Dad, please stop beating a dead horse.
January 6, 2010 6:43 PM   Subscribe

I am a paralegal. No matter what I say, my father continually reminds me that if I went to law school I would have a better job, make more money, etc. If I say anything remotely intelligent, he automatically responds, "See, you should go to law school." Please help me make him understand that I don't want to go back to school, and his nonstop pestering only makes me feel stupid and inadequate.

Attaining my B.A. snowballed me into a never-ending cycle of anxiety-ridden depression. In college, I was extremely stressed out, lonely, and depressed. I spent many nights wired on caffeine and sleep-deprived, because I procrastinated like crazy. Now that I've been working for three years, I have financial independence, my own apartment, and even a couple of boyfriends here and there. I don't want to go back to school. The stress and increased isolation due to studying are not helpful for someone prone to anxiety-related depression like myself. My father is a physician, and the only member of his family who completed a post-graduate degree. He grew up in an impoverished country, and to his credit, his ambitious nature propelled him out of poverty. But how do I make him understand, that I'm NOT him, that I have no desire to go back to school, and my frustration with him for dwelling on the subject?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (54 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Say this, in the nicest, calmest way possible:

"I don't want to go back to school, and your nonstop pestering only makes me feel stupid and inadequate. Furthermore, I am happy in my career and I work closely enough with attorneys to know that I don't want to be one."
posted by The World Famous at 6:52 PM on January 6, 2010 [11 favorites]

We don't know your dad of course so it's hard to say. But I'm gonna guess that sending him exactly what you wrote here is about as good a chance as you have.

Sometimes, unfortunately, you simply can't get other people to change. If that is the case, you have to decide to live with them as is or shut them out of your life. Where that line is is different for everyone. Maybe if it gets to that point telling your dad that he is endangering having any connection with you will get him to pay attention.
posted by Babblesort at 6:53 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was a paralegal for many years and my parents who are of the same ilk as yours pestered me for a long time about going to law school and I am a lot like you - didn't want to go thru the depression and isolation i felt in college. so guess what, i stuck with my paralegal job for ten years, took a few graduate courses while working that turned into a master's. dad didn't shut up until i told him it was end of discussion, period. so stick up for yourself. things will work out just fine for you - you learn so many valuable skills as a paralegal that will follow you throughout your career. i found that when I eventually i told my dad to F off, he shut up. its harsh, but the only way to get the message across. (and now he is very pleased with me 'cuz i've gone far, and its thx to the skills i learned in that job) you will be fine and so will your dad (eventually)
posted by dmbfan93 at 6:54 PM on January 6, 2010

Leave. Every time he mentions it, leave the room. If he says it over the phone, hang up. Don't say anything when you do this, just refuse to be present for the conversation he's clearly having with himself about you. You can tell him ahead of time that this is what you're going to do from now on, but when you actually do it, just disengage, don't respond at all. Eventually, he'll probably learn to stop doing it. But even if he doesn't, you won't have to hear it anymore.

No one can continue to behave towards you in a way that drives you crazy unless you let them. Stop letting him.
posted by decathecting at 6:57 PM on January 6, 2010 [10 favorites]

Next time he mentions it, have a conversation like this:

"Dad, I know you love me and you think I am smart. But going to law school to become a lawyer would not make me happy. Do you want a daughter* who is a lawyer or a daughter who is happy. Because I can't be both. The money I earn now, and will earn in the future is enough to make independent, happy and content. Law school would make me very unhappy."

Repeat the line "do you want a daughter who is a lawyer or one who is happy, because I can't be both" as required. If he has even half an ear, he'll hear you eventually.

*hetrosexual assumption based on the boyfriends reference
posted by Kerasia at 6:59 PM on January 6, 2010 [7 favorites]

IANAL but the job market for law grads is a bloodbath right now. Professionally you're much better with a "sure thing" than you are with a law degree. Not to mention the crushing debt you'd incur at one of the "better" programs.
posted by bardic at 6:59 PM on January 6, 2010

"I won't go until it's possible to sue somebody for being a pain in the ass."

posted by Rykey at 7:01 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I graduated law school in the spring. I have a job, but it's only for a year, and you probably make more than I do. I also have $150,000 in debt. Tell him that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:01 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

If I went to law school, became a lawyer, I would be working so many hours that I would not have time to spend quality time with you.

