I start my internship for the summer next week, and tomorrow (today technically I guess), I have a phone interview for a super sweet internship that I’ve been gunning for starting in fall. While I am incredibly excited and grateful to have been extended these opportunities, and while I don’t doubt that I will learn immensely, I can’t help but feel frustrated as I start taking stock of where my future is headed.
This was brought on by two factors: first, the realization that by the time I graduate, I will have spent about four years of my life working unpaid internships; and second, returning home as a member of the “brain drain” only to find that all my friends from high school between the ages of 21 and 23 have all left town, started their careers, and even started getting engaged and/or married (meanwhile, I’m still in school, I have no source of income other than my allowance from my government overlords and/or mother, and I’m single)
I know this is mostly empty whining, especially since my summer internship is sending us all to the beach for a few days on the company, but it would be nice to actually have money to spend. I understand the concept of delayed gratification, but with the passage of time I find my patience starting to fray, especially given that it’s starting to seem like I’m going to have diminishing returns on the investment I’ve made. My family is, of course, baffled, since law school seems like the best idea EVAR because it means that when I graduate, they can hang out with me as I smoke cigars in a pinstripe suit at my 12-room, alligator moat mansion and use me to sue people that annoy them.
Needless to say, trying to disabuse them of this image isn’t exactly helping my situation, since they accuse me of not “staying positive.” I, in turn, have to explain that accepting the fact that I will not be handing out bottles of Cristal to everyone who visits my compound in the Virgin Islands is not “pessimism” but “realism.” It’s frustrating to have to explain to my family:
- that not every lawyer makes obscene amounts of money, that law firms that pay six figures won’t even consider applicants from beyond a certain GPA threshold, that my mediocre GPA puts me beyond the threshold of consideration, and that based on median salary statistics, I’m likely to be earning about $65,800 nine months out of school;
- that if I move back home the way they want me to, there’s a strong chance I would be making less than that, since the legal market in my hometown apparently celebrates the fact that it pays young lawyers less than other cities in Texas;
- that although a salary around $65k wouldn’t be bad, assuming I find a job where I make at least that much, or even with loan forgiveness programs, I will still have debt hanging over my head for a minimum of ten years, meaning that I’ll be paying student loans off until I’m 35, by which time I hope I’ll be married with kids;
- that in order to get to that point, I will have spent six years outside of the workforce in school, and that I will, in fact, have spent a total of about four years of my life working unpaid internships and not earning any money from that; and
- that despite what they think, the “prestige” of being a lawyer is not worth all that trouble, since women are only impressed by attorneys that actually make money, and since attorneys in general are among the most reviled professionals in America
Again, I’m not trying to be negative, per se. I’m just trying to realistically assess my situation. And while I don’t want to seem like a greedy, vain, materialistic person, it would be nice to have stuff.
AND while I know that overall, my situation is good, I’m extremely fortunate, etc….I still wish I could trade my student loan debt for, like, a Camaro or something.
EDIT: So I know this cuts against my entire pity party, but I just found out I got a good grade in my appellate advocacy/writing class. But still, shhh. Let me wallow.
So it’s been a while.
Here’s a summary of what happened my second semester of law school:
1. Mock trial was a minor shitshow, but a lot of fun, regardless. Apparently what I lack in substance I make up for in looking good in suits with pink ties.
1a. Realized that my sense of style straddles that thin line between “very sharp” and “Russian crime boss” but that either way, I can be better-dressed than 80 percent of my male classmates when I try.
2. Did a great job arguing against civil rights protection for transsexuals in LRW. Which, you know, classy thing to tell strangers at cocktail parties. (“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s a d-bag thing to say. But REALLY, the question is, would LGBT people have been protected under this law in 1969? Well, *yeah* times have changed since then, but my friend Tony Scalia says you’re TOTALLY missing the point…”)
2a. Speaking of Scalia, I was totally waiting for Nino to fight his traffic ticket. Guess that’s not gonna happen. *Sigh*.
