Feb 17 2011

Passion vs. Paycheck

Published by at 8:58 pm under Miscellaneous

As a new contributor to this blog, I was not sure what I would write about for my first post. One of the questions Professor Friedland suggested was, “who are the happiest law students”, which made me think about something that has been bothering me for a few weeks now. Coming back to Elon as a 2L has been much different than starting out as a brand new, and slightly naive, 1L. After everyone’s summer experiences, my fellow classmates seem to have a better grasp on what type of law they may someday want to practice. I loved my summer experience and it reaffirmed to me that I want to be a prosecutor following law school.

2L year, however, has also brought a string of what I think are a mix between stereotypes and assumptions. As we all start to send out applications for positions next summer, I feel that a lot of my fellow classmates are too focused on why they can or cannot secure positions at the top-notch law firms. Whenever someone asks me where I am sending out applications, I respond with a list of various district attorneys’ offices around the state and elsewhere. Inevitably there is always a moment when the other student judges me on my choice. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard something along the lines of, “you know you are never going to make any money” or “how are you going to pay off your loans”. Sure, these are valid questions. I would venture most students going to law school have crunched the numbers on the interest rates of their loans and cringed. What happened in the legal sector, however, to push people away from extremely rewarding jobs in the public sector? And why is there a stigma attached to pursuing those careers?

I think the happiest law students are the ones who decide they are going to practice the type of law that makes them excited. I can honestly say that I looked forward to getting up in the morning and going to my internship. I’m not sure how many of my classmates felt the same way. Sure some of these students will be happy at huge law firms. I worry that some others, however, put too much emphasis on the name and size of the firm. I may take longer to pay off my loans, but I know I will be happy pursuing the type of law I have a passion for, regardless of the paycheck.

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