kstanford

The End is Only the Beginning: “The Best Times of Our Lives”

As I finished my next to last set of law school finals and prepared to meet friends for a post-finals celebration, I received a text message from a friend who is taking time off of law school to complete her [third] novel.  “Remember, these are the best times of your life…it’s all downhill from here,” her text reads.  I laughed.  My friend has a very sarcastic sense of humor, and I knew that this was just her way of saying, “Congrats on being done.”   

Before heading out that evening, I updated my Facebook status, announcing that I just had one more quarter left of law school.  Within minutes, I received a comment: “Then only about 50 years to regret going to law school.”  This message came from a friend who graduated from law school five years ago.  Could he really be that jilted by the profession already? Or was he just giving me a hard time?  Unfortunately, tone doesn’t carry over very well in pithy Facebook comments. 

The next day, after finishing my Saturday morning yoga class, I met a good friend for a round of tennis.  Basking in the 70-degree weather that graces California in March, we were discussing our respective “Spring Break” plans.  My plans involved flying to D.C. to attend oral arguments at the Supreme Court for the case on which I had been working for the last quarter, then visiting friends in New York.  She had plans to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway – checking off yet another task on her “To Do Before I Leave California” list.  As we’re packing up, she turns to me and says, “You know, our lives are never going to be better than this.”   

Really?  I was so hoping that life would be better once I had a steady income.  Yet, this was the third time I was receiving some ominous warning about the future life that awaited me.  Granted, I know that once I begin working I won’t be meeting friends in the middle of the day on a Wednesday to walk “the Dish” or to catch an afternoon yogalates class.  Nor will I have a schedule that doesn’t require me to be anywhere before 2:15 in the afternoon on most days or that doesn’t require me to be anywhere on Fridays.  However, I’m not sure any of my classmates expected “being a lawyer” to be the same as “being a law student,” and anyone who did, was just kidding themselves or clearly did not do the appropriate research.   

So, why the recurring admonitions to take in as much as I can over the next six months before beginning my “life as a lawyer”?  Did I miss the fine print on the law school application – “only those who desire a life of misery and unhappiness need apply”?  I’m pretty sure I read through all the application materials carefully.  And it can’t be the case that every law school to which I applied forgot to include the disclaimer. I also can’t believe that all the students that apply to law schools each year do so believing that their life will be worse after they obtain their JD.   

And aren’t many of the people warning of the perils of post-law school life the same people who incessantly complain about the long hours in the library and the ever increasing work loads during law school?  So maybe it’s just that these people will complain about anything, regardless of whether it’s pre-, during or post-law school.  But I still can’t help but ask where this disenchantment with the legal profession comes from?  Is it that for many the post-law school debt load forecloses pursing the career path that drove many students to choose a life in the law? Is it that law schools fail miserably at preparing students for the future that awaits them upon graduation? Or is it just that I am of a generation that possesses a declining work ethic and just wants to have its cake and eat it too? 

Though I don’t have the answers to the first few questions, I can definitely say that I don’t believe the last one is correct.  My classmates are some of the hardest working and most accomplished people I have ever met.  They stay up late and get up early.  They manage school, work, extracurricular activities, and somehow find time for personal lives and side projects.  They are certainly not strangers to long hours, short deadlines and, nonetheless, needing to produce quality work.   

Unable to find an adequate explanation, I have decided to treat all these comments as just “seize the day” reminders to make the most of the time we all have left together.  Upon graduation, many of us will pack up and head to new cities, far away from the lives and friendships that we have cultivated over the past three years.  So in order to shore up the conception that these are the best times of our lives, I, like other graduating 3L’s, will be sure to take time for mid-day tennis games and yoga classes, dinners with friends, and the occasional night out on the town…just in case.

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