Yesterday's discussion with Mr. Elias has provided me with a great opportunity to reflect on my career goals and evaluate my motivations. Since high school, whenever an adult has inquired about my career goals, I have almost automatically responded, "I want to be a lawyer." Before this semester, I did this because it seemed like an easy answer - a high-paying career that has been romanticized in countless John Grisham novels... who wouldn't want to be one? Plus, it didn't hurt seeing my big brother pave his way to success in a world-renown firm. In short, I was in love with the idea of being a lawyer. But my dreams were always somewhat ambigous: I saw myself in a plush high-rise office, replete with leather and mahogany furnishings. Other than that, I really wasn't sure about what exactly I was going to do. The expansive field of law left much to be determined.
This semester, while interning with the United States Department of Justice, I have gained a great deal of perspective. Although the furnishings are neither mahogany nor leather, there is something homey about my little cubicle down the hall from a Hamilton alum (she, on the other hand, has a nice office with a view). My preconceived notions about law have begun to vanish - I have seen the extensive effort that goes into trial preparation, from tedious document review to hours locked up in a conference room during a deposition. The lawyers here work tirelessly, and sometimes their work is all for naught. That's just the nature of the business. But guess what? I love it. Going to work everday knowing that I am helping to expose corrupt public officials, regardless of how small my role might be, is inspiring. Working with a group of well-trained, highly intelligent attorneys and legal staff on a daily basis makes me want it for myself more and more.
This post wasn't intended to be a summary of how great my internship has been - rather, it is to say that I have looked past the marble-clad hallways of large corporate firms to fulfill my dream of being a lawyer. The lessons that I value most from this semester are not the individual skills that I developed while here, but a newfound desire to serve the public sector. My dreams of being a lawyer are no longer ambiguous - I now have a picture painted in my mind. I want to do it not for the money, not for the glory, but because the nature of the work makes me happy. Job satisfaction dictates career success, right?
I am saddened that my DOJ internship is drawing to an end, but I am grateful for the lessons learned and the skills gained.
By the way, I have attached an article about how to escape the law school debt-trap. It discusses the ways in which a government/nonprofit attorney can have much of their debt forgiven.