3. Had a shot at making Moot Court arguing that we should be able to fire transsexuals for no real reason (supra), but got flustered by the fact that my opponent sounded like the narrator from Prairie Home Companion and I consequently bombed when anxiety/self-loathing at arguing against civil rights just to save a fake corporation a few bucks kicked in
4. Hated going to class, but that was to be expected, given that I hate most things and that the fun, interesting classes involving human tragedy like torts and crim law were replaced with another rousing chorus of civil procedure — a tragedy of a different kind.
5. Realized that most of what I learned in law school is totally useless after having been peppered with the following REAL QUESTIONS THAT PEOPLE HAVE ASKED ME(tm):
Q: Hey, Temoc. So the insurance company won’t pay my friend who was hit by a drunk, speeding driver because they say he failed to yield right of way. Can they do that?
A: Um. I don’t think so? You should probably talk to a real attorney, that sounds pretty serious.
Q: Well, when are *you* becoming a real attorney?
A: God willing, two more years. Actually, I don’t even really start learning real law until I study for the bar. Right now we’re working with like fake, Play-Doh law and listening to the profs talk about the time they met Richard Posner.
Q: Who’s Richard Posner?
A: Remember that guy from the ’80s who used to make those workout videos?
Q: Dude! No way!
A: That’s not him.
Q: Oh. Well hey, I have a friend who’s trying to hire immigrants for his company. Can I give him your number so you can give him advice on how to do it?
A: No. That’s called “practicing law without a license.” I can’t do that. I am not a real attorney. Please consult a real attorney.
Q: Dude, okay. So I got a ticket for going 8 mph over the speed limit. Total bullshit.
A: Well, you technically broke the law.
Q: IT WAS EIGHT MILES OVER!!!!
A: Why don’t you just take the defensive driving course with the Mexican food buffet and get it taken off your record?
Q: Hey, I’m asking the questions. You’re answering them. Here’s my question: my car is green. Well like, off-green. But the cop wrote “blue” on the ticket. Can I get it dismissed?
A: I cannot stress strenuously enough the fact that I am NOT an attorney…
Q: Stop being gay! Can’t the judge kick it out on like a technicality?
A: I’m pretty sure that won’t matter.
Q: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Should I ask for a jury trial and drag this out as long as possible?
A: JUST PAY YOUR FRIGGIN’ TICKET!!!
5. Landed a sweet summer internship back in the motherland that allows me to channel my righteous Chicano anger into something constructive.
5a. Found out that even though we’re not being paid for the summer, the Big Boss of my internship is sending all the interns to the beach, which is awesome.
6. Learned that meritocracy is mostly a lie used to keep Type A people running faster and faster on the gerbil wheel while the elites sip port they recovered from a 16th Century shipwreck, light Cuban cigars with $100 bills, and complain that they don’t make enough money.
7. Found out that “networking” is not just a euphemism that lawyers use as an excuse to drink at 2pm on a Tuesday, but that it can actually put you in contract with cool people who can help you out in life.
So yeah. I’ve been struggling to try and come up with a way to describe my complex and ambiguous feelings about first year. I think I found one.
Finishing the first year of law school is a lot like partying in front of the White House when you hear that Osama bin Laden is dead. At first, you want to do nothing but celebrate, because it feels like a huge relief. You sing a few songs, dance around a little, suppress the urge to burn things. But then you think about how much time, money, and freedom you had to sacrifice to get to that point, and you start to wonder if it was all worth it in the end, especially given the amount of people who either resent you or think you’re a boob for the decision you just made.
And as you hang from a tree branch, dressed up like Spiderman, wondering if all this will actually signal a real turning point in your life or whether this is merely a Pyrrhic victory in a long campaign that will ultimately bleed you dry of all your humanity, all you want to do is shout. From joy? From fear? Who knows.
In conclusion, I end this post by saying…U-S-A!!!! U-S-A!!!!
(It’s been a long year.)
Life as a law student — even life in general — is a lot more complex than I’d care to admit.