If I became a lawyer, chances are that I would now be laid off since that is happening at so many firms. And then I would have to depend upon you for financial support.
posted by Postroad at 7:05 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

You certainly have my empathy, your story sounds a lot like mine... My dad was the first in his family to finish high school, let alone go on to college and then get a Ph.D. When I "only" got a bachelor's degree (and became a paralegal, like you), he actually told me that I was a disappointment. I did end up going to law school, for many reasons, not the least of which was that I wanted to make my dad proud. And yeah, he's proud, but he still thinks I'm a dumb ass and now I'm saddled with over $100k in debt.

If I could go back and do it again, when he told me I was a disappointment to him I would have said, "Well then, your priorities are fucked up. Because I'm a happy person, with a stable job and supportive friends. I have a full life that I enjoy. These are the things that should make you feel like a successful parent, and proud of me and what I have become. My happiness should make you happy." I suggest that you say this to your dad, and add that you don't have any desire to go to law school, and when he says that you should it makes you feel like you're not good enough for him. Chances are he thinks he's complimenting your intelligence when he says what he says, and maybe he just needs a wake-up call that he's hurting your feelings.
posted by amro at 7:07 PM on January 6, 2010 [15 favorites]

if I went to law school I would have a better job, make more money, etc.

Uh, yeah, not necessarily.
posted by SpringAquifer at 7:08 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Take a look at this graph of starting salaries for law school graduates in 2008. That graph doesn't count the folks who couldn't get a job, which was a lot of people. It's quite likely that you wouldn't actually make more money after graduating, and when you factor in debt the picture is even worse: the average law student graduates with $51-$78k in debt. Finally, the three years of law school are three years where you're basically making no money at all. It's quite likely that your life-time earnings would be negligibly higher and quite possibly lower than they would be if you stuck with your current career.
posted by jedicus at 7:13 PM on January 6, 2010

Is it law school that you're worried about, or the actual practice of law? Because many people make the mistake of going to law school, only to be confronted with the realities of law practice, and the stress of actual practice might be a more convincing argument to assuage him. Some talking points: Explain to him the perils of private practice, then explain to him what it is like to be a slave to the billable hour when you're in private practice. Explain to him the misery of having your work product commoditized, and having to account for every six minutes of your day, so that you can get paid for your work by your clients. Explain to him how, as an attorney, when you have a billable hours requirement of x hours per month, there's really no such thing as a "vacation" and even assuming that you can manage to book a vacation in between litigation deadlines, there is a high probability of some unforeseen client "emergency" requiring an immediate application for temporary injunction.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:17 PM on January 6, 2010

i really like "do you want a daughter who is a lawyer or one who is happy, because I can't be both". it reinforces that it's something you've considered and that his priorities are whacked out without being rude to him.

here's some food for thought.
posted by nadawi at 7:18 PM on January 6, 2010

I'm sorry that your dad feels like berating you is the appropriate way to make you see the light and improve your life. It's also a shame that he doesn't realize how many lawyers would really just like to do a job they enjoy, and what a great thing it is to be happy in your work. His negativity and rudeness is affecting your happiness and well-being. It's time to make this clear to him. Next time he gets on one of his tirades, tell him, "Dad, I know how you feel about this, but I'm happy with my job, it's good for me and I have no desire to go to law school. It might be the right decision for you, but it's not for me, and you need to respect that I've made up my mind about this and am not going to change it. It's unpleasant for me to be pestered by you about this every time we get together, and if you can't refrain from making these comments, then we're going to have to spend less time together, because it's affecting my happiness. For both our sakes, please drop this once and for all." If he doesn't get it, then cease contact for a while until he does.

Also: If he's anything like my dad, your best bet is probably to just go to law school.

I'm assuming this was just meant as a joke (I chuckled), but for the record, don't do this.
posted by Dasein at 7:25 PM on January 6, 2010

Yes, I'd remind him how terrible the market is for lawyers right now, and of the fact that the law schools are accepting more applicants and churning out more lawyers than ever before. Consequently, by the time you finished, you'd be further behind than if you'd spent the time becoming an even-better paralegal than you are now.

A law degree used to be a ticket to ride. Now, it is really just the first step on a very, very long road that you pretty much have to build yourself.

There's also more to the legal industry than lawyers. Paralegals who understand how the system works and do good work will always find well-paying jobs.
posted by MrZero at 7:26 PM on January 6, 2010

When there was a topic I didn't want my dad to keep harping on me about, many years ago, I told him I didn't want to hear any more about it and if he brought it up again, I'd leave. The next time he brought it up, I said, "I told you I'd leave if you brought this up again," and did--no tears or anything, just really calm.

