyers help manage that complexity. For example, employment law used to be about paying your workers overtime. Now companies struggle with benefits, discrimination, retaliation claims and medical leave. The same logic applies to every part of our society. Every new technology brings with it new legal and ethical questions that must be settled. Every new financial instrument requires new protections. Every new threat – terrorism, urban violence, stock fraud – raises new questions of justice and fairness. So, yes, the world does need more lawyers.

I want to make an impact by applying my learning to the world, by helping people make good, fair and informed choices. I want to be the one who does the research, who understands the issues, who can make recommendations and explain the benefits and drawbacks of a given course of action. A career like that will combine everything I loved about college with everything I love about work. I believe I will find it incredibly fulfilling.

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Day 7210 – Driving Home in Warm February

March, 19, 2002

Driving home in warm February, my dad is warning me not to waste my life. “So I hate to give you advice,” he says, looking over, but I don’t look at him, I’m just staring at the highway, as he makes a wrong turn and then quickly compensates and gets back into the correct lane, “but I would hate for you to go through college and not get out of it what you want to get out of it.”

You see ever since my uncle got sick and died, which was pretty much in the space of three months, last semester, and to tell you the truth, I’m still not over it, but back to the sentence, ever since my uncle died I’ve had this major crisis of faith, and just sort of this disgust with everything and a general malaise about the future. I use to be very idealistic – in a sort of half-assed cynical brilliant egotist kind of way – but now the old Business School creep is sort of sinking in, and I’m thinking about all the college loans I’m going to have to pay back when I graduate and I’m wondering if it might not be best if maybe I went to law school or something like that.

“I would just hate for you to sell out before you’ve even really given it a chance,” my Dad says, and we move onto the expressway and the river’s to my right and I just sort of look straight ahead, not really thinking about much at all, just sort of digesting. What do I say? Because when it comes right down to it, all my questions lead straight back to my father, all my goals and aspirations, my very being, stems from the fact that I want to be like Mike. Mike being my father. Also my dead uncle. Two unrelated men, married to sisters, with the same name, and my father lives and my cousin’s father dies. I guess life just works out that way sometimes.

Why do I deserve to be a writer? I want to ask, what makes me so special? What, my High School English teacher thought I had some talent? Talent. Overrated. It’s still just hard work – and maybe not even that meaningful. I mean, writing a book ain’t ever gonna feed a child. It’s not like building a house, or something real like that – and in a lot of ways it’s dishonest. It’s pandering. What, I’d like to write escapist fiction for all the bustling suburbanites of tomorrow, the brilliant children who will one day be grown and slaving way to feed their children, and just struggling to make ends meet and send their kids to a good school so that they can –

What? So that they can what? Why am I here? Why am enrolled at this Ivory Tower of Higher Education when all I’m learning is that if it’s a big enough class no one really notices when you skip it? I got this one class, and all we talk about is how there are these writers now, these post-structuralists, who are breaking down language, because language is an oppressive system that gets in the way of truth – and I’m like, shit man, I want to be a writer, and above and beyond that, I’d like to be able to talk to people.

How the hell are we gonna do that without language?

Of course I don’t want to offend the instructor, I mean my grade depends on it, and is this really worth making a big stand about, how Modern Literature is a little bit bullshit, I mean he’s this little gay Zen monk kind of guy, and though he seems sort of serene, I don’t want to fuck with that, because hey, if it makes him happy, let him run with that, you know? And underneath that Zen-Tranquility-Peace-Now kind of thing going, he does seem a little nervous, and I’d like an A, or at least a B+, which is what I expect, so I don’t think I’m going to raise my hand and tell him I think his intellectual underpinnings are absurd.

But they are. You can break a lot of things. Not language. I’m sorry if English is oppressing you, man, but you’re just going to have deal, alright?

But that’s just a long and uninteresting rant about nothing, about why I’m not really happy with what they’re teaching me here, and it gets me away from where I am, which is sitting next to my father, in the car, driving home to my grandmother’s birthday party, with him telling me, no, begging me, imploring me, not to give up on my dreams.

I want to tell him that I’m almost twenty, and that if I give up my dreams now, that’ll me give seven years to get ahead of the competition while everyone else is bumming around Europe trying to find themselves. But that’s just a bitter joke, and what it really is, what it frankly is, is that I just don’t know if any of this writing shit is ever really going to make me happy. And let’s be real. That’s all I want to be. Happy. Happily married. Comfortably numb.

For a little while I thought that I wanted to be a hero. An artist. One of the Great Ones who burn their names into the history books and leave their marks on the world like battle scars. But lately – lately I’ve realized that I don’t care what the history books say about me. I’ll be dead – and all I get to have is the love I can muster up in this life. So instead of worrying about my legacy and my gift to humanity, maybe I should worry about getting a girlfriend or something like that.

When I wanted to be an artist, I worried about not being better then my father, who is a talented writer who ghostwrites medical books and writes copy about doors. Now – now I pray I’ll be his equal.

And that’s how I know we’ve reached the end of history. America is done. None of us want to strive anymore. Our parents gave us everything we wanted and everything we needed, and now, our only goal is equilibrium, the hope to do as well, to provide the same, to give our children the same chances that we were given.

Twenty years old, I’ve kissed one girl in my entire life, and all I want to do is be a responsible dad. Want a dream? How’s that for a dream? I want to be a good father who provides for his wife and children.

It’s pedestrian. It’s backwards. It’s reactionary. It’s 1950s suburban dogma – and here I am, an overly-educated child of the Twenty First Century, and that’s it man, that’s the Meaning of Life. Have kids, and try not to fuck ‘em up.

Pretty boring.

“I would hate to see you waste your life,” my father says.

Me too, Dad. Me too.