Long time readers of my blog know that before coming to law school, I spent a year working for a non-profit doing immigration work. In the summer months before I left home, the firm gave me an opportunity to put an asylum case together almost completely on my own. The legal research was fairly straightforward. To claim asylum, you must prove that you were persecuted on the basis of one of five grounds: social group, political opinion, religion, race, or nationality. I prepared a brief that got the attorney’s nod of approval.
What I was wholly unprepared for was the toll the non-legal aspect of the case would take on me.
My client was a Somali girl a little older than my younger brother who had been through hell and back. During interviews in the mirrored room of the detention center, she recounted how family members had been brutally murdered, how she lived in constant fear of the clashes between AFRICOM and Al Shabaab, how someone maimed her innocence as a child from behind of veil of deeply misguided tradition. But the most disturbing part of her story was the fact that it wasn’t unique. The more I read about Somalia, the more I realized that pedestrian brutality was par for the course. It ground on my conscience and motivated me to do my best in trying to help her stay safe in America.
I haven’t had a lot of time to think about that case since starting law school. Most of my time has been consumed with arcane issues in torts and contracts. Half my energy is spent working toward academic success; the other half is expending worrying about the world around me collapsing if I get lackluster grades. But her trial date came up yesterday. I couldn’t go because I couldn’t afford to buy the ticket to fly home, and neither could the firm. I got the call while I was taking a test for a writing class I will likely get a mediocre grade in. I didn’t check the voicemail until an hour later, after I glanced at my phone on a way to a meeting.
The judge gave her asylum.
A lot has been said about how law school is a lot like high school. We get lockers, we spend most of our time around the same group of people, we have block scheduling, the cliques revive with a vengeance, the list goes on.
But unlike real high school, there aren’t any cool or attractive kids. Roving packs of nerds traverse the halls in small groups, if they’re not walking alone with a 40-yard stare. And the more time I spend here, the more I realize that my classmates, as a whole, are…weird.
Don’t get me wrong. I have great friends and the level of douchiness at this school is relatively low compared to other schools from what I understand. Yet, I think I’ve finally put my finger on what’s up with law school.
A close family member of mine works with children who have autism. She frequently recounts stories of how autism works, what kids with autism do, etc., and after talking to her the other day, I think I’d like to amend the commonly held analogy.
Law school is just like high school…if the entire high school was composed of people on the autism spectrum.
Obviously, I don’t intend to make light of those who struggle with Asperger’s syndrome. But I’m only half-joking when I say that I could seriously see that a large portion of my classmates (and even some of the profs) exhibit symptoms of Asperger’s. Take, for instance, the following excerpts from Wikipedia and see how they can be applied to the law school experience.
LAW SCHOOL AND ASPERGER’S: A LINK?
“The lack of demonstrated empathy is possibly the most dysfunctional aspect of Asperger syndrome…”
PROF: The child suffered massive third-degree burns, meaning he will likely never have a normal social or sexual life because the skin grafts will give his face a grotesque appearance.
STUDENT: So? Dumbass kid should have watched where he was going on that tricycle instead of getting hit by a drunk driver. Contributory negligence.
“Unlike those with autism, people with AS are not usually withdrawn around others; they approach others, even if awkwardly…”
STUDENT: Hi, Mr. Powerful Attorney! I’m networking! Give me a job now or I’ll SUE YOU for intentional infliction of emotional distress! HA! Ha haha ha! All I see are TORTS EVERYWHERE!! (sweats profusely)
“Individuals with AS may collect volumes of detailed information on a relatively narrow topic such as weather data or star names, without necessarily having genuine understanding of the broader topic…”
STUDENT: Yeah, I have all the hornbooks for torts class! So what’s this “negligence” thing you keep talking about?
“Speech may convey a sense of incoherence; the conversational style often includes monologues about topics that bore the listener, fails to provide context for comments, or fails to suppress internal thoughts…”
STUDENT: When my dad, who used to be a forensic botanist specializing in lethal rhododenron genotyping but who is now a partner at Joe & John, LLP, used to let me sit in on antitrust depositions, I used to play tic-tac-toe by myself ALL THE TIME! And I would WIN. So, in conclusion, the plaintiff will obviously lose.
