“What are you doing after graduation?”

November 21, 2010

Just about anyone I talk to asks that these days. Graduation is, after all, just weeks away. My answer is usually: “I’m, uh… starting my own immigration law practice?”

(And yes, that question mark is intended to indicate hesitation, a little discomfort, and a definite interrogative vibe).

It is a fair and very appropriate question. Professors and those outside the law school are just curious. And other students want to know if you have a job. Fair enough. Because right now, everyone wants to know people who have jobs. People having jobs mean there are jobs out there. Somewhere, there are jobs. That is what all law students want to believe right now.

(Bunny trail: if you are reading this and considering law school because it sounds like a good way to get a stable job making good money, STOP. Just stop. Think really hard. And talk to some recent graduates or 3Ls who are looking for work, read some things like this ABA article, including the comments. If you really want to be an attorney, go for it, but if you are looking for job security, it’s not here).

Law school is not the safe bet it once was. Lots of people are disillusioned and lots of people are taking on immense debt with little prospect of making a good living. I’m not saying life is all about money, but if it’s not about money, you really have to want to be an attorney in order to make this worthwhile. Even this fall, several years into the economic crisis, it has been surprising how naive both new students and people from the “outside” world are about the current state of the legal employment universe.

In reality, when I talk about starting my own law practice, I feel pretty good about it. I worry that immigration policies will become even more draconian, I worry that even fewer families will be able to afford legal representation, and I worry about setting appropriate fees and “marketing” my practice. I worry about my loan payments (note to self: check about a deferment period). I worry about working from home and all its distractions.

But with each day, I worry less about a lot of things. I look forward to doing real work for real clients. I look forward to solving problems. I look forward to running my own business. I look forward to this next step, which has been in the making now for more than four years, since F left for Mexico and I started working on our hardship waiver, aided almost entirely by an amazing website that led to my interest in law and the eventual pursuit of law school.

There is a lot of uncertainty, and the economy sure does not help. But I feel grateful. I believe there is a market for what I am offering, and I believe I will be good at it, and I believe I will be helping people. Not that this is all some grand altruistic quest, but making money doing something good is good.

When I was in college I pursued journalism because I loved it; I had no concern for what I would do after college. I was optimistic and naive. I never really used my degree. No regrets though. In my 20s I realized that there is nothing dirty about wanting to earn a decent living. It certainly was not going to fall into my lap and most likely I would have to do things I did not love. When law fell into my lap via my husband’s status, it seemed right to at least attempt to meld purpose with work. I know it will not always look like that. I am sure I will have moral dilemmas; I’m sure I will not like all my clients; I’m sure I will hate some days; but I feel good about this new destination. In many ways, it’s still a dream just being here.


just some weeks

November 17, 2010

The countdown is on. Nothing but finalizing a research paper, an appellate brief, a memo re-write, an oral argument, a trusts and estates exam and tying up some loose ends on a project standing between me and J.D. Just a few things, ha, but only a few weeks to do them. They will get done.

Speaking of that, I should be working. But I stopped writing early to spend a few quiet minutes sitting in my apartment, writing a blog entry that next to no one will read, before I go get G from the babysitter. Silly or smart? I do not know.

I have tried not to get too stressed during law school. The pressure and the panic usually does not help anyone anyway, but it is there. Hanging in the library, weighing on the job seekers, hiding behind the student loan balances. I swear it is all about discipline. I am arguably a better student now, with a small child and unquestionably less free time, than I was two years ago, when I really had nothing to do but school. I wish I had dedicated myself to school with the hours I had back then. Why wasn’t I in the library at 10:00 pm spring of my 1L year, learning administrative and constitutional law? Today I am forced to make the most of my hours. It’s not 100 percent. I don’t believe in that either. Everyone needs a break. But sleep, activity, friends and dedication, that’s what you need to get through law school in tact.

Time to enjoy the mini-man for a few hours before it’s back to the books this evening.



law school happened

November 6, 2010

I graduate in six weeks. Looking at my last few posts from late summer and early fall 2008 (which are now archived since I imported my law school blog posts) it is like another world. The law school preparation, the nerves about student loans and books and studying, it all seems bizarre now. Today, I am a mother of a ridiculously adorable toddler, and almost an attorney at law. And those are just the big changes. Don’t get me wrong, I am still stressed. We are approaching the end of the semester, people. But it’s the impending change, not the fear of an exam, or writing a brief, that occupies my thoughts. And in times of transition, I must write. Unfortunately, the 100+ pages of substantive legal, essay and research writing I have done this semester have not quenched my cathartic writing needs.

So in two plus years, law school happened. I have some new friends and lots of new thoughts about things. And so much new knowledge. I have acquired the lawyerly thought process that is basically the output of law school (but no one tells you that before you start), which I both love and despise. I am no longer an ordinary person that thinks and speaks like everyone else. (I’m not saying lawyer-think is better, it’s just another thing entirely).

Lately as I talk to classmates about graduating in December people respond: “Oh yeah, you are done!” And it’s true. It’s basically done. It already happened – all that slow, incremental change to become a lawyer. From the first week of 1L ,when I had to literally figure out what exactly plaintiffs and defendants were, and then vendors and vendees (and now settlors and trustees and issue) and when the excessive use of the term “reasonable” seemed hilarious (now it seems natural!) and when the idea of accomplishing so much reading and thinking, in order to prepare for one test at the end of the semester, one test that would judge one’s performance, seemed terrifying and unreachable.

But law school doesn’t really make you a successful lawyer, there’s way more to that. So much that I am about to learn. But in six weeks, I will be certified, in a sense, to practice law. As much work as I have to complete between today and December 15th, it’s basically over. This is all just tying up loose ense. I have learned what I came to learn. I am about as ready as I can be to go into the world and be an immigration lawyer. That makes me scared, and it should. As much as it is frequently abused, becoming a professional is serious business, and I take it seriously.


It’s been so long blog…

November 6, 2010

Waaaay back in 2008, when I started law school, I decided to start another blog, mostly to be anonymous. I enjoyed some snarky law student blogs, and I thought I might try my hand at that. I blogged for a while, but there were still issues with anonymity, and then I mostly stopped blogging.

School was busy, and I was no longer in transition to law school anyway. I had settled in and had surprisingly few rant-y type outbursts to share anyway. I know it’s sick to some people, but I like law school.

The other reason I stopped writing is that I had a child! Any extra time for casual, cathartic, introspective writing has mostly been absorbed by Gabriel, a tiny and adorable person who makes other people want to have kids. (I know, I’m so biased but seriously, it is TRUE). 🙂

But more than a year after his birth, Gabriel just feels like a normal part of our lives now now. And, more importantly, it’s transition time again, which I will explain in another post. But that nagging voice in my head says I need to write And the law school blog, eh, it was never that good. I want to reclaim my laurafern voice. I like having six years of history in my archives, and someday I think I will go back and review so many things that I wrote about here. It’s the modern version of reading one’s old diaries, or even looking at an old photo album…. These old entries trigger memories of so many important thought processes, events and transitions in my life.

I think I just successfully imported the posts from the law school blog into this one. I don’t expect anyone to be especially interesting in reading them, but I want that continuous history.