I feel that when people ask me what kind of law I want to practice, they expect me to say something inspiring and mind blowing. Like "I want to be an advocate for abused children." Or "I want to save the rainforest right down to the endangered toucan." Or even "I want to enforce social responsibility within publicly traded corporations."
When I tell them that I will probably end up defending insurance agencies and contractors, I can almost feel their disgust. I watch the look of disappointment slowly spread across their faces. How the darkness moves across their expectant stares, it's like watching a solar eclipse.
I finally became smart and started telling people that I haven't decided yet- which is partly true. While it's kind of a let-down, it at least leaves them the possibility that I MIGHT do something extraordinary with my law degree. You know, I haven't decided because I can't make up my mind whether I want to represent sexually abused immigrant workers or whether I want to help poor single mothers fight their custody/child support battles pro bono.
The thing is, I frequently have tug-of-wars with myself. There is a part of me that strives for socially conventional achievement. This side of me encouraged me to get straight A's, to win races at cross country meets, to go to law school to learn something that society considers "difficult" and to seek out a high paying career track. But there has always been another force withing me. This is a force of compassion- compelling me to devote my life to something bigger than myself, to constantly give to others, to dream of establishing or working for a non-profit, to live a life of service.
Law school is amazing in that you can pursue a high paying career or you can pursue a career of public service. A law degree gives you the opportunity to be a high achiever, a materialistic success. Or it can give you the opportunity to truly serve the community in an important way and have a huge impact on the lives of others.
So as I finish up my first semester of my 3L year, this battle still rages on inside me. Life of luxury? Or life of service? I can see myself doing both. What should I chose? I know I need intellectual challenges in the career that I eventually choose. I know I need to have an end product or some kind of result to my work at the end of the day.
Do I want to impress my dad by landing a sought-after position in a successful firm? Or do I want to impress my mom by serving the public and helping the less fortunate? Seriously, this is way to much pressure. Maybe all I really need is enough money to buy ice cream every night of the week. What's that? I have to put my kid through college? I'm screwed.