When you uproot your whole life to go back to school, people are naturally going to ask: Why law school?
They’ll ask so many times you’ll never want to answer it again.
When you’ve spent yet another night staring at your computer for a few too many hours, you might even ask yourself, and you might not be able to come up with a satisfactory answer.
My truth is out there, and letting myself forget it doesn’t make those long nights any easier. I never lie (seems like a good practice for a future lawyer), but there are a lot of layers in my truth.
Sometimes I’ll say that I just needed to have a change of pace, that the newspaper industry was dying and I didn’t want to go down with it, that the job didn’t come with enough human interaction. The inconvenient truth is, I actually like editing, or I wouldn’t have done it for nearly 10 years. And I have great hope for the future of journalism in some form. Changing careers wasn’t just about getting off a sinking ship.
Sometimes I’ll mention the possibility of a decent salary. I’m old enough and ‘boring’ enough to admit that stability can be attractive. The uneasy truth here is that my salary at a financial firm was probably right in line with what I can expect to make as a new lawyer — minus the costs incurred from three years in school! Moving from the inexpensive center of the country to a pricey East Coast city wasn’t about panning for gold.
Sometimes, I’ll tell someone that I want to make a difference. I hate saying it, no matter how true it is. It sounds like a platitude, a pipe dream. It’s the heart of the truth, but there’s more, too. At parties, this gets turned into, “Oh, subverting the system!” — the jokey version of “making a difference.” It doesn’t sound any more honest.
So, why law school, truly?
My truth today: I want (I need?) to be an advocate. I cannot sit idly by. The justice system is most difficult for our poorest, our least educated, our least healthy, our youngest, and our oldest. It’s not fair, it’s not just, but it is quite real. Prisons are full; people are suffering. Lawyers aren’t saviors, but the law, in the right hands, is a tool. I’m here to fill my toolkit with difference-making instruments. I will serve my clients where they cannot serve themselves. I cannot tell you what a day in that life will look like, but that’s not the important part. Helping people access justice, giving them the chance to be heard: That is why I am in law school.
Ask me again tomorrow. Who knows which answer you’ll get?