STUDENT: (turns to neighbor) You’re dumber than I am.
People with Asperger’s are described as “physically clumsy” and their “handwriting is poor…”
STUDENT: “Gorflak”? Why did I write that in the margins of my book? (attempts to erase note, inadvertently stabs self in hand with pencil)
“[Asperger's sufferers] are more likely to have sleep problems, including difficulty in falling asleep, frequent nocturnal awakenings, and early morning awakenings…
STUDENT: (jolts up in bed at 3 a.m.) Fuck! Did I set my alarm? (Checks). Phew okay good. (Goes back to sleep. 20 minutes later…) Fuck! Did I set my alarm?
Even the professors, as former law students themselves, are not above suspicion…
“The speaker’s conclusion or point may never be made, and attempts by the listener to elaborate on the speech’s content or logic, or to shift to related topics, are often unsuccessful…”
PROF: (after 10 minutes of nonstop speech) …and so, you can see, just how important individual autonomy is in the making of contracts.
STUDENT: (raises hand) So wait. If I’m understanding you correctly, when I unwrap my Gateway computer and keep it for 30 days, I’m basically saying I agree to arbitrate any dispute in France?
PROF: Well, you tell me. *Does* keeping your computer for 30 days mean you have to arbitrate your agreement in France…?
So does the law attract a large number of people with Asperger’s, as defined by Wikipedia? The evidence is damning. But you be the judge.
…Fuck. Did I set my alarm?
Excerpts from a text message conversation
FRIEND FROM HOME: Hey man wanna play in a jazz band?
ME: I would but I’m in DC lol
FRIEND FROM HOME: Oh, for a while or just a lil bit?
ME: Nah, I’m going to law school here now.
FRIEND FROM HOME:…really?
I have close friendships with people. It only took them four months to realize I wasn’t in town anymore.
Dialogue of the Day
Class is discussing Regina v. Dudley and Stevens,  14 QBD 273 DC, where two people on a lifeboat stranded at sea kill and eat one of their shipmates. Ultimately, they’re convicted of murder, but some members of the class think murder is too harsh of a charge and come to the consensus that they would rather charge the men with manslaughter.
PROF: You want to charge them with manslaughter? But how? There was no adequate provocation.
ME and FRIEND: (simultaneously) But he looked so tasty…
So I woke up this week, and for the first time since starting law school, I said to myself, “Man. I’m so sick of this crap.”
Trudging toward Friday has been about as enjoyable as a colonoscopy. I completely lack motivation and for the first time this year, I found myself stuck at the school studying till midnight and STILL not finishing everything I had to do. At first I was worried I was the only person who felt like this, but after talking it over with a good friend of mine I found out he felt the same way. Then I found out everyone in the section has gotten to that point. Even the gunners seem fatigued.
Consequently, although our torts professor loves to remind us that we attend a relatively prestigious law school and that our J.D.s will put us in the top 0.1% of Americans in terms of education, we have all reverted to child-like forms of keeping ourselves sane. People of Wal-Mart has become a staple of crim law conversation. I was personally responsible for getting the back row of my crim law class addicted to Kitten Cannon. And Thirsty Thursday, an event in which the law school converts our tuition money into kegs of cheap beer, has become a main stay of first year “networking.”
And in all seriousness, I’ve realized that law school is probably one of the most ridiculous places on earth. The disconnect between society’s perception of the legal field and the reality is unbelievably huge. The general public sees a horde of studious young people ready to enter into a dignified field of work. What I see is the guy or girl who might be the next big federal judge shooting an animated kitten into a hellscape of spikes, Venus fly traps, and explosives, trying to get it to bounce as far as possible.
And you know what? That’s perfectly okay. Because if we didn’t have the small distractions in life, you as a consumer of legal services might end up with some pale, schizoid, deeply warped human being as your attorney.
In closing, please watch this video of a cockatoo dancing to Willow Smith’s song “I Whip My Hair Back and Forth.” And pray for us law students.
I don’t have many heroes. As a disaffected twentysomething studying law in DC, I’m discouraged from having heroes, lest I find myself having to sue them.
