You deserve a lot of credit for choosing to go to law school, especially given all of the negativity that surrounds that decision. The following negative statements are constantly bouncing around the media:
“Law school is so hard.”
“The bar exam is impossible to pass.”
“The job market is so bad.”
You’ve probably had several friends, family members, and strangers warn you about the difficulty of law school or the dismal job market. And if you’re anything like me, when someone goes out of their way to tell you how their nephew graduated two years ago and still doesn’t have a job or how so-and-so hated law school so much she dropped out, your first reaction will be to argue with the other person (and include a healthy dose of sarcasm).
But it is wiser to step back for a minute and pause before you do. Remind yourself that in general, whoever is telling you about the horrors of law school, the bar exam, or the job market does not have any bad intentions. In general, they are not trying to lie to you or deceive you. They are just seeing things from their own perspective. It’s the truth from their perspective. And indeed, there are numbers to back up a lot of what they are saying!
But, (as many lawyers will tell you), truth is multifaceted. One situation can be viewed from many different perspectives.
And their truth is one truth: You can come into law school and see law school as being torturous, the bar exam as being impossible, and look forward to being unemployed with a lot of law school debt…. and if you come in with that perspective, you will likely create your own self-fulfilling prophecy. You will probably not like law school. You may have a lot of trouble on the bar exam. And you might not find a job. Fine. That mirrors the reality that many people see.
They see a closed door and they say, “Oh look, it’s closed.” They say, “Look at the lower numbers of people applying to law school. Look at the dismal bar exam passage rate in XYZ state. Look at the economy and the number of unemployed lawyers.”
There is no reason to argue with them. There is no reason to be defensive. Whatever, it’s a closed door. Everything that they are saying is true. It is what it is and that’s what they see. And that’s okay.
But you can see that same closed door and you can think:
“How do I open it?” Or
“What can I do to unlock it?” Or
“Can I kick it down?” Or
“Can I get someone to help me open it?”
“Who can I follow through it? Who can I keep it open for?”
“Is there another door that leads to the same place?”
Or you may even think, “That door might be closed, but that other door over there is open.” After all, sometimes the doors that close behind you are just as good of guideposts as the ones that remain open.
So whether you unlock the door, beat it down, or find a different door, remember: closed doors can actually be a blessing in disguise. Closed doors help you to develop perseverance, creativity, resourcefulness, and even gratitude. No one learns anything by walking through a wide-open door. No one experiences life to its depths when it’s handed to them on a silver platter.
So instead of embracing their truth, make your own truth. Learn to see law school – and even some of the doors that appear closed – as a fantastic adventure and opportunity. Learn to see your future as being wide open. Find your own opportunities. And if they don’t exist, make them.
I remember when I was in my second year of law school, I ran into someone who told me, “I’m really jealous of you…It must be so nice to be able to completely immerse yourself in the law for three full years. You must be learning so much. What a fantastic adventure.” And I realized that it could help a lot of law students to change some of our perspectives and realize how lucky we really are for the opportunity to go to law school.
So when someone says something negative, don’t argue with it. Don’t say something sarcastic. Just say, “Okay, thanks.” After all, that’s their truth. And they freely shared it with you. It doesn’t mean you have to adopt it. Just go about making your own, better, truth.
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