It only took that once. He has never brought it up again.
posted by not that girl at 7:27 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are an adult with a college degree, a job, and your own apartment. Congratulations. Now, it's time to become independent of your family because...

Your father is a toxic parent. He is abusing you emotionally. You can try the suggestions above for telling him to stop, already, but if they don't work, just cut the cord and walk away. Eliminate him from your life. Because every day you continue in a relationship with him will erode your self-confidence and self-esteem, and nobody needs that. Do this not out of spite, but out of concern for your own mental health.

I hope you have a good therapist to help you work through these issues and become a stronger, happier person. You deserve that.
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:33 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

If he's anything like my dad, your best bet is probably to just go to law school.

I can understand why people think it's funny, but I was being serious.

For years, I didn't have a lot of contact with my father, and it was mostly me staying away because I didn't live up to his expectations. I came to terms with it before he changed. Honestly, I'm not sure he has it in him to come around.

I think some dads are like that. And, anonymous, I hope yours isn't.
posted by box at 7:33 PM on January 6, 2010

The success of this tactic depends on how much he values the people who support his work, but maybe you could remind him that every good doctor needs an excellent group of nurses, technicians, and support staff behind them, and while it may not be his choice, could he imagine what his professional life would be like if he didn't have those people to contribute to his efforts?

Also, you might remind him that while every lawyer needs a paralegal, and you appreciate the vote of confidence implied by his persistence that you could be the lawyer in the equation, paralegal is what works for you, and doesn't mean that you are less in any way, but that you are able to see clearly what will make your life a happy and full one, beyond what one does during the work week. Sometimes there is no convincing people, and then, "do you want a daughter who is a lawyer or one who is happy, because I can't be both," and then walking away from the conversation in the future is probably your best option.
posted by katemcd at 7:34 PM on January 6, 2010

If it helps at all, I often think I'd have been better off becoming a paralegal than going to law school and becoming an attorney.

I think the line about being happy or being a lawyer is a good one. In the end, you have to live the life that works for you, though, and maybe that is what you need to tell your father - that your life *works* for you, and why would he want you to make yourself miserable just to live the life *he* thinks you should live?
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 7:35 PM on January 6, 2010

I feel your pain. I really do. My mom pushed me to be a doctor. She had a whole script for my life. It was relentless.

Don't try to convince him. Just stand your ground. Remember - it's not a negotiation. Deflect - don't engage.

1. Look thoughtful, fixing your gaze up and to the side, as if you're considering a new idea seriously, and then say with bemused finality - "Hmmm... That's not the view I have of myself," or "Yeah... that's not in my plans" or "Law school... no, not my thing", punctuate with a pause, and an affectionate smile as if to say "thanks for the suggestion though, I can see how much you care about me", then ...

2. Counter with concern for his well-being - "So, how's your blood pressure, dad? Are you exercising every day? Eating veggies and fruit? How's that old friend of yours? I heard that you had a colonoscopy last week..."

With repetition, you can abbreviate this to a quick thoughtful pause, a bemused "hmm, nah, ", and straight into the counterjab.

That's the extinction method of behavior modification. Another is shock treatment. I was in my 20's and not a doctor, so My mom came to visit me and spent hours on this subject. Finally I painted, in big red letters, on my apartment walls: "No thank you, I'm very happy here." Hee. It worked. Be creative and go big!

posted by metaseeker at 7:39 PM on January 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

Tell him you are way too smart to go to law school. See other posters above for a litany of reasons.

Then ask him if he wished he'd become a lawyer instead of a doctor.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:53 PM on January 6, 2010

Also, "Why would I be stupid enough to go to law school when it's not something I want to do?"

Part of the reason this digs at you so much is maybe you feel like your job or degree isn't worth as much as his. Bullfeathers. You have a job you like, you support yourself, you HAVE a life-you are a success! Let yourself rejoice and enjoy it!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:55 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just adding my voice to the chorus that law school debt and the job market really are that bad. I'm a lawyer, I love my job, but I'm fairly certain that the law clerks at my office net more than me, without my crippling student loan debt. And I'm one of the lucky ones from my law school class who is actually employed, and in practice. (I went to a very good school, too, FWIW)
posted by AV at 7:58 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

There aren't a lot of guys giving the dad any credit. Maybe the dad is legitimately concerned -- the average salary for paralegals is half that of lawyers at 5 years experience and declines from there.

