Need for Authentic Community — An Open Letter to Recent Law Grads

Posted: September 7, 2015 in Authenticity, Creative Expression, Legal Education
Tags: , , ,

Dear Other Recent Law Grads,

It’s funny, how now that I’m in my thirties, now that I’ve joined a secret society (by this I mean the field of law), now that I’m starting to find even footing in life, I find more and more that what I crave is a sense of community. Sounds cheesy, right? Or like I’m pointing out the obvious? Well, hold on. I would like to share a bit more of my story.

Screenshot 2015-09-07 14.34.33

See, when I was younger (for some reason, the theme song to All in the Family plays in my head here — “thhhhhose were the dayyys”) I used to run away from whatever required sustained team efforts. I would feel frustrated trying to communicate enough to get everyone onboard with a certain approach to problem-solving or I’d recognize that who I was and what I had to offer wasn’t being honored off the bat so I’d want to call it a day. When I looked for jobs, I was able to find really cool fits — very cool if you ask me. But I always sort of kept in my mind this idea that these things were temporary, and that there was no way I could keep doing what I was doing for very long. Short attention span it seems. And yet, now I wonder, was it a short attention span all of these years or was there something missing in terms of how I was presenting myself to the world and what I imagined was possible to receive in return?

Cryptic, I know. But to bring this back into current focus, let’s take the precipice I am currently on. Having finished my JD, having decided I do not necessarily want to take the bar (at least right now), I have found myself in a place of major uncertainty. Where do I fit in? What is going to allow me to feel comfortable and valued enough where I can keep throwing down every day and feel gratified by the experience? (NOTE: if you don’t feel that this is an important element in the realm of employment, I warn you, you may not want to continue reading…) Conventional wisdom as we graduate law school appears to be this: now you are a lawyer; you have a community; you just have to find some job in that community and everything will be fine. Well I would like to say STOP — if you have found this to be the advice given by people in your life or the mentality demonstrated by your law school community or your local bar association, please, do keep reading.

I am finding that legal education has provided me with a platform from which I can assert even more strongly who I am and what I bring to any table (whether it is a table at a church amidst massive grassroots organizing, whether it is at the table of those who are attempting to found a progressive school, or whether it is at the table of big wigs in finance and industry — all of which are tables I have recently found myself seated). Law does not provide an easy plug-in for individuals who want to find for themselves niches that capitalize on who they are, their authentic voices and gifts. You may have to go outside of the “law community” if you want to find a nexus between whatever your interests in law are and the qualities and preferences that make you who you are.

The good news of course is that there are many lawyers who have realized this — that their ability to perform in the legal world is not tied to wholly identifying with whatever firm culture or bar association bullshit is most prevalent where they are working. It is not necessary to pigeon-hole ourselves in an industry where authenticity and creativity are feared or suppressed. It is actually possible, and I would argue desirable, to put out feelers when you are networking for individuals and organizations that feel like a fit for who you are. Find a sense of community and then be open as far as how your training and expertise from law school may be integrated into whatever culture you find gives you that feeling. Do not be afraid to seek that community or lie to yourself and assume you have found it simply because these are the individuals who would hire you, or because this is the firm that everyone in your family is impressed by you becoming a part of. Find what impresses YOU. Seek what and who inspires YOU and invest in that community. There is too much out there for us to be boxed in by whatever fears or narrow mindedness has come before.

With love and affection,

Shoshanna

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