Like the hair metal band Cinderella once sang, “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.”
The Monarch Butterfly develops in its cocoon for ten days. The Boston University Law School Tower looks distinctly like a concrete cocoon – if that cocoon was asymmetrical, lopsided, and peppered with antennas that still manage to detract from the aesthetic value of the property. But unlike the Monarch, which can fly as soon as it emerges from the chrysalis, no one emerges from law school ready to practice law.
Taking a class on the Law of Contracts – and not learning how to read or write an actual contract. Learning that the only truly inflexible rules in the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct are not to misspend your clients’ moneys and/or sleep with them. I used to think that the average law school course syllabus represented the failure of the legal education system to teach attorneys what they really need to know to help other people. I still think that – but I also think law school prepares you to understand learn both the easy and the hard stuff. It’s not really law school – it’s “preparing to learn the law” school. It sounds utterly ridiculous – like going to barber school and never touching a pair of scissors. But if you suspend your disbelief and buy into the system, you realize that law school can’t train you to be a lawyer because it is only something you can learn by doing.
One hundred fifty-six weeks.
$3,200 a week. That’s what a second-year law student is paid as a summer associate to a “Big Firm”. That’s $160,000 a year. That’s the number that’s on young law student’s minds, the dollar signs dancing around their heads like sugar plum fairies, prancing around and whispering tales in your ear about a nicer apartment, a clean suit, that thing you always wanted that you could never afford. Even if you, like me, didn’t dream of going to law school so you could work on Sarbanes-Oxley compliance for a living, that money still calls out to you, beckoning you to come try on the velvet robe of financial success, just for a while. But even before the legal profession imploded over the last few years and hiring slowed to a relative crawl, the Big Firm jobs were still a limited resource. And no matter your success during the job search processes – 1L summer, 2L OCI, 2L Summer, 3L OCI, post-law school – you have to re-affirm a basic truth every day you get out of bed to go to class: that being a lawyer is worth it, no matter what it ultimately is.
One thousand ninety two days.
Every day is the same. You might not have the same schedule – sometimes there are classes, sometimes you are studying, sometimes a paper needs writing. But every day is the same because every day is a law school day. Law school was, despite my every intention, an all-consuming process. There are no days off. You are always a law student. But the main reason you stick through this process is that, despite the monotony, every day is something new – a new lesson, a new task, a new step forward, a new piece of knowledge to build a future career.
You think each minute can’t be counted, but it can. It’s a minute that could be spent at home with your partner. It’s five minutes that you could be spending with your friends at a bar. It’s the one hundred twenty minutes you could have spent watching the Red Sox game. It was the Thanksgiving dinner you missed because it took too much time to go home – time you need to outline your classes. It was the missed opportunity to travel to Europe with a college roommate. It was the job you turned down or left to take on $120,000 in debt, a head full of gray hair, and a complete inability to understand the appeal of Glee. It was another step in the law school transition – they are not good changes, or bad changes, but you will unavoidably be a different person after three years of law school.
Every one lost. But, during an experience like this, after an accomplishment like this, in a place like BU Law, I know that not a single second was wasted.