Like the Red Sox choking at the end of a season, the early October reappearance of HLS students in suits is one of those regular events that nonetheless always merits some comment.
Brand-new 2Ls, fresh off a 1L year that, as the previous year’s 2Ls told them, wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be, find themselves attacking the OCI process with the same agitated, often misguided fervor they threw into their first 1L semesters.
Despite all the advice to the contrary, students still schedule scores of interviews they do not need. For the typical HLS student, getting a big law firm job seems to require little more than the ability to groom oneself, stand up straight and speak in complete sentences. A typical interview — consisting of little more than open-ended questions about what type of work one likes or softball questions about one’s summer job — should hardly be the source of much stress. If anything, students should be comforted knowing that, despite the extremely soft job market, their chances of getting any job they want stand near 100 percent. Indeed, an HLS student complaining about her job woes ought to remind herself that she is one of the most privileged individuals in the world. The Office of Career Services has simplified the job search to essentially ordering from a menu, and the Law School’s reputation continues to attract as many employers as are able to afford the trip.
This year, 2Ls can take comfort in the fact that they do not face the challenge of applying for clerkships and law firm jobs at the same time. The judges responsible for getting the clerkship crush pushed back deserve students’ collective thanks.
The more difficult challenge of the OCI process, of course, is asking tougher, more fundamental questions about personal goals, expected lifestyles, ego and achievement.
Putting the hyperbole of both camps aside, the truth is that law firm careers are a fine choice for some people. Students whose personalities and goals are suited to law firm work should not be disparaged for choosing it, just as students who choose what they consider nobler routes also deserve respect for their decisions.
What is unfortunate, however, is that some students end up choosing the law firm life because it is easy to do so. OPIA, clerkships and other choices do not have the luxury of offering an OCI-like process. But students claiming that the ease of OCI lures them away from other kinds of work do not deserve sympathy for their laziness. Getting public interest jobs is certainly not impossible, and is made easier by a dedicated (but overworked) staff, and LIPP can compensate for some financial difficulties.
What is more difficult for many students to resist, it seems, is the lure of wanting what others want. Students arrive here with myriad goals, dreams and ideas, yet by the end of 1L year, find themselves reciting the names of law firms as if they were sports teams. Part of the problem is the competitive nature of law school in general. Part of it, no doubt, is the general lure of materialism. And though some would argue that HLS is at fault for making OCI the powerful force it is, few would argue that OCI should be eliminated. Rather, HLS should continue to try to find ways to encourage students to pursue their dreams irrespective of the OCI process.
And for their part, students should try to look back to the beginning of 1L year, before $125,000 salaries and hours spent with aggressive classmates clouded their vision, and remember why they’re here.
So instead of whining about the difficulty of very easy OCI interviews, or lamenting a lack of options, students should remember that they are among the luckiest people alive, with the most options possible. If that look back reminds you that you never planned to spend your life in a pinstripe suit, remember that your history is short, life long, and your opportunities limitless. It is your job to make the most of them.