Money isn't everything and modern dads are often very, very concerned that their daughters aren't making choices that effectively make them dependent in the future on marrying some guy who will earn more (and thus have an unbalanced relationship). This is NOT a rational thought, it is a worry-about-my-daughter thought.

Are you living independently, on your own dime? If so, patiently explain to your parents that you have your financial situation under control. If not, figure out how to get there and answer their comments with "I'm doing pretty well, can you appreciate that?" once you are.
posted by rr at 8:10 PM on January 6, 2010

Parents do this sort of thing, and they are only eitehr trying to encourage you or showing love. Your standard response should be: "I agree dad, I should, maybe in a year or so"

Far better for your father to be showing an active (albeit annoying) interest than none at all
posted by mattoxic at 8:16 PM on January 6, 2010

I (sort of) feel your pain. My folks always made me feel inadequate no matter what milestone I achieved. Even now, post PhD, I get much angst for being postdoc and not an asst. prof yet. I'm almost certain that once I do get that job, they will continue to ask why I'm taking so long to make tenure. My point here is that it is quite unlikely that your dad will just be satisfied with you getting a law degree -- there will always be something missing.

Somewhere along the line I realized that there is no end point that will make them totally happy. So my best advice to you is to realize that you and your folks are on totally different pages. You can't make your dad stop, but how you internalize his nagging is entirely under your control.
posted by special-k at 8:19 PM on January 6, 2010

"the average salary for paralegals is half that of lawyers at 5 years experience and declines from there"

As many practicing lawyers have said in this thread, this simply isn't true any longer when you factor in "unemployed people with JD's."
posted by bardic at 8:23 PM on January 6, 2010

You know, there's an interesting book on the Subject: Hand me down dreams: How Families Influence Career Paths and How We Can Reclaim Them.

I seem to remember there was quite a bit about class and status, particularly for first generation college students, and second generation students who are children of parents who choice societally 'status-having' jobs.

You know, the joke about the parents giving their child a choice; they could be any type of doctor they want?

Well the larger variation is what I call the SLMB careers, pronounced "Slimb". That parents give their children the choice of acceptable careers: Science, Law, Medicine or Business. And of these careers, you only have SLEP choices: Scientist, Lawyer, Physician, Executive. Maybe, maybe if there are multiple children, they'd settle for the field of Education, but only if they are tenured faculty at an institution that their friends and colleagues are familiar with. Clergy, but you better be at the vatican.

You can probably guess what your father's harping on the 'you coulda been a contenda'/lawyer' schtick is about. But I find it's really hard to get parents to stop chipping away at their children, because it's all about them and their fears, part status thing, part projecting thing, part fear thing.

I say this because while I think the boundaries thing: I'm happy, stop mentioning it strategy might stop them from saying what they are thinking, but it probably won't stop them from thinking it.

Perhaps you could see this through a lens of considered pity, or incredible compassion, for really unacceptable behavior that comes from an incredible place of weakness on the part of your father. I mean, how sad is it when your child tells you they are happy, and you can't just be happy for them? When you brag to friends that your children are so smart, but you don't trust their judgement? When you can't accept that your child's talent doesn't the same thing as interest, and that without both, a person probably shouldn't pursue that path? Instead, because you can't keep your own elitism, or classism, or fears, or grubby little dreams off of another person's life - in this case, your child - you might actually drive them away? This behavior is so common. And so sad. And I think the only reaction (in addition to boundaries), is compassion.

I think people often only behave this way because their personal identity is so wrapped up with what they do. And they cling to that job title, and are often afraid to separate who they are from what they do. They would feel sort of stripped bare. That's why I think that people in SLEP careers really struggle if somehow they get denied access to that identity, either because they get disbarred or forced out.

Okay, all that to say something that I read on metafilter just yesterday: That every time your father harps on the 'be a lawyer' thing, he is telling you something about himself, and nothing about you. See that for what it is, cut it off, but with compassion for this shortcoming on his part.
posted by anitanita at 8:25 PM on January 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

That sounds like a great opportunity to trot out BitterOldPunk's classic "Well, bless your heart."
posted by ErikaB at 8:41 PM on January 6, 2010

Only you can tell him that his dreams, wishes and aspirations are not necessarily yours and that maybe - probably - he should keep them to himself.
posted by 2oh1 at 8:45 PM on January 6, 2010

ok I bet I think I know what your dad's issue potentially is. He's stuck in the Stone Ages where paralegals aren't considered highly valuable employees. Tell him to get with the times.

