Law in Contemporary Society


-- By TiffanyYoung - 31 May 2017

As I make my daily commute to work, I can’t help but notice a parallel between the train system and my professional path. I am on a set rail that I cannot change. Even if I wanted to get off this line – which I do – I cannot, at least for now. I spent the better part of 1L year panicking because I could not get off this train immediately, but that’s not the right approach at all. I should be looking toward the future, searching for the next transfer point that connects with my desired path or considering the various stations ahead of me in light of their final destinations. As of now, I cannot say what is my destination, but I do know one thing: I am headed in the right general direction (I will explain my decision to return for 2L year in my second essay).

Changing Perspectives

I think the first step to really moving forward in my professional life and objectively weighing the different options in front of me is to just mind my own business. It’s easy to look at everybody around me and compare myself to them. It’s easy to look at someone else’s job and think, “Why aren’t I doing something like that?” But this mindset breeds unhealthy, unnecessary stress. Continuing with the train analogy, it really makes no sense to try and beat other passengers to the station for two reasons: we are all on the same train and the station is not the end goal.

I used to view each summer as a separate “train” and not having a firm job my 1L summer suddenly put me behind a whole year, but the reality is that my entire graduating class is moving at the same pace dictated by Columbia Law School. An extra summer at a law firm changes nothing. Even a few years make no difference. For those fortunate enough to attend a prestigious law school, there will be a train waiting for us, no matter how late the hour. What matters more than when I become a lawyer is what I plan to do as a lawyer.

Turning to my second reason, even if we all get off at the same stop, everyone needs to either transfer or make a short walk to actually arrive at their final destination. Competing with my peers along every step of my journey is not necessarily good because I don’t know their goals, and what they’re doing may not be the best option for my future plans. I fixated on the first-year associateship, but that is not the end all and be all. Many people have aspirations within and after Big Law that have very little to do with my aspirations. So I must stop comparing myself to them. I realize now that’s what I failed to understand previously.

Looking at the Big Picture

My entire focus last year was centered on making it to (then out of) Big Law. At the time, it seemed no matter the career path, everyone had to sacrifice a requisite few years to the Big Law gods. Even so, it should not be the center of my career planning. I spent most of my 1L year dreading the law school conveyor belt. I was thoroughly convinced I would despise the lifestyle and feared I would hate the work. I didn’t see that everything is only what you make of it.

In my mind, there was a tight race to Big Law and an even tighter race in Big Law. But there is no race to Big Law, especially at an institution like Columbia Law School where the great majority of us secure a private sector position before our second year even begins. And for me, there is no race in Big Law. I have no aspiration to make partner or to even stay in a corporate-style law firm for more than a handful of years. For me, Big Law is simply the most efficient way of obtaining the skills I need to move on to the next step of my career, whatever that may be. Viewing Big Law as a stepping stone, I see there is no race; I don’t need to constantly be ahead of the crowd because I am not vying for those few coveted job openings. It’s not a race but a learning opportunity.

A New Outlook

At the end of the day, we’re all headed the same general direction: becoming (hopefully) great lawyers. Along the way, there will be several opportunities to customize my legal education and experience, and I need to accept the fact that no one shares the exact same background. I may feel pressure to copy or follow what others are doing, but I should not feel guilty or regretful for failing to do so. I should focus of enjoying the opportunities I do have, learning as much as I can from them, and highlighting the positives that come out of my time well spent.


Webs Webs

r4 - 07 Jun 2017 - 06:39:10 - TiffanyYoung
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