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.