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“The Real World entails sacrifice. Being a responsible grownup sometimes means doing things that you don’t want to do. So go out there and fight your future! Time to be a lawyer and make your family proud! Time to make something of yourself! Do it for money and family!” I took a bite of this propaganda like any proto-professional (read: “nice Jewish boy -� he’ll make a fine lawyer.”). Worse, I swallowed, and believed it to be true. Now, it sounds to me like something you tell a soldier to sucker (prep) him for your war. “Patriotism entails sacrifice. Being an American freedom fighter sometimes means doing things that you don’t want to do. So go out there and fight for your future! Time to be a soldier and make your family proud! Time to make something of yourself! Do it for God and country!” Systems involving power, be they the military or law school, run at odds with happiness. To compensate, they are packaged as a grand and necessary means to some ennobled end. Like killing dark-skinned people to keep the cost of gas down. Or writing tedious contracts riddled with circuitous syntax to keep the cost of gas up. Soldiers are trained to kill for whatever country happens to be theirs. Mercenaries (lawyers) are trained to win for whatever country (client) happened to hire them. Soldiers and lawyers are not to concern themselves with what they themselves want; it only gets in the way. I left law school, and my folks thought me lazy or spoiled. I considered it following my dream of being a writer. And both “lazy” and “following my dream” are descriptions of the same trait from variant perspectives: I do what I want to do. But to understand law school as I knew it, and why I left it: Say you are smart and hunger for the dollar, but hate math and can’t do the science or computer thing. What else are you going to do? (You won’t be alone in law school -� that much I assure you.) You’re going to safely find your way into law school -� a whole institution for people who don’t know what they want to do but know how much they want to get paid for doing it. That’s why law schools don’t ask why it is you want to be a lawyer the way med schools ask why you want to be a doctor. What if I don’t really know what I want to do? “No problem! A J.D. allows you to do so much.” Like what? “Don’t worry, we’ll figure that out in three years.” People who knew they wanted to practice law and just weren’t sure of a specialty usually found something that attracted them. But people who went to law school as a vague fallback and a way on to the gallant road of lucrative professional degrees don’t have -� and won’t get -� a clue. This ain’t “Scooby Doo” -� the clues aren’t under every brief, nor will some cute New Englander preppie help you to find one. So I suddenly found law school to be mired with people who didn’t know what they wanted to do, or weren’t doing what they wanted to do. And this troubled me. What is remarkable, then, is not why I, tailor-made for lawyering: a brilliant verbose Jew, a genetically engineered lawyer-type, dropped out of law school, but why almost everyone else does not. Law school is all too frequently the nothing-else-better option. And most law students, not having any better options, do the masochistic, mindless momentum thing: They keep going. It would seem silly to drop law school to chase a dream that carries a murky identity. But sticking with law school only encumbers you with debt, further committing you to the field you aren’t sure of. Not everyone knows his or her dream. But you won’t find it rolling around a place you know isn’t your dream. Sometimes the first step is finding out what you don’t want. My case was special because I had something specific that I wanted to do more. Ask the average law student -� whose average morale reeks of average mediocrity and complacency with a life devoid of a dream -� what else he might do that would actually induce some passion in him. He’ll shrug, “I don’t know.” What is your dream? It’s the one question they won’t ask you in law school. Law school is the embodiment of the omnipresent compulsion to grow rich and powerful -� without much purpose besides being rich and powerful. That is what God planted us in America for. My immigrant ancestors did not cross the ocean with dreams of their youngest paying the rent by waiting tables after earning a degree from the University of Chicago. I’m a human being who didn’t want to be enslaved to a system that doesn’t seem to reward even its winners. I refused to hand over my freedom. Not even for a Beemer. That’s the catch. Look at the big winners. The uberlawyers spending on a watch what I pay in rent all year aren’t happy people. They’re not like doctors who are now rich and following their dream. Randy Rolex is rich and following the ambulance. I bemoan, but do not belittle, the law student who just can’t find his niche. Most law students aren’t crazy about being in law school. Most lawyers aren’t crazy about being lawyers. Then why bother? If there’s no justice, show me the incentive. I found two groups of people who seemed to fit in, to want to be in law school more than anything else, to truly pour themselves into their task: Those who wanted to save the trees, and those who wanted to destroy them. Those on a moral mission find a purpose in what they do that is bigger than themselves. That alone makes worthwhile the drudgery that is law school. Those on an immoral mission find a purpose in being on top, the big dog, the carnivorous scrivener, the verbal vampire, a Master of the Universe. Success means to them whatever the little world they live in tells them it means: being on top of the socioeconomic pyramid where you may sacrifice peons who could not afford so pricey a justice (at a mere $500 an hour). They ride the passenger seat not just in law school, but in life -� as society sees it. These follow-the-leader types would probably just as wholeheartedly devote themselves to public interest work if our society valued altruism the way it does getting rich. Right. Law school meant more than just some day job to me; I love to litigate. To me, being in court is about as fun as waking up in a bed of jellybeans. I thought I had it even better than the tree-types. For, to me, practicing law was not some means to a higher end, but an end in itself. All I wanted to do was to bang out criminal trials. A doctor needs to settle for battling germs -� the basement of the evolutionary pyramid. Litigators battle litigators -� someone trained with all the same tricks as they themselves were. They think on their feet, communicating with the legal expert in the judge and the legal ignoramus in the juror. What could be greater? The window is greater — indeed, the greatest — while it remains open. The window represents that narrow glint of time in our lives when we are not fiscally responsible for anyone and can spend most of our time doing what we want. Most call this retirement. I didn’t want to wait until I was geriatric to follow my dream. I don’t want to write about my arthritis or about how my nutty grandkid dropped out of law school and therefore also dropped the 15 tax brackets between future lawyer and starving artist. Why not get my degree first and then pursue my desires? Had I gone straight through school, I would’ve gotten my J.D. at 24. This entails $15,000 of Stafford undergrad loans and another $65,000 for three years of a public law school. Assume just three years to pay off $80,000 (and so, assume no public interest work). In that scenario, I’m 27 and used to pulling in the kind of salary only the autistic can do arithmetic with. I may have a wife and kids. I’m older. I’m less inclined to wait tables, less inclined not to mind the 100 of my IQ points that are not being used at my day job. The window would then be closed. Clearly, if there is a time to do my own thing, it is now. Only the young do not mind living cheaply when they could be rich. I have never been rich, and I enjoy not knowing what I’m missing. Many of my rich friends never followed their dreams, and they don’t enjoy not knowing what they missed. People ask if it was hard to leave law school, whether it took a lot of courage. Once you follow your dream, everything is easy. Anything can be tolerated in the name of following your dream. It isn’t courage that follows the dream; it is cowardice that never tries. Not every dream is the American dream. I’m an American, but I’m me first. After my decision became “out,” nearly all my law school friends spoke to me with that lusting sigh of vicarious freedom. They, too, wanted to leave. For them, the question was, “But where to?” True, in a few years, they may seem to be sitting prettier than me. But this cushion of a dream makes for some pretty sitting. The old moral was not to commit to law school if there was anything else you wanted to do more. Smart money (of which I can speak �- it’s plentiful money I no longer speak for) says not to commit to law school if you want there to be something you want to do more.

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