But one of my true heroes — someone who I will actually say that I admire and not be ironic about — is Apolo Anton Ohno.
I can’t really explain why I like him. Sure, he’s a successful athlete and an Olympian, but there are a lot of those. I could just have easily jumped on the Shawn White wagon or the Michael Phelps train. But to be honest, they seem like douches.
For the longest time, I’ve been a big Apolo fan, because he seems so cool. As a fat, socially awkward, asthmatic teenager, he was everything I wanted to be — athletic, successful, admired. He was the reason I first forayed into the world of facial hair when my chin hairs started coming in. And as a fat, socially awkward, asthmatic adult, I keep up the tradition. Every time the Winter Olympics come, I grow an Apolo-style goatee, even in spite of the fact that my friends love to point out that it makes my face “look like a vagina.” Read the rest of this entry »
Excerpt of a colloquy from class last week
PROF: Mr. Bambi
BAMBI: *looks up, fear face*
PROF: How would you describe the position of this particular concept within the structural framework of the topic at hand?
BAMBI: *Briefly contemplates ritualized shame-suicide* Uh…well…
PROF: Let me withdraw that question.
BAMBI: *cautiously begins breathing again*
PROF: Would you say…that this legal concept…is related or unrelated to the concept we discussed earlier?
BAMBI: Well *flips through notes frantically* I would say that they’re kind of related.
PROF: They’re kind of related?
PROF: What does that even mean?
PROF: You know, I’m kind of related to people that I can still legally marry…
I love my profs. But I would hate to be on the other end of their sarcasm.
“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'” — Kurt Vonnegut
I know this post is coming at 1:30 in the morning, and that nothing good ever happens at 1:30 in the morning. But I feel like I should say this, because my iPod pulled a Jesus and resurrected itself three days after apparently dying in the laundry machine, and because I’ve realized that in spite of buckling under a massive workload and occasionally feeling isolated, I am, in fact, blessed to have some of the best friends in the world to help me get through this.
This feeling will likely fade later on in the week, and it might even be totally crushed when I recieve my midterm grade back if I do exceptionally poorly.
But at this point, that doesn’t matter. Nothing about the “legal” identity matters to me. This feeling exists, and it should not only be acknowledged, but embraced.
I am honest to God happy. I’m happy right at this point, I’m happy existentially with where I’ve ended up in life. I’m happy knowing that, regardless of what happens, who enters my life, or whatever trials and tribulations the future may hold for me, I am ready to meet them. And I’m happy knowing that even if these challenges defeat me, I’ll have experienced what I experienced and be a better person for it. At this moment, I am really, truly content with everything in the universe. Happy to be a human being. Even just happy to be alive.
And if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.
So I’m sitting in the Student Union, feeling pretty good. Had some downtime because for the first time in a million years I’ve actually read reasonably far ahead. I’m sitting, typing away on my laptop, watching CNN, saying to myself, “Hey. I’ll write a glib entry about how no one in DC can pronounce Spanish names! Every time I hear pronounce the name Vasquez as ‘Vass-kwez,’I want to stab myself in the hand!” You know. Lighthearted cultural exchange shit.
As I’m sitting there at the table, two things happen. First, I find out the phrase “i feel like i did poorly on my civil procedure midterm” is apparently one of the top search phrases that leads people to my blog. Ominous. Is the universe trying to tell me something?
Second, while sitting there, plopping soggy nuggets of chicken into honey mustard, a smiling girl came to my table with a basket of candy. I eagerly accepted a Baby Ruth, thinking that the undergrad admissions office probably had leftover Halloween candy. But with the chocolate, she slips me a piece of paper.
“I’m an intern with the counseling center,” she advises me in a soft, reassuring tone of voice. “We’re doing mental health screenings right over there. If you’re interested, please feel free to turn this paper back in.”
After initially trying to figure out why she came up to me — did she do it to everybody? Did I look depressed? Did I look depressed and hot, and she came because she thought she could fix me? Was she hot? I didn’t get a good look! — I decide to peruse the questionnaire.