I have a friend who ran the New York Marathon this past weekend and, from my out of shape perspective, that’s an amazing accomplishment. Twenty six and two-tenths miles isn’t a short drive, let alone an easy run, and the mere task of training for a marathon is a grueling process. It’s been said that if you start to doubt yourself at mile ten, you are in trouble; if you start to doubt yourself at mile 20, that’s completely normal, as no human is supposed to actually run more than twenty miles in one time. And in order to finish the race, it’s you versus your mind. This allegory, to me, sums up the practice of law.
It starts with law school. The first ten miles clearly is first year. The people that I remember the most hitting the early wall were the gunners who annoyed the hell out of you during the first semester and into the second semester, until grades arrived. Those gunners fell silent and some dropped out (only to have their gunner titles taken by the remaining assholes sitting in the lecture hall). For me, the twenty miles of law school (i.e. the first two years) were really no problem, and I never doubted what the end result was going to be. But then third year began and with it came the bar application process.
That’s when I started fighting with myself to get to the end of the race:
Bad Me: You don’t have to have to be a lawyer. Just take the easy way out, take the degree and find a job in another field. There’ll be no bar application, no letters of reference and no character and fitness—and it’ll be all over.
Good Me: I think you’re right. I don’t want to fill this out and have my past nit-picked over. I made dumb choices as a kid and that one boss has it out for me. I don’t want to have to tell the bar what happened. I just want to dive in a pile of money . . . I didn’t sign up for this! This is just a bad idea.
Bad Me: Don’t fill it out. You’ll be fine.
Good Me: Wait. But . . . everyone has this problem.
Needless to say, I filled out my bar application (Gin, tonic) and got through character & fitness (he’s a character and needs to run more) without an issue. My reward wasn’t the runner’s high or an amazing sense of accomplishment, it was a pretty piece of parchment and a seat for the bar exam.
They say that marathon running can be quite addictive. For those of us who survived the law school run, our second marathon was the beginning of our careers—or the battle to find a job in the first place. Those who panicked too early aren’t practicing law anymore, or they are those that burned out and left the high stress environment for less cutting edge, less work, and an overall cushier job title. Just like President Obama: he left Big Law for the White House.
For me, I’m in that last six miles trying to finish yet another race. No, I’m not about to burn out and run for President (yet). But my present mental hurdle is my job. And the process of trying to find the right place to move. You know without shanking a client or, worse, a partner. Having made it through law school, unemployment, and the initial career races, I’d like to think that the Job Search Marathon will be the easiest one to date. I know that when it’s finished, I’ll be eagerly anticipating the next one. Because I’m addicted to the lawyers high.