Monday, October 22, 2007

blessed with a burden

I have started this post--my first post--in my head many times. I thought something witty & smart would be good; it would set the tone for future entries without being unduly serious. Instead, I have something decidedly not hilarious to share that perhaps shows that I am idealistic and inexperienced. I am a third-year law student that has accepted a job with a state public defenders office, and I could not be more excited.

I spent five years between undergraduate and law school, working as a cog within Big Company USA. I took the job because I thought I needed the money to survive and pay back my undergraduate loans. During this time, I received periodic updates about my fellow undergrad classmates and where their lives were going. I was very jealous of the people who had jobs that were more than security and a paycheck. I never thought I could do that.

Then I come to law school where I see privilege everywhere: trust-fund babies, 20-somethings still receiving a substantial allowance from mommy & daddy. These people, I thought, could afford to follow their values and ideals to whatever job they wanted. Loans did not concern them; their families had taken care of that.

So, I began the path that law school students are supposed to follow to be considered successful. First summer, I clerked with a federal judge. Second summer, I was a summer associate at a law firm, trying to make a good impression so they would want to hire me and pay me a "secure" salary after I graduated. At the beginning of this year, I applied for clerkship positions at all the courts in the area of this law firm. I'm not sure what happened, but I'm pretty sure it began this summer. I started to question: (1) my assumption that following your true dreams is a privilege of the wealthy and (2) my goal of accumulating my wealth so I could do what I really wanted.

Testing out this new freedom I had created for myself, I applied to the public defender's office. I will admit; it was also a back-up plan. Security has played such a large role in my life that I couldn't not have a "what if" strategy. I interviewed with a committee of 12-15 people and realized that being a public defender was what I really wanted. I want to use my law degree to help people that need my help. The interplay between human behavior and the law has always intrigued me.

So, I took the job at the PD's office. I know that it will not be glamorous . I know that the criminal justice system has serious problems. But I also know that the decision to accept the job has made me feel like myself, which in turn makes me happy and content with the direction of my post law-school life. What can be better than that?