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August 28, 2010
Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
It is never too late to become what you might have been.
A strange thing, for me, about the process of going through law school has been the constant, sometimes unrelenting, process of self-evaluation. It began very early, even before actually going to school, during the course of applications when everything that made me “me” had to be distilled into a test score, a GPA, two letters of recommendation and personal statement. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most admissions committees really don’t bother with too much other than the two numbers.
During first year, especially in the beginning, I would spend the ride home after class analyzing, almost every day, my standing as a law student: Did I get the reasoning of the case right? Was I talking too much? Asking stupid questions? (for me the issue was never “Do I participate too little?”). In class, I would look around the room and wonder, how do I stack up against everyone else? As tests and writing assignments came around I would speculate about how I might have done, and, after grades, I would ponder what those numbers meant to me, about me.
Somewhere along the line I began to talk to the grownups (oddly, I am as old or older than some of the faculty and staff, but I can’t shake feeling that they are all older, wiser, and possess some secret knowledge or understanding about the world of Law (capital “L”)). Invariably, as non-traditional, non-young, student I would be asked “Why are you in law school at this point?” Each time I was asked that, the answer would change, at least a little, because, well, it was a valid question, and I was constantly re-assessing myself. The people in career development only exacerbated the situation because they required me to evaluate myself. There is, in fact, a four-page self-assessment work sheet-- really.
As I have progressed to the point of interviewing for special programs, for editorial positions, for summer associate spots, I am forever trying to anticipate the questions that are going to be asked, trying to figure out how, indeed, I am good fit with whomever is on the other side of the table (and how I could possibly be such a good fit for such diverse programs as, say, Latham & Watkins and The Legal Aid Society Of Westchester?). Even as I deftly answer the question “What are your long range career objectives?” I am contemplating whether or not the interviewer believes I measure up to the job, and whether or not I believe it. Like grades, when the answer comes back from the unknown people who make such decisions, it leads to more cogitation about what “no” means, what “yes” means.
Despite the constant uncertainty of what are my strengths? My weaknesses? I have come to be able to believe that, in any given moment, I have pretty good handle on who I am. The problem is that who I am seems to change pretty regularly. It does not help that the questions calling for self-evaluation get more sophisticated, tricky perhaps, the farther I go. I came across this gem in the career development assessment: “What are you willing to sacrifice or compromise?” As I though about what that could possibly mean, I realized that Law school has taught me much about the art of self-evaluation. It has also taught me, on the other hand, the perfect answer to almost any question, and I quickly jotted it in the space provided-- “It depends.”