A child of the ’90s, I always wanted to be an attorney, likely as a result of my exposure to network television programs. Shows like Ally McBeal , L.A. Law and, of course, Law and Order , made being a lawyer look suspenseful, profitable, and even glamorous. High-rise offices, mysterious fact patterns, and intraoffice love affairs were enough to get me to commit to the answer of “lawyer” when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Honestly, at the time, I had little idea as to what being a lawyer entailed. Growing up, I did not know any lawyers. My parents were schoolteachers, and my friends’ parents were police officers, fire fighters, and small-business owners. To me, becoming a lawyer — that was making it big. That was the ultimate sign of success.
As a child, I saw television portray attorneys as successful individuals, comfortably compensated, and always busy. The prime-time episodes did not show the grittiness of lawyering, the exhausting law school experience, the excessive student loans, the mundane internships, or the employer frustrations. Yet despite now having witnessed the grave differences between real life and fiction, I could not imagine having any other career.
This past week, I had the privilege of returning to my high school to speak to the senior public-speaking class regarding my career path. The class, filled with ambitious students reminiscent of my own classmates, seemed honestly interested in my law career. Many of them stated confidently that they wanted to become lawyers. Niceties aside, they asked pertinent questions about which cases I found interesting, how I was trained, and, of course, how I was paid. What interested me the most were their specific desires to practice in specific fields including divorce, criminal defense and personal injury (sadly none stated elder law or trusts and estates).
I questioned the students who had expressed their desire to become attorneys. I wanted to know why they had chosen the field and why, at the age of 17, before any college coursework, they were so convinced that it was right for them. The consensus was that being […]