Q) I just finished my first year in law school. Not the greatest law school but at least in the second tier and I’m doing ok. And I still have high hopes for landing a job, preferably with a big firm. This summer, however, knowing that the likelihood of finding a law-related job was crap, I stuck with a summer job I’ve had for a while. Lifeguarding. I got a job at a local pool and I have to say I’m happier for it. I’ve talked to other people in my class and they’re happy to have a law-related job but actually hating it already. The politics mostly, and the stress. I figure I had one summer left to stay ripped and tan so I’m not looking back. Or should I?
A) I dunno. Do you want to look back? Maybe you should try lifeguarding for another ten or twenty years and then look back. That may scare you. Unless you want to be one of an elite number of well-known middle-aged lifeguards and beach bums, like Leroy “The Masochist” Smith or Michael Knight. Who were fictional. But at least that’s something to emulate if the thing you like is being ripped and tan and looking back later to see what the hell happened to your life.
Your use of the term “preferably” is fascinating, as if landing a job at a big firm is a simple matter of “preference.” It’s not. While it may be for a lucky few who graduate in the top ten percent of their classes at top tier schools, it’s certainly not a mere preference for those stuck in the middle or lower tiers and doing “ok.” It’s not like you can say, “Oh, today I think I’ll work at a big firm,” as if it were a type of donut, whether cake, glazed, or cruller.
Here’s my best advice: the sooner you realize that you are not a candidate for a big firm the better. If you were serious, you wouldn’t be ripping those abs and driving to the pool each morning in your 1989 Ford Probe. You’d be interning for free at a legal clinic. Or going to school over the summer. Or finding some relation, however tenuous, to a law-related job. You wouldn’t be playing Mr. Cool Guy anymore. Grow up. Work hard. Get ahead. But stop playing around with the notion that you’re “preferably” heading to a big firm. You aren’t.