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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Clerkship Afterthoughts 

As the dust settles from my life-plan-changing failure to get a clerkship offer, I'm thinking a lot. I'm not the kind of person who believes God has predestined things for me to do and experience. I roll my eyes when people in my situation (where a plan doesn't work out) say, "I guess Heavenly Father has something else in store for me." Well, sure he does. But I doubt he influenced each one of the 46 judges I applied to in order to make sure I wouldn't get an offer so I could do something else instead. Especially when what I'm going to do instead is work at Big-Law. That can't be what he wants me to do instead of a clerkship.

I think the most pervasive problem with law school in general and my individual law school experience in particular is the Herd Mentality. Contrary to what I thought before I came to law school, law school is a trade school. They're preparing you to go work for Big-Law. There are certain steps you take along the way, and the system just corrals you into them.

I, like every other 1L, thought when I started law school that I would be different. Throughout my first year, I kept telling myself and others, "I just don't see myself at a big law firm." Yet the day after tomorrow, when I have dinner with members of the recruiting committee that are here in Cambridge to harvest next year's crop of law students, I am going to officially accept an offer to work at a big law firm. So much for that idea.

And perhaps I jumped on the clerkship bandwagon as part of the Herd Mentality as well. Everyone's doing it. It's something that you should do to really bring together your law school experience. It's an intellectual challenge that should not be missed. It'll help you be a better lawyer. OK, where do I sign up?

When I was in Las Vegas interviewing with the one judge who actually looked at my resume, my brother was coincidentally spending the weekend there. My brother who graduated from Georgetown Law, promptly abdicated everything lawyerly, and now runs restaurants for a living. He asked me what I'll do if I don't get the clerkship. "Go to DC with the firm," I said. "Have you ever thought about something else?" My Herd Mentality was shining brightly when I responded, "Well, I like this firm and I think they're as good as a firm can get. Besides, I don't want to go through the firm interview process again." He could have slapped me as he said, "I mean something other than a firm." The answer was no. I have not thought seriously about an entry-level job at anything other than a firm. Later in life, perhaps. Most likely, in fact. But not now. I'm in the Herd.

So my point is that maybe my failure to get a clerkship, while it's not likely that it was divinely inspired, will be a wakeup call. It might be a boot off of the Herd Mentality Train. At least it will be a flashing neon arrow pointing to the fact that there are other opportunities out there. Opportunities that don't care if you did a clerkship or not. Opportunities that perhaps won't pay as much as Big-Law, but that will make me feel better about my contribution to the world.


Comments:
i keep running into law students from utah all over the web, thanks jeremy for the link.

anyway, just read your bio; very interesting. i am also from utah, grew up in provo, but i hate the cougars. this year it is very sweet to see utah doing so well (i went to ugrad there) and byu doing so poorly in football. i also noticed that you served in brasil. my dad designed and built the stained glass windows for one the new temples (campinas ?).

i was struck by this recent post on herd mentality. i come to law school after spending two years in medical school. i immediately noticed several interesting distinctions between the programs. without a doubt, law school is a trade school first and foremost. while med school also has several similar attributes, med students first get exposure to patients, etc. and then apply for their first job at the end of the process (during 4th year). the way i see it, now that everyone has offers for 2L summer, law school is over. what else is there really?

what i find so striking about the herd mentality is its incredible power and pull. i have no intention of practicing law. i never have. i am going back to med school in another year and will pursue a residency training. however, i was surprised by how strong the pack was in law school. last spring when the writing competition was going on, i actually had a difficult time deciding not to join. looking back it seems silly. journal work is nothing more than scutwork, a waste of precious time that could be spent elsewhere. i felt the need to do something more valuable (to me) like medical research, as if to have a "good" reason for not being on a journal.

this fall, as ocr came to town, again the herd was out in force. of course i need to work for a firm, everyone else is.

this herd mentality is one of the more depressing aspects of law. there are many brilliant, creative and talented people in law school. it is unfortunate that all of these stars get pushed through square holes and are never quite the same.
 
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