The Extended Plan
Everyone anticipates that some things about law school will be great, and some will be miserable. For me, both the best and the hardest elements of my YLS experience are things I never saw coming.
When I prepared to move to New Haven for law school, I signed a three-year lease on my apartment. I might not have known what kind of job I was going to take after graduation, or where I would be moving, but I was supremely confident that at the end of those three years, I would have a law school diploma and be off. Yet here we are, three months shy of my expected graduation date, and I find myself only halfway done with school. This I didn’t see coming.
Contrary to my plans and expectations, I have gotten on what I like to call (in moments of various levels of self-mocking) the “extended plan,” the “creative path,” or, sometimes the “dropout route” through law school. My 1L summer job working for the Senate Judiciary Committee in DC became much more very fast when, unexpectedly, two justices left the Supreme Court.
Faced with an offer from my office to leave school and participate in this historic legal moment, I was really torn. I had loved my 1L year; I’d made great friends, really enjoyed my work, and I did, after all, want to be a lawyer. I was afraid that if I left school, it would be impossible to come back, or if I did come back I would have fallen out of step with the community of which I was so happy to be a part. And, with only a year of school under my belt, I had basically bought a mountain of debt for 1/3 of a degree.
I sought advice from people I trusted: administrators and professors at the law school. Without exception, each urged me to take the job; they reminded me that law school would be there when I came back, and that public service (through the law) is a bedrock principle of the school – why wait until graduation to begin on that path? Most impressively to me, they honestly talked to me about what the downsides would be, recognizing that, for me personally, falling out of step with my class might be difficult. On net, though, they strongly suggested that I take that risk and take advantage of the opportunity my YLS education had afforded me.
So I did. And, the law school sages turned out to be right. As a result of my job, I had the best, most professionally fulfilling year of my life. I even got to stay in close touch with many of my professors and friends, as they provided advice and counsel on various legal and policy questions I encountered in my year on the Hill. When I returned to school this fall, having dropped back into the class of 2008, I did find the transition enormously difficult – my old classmates were still around, but with all the new faces, I suddenly felt like a stranger in the school that, fifteen months earlier, had been my home. Though the readjustment was challenging, I eventually managed to re-acclimate, and I don’t regret for a single moment the choice I made. I also don’t doubt that the opportunity never would have come my way without the doors YLS opened for me (and the help from the school in pushing me through them).