Getting to Maybe

By Joe Stewart

A clever title, I know. And for all we learn in law school, the most important lesson is acting as though all great ideas are yours and yours alone, so I’ll let the title lie.

The notion, though, is an important one. We sacrifice a great amount of sleep and self-confidence wrapping our heads around the methodology of “getting to maybe.” All the while, many of us grow reassured that we’re on our way to our dream careers in law. Who, though, can blame us for seeking reassurance? It was our generation that helped China’s economy forge ahead by way of exponentially increased demand for participation trophies.

So we wield our mighty pens with feigned conviction through the dark, perilous ambiguity of American jurisprudence—our only reprieve being the temples of hope we build in our sacred psychic spaces—while humming the ancient mantra of matriculated juris doctor candidates past: “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes.”

Even though I’m sure you have enough to worry about on top of your immovable, confused frustration over undergrads breathing your air and that closely-monitored ulcer situation, I couldn’t avoid the pleasure of asking my baby Maybe to come and dance a while. She loves to dance and nobody puts Maybe in the corner. Maybe nothing’s coming around the mountain. Maybe you were busy with coffee-flavored kisses when all the monkees boarded the last train to Clarksville, and that choo-choo has chugged far out of sight.  Maybe now it’s just the dirt beneath your feet, the sky above you, and the rusted rails of an outdated mode of travel drawing your sight clear to the empty, hopeless horizon.

Maybe in that moment a thought occurs to you that only poor people and Europeans ride trains. I, for one, admonish against such a thought, and under normal circumstances would recommend a proper flogging. However, maybe sometimes the ends justify the means.

The real issue with setting your sights on a single destination is the improbability of reaching it. The New York Times ran a piece in August of last year shedding light on the bleak market outlook for graduating law students. According to the article, only sixty percent of 2014 graduates had found full-time attorney work nearly one year after graduating, and a quick search of “the lawyer bubble” will show you the market’s not looking to change.

In July of this year, Bloomberg Business published an article exploring a new push into the legal industry that may cut job availability even further. Licensed legal technicians—called “LLTs”—are tested and certified legal professionals that fall between lawyers and paralegals, and offer assistance with civil, domestic, and criminal matters that traditionally—and possibly unnecessarily—have been areas where professional assistance could only be legally provided by an attorney. Washington has approved such practice, and New York and California are currently considering approval.

This isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t chase your dream; even Pinocchio got to be a real boy. But at a university that offers innumerable professional development and career preparation resources, it couldn’t hurt to know your options—and position yourself to pursue them—if you happen to miss your train. In my case, I know I won’t practice law after graduation. I’ve built a pretty sweet gig for myself and I enjoy afternoons at the beach far more than 60-hour weeks. But I’m still positioning myself to take and pass the bar after graduation. Why? Because in a world full of planes, trains, and automobiles, I don’t know that it makes a lot of sense to drop $150,000 in hopes of finding a golden ticket out of Grand Central. Life has proven itself capable of twisted irony and gruesome fate—bad dreams come true, too.

I figure, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have a ride to the airport standing by. Sure beats sticking out my thumb.

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