I spent the past couple of New Year’s Eves looking forward to a year of law school. This year was different. Better.
Anticipating a year of law school fills one with a variety of feelings–gratitude, excitement, dread, determination–depending on the circumstances, but I’d wager that happiness is rarely the dominant affect. It’s an undeniable privilege to spend your days and nights preparing for a legal career, but it’s an expensive and exhausting privilege. There are moments of joy and satisfaction, but those moments are the fleeting exceptions to hours of working as hard as you can and hoping that’s good enough. Law students pay a lot of money for that opportunity to work hard and hope. And we do it because a legal education makes it possible to do economically and socially valuable work once we leave school.
That’s what I’m looking at in 2014. My spring semester starts today (or would have, if it had not been for an arctic air mass) and 123 days later, I will have a J.D. I will spend the ten dozen days between now and May 9 taking a couple of interesting classes, publishing the remaining issues of the Journal, continuing my work with the Appellate Clinic, and getting ready for a career in Nashville. A little under four months later, I’ll be assisting a Sixth Circuit judge and bringing home a steady paycheck. There is an awful lot to be happy about in those sentences.
The certainty of a job (at least for the first year out) creates a lot of room to enjoy the intrinsic pleasures of a semester learning about remedies and trial advocacy, but it’s not the only benefit. As a man with a family that was understanding enough to support my decision to go back to law school, the prospect of finally getting paid for my work is a tremendous source of happiness and relief. My wife and I have erred on the side of frugality for the past few years. I expect we will keep a lot of those habits over the next few years, but it is nice to be able to spend money on some of the important things now. Even if we didn’t spend much more this Christmas, we were more relaxed in the giving.
I have enjoyed (more or less) the past two and a half years of law school. I will miss the regular contact with my classmates, and I will always look forward to formal and informal reunions with the people who have enriched my law school experience. But enough is enough. I’m ready for the next step and I’m happy to greet 2014.
So, Happy New Year.