20-30 years ago, back when he was probably starting out, a "paralegal" was a fancy term for a legal assistant (i.e. a secretary) and secretaries were essentially glorified waitresses. I can say that because I've been a secretary (I ***HATE*** the euphemism "admin assistant, btw) for 22 years. Your dad is working from obsolete assumptions. He's also projecting his own personal insecurity bullshit onto you (I'm guessing he treats his nurses and PAs like peons, too, but that's beside the point). That's already been well covered by the folks up above; it sounds like the classic toxic controlling parent dynamic. If his "impoverished society" that he comes from is also backwards and patriarchal, then I'm sorry, you're probably not going to change his mind easily.

I work as a legal assistant to in-house counsel at a pharmaceuticals manufacturing company. I've been given the option to take paralegal certification if I want to pursue it. I'm considering it, but here's the thing. There are some fucking INSANE requirements these days to become a paralegal. From what I gather you just sort of did it through osmosis in the old days. These days you have to be certified, and the process is NOT EASY. The requirements for accreditation for the course I researched today are thusly:

NALA Certification Eligibility Requirements

If you plan to pursue the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Certified Paralegal/Certified Legal Assistant (CP/CLA) credential, you must meet one of the requirements for eligibility shown below under the heading NALA Certification Eligibility Requirements. This Paralegal course is 300 clock hours. In order to meet the eligibility requirements to sit for the CP/CLA credentialing exam using this course, you must also hold a Bachelor's Degree in any field, or you must have seven years of experience as a legal assistant under the supervision of a member of the Bar.

To be eligible for the CLA examination, a legal assistant must meet one of the following alternate requirements:

1. Graduation from a legal assistant program that is:
* Approved by the American Bar Association; or
* An associate degree program; or
* A post-baccalaureate certificate program in legal assistant studies; or
* A bachelor's degree program in legal assistant studies; or
* A legal assistant program which consists of a minimum of 60 semester hours (900 clock hours or 90 quarter hours) of which at least 15 semester hours (225 clock hours or 22.5 quarter hours) are substantive legal courses.

2. A bachelor's degree in any field plus one year of experience as a legal assistant. Successful completion of at least 15 semester hours (or 22.5 quarter hours or 225 clock hours) of substantive legal assistant courses will be considered equivalent to one year's experience as a legal assistant.

3. A high school diploma or equivalent plus seven (7) years of experience as a legal assistant under the supervision of a member of the Bar, plus evidence of a minimum of twenty (20) hours of continuing legal education credit to have been completed within a two (2) year period prior to the examination date.

My boss says that paralegals are so extremely highly regarded (and correspondingly well-paid) these days because lawyers just don't have the time to do the bulk of the heavy lifting with research, filings, handling outside counsel, understanding intellectual property, etcetera, etcetera and soforth. I know I do a shit ton of reading and research on a daily basis and I'm not even close to being a "real" paralegal, much less qualified for accreditation. Most good paralegals probably end up knowing more about the specific nuts and bolts of their field than the attorneys they support as a result.

Bottom line: your old man's out of touch with the times. Tell him to get off your lawn.
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:51 PM on January 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

Tell your dad you’ve taken a Myers-Briggs test and you’re an INFP, the worst type for law.
posted by johngoren at 8:53 PM on January 6, 2010

You sound like my family, especially since my sister started law school this year. However, you seem to be gainfully employed, while I am a unemployed ex-journalist looking for a career. I had to learn the hard way that your job should not define your life or be the center of your identity. The people who I've seen do this seem incredibly unhappy, this should not be anyone's goal.
Don't worry about the criticism because if you ever change your mind about your career, you have the financial stability to pursue something else, such as night school.
posted by greatalleycat at 9:12 PM on January 6, 2010

Any rationale is going to just give him something against which to argue. Just say that no, you're not doing that. "I'm not going to argue with you" is a good neutral line.

And then stand your ground. No. No. Nope. Nooo. No, I'm not going to get my JD. Why do you keep going on about this? That's very odd. Anyway, no.
posted by desuetude at 9:19 PM on January 6, 2010

It may help to emphasize the genuine intelligence and knowledge required to be a good paralegal. You're not just a glorified receptionist; you've got real skills that the lawyers you work with may not have bothered to develop. I know you know all this, but I suspect your dad doesn't.

