It has been quite a few years since I graduated, worked at Trilegal, quit my job and started my own business. It has been about three years since I have been speaking to law students and counseling them. Human beings progress and evolve over time, but the concerns of law school life haven’t changed. Something is preventing this change. It’s time we took a step back to identify what is stopping our evolution.
Looking back, law school can be a really exciting place to have been at for some people. It’s a thrilling experience filled with an overwhelming amount of activity – academics (studies, projects, vivas, mid-term and term-end exams), moots, conferences, article-writing, college fests, MUNs (Model United Nations) and internships. Whoa!
Isn’t it too intense? Is it humanly possible to take a break?
To me, it appears more like a karmic trap in which it is mandatory to participate when you are in law school. One is only able to get out of it when one graduates. I know of friends who have aspired to win the Jessup moot court competition and have continuously spent 3 out of 5 years in law school, others who have published over 20 articles throughout their law school journey. In law school, it almost seems like we must be like them, if we are any good.
Here are some questions – Is this really true? Do we have to do all this, or is it merely a design that is thrown at us by the environment? Did you sign up for this when you decided to take admission in a law school? Does this relate to what you wanted to achieve when you decided to become a lawyer? Is this giving you an opportunity to find out what you really want to do?
For many students, the answer to all of the above questions is yes. This article is not for them, because for them, this model works. But it does not work for everyone.
Many other students are not aware of any other better answer. Without knowing of an alternative, they also decide to accept this career path, without questioning, till they know better. To know this through your own personal experience, it can take quite long, you may realize this after you graduate. It won’t harm if you thought of questioning this.
If the answer to any of the above questions is no, do you have the option to opt out of this karmic cycle? Do you have the option to introduce new elements into the cycle and customize it for yourself?
It seems that success in the above karmic cycle is really valued by our peer group, faculty, environment and probably recruiters. The next question is – if you do succeed in doing all these tasks phenomenally well, what does it result in? Does it give you the certainty of getting a job (or it still keeps you in suspense until you have finally got the job at the end)?
Is getting a job equal to getting your dream job? Is your dream job necessarily the same as the dream job that is perceived by your peer group? Is ‘probably job-ready’ good enough, or is ‘definitely dream job ready’ more worthwhile as a goal to strive for? If you had to choose between these two goals, which is a goal you would work towards?
A system is meant to provide some ground rules. Unless we allow them to, systems can’t control us. We don’t need to break them and become anti-establishment, but we can surely customize how they impact our lives. I am not advocating boycotting or failing exams or not sitting for recruitment, but I am saying that we can decide to be unaffected by the perceived constraints of a system without completely abandoning it. For example, “I won’t get a job unless I am a topper with an excellent track record of mooting and some published articles,” is one such constraint. “An LLM from a good foreign university will help me in getting a great job,” is another. We can decide to give less importance in our lives to perceived social norms and peer pressures in our immediate environment and test them more deeply to identify if they really matter as much as they are expected to. At least, we need not be slaves to untested rules of unproven systems. We can use the system as a tool to navigate and explore our real selves, instead of constraining or burdensome shackles.
How do you want to use the system?