Help me be less ambitious.
February 18, 2010 10:10 AM Subscribe
Help me be figure out the proper level of ambition.
I am in my second year out of law school. I have a year of big firm practice under my belt and am halfway through a one-year federal clerkship. It's about time for me to start (thinking about) looking for a post-clerkship job and I am torn between prioritizing prestige or my personal/family life.
posted by anonymous to human relations (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm older than the average newly-minted lawyer -- I had six years of work experience before I went to law school. I've also been married for several years. Though my spouse and I thought about having kids while I was in law school (something I more and more regret not doing), I was very concerned with doing as well as I possibly could in order to maximize my career prospects. And I did well -- I had a prestigious journal position, I published an article (on my own, not my comment), my grades were quite good, and I had many job offers back when the economy was booming. I worked for a year at a very good law firm and left to clerk for a very highly regarded judge. In other words, I was all set for the prestige track. I wanted to make a name for myself, do something amazing, possibly teach. (I actually still really, really want to teach.)
But now, halfway through my clerkship, I'm not so sure I want to stay on that track. I very much enjoy the reduced stress of this job. The hours are good, there's always something interesting to do, and the salary is quite livable. I also really want to start a family, spend time with my future kids, and not constantly worry about whether I'm billing enough or bringing in enough business.
My old firm will likely let me come back after my clerkship (that's not certain right now because work is slow, but I suspect things will continue to pick up this year). Even if they don't, I can send out resumes to other firms and I think my credentials are strong enough to get me a big law (or highly regarded mid law) job. But as I said above, the thought of going back to living my life in 6 minute increments is really not appealing.
So I'm also looking at various federal attorney positions. Having worked in a pseudo-government job before law school, I know how nice those jobs can be -- good benefits, lots of security, reasonable hours. But they are also mostly not super-prestigious. (I am not referring to the actually prestigious DOJ attorney positions which I would totally take if I could even apply, which I can't because I don't have the extra year of experience required.) They are also not necessarily intellectually interesting to me -- for instance, while I like employment law, it's not my main area of interest. But most of the federal attorney positions out there (at least right now) involve a high percentage of employment and labor issues. I don't necessarily want to take a job that basically defines my future career as one in employment law.
I need help resigning myself to the fact that I can't "have it all." I want the super-prestigious job and to start having babies and work reasonable hours and continue enjoying my new hobbies (I've become a crazy domestic person -- I knit, I sew, I bake cupcakes, for heaven's sake). I don't want to give up my dreams of academia (or at least of being known for something) but I'm afraid I'll have to in order to have the family and personal life I also want. Help me find a way to emotionally be OK with giving up (or seriously rethinking) my dreams.