FWIW, I'd argue against the "law school would make me unhappy" line of reasoning. My personal experience is that a lot of people mistake it for false modesty and launch into a pep talk about how YOU CAN TOTALLY DO IT YOU'RE TOUGH ENOUGH GO TEAM, which is counterproductive and really damn irritating. Better to say "I truly love X" (to which the only sane response is "awesome!") than to say "I'm afraid I'd hate Y" (which kind and well-meaning people will try to talk you out of).
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:19 PM on January 6, 2010

Kerasia's advice is excellent. I basically used that method a few years ago at Christmas, when (despite my being happily married and succeeding in the industry I care about) my father reminded me I could still go back to school and become a doctor. The answer was easy:

"Okay, I will. If you pay for it."

Turns out he's proud of my current career.
posted by anildash at 9:32 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Use a simple analogy - one of investing in the stock market: law school is a huge investment. There's tuition, the time that you'd have to invest and the opportunity cost of it all. Sure, it might pay off, it might even pay off big. Or you might decide you hate it. Or you might not find that big money job that your dad is sure is out there.

As it is, you're investments are doing better than average but your dad is telling you about this deal where you can divest in everything else and get in on something he's sure will be the next In fact, it might very well be the next

That dog puppet from the commercials will not pay off your student loans for you if you find yourself asking, "would you like fries with that?"
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:36 PM on January 6, 2010

I don't think escalation is usually a good way to go, but only you can judge if you think this technique will work for him.

What kind of physician is he? There's got to be another kind that makes more money that he does, and that would perhaps make him unhappy.

"Daughter, if you were a lawyer you'd make so much more money. Why don't you go back to law school?"
"Well, Dad, if you were a brain surgeon you'd be making a lot more money, too. Why aren't you?"
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:46 PM on January 6, 2010

Tell him you enjoy having a good job and if you go to law school, there's a chance you will not have a good job, especially not right away. AND you will have a lot of debt. (I am a law student)
posted by ishotjr at 10:01 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

On review of the OP, my suspicions are that this:

He grew up in an impoverished country, and to his credit, his ambitious nature propelled him out of poverty.

may be the biggest factor in your situation, if that impoverished country is India. Wife's parents are from India, and good God, I've never seen an immigrant community so hell-bent on destroying its own families through the pressures it puts on its American-born children and grandchildren to succeed. And by "succeed," I mean "affirm the superiority of the family in the eyes of the community by making more money than your parents, thereby securing bragging rights and the guarantee of comfort in old age for them."

If this is your situation, the people advising deflection (not engagement) are spot-on. If you became a lawyer, your father's next order of business would be to nag you mercilessly about being the highest-earning lawyer, and on and on. Learn some techniques to shut Dad up, congratulate yourself for escaping the "Keeping up with the Patels" mentality, and enjoy your life.
posted by Rykey at 3:09 AM on January 7, 2010

What bardic and Bulgaroktonos said. Going to law school is extremely risky right now, and not a good business decision because the market is saturated now and will be for a while.

Instead, I'd focus on asking your dad questions about his past when he brings this up. He probably just wants you to aim high for yourself as he did. Ask him about how he decided to come to the U.S., ask him to tell you stories about that adventure. And start thinking about how that can inspire you. This law school thing is what he's fixated on because he sees it as a next step. If you have other next steps that you're really excited about and interested in, he'll drop the law school thing. Just feed him stories once in a while about what projects you're working on and where you think they'll go toward making your life happy and rewarding, which is what he really wants.
posted by lorrer at 6:36 AM on January 7, 2010

All of the above, but what if you START it in each conversation: Hi Dad, remember I'm not going to law school, how's your lumbago?
posted by CathyG at 7:10 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

For me, the correct answer was: "And will you be paying for it and all of my expenses for the 3-4 years it takes to graduate?"
posted by dejah420 at 7:28 AM on January 7, 2010

My mom used to bring up a subject on the phone I didn't want to discuss. I finally told her, "Mom, if you bring it up again, I will hang up immediately."

She did, and I did. She found it most disconcerting and stopped.

I'm with the Get up and leave the room each and every time her brings it up. The only way he's going to respect you as an adult is if you up and demand it.

Yes, he will probably think this is disrespectful behavior. But so is what he's doing. He's working for the paradigm of "My kid is always my kid, and I can say what ever I want to my kid. I don't have to respect my kid." My dad's an immigrant, so I have a feeling for what you're describing.

