Sarah

Every day I go to work, I feel like I’m wooing a boy.  I clear my schedule, make myself available.  I get dressed up.  I write these emails, send them off, and then worry that I sounded lame or scattered.  Or I try to reassure myself, “No, no.  That was good.  Short, breezy, knowing.  That could have been good.”

I don’t know what non-human institutions and endeavors you’re currently wooing, but for me, right now, it’s the law.  Like many boys I was eventually smitten with, I didn’t think at first that I would like the law.  I thought I would go to law school, get my JD, get some legal experience, and then be on my way.  Take my credentials and head off into more applicable waters.

But it turns out, I like what I do.  Who would have guessed?  I was never the kid that people were saying “You should be a lawyer” to.  Instead, I was the kid that people said “You should be an English teacher” to.  When I got to college, I majored in English teaching.

What no one told me was that the law is all about stories and rules.  I love stories, and I like rules.  Reading a casebook is like reading Encyclopedia Brown: a series of anecdotes, each with characters, quirky facts, intellectual puzzles.  You ask a few good questions, you scratch your head, you apply some principles, and you get a ruling before dessert.  Turn page, next chapter.

I loved law school.  Loved it every day, and got a job at a big law firm, where, to everyone’s surprise and delight, I like what I do.  I like what I do, even though I sit in a chair at a computer and craft legal database queries until my wrists fall asleep.  But the cases I’m working on and the kinds of intellectual distinctions I have to draw are interesting.  And (1) I get paid to write; (2) I get paid to make messy things tidy.  This plaintiff’s situation, this legal area, this case law—all messy.  I write a(n) email/motion/memo and make it tidy for the supervising attorney/the judge/the world.  It’s very satisfying.

This is why I think Jane Austen would have made a fine attorney.  Neither of us can endure a mess.*

I like the law, but I feel like, at present, it doesn’t care for me.  Or rather, it’s politely indifferent.  The law is a powerful institution.  It has a reputation for being cold, logical, largely inaccessible.  It’s peopled by judges, intoning; attorneys, opining; and professors and intellectuals, waxing lyrical about judicial review, sovereign immunity, choice of law, laches.  Not the stuff I usually talk about around my kitchen table.  Also, I work in a job where I’m almost entirely fungible.  I’m one of a host of first-years, all of whom do caselaw research, write internal memos, fill in cites on briefs, and help senior attorneys prepare for depositions.  Our personalities don’t particularly matter.  At this point, we’re inexperienced enough, not even our skill sets matter.  “Oh, you don’t have time to help me?” a senior associate might ask.  “That’s okay, I can ask one of the other 86 people we employ in this office who can do exactly what you do.”  (The people I work with are kind and don’t say that.  Still it’s true.  And who can blame them?  That is exactly what they hired all 86 of us for.)

The law is like a boy I want to date who doesn’t want to date me.  He doesn’t see that despite our differences—e.g. he prizes reasonableness and logic, whereas I’m most articulate when talking about my emotions; he cares about justice, while I’m pretty hung up on this idea of loving people—we’re actually a good match.  That he should like me, that he should value my contributions.  That he should court me.

Pun totally intended.

I’m not saying it’s forever, that the law’s it for me, and it won’t ever be anything else.  But for now, and for the next little while, I’m going to try to make a go of it.  I’m going to do what girls do with boys who are obtuse to their affections: figure out what he wants and then try to find inside myself the parts of me that are those things.

What I’m saying is if the law had an elbow, you can bet I’d be touching it.

* Points for this quote.  From one of the greatest book-to-movies ever.

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