Thing is, there are some way you don't treat an adult, not even you own kid. Love is unconditional. Respect is a two way street.

"Dad, I love you, but we are not discussing this. Ever again. And every time you bring it up, I'm getting my stuff and leaving. Bye."

One can love and respect one's parents and still demand not to be shat upon every time you come by for a visit.

Maybe spending less time around the family might be in order. not trying to be a dick with that suggestion, I know lots of people are really into the close-knit, daily contact with the family kind of thing. I'm just wondering how much happiness it's bringing you. The fewer opportunities he has to make you feel stupid and inadequate... well, The fewer opportunities he has to make you feel stupid and inadequate.

When he asks why you don't come around anymore, say "It's because you continually pester me about law school. I'm not going and I'm sick of being harangued by you over it. If you want to see me, you will stop. Otherwise, you're driving me away."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:58 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm with the "Dad, when you bring this up, I'm hanging up/leaving/jumping out of the moving car/ending the conversation somehow" people. Also, just because i love rhetorical jabs: "Dad, you appear to think I'm not smart enough to get the point that you want me to go to law school without you repeating it a million times. If that's the case, then how do you figure that I'm smart enough to go to law school?"
posted by Etrigan at 8:05 AM on January 7, 2010

Send him an email with a link to the latest tuition costs in your area and another link to horror stories of recent grads with 200k$ in debt and no job or stuck in doc review hell, like this guy.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:46 AM on January 7, 2010

To follow up, don't listen to him and go to law school. I'm basically in the same boat as Bulgaroktonos, although my is a permanent position, I'm making less than 1/3 of those "average" starting salaries that law school are still advertising, with very little prospect of upward mobility. And I'm one of the lucky ones. I know plenty of people out in the cold or taking on yet more debt in the hopes on landing a job next time the recruiting process starts up. Those fancy stats and big money promises are a flat lie, and the entire law school enterprise is a ponzi scheme driven by cheap federally backed student loans which fuel infinitly rising tuition costs. You can try to point out the truth to your Dad if you like, but whatever you do, don't let him guilt trip you into mortgaging your life for this worthless lie of a "profession."
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:57 AM on January 7, 2010

Hell, I just assumed your parents were Indian. It's also worth pointing out that they likely disobeyed their parents by coming to this country in the first place.
posted by anildash at 3:00 PM on January 7, 2010

link him to Above the Law, where he'll get a glimpse into the continuing bloodbath that is the American legal industry.
posted by demagogue at 4:00 PM on January 7, 2010

Coincidentally, this was just put up on the Blue: # 7 (paralegal) v. # 80 (attorney).

Personal experience: IAAL (BNYL). I could not exist and do my job without my Paralegal. I would hate my job so much more than I actually do if it were not for her. However, our jobs are completely and totally different and independent. I cannot do what she does, nor would I want to; likewise, she cannot do what I do nor does she want to. When she's in the midst of some enormous document production project, I'll tell her, "Boy, I'm glad I don't have your job." She ALWAYS fires right back with "And I'm glad I don't have yours." And we both mean it and we both know the other means it literally, too.

She and I have many times had this conversation about the differences between our jobs, despite having the exact same clients and cases. She sees a totally different side of the very same client that I know and represent; I value and make a point of seeking out her opinion on the "big" picture of a case/client because I know she will always say something that I never would have thought of or noticed.

Personally, I like Solon and Thanks approach. IMHO, physicians (and lawyers) generally don't take well to being compared to some particular speciality within their discipline. You just have to find out which specialty area gets under pop's skin.

Oh, one last thing: these types of discussions between parent and child generally don't wendell. That's why they are called "parents" and we are called "children."
posted by webhund at 10:24 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I just have to say that webhund's response is extremely well stated and that I agree with it completely.
posted by The World Famous at 11:05 PM on January 7, 2010

Sorry to do the other side but you do realize why he's doing that. He doesn't want you to struggle like he did. He feels that a lawyer is a much more secure, higher paying job that will take you places. I would point this out to him that you understand where he's coming from, you appreciate and admire the path he took, and really, you're not struggling. You're fine and happy. "Isn't that what all father's want, dad? For me to be happy?"

It might work. It might not. Sometimes parents have that "it's never good enough" attitude and will always get on you about it. That's when tuning them out works wonders.
posted by stormpooper at 6:50 AM on February 8, 2010

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